For those wondering about my recent dearth of postings (though it's really nothing new for this blog; I've gone spans of months without any new updates), it's only because playing this game to any meaningful extent takes eons:
Most gaming websites describe this game as "Monopoly meets Magic: The Gathering" or something to that effect. I think this is a fairly good summation that gets the "gist" of the game, for better or for worse. For those of you who don't know what "Magic: The Gathering" is, think Yu-Gi-Oh! with a more mature, "edgy" feel to it (though many hardcore gamers would certainly take great offense to this comparison). It's basically the most well-known card game variation of "monster A VS. monster B."
So how do you play Monopoly while micromanaging a complicated ruleset for monster battling? Well, basically, instead of "buying" properties (think Monopoly), you place one of your monsters on the space to guard it. When your opponent lands on one of your "properties," instead of paying "rent," your opponent can try to kill the monster guarding the property. If they succeed, it's theirs, and needless to say, you're not getting anything from them!
Things get more complicated once magic spells, special spaces on the game board, and "symbols" start entering the mix. The game does a good job of gradually introducing these finer nuances, but it also means that I can't really write too much about the game because I haven't played enough to really have an informed opinion about it! This game demands quite a bit of attention and time to be played "correctly," and this makes writing about it all the more difficult.
Not that I'm complaining (on the contrary, the more I play this game, the more rewarding it becomes), but it would be nice to find a way to play this game in intervals of less than 2-3 uninterrupted hours. The game has a "suspend" option, but it severely cuts down the payoff of victory if you elect to utilize it; you aren't able to save replays of your game, and you won't get the extra costume prizes for your character. I'm not sure if it has any effect on the card prizes, though. The most annoying part, really, is that it's hard to really "get back into the game" once you've resumed a suspended game. I'm willing to forgive the rather sparse graphical presentation of Culdcept, but the rather convoluted menu system makes accessing vital information about the game too much of a hassle. When my last game session was from hours or even days prior, and all the plans I had concocted at the time are buried deep in the recesses of my ever-failing memory, this information is crucial. It also doesn't help that the game's index doesn't include descriptors of some of the spell effects/monster abilities that CPU opponents frequently employ, meaning that "trial and error" experimentation becomes a necessary part of learning to play this game. At the very least, the game could allow me some time to actually slow down the opponent's play speed. Sadly, no such options exist.
Still, despite the lack of functionality in the game's menus, the silly and inane excuse for a "story" (and to think that I thought it couldn't get worse than Star Ocean!), and the subpar presentation, the "core" game is entertaining enough to warrant slogging through single games of 2.5 hours or more, even against CPU opponents (the game has some multiplayer features, including online play, but obviously, I haven't had the chance to try it yet). It's also reasonably inexpensive; I bought it for $40 when it was first released, and I've seen new copies at game stores for $19.99. The challenging gameplay mechanics and the dark themes (some of the card art is a bit too explicit for the youngsters, as well) prevent me from labeling it as "kid-friendly," though I find it hard to believe that the story, with its new-age pagan mythos and sometimes sultry character art, is going to be much of a problem for anyone's spiritual well-being. The long hours spent playing the game are far more likely to exact some real negative consequences...but that's what the virtue of temperance is for. St. Basilides, St. Ambrose, and St. Benedict, pray for us!