When THQ and Volition first teamed up to bring an action RPG to the Playstation 2, many gamers were skeptic. The game's few strong points and several glaring flaws seemed to confirm that these two companies should perhaps stick with what they do best and leave the RPG genre to industry heavyweights such as Squaresoft. However, Summoner did have a few things going for it, and it seems that THQ and Volition are determined to build on these positive aspects and bring players a title worthy of placing in their gaming library. The upcoming Summoner 2 promises to remedy the flaws of the original while expanding on the positive things the first title had to offer.
The game tells the tale of Maia, Queen of Halassar, who, like Joseph (the hero of the first game), was born with the mark of the Summoner. And like Joseph Maia is destined, according to the book of prophets, to rule the entire kingdom of Halassar. The fact that she is viewed as a "goddess reborn" and savior of the world seems to confirm this prophecy. Summoner 2 starts out on a pirate ship with the pursuit of a thief. By the end of the game, players will have traversed a world highlighted by over 30 unique locales, all done in 3D, including such destinations as tropical isles and mystical cities. Throughout your explorations, you will control Maia as she interacts with hundreds of Non-Playable-Characters in every location.
The interaction in the first Summoner was arguably its biggest flaw. With text heavy dialog and seemingly banal discussions between the protagonists and the NPC's in the game, it was hard to get a feel for the world these players were supposed to inhabit. However, this problem has been remedied for the sequel, as Summoner 2 will offer full voice dialog both in major cutscenes and normal conversation. In addition, THQ has promised that load times will be shorter, characters will have more detail, and the game will play much smoother, with steadier frame rates and better character animations.
The combat system is also receiving a welcome upgrade. Instead of the cumbersome and often tiresome 'chain attack' system, which forced players to time their attacks in sequence using only the D-pad, players will now be able to control characters in combat with all the controller buttons. Characters will now be able to perform attack combos, up to a total of 3 per attack, which should give the game a more dynamic and interactive feel. In addition, it looks as though the method of summoning has been improved as well. In the first game, the more powerful a summoned creature was, the weaker it left Joseph. This often did nothing but create problems for your party, since you lost control of summoned creatures if Joseph was knocked out of battle. In Summoner 2, Maia will be able to transform into 12 different summons such as the Blade of Sand, allowing you to take direct control over the summoned creature.
Other fundamental changes have been implemented as well. Players will now be able to form a party of three members, choosing from up to 8 uniquely different characters. Each character has their own endemic strengths and weaknesses; however, by using the skill system, you can build your characters up as you see fit, molding them into various character types such as mages or knights.
Overall, it looks like Volition has learned from the mistakes made in the first game, and implemented those lessons in Summoner 2. Summoner 2 looks to improve upon the original title in all the important areas. Hopefully this will result in a deep and satisfying RPG, and since the game is scheduled to release this fall, we won't have to wait long to find out.
8/15/2002 Ryan Hartmann