Soma Bringer DS - Review

Monday, September 29, 2008

A friend of mine once told me that there are two ways to make a really good game: Try something completely new, or get an existing idea and take away everything that's wrong with it. Soma Bringer does the latter, and successfully. If you need a review in one sentence, here goes: I haven't played a game that has rendered me borderline sleepless in years. Concept

Soma Bringer is the lovechild of the Diablo franchise and Japanese RPGs. A lot of the concepts in Diablo were used in this game while the art style, storyline and world elements have strong JRPG influences. In this game, you play as one constant character in a group/party of 3, slugging through different dungeons hack-and-slash style to progress through the storyline. As you play on, you get to allocate points into various stat categories like strength vitality and skill. Various weapons and equipments can also be found throughout the game which you can customize.

While at first the customizability of your character may sound like a pain, Soma Bringer does a lot to simplify the activities associated with customizable RPGs.

Storyline

Soma Bringer is set in a world dominated by Soma, a mysterious energy used for many things ranging from casting world-ending spells, to powering your regular juice blender. One day many years ago, the world was invaded by visitors, a group of malevolent aliens hell bent in destroying mankind (why cant these aliens be like E.T. for once?)

The story begins with the crashing of a meteorite in a forest. Question. A meteorite falls in the forest. Does it make any sound? Yes, apparently. It makes the sound of creepy ghostly choirs. Anyway, a team (your team) from a military dispatch gets sent to inspect the location of the crater and in that crater, they find a mysterious naked loli and did what any normal thinking RPG heroes would do -they took the loli home, but not in the manner you might be thinking of right now. Anyway, things get complicated after that and before you know it, you're running around uncovering one mystery after another.

Progression of the story is kept at a steady pace and you will always be doing something related to the storyline, which is better than what we were given in Diablo.

Graphics

The graphics for the game is a mixture of 2D backgrounds, 2D sprites, and 3D characters. The game is played via overhead view, which can be zoomed in up to 3x than the default, depending on the situation. Characters look partially cell-shaded and are designed in strict anime-ish fashion. The monsters are kept interesting by their looks and it appears ample time was given to make most of them look like they can actually harm you (something Lunar Dragonsong failed at)


The backgrounds are nicely-handpainted looking, similar to the "___ of Mana" series, though setting the view to maximum zoom renders the backgrounds horribly pixelated possibly to save space, but seeing you can't really play decently on maximum zoom level, it's a minor fault.

Gameplay

As I've said earlier, Soma Bringer's gameplay is very similar to Diablo. And as interesting as the story is, easily the best aspect of this game is the gameplay.

At the start, you are asked to pick a character belonging to a team, afterwhich you get asked to pick a specialization ranging from Gunners to Swordies to Soma Specialists. After choosing the specialization, you also get to pick the character's preferred weapon. Finally, you get to allocat the initial stats of your character, at which point you probably have a lot of possible combinations already (I'm not into counting premutations, sorry)

For every increase in level, you get stat points to allocate for your character that you can distribute in various stat areas. For this game, we have Strength, Soma, Vitality, and Skill. Depending on your player class, different stats will be more important. For my case, I used a gunner, and had to pour everything into Skill.

Each player specialization will also have different abilities which you can unlock using ability points you can gain by leveling up. Abilities have different levels as well, which require ability points to level. Abilities are classified into different ranks, and the availability of the higher ranking skills are unlocked as your character level increases.

Leveling is straight forward. You gain exp for every monster you kills and for completing certain quests.

As for money, gold is dropped by monsters, along with items which can be sold to merchants. Your inventory is limited, like in Diablo, but you have a bigger stash in your base where you can store more stuff. Here's the best part. If your inventory becomes full inside a dungeon, you have the option of directly sending your loots into your stash so you dont have to go back everytime you get greedy. When you go to a shop to sell items, you can also directly access your stash and sell the items there without the need of the going back to and fro bullshit other games will have you doing. Real convenient.

Weapons and equipment have different classifications in terms of rarity, which shows in the icon background. White being the most common and red is the most rare. Some weapons give elemental properties and damage bonuses. Further customization can be done through inserting spheres of various types through NPCs available throughout the game. The abundance of equipment variations in this game will have you changing quips every half hour or so. (power! yes! more power!)

You are by default accompanied by 2 team members at all times, both of which can only be indirectly given tactics (passive, agressive, defensive). Most of the time, they're competent enough that you don't need to do anything. If they die, you can resurrect them using an NPC. If you die, you just go back to base without having to restart any thing. You do lose EXP in the process as a penalty though, like how they do it in most MMORPGs.

Waypoints are scattered all over the towns and dungeons, and you can open a temporary waypoint/gateway similar to a townscroll if you find the need to retreat between waypoints. Monsters do not respawn until you've restarted the game or changed towns and you can save anytime, though after loading, you will always end up at the starting point of the Act (and then you can just waypoint your way back to where you stopped).

Controls are intuitive, but are too complex to discuss here. It's not that hard to figure out though.

Soma Bringer's design really tries hard in making sure you focus on the gameplay and not the maintenance that comes with RPGs like this, which is a good thing.

Sound

Music is made by Yasunori Mitsuda, a legend in the videogame soudntrack world. Music is always apt, and haunting at times. Some tracks might remind seasoned players of other games like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears and Xenosaga, which is a good thing, because that's a sign of good music quality.

Reception

I found the game easy to immerse in, and the story was captivating enough to pay attention to despite the fact that I was just in it for the gameplay and the music. The gameplay is streamlined and sleek, and it's hard to imagine these are the same guys that made the trainwreck that's Xensosaga II. With most of the frustrating stuff one, going through the game is hardly a chore. As of writing I'm already in Act 5 in Normal Mode and the difficulty is well balanced, although getting the best upgrades and the best shop items seems a bit too easy.

One of the best parts of this game I hear, isn't even on this review yet. Soma Bringer features 3-way multiplayer via Wi-Fi, which is a feature i can only test when I convince more people to play this game. (what the hell are you waiting for?)

The game is far from perfect, but for the mean time, it's easliy the best RPG that the DS has in its game roster as of now. Boo yah!

Availability

Like many Japanese-made things, Soma Bringer is a Japanese-only release, but DarthNemesis and other great guys at GBATEMP.NET have done a near complete game translation, which you can use to translate the ROM you can download pretty much anywhere nowadays.

9 comments:

FiSHCAKE said...

Will play if dump works on r4. so email me the rom dump.

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huntress said...

i've been playin soma bringer DS for nearly a year now, my files been erased 3 times in the past but hasn't lately... i'm only telling this because my GUNNER is LVL 94 i was just inquiring if anyone knows if there is a player level cap, considering there is the ability cap of 225.

odds are i'll find out for myself before i get a reply to this post.

huntress said...

also if anyone is looking for a solid grind point in this game, once you've beaten normal mode you can flash back and forth between QUEEN ASIA and KING WOJEK kill both of them back and forth, they'll respawn when you travel from the snow village to zain.

i'm on ring tower master mode. i use this method to power grind my charactor. it takes me less than a min. to kill queen asia, and just over one to kill king wojek.

Huntress said...

i've completed the game on master mode, there is a charactor cap of lvl 99, after which point you will continue to gain 0 experience per kill. so if you have placed your attribute points poorly better start another charactor.

am currently finishing mt.winnepeg master to aquire legendary ring at last lvl of 40 dungeon floors.

happy hunting.

lvl 99 GUNNER

 

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