Trading card games aren%26rsquo;t just for social outcasts like the Comic Book Store Guy. Culdcept Saga%26rsquo;s hook is that it connects you to other players, encouraging Xbox Live-based online play. So consider us sold.
Culdcept Saga begins with a very RPG-esque scene of an encounter between your character (whom you can edit and name before even setting out) and a princess who senses that you have some very powerful magic cards on your person. There are cutscenes, with plenty of dialogue, but it only takes a few minutes for the busty princess to challenge you to a game. Of cards. That%26rsquo;s what this is: a huge game of cards on your 360.
Once you%26rsquo;ve entered a game, the screen switches to an overhead perspective of a game board and you roll a dice-like counter to begin your turn. From there, Saga becomes a race for board domination. Cards from a deck can be placed on any square the player lands on, and eventually you%26rsquo;ll be in a position to make a dash for the board%26rsquo;s finale - a fort or a castle.
Whenever anyone lands on an occupied space, it all kicks off. In Culdcept Saga that means quick battles between monsters, and those monsters are stored on cards. Battles are turn-based but last for only a moment. Before going into battle, you have chance to equip an item (protective, increasing HP; or offensive, increasing MP) to the monster contained in your card on that square, and you can also check the stats of both creatures involved. Because of the brevity of battles, preparatory work can be just as important as the battle itself.
Although these individual encounters are brief, complete games can last for an hour or more. The game%26rsquo;s computer moves quickly, but it still takes a long time to build up your deck in order to make a final move. Online, in battles with as many as three other players - and voice chat to slow things downs further - Culdcept Saga has all the properties of a time warp. Happily, though, with hundreds of cards and monsters to unlock and tactical, there%26rsquo;s plenty of reason to let yourself be warped. Look out for the American release this summer - and book some holiday time to coincide with its release.