Sept 27, 2007
When the world is threatened by three gargantuan World Eaters and you’re given the task of destroying them, the last thing you’d want co-inhabiting your body is the being who summoned the monsters in the first place. But that’s exactly the premise behind the strategy RPG Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. You absorb the soul of Gig, the God of Destruction - who, by the way, still very much wants to see the world in ruins - because it’s only by tapping into his power that you even have a chance at defeating the World Eaters. Of course, every time you use any of his abilities (called “Gig Edicts”), you’ll be feeding him a little of your soul, too. Life's tough that way.
As you might expect, balancing the use of this power is one of the key elements in the game. On the one hand, you have Gig urging you to embrace his power, and his power does make it much quicker to win battles; on the other hand, well, you want to keep your soul, don’t you? Walking this thin line is harder than it seems, especially since certain “evil” actions - like picking fights with townspeople or robbing merchants - benefit your party tremendously.
The presentation of Soul Nomad is reminiscent of publisher NIS' trademark strategy RPGs like Disgaea and La Pucelle, though there are a few key differences. While the crazy antics you’re used to (tossing people off the grid-patterned battlegrounds, for example) are still present, they’re in the form of Gig Edicts, so every use corrupts your soul.
Moreover, combat is squad-based. Before a battle, you’ll purchase “Manikins” (troops) and pick a room (which is randomly generated with different buffs, called “décor”). Depending on where you place your soldiers, they’ll perform different actions. So, a healer in the back row will heal the whole party, a healer in the middle row will heal one person, and a healer in the front will attack enemies. You’ll place your forces, pick a leader for each room (if he dies, the whole room is taken out of combat) - and that's all you need to do.
This illustrates the main flaw in the game: because you’ve chosen your soldiers’ actions before the battle even begins, there’s very little to do during the actual combat. Yes, you’ll move a squad next to an enemy and tell the group to attack - but what happens then is out of your hands. You won’t be choosing targets or skills; you’ll simply be watching your troops do all the work. Oftentimes key members of the opposing force (like the room’s leader) will be left unscathed - and you’ll be cursing at your troops, helpless to compensate for their poor decisions.
If you loved sinking hundred of hours into earlier NIS strategy-RPGs, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy in Soul Nomad. If, however, you’re new to the genre, we recommend picking up Disgaea instead. While Soul Nomad has its entertaining moments, it doesn’t quite meet the bar the previous games have set.