Oct 19, 2007
It seems that game developers everywhere can't resist the allure of attempting to craft the next great action-RPG. We like to think that Rebelmind, developers of The Chosen: Well of Souls, pitched this game to their publishers (Meridian4) like this: "Well, see, it's basically a poor-man's "Action RPG" with modern special effects and 3D graphics - but now with twice the crates, barrels, and boxes to click on! Gamers just love those destructible barrels, you know!" While there's certainly more going on than just a random click-fest with this RPG clone, there just isn't enough truly engaging gameplay to merit the tiniest wisp of comparison to other (more famous) games in this category.
You represent one of the Mystery Guards' champions who has been trained in one of three class/character archetypes: the Monk, Hunter (like the Gunslinger from Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series, but less cool), or Warrior. As is frequently the case with fantasy settings, the world is in peril due to the crazed machinations of a dark sorcerer intent on opening a can of hellish whoop ass on Earth. It's your job to send him packing.
Along with gradually improving your four primary stats (Vitality, Strength, Knowledge, or Dexterity), you can also use one of 3 special abilities in your hot key slots while slowly (and we mean SLOWLY) purchasing or improving these abilities in Offense, Defense, or Miscellaneous categories. Unfortunately the skill points are grudgingly doled out and most special abilities are so costly to enhance beyond your first selection that you'll never really focus on any one primary area, becoming instead, a "Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master of None" hero. Conversely, you could use your skill points to improve your combat-oriented sidekicks, the beefy Golem (basically a living statue) or the Egyptian whirlybird known as Neferkar (a magic-blasting mechanical wasp). Since you're not allowed to use both helpers simultaneously, we think you'll prefer the Golem, who is a veritable bashing machine.
We definitely didn't have any issues with the graphics or the game's art direction, which was quite solid. The lighting, in particular, was very colorful and moody while the varied locations were all appropriately presented, particularly forested areas. In a nice touch, trees and bushes rustle appropriately as your character moves through them. Monsters, while occasionally uninspired (the game's opening chapter is chock full of devilish-looking ET clones with sharp teeth but no desire to "phone home"), are at least visually appealing and vary from grunt-level demons to ravaging werewolves or fiery demon lords.
Based on the laugh-out-loud voice-acting in the game's intro cutscene, and also throughout the game's spoken dialogue in general, we had to assume that Rebelmind used family and/or friends to deliver most of the lines. The Chosen's remaining non-spoken sounds are, mercifully, fairly well-done so the aural torture (or hilarity, based on your personality) is only a brief annoyance.
Unfortunately, this genre requires a lot more panache and even more addictive gameplay hooks, something The Chosen fails to accomplish in its quest to push you that much closer to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. At its best, this is a pretty game that seems to understand the target it was aiming for but fails entirely to hit the mark.