Souls. Souls everywhere. Time to fill up all the cards in the soulpedia and make sure you’re anima is well taken care of—there’s an entire system for playing with your little pet girl/boy and making sure that s/he is cheerful and happy . Soul Captor is a free-to-play 3D MMORPG by Gamania that runs through Beanfun. The first thing most people notice is the strangely vivid graphical style and the bizarre animals and NPCs.
Overall, this is a fairly introductory MMORPG, it has a sleek and workable interface and it also includes a collectable-soul mechanic that should satisfy most of the obsessive completionist gamers everywhere. Since locating and downing monsters is the only element needed for that, there’s part exploration and part grind involved.
The game has instanced dungeons, lots of ground to cover, a nice network of PvE quests to wind through and into and a skill-based system; as well as an almost virtual-pet system for upkeeping the anima (done mostly with social interaction rather than care/feeding.)
Let’s see what the game’s like.
Graphics and Sound: The words “hyper-surreal” and cartoony don’t even begin to cover it
The graphical style is extremely vivid; as are all the different characters, costumes, and the NPCs such as the gods. Very rise-and-shiny sort of world building. The mounts add a particular level of extra panache to the oddity and silliness of the game, they’re equally vivid, often exotic, and quite comical.
The SFX graphics can feel a little overwhelming, there’s lots of colors flashing everywhere, fires shining, lights sparkling; even the monsters are being rattled around filling the screen with vivid hybercolor death-rage—and then falling before my Technicolor dreamdoom special attack and finally my anima sucks out their soul through their eyes in a ribbon of actinic discoball light ending the battle. I am not kidding. Battles also have lots of colorful words popping up on screen, over enemies, describing spells “WEAK” and “CRITICAL” are common—then there’s the numbers bouncing around throwing up the damage.
It’s all somewhat beautiful, almost acid-trip in nature.
I mean, where else are you going to fight giant peach monsters with tongues lolling out, algae rolled up into balls with big black watery eyes, four-legged peach trees (suggested origin of the impressively-lingual fruit), and many other manifold weirdness and have a reason for doing so.
The music is light hearted with a sort of bright lilt to it, even when I’m crashing and smashing through things, very much fitting the humorous and vivid tone of the game. I did find myself having to turn it down once or twice—but I play at reasonably high volume with high fidelity headphones. Otherwise the music didn’t bother me that much.
The special effect sounds are varied enough, even in the beginning, that they’re not boring; but you’ll hear the same thing over-and-over. There’s a lot of heee-yah! and foom and in the case of some monsters there’s blbbtbtbtlpht. Again, it’s all about the humorous, silly cartoony atmosphere that the game wants to emit to the players.
Finally, you might wonder, how does the environment sound? Everything seems to have functional ambient sounds; forests are full of hooting owls, crickets slowly chirp; I’ve even been hearing frogs croaking. The game makers did a fair job of making sure that the various zones are immersive and have ambiance that fits appropriately.
Gameplay: Fill up the “soulpedia” capture mounts and keep your anima happy
The first thing I noticed is that this is a WASD + click-to-move; with an autopathing system that doesn’t suck (it also shows that you’re autopathing with a neat little icon at the bottom and a “pause” button”) It’s a 3D MMORPG with a UI that’s fairly easy to use, a skill bar, and a bunch of emotes. The next thing I noticed is the selling-point of the game: the anima.
Anima is a little kid (androgynous, I think mine is a girl) who follows you around, book floating overhead. You have to do things with your anima—mostly emotes, such as giving gifts, patting, compliments—these social interactions with the anima increase her soul power, she loses it over time and along with taking damage. If she drops too low she’ll be stunned and that’s not good in combat.
The game provides its narrative through NPC quest speeches (in text) and cutscenes that happen every time a plot point or story quest moves forward. This means that cutscenes are everywhere—and they’re voiced (unlike NPC chats). It means that the first time I went through the newbie zone, I learned everything I needed to know; and the second time I did a lot of movie skipping.
Leveling in the newbie zone is stupid fast (first town, got five levels in a row doing fedex quests.) This is basically how the game shows you where vendors are, how they work, and shows off the town. I was level 20 by the time I was playing the game for less than two hours. It also means that the game spends a lot of time trying to get across UI effects, game world environment, and narrative in a very short span of time.
The anima has combat capability. You can set her to be defensive (casting barrier spells), offensive (damage effects), or even support (buff/debuff, and healing) she’s actually really useful in longer fights when set correctly. There was at least one “boss-like” fight I was in where I relied heavily on my anima’s ability to keep me shielded and I still burned through a lot of my health and mana potions.
The other thing about this game is that there’s an obsessive-compulsive element around collecting souls—the Soul Captor name—from every slain enemy. Each time one is downed, a “soul” pops out and the anima collects them, collect enough and you get a card in your “soulpedia.” This can also lead to getting a mount from monsters via a scroll drop. So many of the creatures are mounts that the game Is lousy with them, people riding giant trees, robot-backhoes, algae-critters with fruit bowls on their heads…
Freemium: Item mall will be the name-of-the-day using Beanpoints
Soul Captor hasn’t launched commercially yet, so there’s no easy way to examine their virtual item cash shop; however, it’s obvious that they’ll be using Beanfun’s “Beanpoints” system for the microtransaction system.
Looking at the already-extant elements of the game, it will probably have an overwhelming number of aesthetic items—chances are extremely exotic mounts might be a mainstay. We can also expect that there will be XP and skill boosters to give players a chance to rocket up the levels and meet the higher levels where end game and PvP is at faster.
Conclusion: Collect all the souls for your “soulpedia,” join in events, and follow the branching PvE line
So far, Soul Captor is a good game, at first glance it feels pretty simple and it’s easy to get into. I found it fairly welcoming and there were plenty of people to talk to. I liked how there were a lot of quests, a grand and overflowing environment, and a huge number of different monsters to mix-it-up-with (gotta have something to fill up that soulpedia.)
The only problem I have so far is that one of the low-level quests seemed to be aiming for “Most Sexist Quest Ever” involving a girl named Jadie, who is sobbing—she’s trying to get a cure from the forest for an inscrutable illness. In order to comfort her, I was first caused to smack her (the only option that worked); then berate her about her domestic responsibilities to family, children, and husband… Uh, right. The proper response is to tell her that her husband might be angry.
As for community, there’s a lot of PvP and there’s a notable number of events always occurring. I watched the calendar for things to pop up, and there were always people flocking into them. A good place to get into a competition or become part of a rush.
Combined with the hypervivid coloration, the strange monsters, and the sound work, this game certainly spends a lot of time trying to play with the player. I think that in itself made it fun to play, especially in the beginning.
The game goes into open beta on July 12th.