When the 16-bit-era logo appeared on the screen and the bass-heavy chiptune music began, I almost knew I was in for a “hardcore” experience. But it wasn’t just the look and feel that gave Soulcaster II a tough demeanor. After playing the first eight waves, I knew the game was here to kick my ass. With a little trepidation, I enjoyed it.
Just like the original that was released nine months before, Soulcaster II is an Xbox Live Indie Game that combines RPG elements with the tower defense genre. Though the two genres share similarities, the game executes the concept in a unique and satisfying way.
In the game, the player takes on the role of a wizard called Soulcaster, who has the ability to collect the souls of ancient warriors and summon them with the tap of a button: “A” summons the archer Shaedu, “X” the brawler AEOX, and “B” the grenadier Soulfire. The Y button returns a soul every time the button is tapped, which then allows Soulcaster to recast after a short cooling time.
As Soulcaster wanders through fantastical levels that are, at most, slightly bigger than the screen, he must defend himself using the souls in a strategic way: think of it as tower defense on-the-go. Not only did I have to decide when to use specific configurations of souls, but I also had to constantly think of my placement and how often I would stop to fight the assorted horde of monsters.
In any tower-defense game, a large amount of pleasure is derived from setting up an awesome defense and ripping the shit out of the enemy. In Soulcaster II, the pleasure happens in short bursts where everything else in between is filled with anxiety and adrenaline.
Hordes are often so overwhelming that the souls will “die” and retreat back into Soulcaster’s inventory, forcing me to retreat and recast the souls without any thought. If circumstances got any worse, I would only have my three health potions to keep me alive and a Scroll of Ruin to wipe out the immediate surrounding area.
Sometimes these items are littered through the levels or dropped by monsters, but they can also be bought at a store that can be found in almost every stage. There is also the opportunity to upgrade certain attributes for all three souls and increase the amount of orbs to replicate more copies.
For those who want a new take on tower defense, or even those who have played the first game, I highly recommend it. The levels and monsters are varied enough so that new strategies can always be created, and you’re most definitely in for a bludgeoning, albeit a fun one.
Soulcaster II was provided for review by MagicalTimeBean. It is available for 240 MS points ($3)