It's strange. Typically, when I beat games, I can
muster some sort of definite feeling for them. I enjoyed
, I loathed Final Fantasy II
, and Alter
was middling but entertaining; these opinions stood firm
when I completed the game, and typically made themselves obvious
pretty early on in the gaming experience.
Why, then, can I not decide just how I feel about
There are lots of things I like about the game. The setting is
brilliant; A decrepit monastery in Wales at the end of the 19th
century almost guarantees an interesting experience, a marked
departure from the standard swords-and-sorcery (or
lasers-and-psionics) console RPG epic. Magic works, but technology
does too, and that blend adds even more flavour. That mixture
attracted me to Shadowrun
back in high school, and it still
appeals to me today, especially with the pseudo-historical setting
adding a whole "what-if" bent to the story.
The characters delighted me as well. The eponymous Koudelka is a
brash, spiteful young mystic who'd rather kick your teeth in than
give you the time of day. Edward is a, er, "treasure hunter," who
came to the monastery because he heard rumours that it had been
turned into a whorehouse. (No, I'm not kidding.) And James, the
bishop, comes to the haunted place for reasons unknown and seems to
find the sight of dead thieves littering the halls more enjoyable
than a holy man should. None of the characters like each other;
they stick together because they must to survive, not because The
World Is Riding On Their Shoulders(tm). I've never seen such an
intriguing party dynamic in an RPG before, and that alone is almost
worth the price of admission.
Then there are lots of things that make me hate Koudelka
The battle system uses a poor man's tactical RPG engine, but the
load times during fights make it almost physically painful to use.
(Every time a spell is cast, all characters but the caster and the
target disappear; after the spell finishes, the game must load
everyone else back from the disc. Ugh.) Add to that one of the
banes of RPG existence--weapons that break--and the standard
annoyance that random battles provoke mutates into something
The game uses a Resident Evil
-esque camera style, with lots
of annoying angles and difficult-to-manoeuvre sections. At least
the control is screen-relative instead of the tank-style movement
sports, but that's slim comfort when you
accidentally brush the "back to previous area" spot on the screen
The voice acting . . . I don't know when American accents took over
the British Isles, but they certainly have in Koudelka
Except for the decrepit British mystic, who speaks with (naturally)
a Japanese accent. The actual voice actors are quite good, but it
sounds mildly absurd, like Shakespeare done without British
accents. I wouldn't say that the voice acting does anything so
severe as ruining the game, but it certainly doesn't help,
especially when the rest of the experience is so immersive.
Except for the battles. And the controls.
This good-and-bad-all-blended-together doesn't stop there. The plot
is fairly standard for a survival horror game--while particular
twists may surprise you, the story as a whole is pretty standard.
But, to get the "true" ending for the game, you have to do two
almost totally unintuitive things. The first might occur because
you're a meticulous gamer, and the second might occur because,
well, it's actually fairly easy for it to happen. That doesn't
change the absurdity of the design. The fact that you've got to do
stupid things to finish the game properly really pisses me off.
It's as if the developers designed sections to sell strategy
guides. (That may in fact be the case, but GameFAQs, as usual,
covers the bases just fine.)
Much of the game suffers from the same dichotomy. The way that
weapons and armor adjust your statistics actually make a lot of
sense, but the fact that you never get a single piece of
except from random drops makes no sense whatsoever. (The
fact that guns benefit from your Strength stat doesn't make much
sense either, but that's a pretty standard video game conceit, and
one I'm willing to forgive.) There are tons of different items to
collect, but the game limits your inventory--with no previous
indication that it has a maximum--and you're simply required to
throw away items at the end of whatever battle puts you over quota.
You're given tons of "key items," most of which you can't use for
hours, and all of which take up precious chunks of limited space.
Thankfully, they disappear once they're no longer usable, but it's
extremely frustrating to look at your list of items and realize
that almost half of them have no purpose other than to solve
inventory puzzles later on.
One positive note about inventory puzzles--the game solves them for
you automatically. If you've gathered the information you need
in-game, you don't have to do much of anything to solve a puzzle. I
actually took the time to transcribe some pictures onto graph
paper, only to have the puzzle show me the same pictures again when
I got to solving it.
But, really, how positive can you be about inventory puzzles in the
I'm glad I experienced Koudelka
. The setting is very
original, and--if nothing else--the game provides excellent setup
for its successors. Shadow Hearts
is a better game, but the
story benefits from the setup provided by its forerunner.
Unfortunately, that means you have to play Koudelka
for the full experience. It's a great setting, it's got great
characters, and it does some very clever things--but is it a good
I'm still not sure.
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