Koudelka (PlayStation) review
"In a time where RPGs became mainstream due to the success of Final Fantasy VII, the Playstation was in its glory days. With the success of Final Fantasy VII came some other great RPGs for the Playstation. Breath of Fire III, Parasite Eve (though not really considered an RPG to some), Final Fantasy IX (yes, even a Final Fantasy game). However, in the shadows of these games lurked an epic gothic horror RPG released by Sacnoth, a company of ex-Square employees. Although it's not as popular or well ..."
In a time where RPGs became mainstream due to the success of Final Fantasy VII, the Playstation was in its glory days. With the success of Final Fantasy VII came some other great RPGs for the Playstation. Breath of Fire III, Parasite Eve (though not really considered an RPG to some), Final Fantasy IX (yes, even a Final Fantasy game). However, in the shadows of these games lurked an epic gothic horror RPG released by Sacnoth, a company of ex-Square employees. Although it's not as popular or well known as some of the other RPGs I listed, it's still a great game nonetheless that puts them to shame. Enter Koudelka.
The story of Koudelka begins with a young woman named Koudelka Iasant who is called to the Nemeton Monastery by a faint voice. Unknown by who it is, she enters the Monastery, when she meets up with Edward Plunkett. After some adventuring, they encounter James O' Flahterty and then their real journey is about to begin, filled with mystery, mayhem, murder, and horror as they attempt to uncover the mystery of the Nemeton Monastery.
True, the game does start out weak, but the game does get better as you progress through several rooms of the Monastery, discovering new clues on what happened and new ghastly facts on what really happened. The first 10 minutes or so are kind of slow in the game, but as you venture into it, you'll begin to wonder "What the hell really did happen in here?"
The game opens up with an FMV, or Full Motion Video which is absolutely gorgeous. This is one of Koudelka's bright spots, the graphics. The FMV's are very nice to look at. Eye candy, if you will. They're crisp, but not always smooth. The graphics ingame are just as good in someways. The character models are what you would expect from a Playstation game. The characters are designed nicely, but are a little jagged. The environments themselves, as you would have guessed for a gothic horror RPG, are dark and damp. However, I do not believe this to be all that bad, since they do fit in with the atmosphere quite nicely. The areas in the game are dimly lit and dark. The battle environments are just like the field environments, dark. The walls are all black and dark, and you can only see the floor below you.
Koudelka doesn't sport much music in the game, but as I said before, it's not really all that bad since I did think the silence in the field screen fit in nicely with how dark the areas were. The only few musical pieces in the game are normal battles, boss battles, the end credits, and a few choice cutscenes. Even without much music in the game, the pieces thrown in are nicely done (I'm quite fond of the ending credits chorus) and also fit the entire mood of the game. The sound effects, on the other hand, are pretty bad. Gunshots and magic being casted are quite awful and it seems like the creators didn't even try to work on these. True, sound effects may not be that big of a deal, but I'd like a gun to sound like a gun when shot, not a pop gun.
Koudelka also has some voice acting, which is actually pretty decent. At first, I thought the voice acting was going to be Resident Evil all over again, but I was surprised to hear the characters sound so professionally done (although Koudelka sounds older for her age, which is 19). The voice acting kicks in during either FMV's or cutscenes, and I must say that during these scenes, the characters personalities really start to shine and the story develops more and more during every cutscene. At first glance, Koudelka seems to be a sweet, innocent teenage girl. But after your first cutscene, you'll realize she's a cold hearted woman who isn't afraid to lash out her tongue and throw out any venomous words at her companions.
The gameplay of Koudelka is something you'll either love or you'll hate. There's really no inbetween. Koudelka is a turn-based RPG with a strategy grid thrown in, so you can move your characters around before attacking or have your characters duck in a corner. Which ever works for you. You have four options on what to do on the battle field: Action, which lets you choose from four more options (I'll list those in a second). Move, which lets you move around a certain amount of spaces. Wait, which makes you character wait until their next turn. And Status, which shows your current statistics for each character. If you decide to choose Action, you have four more options: Attack, which lets you attack with the equipped weapon. Magic, which lets you cast a magic spell (usually takes two turns to use). Item, which lets you use an item in battle. And Weapon, which lets you switch your current weapon to another weapon in battle.
Although at first the battle system may intimidate you, it's actually quite easy. It's not as complex as it may look like, oh let's say Final Fantasy tactics. The enemies you encounter, like you, can move only a certain amount of spaces, so you can snipe from afar to pick apart your opponents or wait for them to get close so you can go melee on them. Most people have claimed that the battle system is awfully slow. Well, if you're the impatient kind, I guess it may be slow to you. It's certainly not the fastest thing in the world, but it isn't as slow as people make it out to be. Or maybe it's just that I'm so used to turn based RPGs that I don't mind it at all. During battles, if you cast magic, the game needs to load each character model and enemy model one at a time after the spell is cast.
During battles, you can use the weapons you pick up on the field screen or receive after battles. Each weapon belongs in a certain class, and when leveled, you can hit more with it. For example, let's say your Fist class is Level 2. If you attack with a pair of Knuckles or Bare Handed, you have a chance to hit the enemy twice, which can be pretty useful during some of the boss fights in this game. During battles, when you use a weapon, you gain experience points for it. This applies to magic as well. The more you use a weapon or magic, the more powerful they'll be. However, a drawback is sometimes during a battle, once an item has been used enough times, it will just break in the middle of battle. During normal battles, this isn't a big deal but during some of the long and tough boss fights, this can easily come bite you in the ass. Luckily, as mentioned before, you'll be able to switch weapons in the midst of battle.
Another thing to note here is level gaining. Like every other RPG, after a battle, you'll gain experience points, but you won't be able to see how many you gain. After you get enough experience points, you'll gain a Level up and you'll be rewarded with a statistics screen and 4 AP points. With the AP points, you can distribute them into the following statistics: STR (Strength, which increases the damage you do with weapons), VIT (Vitality, which increases your max HP and increases your physical defense), DEX (Dexterity, which increases your accuracy), AGL (Agility, which increases your speed in battles), INT (Intelligence, which increases the damage you do with magic), PIE (Piety, which increases your max MP and increases your magic defense), MND (Mind, which increases your accuracy for magic), and LUC (Luck, which effect your random encounters, your ability to run away, and so on). It's a wise thing to distribute your points into a specific category for each character. For example, let's say Koudelka is your magic user. You'll of course want to increase her INT, PIE, and MND so she'll be a useful magic user. However, you can't neglect her VIT so her HP won't be way too low, and you can't neglect her AGL so she won't be outran by the enemies. Trying to keep your characters on a job course is important, but keeping their other statistics, such as HP up to pace is just as important to survival.
The game itself is pretty easy at first with a couple push over boss fights. Once you get into the later depths of the game, it starts to become increasingly difficult, and if you haven't been putting points into VIT every now and then, you'll realize that you'll be in trouble. Now the game isn't all that hard, because I didn't get the Game Over screen once, but if you do come unprepared, you'll find yourself in a tight spot. Speaking of tight, the controls on Koudelka are a bit clunky too. You can't use the Analog stick, so you'll need to resort to the D-Pad which is hard to get used to at first. The commands you do on the field screen are also unresponsive at times. Say you want to climb some stairs. You need to push the action button (or X as the default button) in order to climb. Problem is, sometimes when you push it, you won't climb, so you'll need to push the button a few more times to climb up. This can get annoying pretty fast. Also, the length of the game is pretty short as well. On my first runthrough, I was able to go through all 4 discs in only 13 hours, so it's not exactly a game that can keep you tied up for a month.
All in all, Koudelka is a great game with a gothic horror theme that worked out quite nicely. Aside from a few flaws, I see no reason in why someone won't be able to enjoy this thrilling game. Sure, there are a couple of flaws, but most games out there have a flaw somewhere every now and then. If you're looking for a game that might give you the creeps and has a decent battle and leveling system, Koudelka is the game for you. It'll keep you hooked just so you can discover what really happened in the god forsaken Nemeton Monastery.
Community review by peterl90 (June 09, 2007)
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