I’ve been hunting for a real-time strategy title to review for a while now. My options were there – Final Fantasy XIII was the clear choice, for obvious reasons – but finding an online, browser-based strategy platform with real-time management and sequencing wasn’t quite as clear. Enter Soul Master, created by German free2play developer Gamigo and ported to the North American market by GamesCampus. Gamigo has a huge portfolio of f2p games that aren’t worth talking about – but it really doesn’t matter. Soul Master is mission based, and it’s one of the only RTS-OSG browser titles we’ve found in recent weeks worthy of review. Hold on to your butts – this clock’s a tickin!
As I mentioned earlier (and for those of you who are stoned, absent-minded, being distracted by Doritos – or all of the above), Soul Master is purely mission-based. Right off the bat, this can turn off many tried-and-true OSG fans who expect a solid strategy title to consist primarily of the holy 4X quartet: explore, expand, exterminate and exploit. For sure, these elements are all present in Soul Master, but not to such a rooted core degree as in a more traditional OSG title like Civilization. Add the fact that the system is in real-time, and moves must be made more quickly and accurately than traditional non-RTS strategy titles and Soul Master becomes something different, new and beautiful.
Elamond was once a beautiful and immensely powerful empire that thrived on its technological innovations and military prowess – as usual, all great things must come to an end, as did Elamond, and its land mass of Bunden all but perished along with it during the Great War (some things never change) when an unknown magical force dawned upon Bunden, and different factions of citizens reacted differently to its potential. Three factions are duking it out for the right to rule all; when you create your account and start playing, the action starts within these walls. Players will find a place to meet and to get quests in the city centers; the more quests you take on, the more your character is able to grow. Besides just running through missions to build up a character, however, players will be attempting to capture resources that will aid them in building up a base and growing an army. As you move through different tasks and missions, players can build military units, amass skill sets and items that can later be customized to whatever type of benevolent or destructive progress is desired. Very snazzy.
Graphical details are stunning, in every menu. My Bearcat’s name is GasmChasm. After about a week of gameplay with my Bearcat, boredom never came. The more I defined and built GasmChasm, the more you are able to do in the world of Soul Master in terms of PvP. Defensive ability is built in a similar way, the more items and resources you’ve amassed, the higher your ability to stave off attack and expand. The system allows players to alter items by combining or re-arranging items in a way that creates completely new and original items with different uses, which reminded me of the Gummy Ship concept in Kingdom Hearts. Needless to say, as a huge KH fan who is accustomed to item alteration, I spent almost an entire day creating new things to help GasmChasm. This also keeps your offensive and defensive strategies wholly dependent on your imagination. I had my little dude defending home-made buildings with friends I’d made in the world and joining in on co-op missions that kept game play fresh. Combat is purely non-targeted, which means you have the freedom to strike who and how you like. I really love this architecture. And because trooping is a big feature of Soul Master, the game can be tailored to group objective targeting just as easily as a singularly-driven style of playing, if you’re the lone-wolf type.
Objectives aside, I’m a visually-driven gamer (which you should all know by now). Within five minutes of creating an account, I was sold. Graphical elements of Soul Master are simply gorgeous (see the character creation screen above). The color palate rocks, and actually reminds me a bit of Kingdom Hearts – it’s that beautiful. Richly layered environmental elements combined with detailed character shading (from clothing to skin tone to hair color) – graphic developers definitely got a visit from Queer Eye’s gamer unit, as Soul Master kick’s the visual shit out of most of Gamigo’s other f2p titles! I also toyed with Soul Master‘s 1-player RTS mode, which doesn’t disappoint (though admittedly I’m not much of a single player type of dude). AI is great for one-player modes, if you’re into playing Hal, and the computer gets progressively more difficult to challenge (something that can be taken for granted among gamers used to well-designed artificial intelligence).
Because the game can be so highly customized based on your resource and item reserves and how you alter and customize your items, the game never gets old. This is one of the few titles I’ve reviewed that I foresee playing long into the future. Check out Soul Master – it’s beautiful, unique and fucking fun. Why aren’t more titles as innovative?