Wednesday, February 18, 2015

This is an RPG sequel! - Cladun X2

Here's a game that caught me off guard. The original Cladun: This is an RPG! was a game for the Playstation Portable. A dungeon crawling action RPG, it did well enough to get a sequel in the form of Cladun X2, also on the PSP. Then it just popped up on Steam one day in August of 2012. There were no announcements it was getting ported or even any fanfare over it getting released. It just showed up seemingly out of nowhere and I happened to see it on Steam's front page that day.

Cladun X2 sees your character arriving in a strange world called Arcanus Cella, a small island with seemingly no way in or out save for a strange door that leads to various dungeons. While the basic setup is mostly just an excuse to go into random dungeons in search of loot and experience, and to be honest this is not a game that relies on it's story, there's actually more too it than an excuse plot, as the game slowly reveals information about what the island is and why you and it's inhabitants are there. It's interesting, but can be hard to follow as the story relies on keeping the player somewhat in the dark and there's no way to recap the information that depending on how you play, can end up very slowly drip-fed to you.
The world of Arcanus Cella is full of mysteries, why the toilet has no door is one of them.
At it's core, Cladun X2 is a dungeon crawling action RPG, you make a character, send them into various dungeons, where they can readily run around, attacking enemies, casting spells, and occasionally gathering bits of randomized equipment or avoiding traps. The game comes with a very long campaign that consists of a series of static dungeons to clear. Beyond that though are Ran-geons and Tri-geons. Randomly generated 100 floor dungeons mostly used as a good way to grind, but big enough to be a game in themselves. There's plenty of content here, and while the default gamepad controls seemed a bit oddly laid out and tricky to use, the game does let you rebind buttons and after a little tinkering to find a setup I was comfortable with, I encountered no problems with running and hacking my way through the dungeons.

You have to make your own characters in Cladun X2. For doing that there's a good number of classes to pick from and some options for customizing their appearance, but it's less in making character and more how you can use them where the game starts to show off how unique it is. In Cladun X2 you only control one character at a time, but can assign other characters as support characters. These support characters can't help directly in dungeons but instead act like armor, taking damage in place of your main character while sharing XP with them. Outside of simply being armor however, they can also improve the stats and abilities of the main character through magic circles.
Magic circles are a big part of the game, and you'll spend a lot of time tinkering with them.
Magic Circles are probably the games biggest feature. Each character has a magic circle that you can place support characters on, these spaces then have artifact spaces, where you can place artifacts to increase stats or improve spells and abilities. These artifacts are then activated using the support character's mana. Making things more complicated, Magic circles can grant benefits to subcharacters like earning more XP, or growth spots where you can place artifacts to help strength a subcharacter as they level up. There could also be spots that have penalties, like lowering a subchar's HP or fatemate, where if one character with fatemate dies, everyone else with fatemate dies with them. Each class can unlock several different magic circles as they level up. It's a very large, very complicated system which is both good and bad. You'll be spending a lot of time tweaking Magic circles and for those who like min/maxing characters or tinkering with systems like this, there's plenty of that to do, but while the basics of placing characters and artifacts are easy enough to grasp, there's a lot of information to track and it can be hard to tell just what all of your work, as the game spreads that information out over several screens.

Outside of the magic circles, there's also some other things to tinker with, the most important of which would be entitling. Equipment can come with random titles that increase or decrease stats, and by sacrificing equipment, you can take their titles, and then place them on other pieces of equipment to customize it. Beyond that, you can edit sprites to change how things look in game, make music in MML and even set up relationship diagrams between all of your characters. You can even give character a personality, which in this case is a text message they say when you talk to them in the tavern. All of this stuff is ultimately pointless from a gameplay perspective, as there's no benefit to be gained from making your own music or setting up a diagram, but it can be fun to mess with and it's neat they they included all of it.
You have a lot of options in making your character. Case in point: Catgirl ranger.
Unfortunately, I did encounter some flaws with the game, the first being the games graphics, I experienced heavy flickering until I turned vsync off, and the games oldschool dot-matrix font was unreadable, though fortunately there was a much better smooth font in the options screen. Also configuring my controls was a bit of a mess, as there's two different screens for configuring different parts of the controls and the game doesn't like some functions overlapping but won't tell you what those are. I had to spend several minuets moving between both configuration screens and gameplay to tweak things until I had something that I was comfortable with. though once I got past these hurdles, it was smooth sailing. Finally, the game has a feature for sharing data that when I accessed it, tried to open a wireless connection to receive data. Obviously this was originally meant for sharing data between PSPs and I have no idea if this feature actually works on PC, or is some dead weight they should have removed or altered for the port.

In the end, I'd recommend the game but with a small catch. I'll admit from the problems described above that this game is a bit of a rough port, and if you have a PSP or access to the Playstation store, you'd be better getting this game from there. Failing that though, The port isn't outright broken and is still a perfectly valid way to play the game. If you're willing to spend a little time tinkering in the options menu, You've got an massive, complex action RPG that you can readily sink a few hundred hours into.

Cladun X2 was developed by System Prisma and published by NIS America. It is available with a demo on Steam. It's homepage, which is mostly for the PSP version is available here.

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