Volition appear completely unafraid of lobbing the player straight in at the deep end with Summoner 2. We wont be having any of that cut scene introductory rubbish thankyouverymuch, just a quick "These are the controls, now get slashing" screen and we're on board a ship in the middle of a horrendous storm slicing pirates in half like there's no tomorrow - but it soon becomes apparent that the game is far from shallow.
It would be tricky to properly explain the twisting and slowly unravelling story of Summoner 2, particularly as these are only first impressions of the game, but the text and speech-driven dialogue has so far let us know that you take the role of the young queen of Halassar, Maia. You're apparently worshipped as the incarnation of the goddess Laharah, and subsequently feared due to your incredible power. The King of Galdyr isn't best pleased about your general presence in the world, however, and sees fit to begin a campaign for your head.
The short session of introductory battling bringing us into the game clearly demonstrates just one of the advancements in the gameplay over the previous RPG instalment - real-time combat. You hack and slash and generally remove characters from existence with the square and triangle buttons, with the added functionality of combat modifiers, target locking and blocking on L1, R1 and R2 respectively. You can, like the first title, switch between characters in your party at any time, adding extra depth to the combat and adventuring.
Notoriously B.I.G. (sorry)
Aside from this change in the playing style, possibly a move to attract a more action affectionate crowd, the other immediately noticeable improvement is in the visuals department. Popup has been essentially vanquished, and visual quality of the environmental and spell effects has been bumped up. We can't help but think some of the models and scenery are cheapened in their lack of polygonal detail though, but this is probably a trade-off we're going to have to live with in order to convey an appropriately expansive world.
And expansive is certainly the word - make no mistake about it, Summoner 2 is enormous, with more than 40 hours of gameplay from start to finish. You can expect a huge number of quests and side stories to get stuck into while you're wading through the main storyline.
The story is again played out via the use of copious text boxes and spoken dialogue, the latter of which has been the cause of some consternation for us. While not completely dismal, the lines have so far been delivered in a slightly hokey way which fogs the atmosphere with an unwelcome cheesiness. Who knows, it may be something we'll get used to, but it seems a shame to have to deliver such a wonderfully orchestrated story so cheaply.
We imagine Summoner 2 is going to be a favourite of hardcore RPGers, and the added accessibility offered by the real-time scrapping should prove a boon for roping in a few newcomers to the genre and snaring them with the deep and intriguing storyline. Hopefully our intrigue can be sustained - find out for certain in next week's review.