Gaming Today Reviews The Chosen: Well of Souls
I like RPGs. I’m not a die-hard fan, but I enjoy playing them. I think it’s fun to continually level up my character, explore new lands, solve quests, and finding new spells and equipment. It scares me sometimes to think how much of my time has been spent doing just that in countless games over the years. So when an RPG makes me not care about leveling up, acquiring new weapons, or even exploring the next area, I know something is terribly wrong. With that in mind, here is my review of The Chosen: Well of Souls.
Playing The Chosen: Well of Souls is like one long deja vu experience. The whole time you’re playing, you keep thinking to yourself, I’ve done this before. That’s because you have, only it was called Diablo or Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance or several other names; and it was more fun. There are few gameplay elements to distinguish this game from other hack-n-slash fantasy games, but also several flaws that make this one much less fun to endure. Honestly, I was tired of the game after half an hour and only continued any longer for the purposes of this review. It probably wouldn’t have mattered much though, since I saw everything the game had to offer in that first half hour.
The story is a mix of confusing spiritual gibberish and fantasy cliches. Basically, someone has stolen a powerful “Emerald Tablet” and opened the Wells of Souls, unleashing evil forces upon the land. You, the hapless wanderer, end up recruited to fight this evil and recover the gemstone. I’m the sort of person that likes to read all the dialog boxes in games to try and follow the story, but I gave up pretty quickly on this one. Usually, when someone started talking, they would just go off about some spiritual or mystical philosophy that really had nothing to do with anything. That and you occasionally stumble upon some cinematic hotspots where a “voice from above” tries giving you advice, but is mostly just saying, “Keep doing what you’ve been doing.” I didn’t feel invested in any of the game’s characters, including the one I was playing, and that made the whole game seem like an exercise in pointlessness.
At the beginning of the game, I was mostly fighting little goblin-like creatures called “Vred.” Four hours later, I was still fighting those same creatures, only a few of them had magic powers or weapons. It just adds to the tedium when you’re fighting the same exact enemies for hours on end with no change in sight. The enemies weren’t even all that interesting to begin with; just your usual assortment of zombies, wolves, and the like.
The game’s graphics would’ve been somewhat impressive a decade ago. They remind me a little of Warcraft III, but without the color palette. The environments all just feel dull and dingy. This may be a side effect of a land overrun by evil, but it still made all the environments run together after awhile.
You wander around a fully 3D world, and you can rotate the camera around to get a better view of the action. The characters and enemies are also rendered in 3D, but only the major bosses are remotely interesting to look at. The animation was fairly smoothed, but had a few quirks with regard to appearances. For example, my character looked just plain ridiculous while running, with his chest jutting forward; not so much like the hero, but like the hero’s comical sidekick. Basically, this isn’t a game that will tax even a low-end PC’s capabilities.
When I think of sound in this game, the first thing that comes to mind is the godawful voice acting. I’ve heard worse before, but not by too much. Most of the voice actors sound half-asleep, but I can’t blame them too much considering the boring lines they had to read. I’m still not totally sure if there even were voice actors or just computerized voice generators spouting out random fantasy buzz words.
There’s music too, but its all fairly run-of-the-mill fantasy style stuff that sounds like it was taken from the copyright-free bin. Besides which, there isn’t much variety in the tunes, so they’ll start to grate on your nerves after some time. Same goes for the sound effects. You can only hear a goblin give his last dying grunt so many times.
Hitting things. That’s pretty much how you spend your time in the game. Just move your pointer over an enemy or a barrel and start clicking like mad. You have to click each time you want your character to strike too, so you really do just point at an enemy and keep clicking away until he dies. Because of this, the most difficult enemies are the smaller, quicker ones; if nothing else than because its hard to keep your pointer on them. You can also obtain a variety of magical spells and abilities, but really the easiest route to killing things is to just hit them over and over. Then once everything’s dead make sure you pick up all the gold and items to sell left scattered about, since that’s the only way you’re going to afford any good armor or potions.
Naturally, as you gain a level, you can improve your abilities and those of your helpers. These include the standards: strength, dexterity, vitality, knowledge, etc. You can also upgrade special skills for offense, defense, and other tasks, though you can only equip one at a time from each category. Some of these are helpful only in certain situations so I suppose you could use them in some strategic ways. Usually though, it’s easier to just max out certain general skills and stick with them. The results tend to be the same.
The game is completely linear, as you follow one long path fighting monsters and searching for more crates to bash. There are quests listed in the log, but I usually completed them entirely on accident. If you just keep following the path and killing everything you come across, they’ll get checked off in no time.
One interesting gameplay element though is that you get two helpers in your quest: the Golem and the Nefraker. The Golem is your usual big, stocky monster that uses his might to knock foes around. The Nefraker is a flying creature that shoots fast magic bolts at enemies. In other words, there’s really never any situation where you need to use the Nefraker. The Golem has more powerful attacks and more HP, so he can take down dozens of monsters before you even have to think about healing him. It can be fun to have him do your dirty work and just stand in the back healing him, but I wish there were some way you could actively control him. As it is, you summon him and he attacks whichever monster tries to attack him. It would’ve been nice if I could at least send him in one direction and thin out the enemies’ numbers a little.
At certain points in the game, you’ll gain different party members that you save from monsters. They’ll fight alongside you until they die, which will take about ten minutes. You can’t heal them or control them in any way really; they just follow you and attack things. They’re handy for a short time, especially the ones that stand in the back shooting at enemies, but mostly they act as meat shields. Once again, it’s a nice idea that could’ve been handled better.
Another thing that stood out for me was the addition of guns in a fantasy game. And I don’t mean muskets or old-fashioned firearms, I mean revolvers, Colt .45s, Lugers, and machine guns. It was a little jarring to see equipment you’d expect to find in a World War II shooter in a Diablo clone. I actually would’ve been okay with it, but the implementation of it wasn’t that great. I really wanted to hold two pistols in my hands and get my John Woo on, but the game wouldn’t allow me to do that. They weren’t that powerful either, so they were pretty useless when compared to a Golem and a sword.
Replay Value: (1/10)
There is no reason you would ever want to play through this game ever again. Frankly, there’s very little reason you’d want to play through it the first time. You can choose from three different classes — specializing in magic, ranged attacks, and melee combat — but a couple hours of leveling up can even out their skills pretty well. Odds are though, while you’re playing this game, you’re going to be thinking about doing something else. After a couple hours of playing this game, I had a wicked urge to go to the gym. The game made me want to leave and go exercise. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but video games should not do that. They should make actual exercise the furthest thing from your mind.
Overall, The Chosen: Well of Souls isn’t a terrible game. It’s just a completely unoriginal one that most gamers have seen done before and much better. The game introduces a few new ideas to the genre, but never develops them enough to give them any real value. I haven’t had any desire to continue playing the game since I stopped. I suppose if you are really into hack-n-slash fantasy games — and I mean REALLY into hack-n-slash fantasy games — then you might want to give this one a go. Otherwise though, you’re probably just finding a $10 copy of Diablo II somewhere. It’d be a much better investment.