A demo for Culdcept SAGA released today on Xbox Live and, at 600 or so megabytes, the file took just long enough to download for me to regain composure and stop speaking in tongues and convulsing on the floor. Oh, what a joyous day! The original Culdcept was one of my favorite PS2 games and, truth be told, I'd be willing to pay for an exact duplicate version for the X360 just to have Xbox Live functionality. Fortunately, SAGA looks to add more than just that singular feature, regardless how wonderful it is.
For those new to this hybrid Monopoly-meets-Magic: The Gathering, allow me to offer you some tips to getting the most out of the demo. The demo consists of a single player tutorial "battle" on what is admittedly the smallest and least interesting map in the game. This is both good and bad as the game does have multiple layers of difficulty and depth and newcomers need to wade in slowly. However, this does run the risk of making the game seem simplistic. Please don't simply play through the demo and write the game off. There are many features that aren't implemented in the single player demo, most notably the concept of Symbols which adds a stock market-like investment strategy to the game.
Additionally, do note that in this demo you can can only play from one of a couple pre-designed "books" (aka decks of cards) but in the full version you will have the ability to sort through hundreds of different types of cards and build your own custom 50-card books. And trust me when I say that collecting the cards (awarded win or lose) is indeed part of the fun and indeed random. By the luck of the draw I had received a very valuable card after my second or third game with the original and that proved to be one of the last cards my friend Brad ever recieved. And speaking of cards, you'll be able to sort through your cards and trade with friends too.
I nearly forgot I mentioned that I was going to provide some tips for enjoyment from the demo. Okay, the first tip is to not write this game off as being too complex or too simple. It's neither. It's both. It's what you make of it. Advanced play will indeed require masterful use of many of the features not present in the demo, but the demo does provide a good sense for how the game works. Sort of.
Another tip is to use the shoulder buttons on the controller to cycle through the available information. Similarly, tap Down on the Control Pad instead of rolling the dice and select the Map feature so you can pan around the board and look at the various info that is provided. Information is a weapon in this game and the more you understand the levels of the land, the elements, the HP/ST of the summoned creatures, the better off you'll be.
Another thing to do is to read the instructions that are available in the game. Yes, they are pretty dense and almost encyclopedic in their style, but there is some really good stuff there and it will give you a feel for the finer points of the game.
Lastly, set up a Versus match with you controlling both Cepters (unless you have a roomate or friend who wants to play... no online multiplayer in the demo) so you can see how the game unfolds on a larger, slightly more complex map. This will give you a chance to develop some early strategies and a chance to also see different decks of cards.
I believe the game is scheduled to release in early February. Once it does, I'll be online playing it every morning (PST) so indeed practice up then send me a Friend Request if you want to play.