Summoner Update

THQ showed the latest version of Summoner at its Las Vegas event - new screens inside.

Since our preview several weeks ago, developer Volition has made significant progress in the development of its 3D role-playing game, Summoner. Summoner is an action-packed RPG in which you play a fledgling mage whose growing powers could save the world from a demon invasion. As you travel through the vast game world, you'll encounter numerous non-player characters, pick up allies, and face progressively more difficult enemies, all as you learn about your mysterious destiny.

Most of what we saw at the THQ event centered on new environments and new game features. Three levels were on display: a forest area with enemies waiting behind hills and trees, a downtown area with alleyways ideal for stealth, and a marketplace that had lots of NPCs to talk to.

In the forest level, we controlled three characters, the main hero, a male warrior, and a female spellcaster. We also summoned a massive minotaur to provide us with additional muscle. He was easily twice the size of the large male warrior, and wielded a great scythe that was as long as we were tall. The detail on the characters is impressive, although the animations right now sometimes look out of sync. The environment in the forest level looks very realistic: there's lots of shrubbery, and the horizon is lined with tall trees. We fought a few barbarian fighters, and were able to try out some of the game's spells, including fireballs, blizzards, meteor strikes, healing spells, regeneration spells, and bless spells. We also cycled through various armors and weapons for the characters. Summoner is reminiscent of some Japanese role-playing games, so perhaps as an homage the male warrior was seen wearing laminated, vertical strips of armor reminiscent of samurai armor, and he wielded a katana. We also saw the characters using axes, daggers, swords, scythes, and staves.

The game let us control four characters at a time - three PCs and a summoned minotaur - although some levels could possibly let you control more. Also, in some quests, you might only control one character at a time. If you're traveling with a party, if you move the main character, the others will follow - much like in the recent Final Fantasy games for the PlayStation. However, there is also a solo mode for controlling a single character, while the other party members wait for you rather than following you. This mode would be useful in quests where you had to sneak into places.

Another level we tried required this sort of stealthy approach. We were deposited in an alleyway in a downtown section of a town, and we had to skulk about in the shadows. The character in this sequence, a female thief named Flece, had hiding abilities. However, we weren't careful enough and promptly wound up being attacked by multiple guards. When we attacked one enemy, his friends close by came to his help immediately. We also fought a fully armored samurai wielding dual swords - katana and wakizashi - which again demonstrated the game's Japanese influence.

The marketplace level was set in an open-air theater where actors were practicing their lines for a play. We talked to various NPCs, some of whom gave us useful information and others who just chitchatted with us. However, the dialogue hasn't been fully developed - we couldn't respond or say anything. But you can expect lots of occasions for dialogue and NPC interaction in the finished game, as Volition expressed that Summoner won't be focused entirely on combat.

For more information about Summoner, read our extensive preview. We've also procured some new shots for you to look at. The game is currently slated for a Q2 2001 ship date for the PC, following the game's release for the forthcoming PlayStation 2 console.

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