Gremlin Interactive's Soulbringer is a 3D action/role-playing game that has a number of good qualities, but at least as many problems. Certain aspects of Soulbringer, like its motion-captured combat sequences, are interesting and even enjoyable, but other aspects, like its mediocre graphics and clumsy interface, detract significantly from the game.
Soulbringer takes place in the besieged fantasy world of Rathenna, a place in which evil villains oppress the good folk of the land. The only one who can put an end to the increasingly frequent attacks is your character, a hapless and penniless everyman. But you happen to be the descendant of a legendary hero, and according to an ancient prophecy, you'll not only defeat the villains, but also kill lots of monsters, find lots of gold, get better equipment and magic spells, and uncover a darker, more sinister plot behind the villains' attacks. It may sound trite, and that's because it is, though it does have a few exciting moments.
Unfortunately, neither Soulbringer's graphics nor its sound do much more to recommend the game any more than its uninspired story does. It's true that the game is fully 3D, and that nearly all its character animation is motion captured; however, all the game's characters are crudely modeled with constantly clipping polygons that are in turn adorned with bland textures. Most of these characters sound like ordinary, modern-day British people from off the street, but the voice acting is usually appropriate, if at times a bit overdone. Otherwise, the game is mostly silent; what little background music there is, is fairly good.
Many of the game's environments are also quite plain; they're at once monotonous and easy to get lost in since the game's interface is so flawed. For instance, unlike nearly every other computer role-playing game that's been released this year, Soulbringer has no real in-game map function of any kind. In addition, your field of view is severely limited at all times and on all sides by a black fog that masks everything within a short distance of your character. As such, you'll find it's frustratingly common to lose your way in one of Soulbringer's many larger areas: That helpful landmark that you committed to memory might have been just outside your line of sight, so you'll end up wasting time running about a uniformly monotonous field, cavern, or castle, trying to find your destination without the aid of a decent map.
And unfortunately, Soulbringer's largely ineffective camera does little to remedy the situation. Though the game uses a simple point-and-click mouse interface to move your character and execute most commands, you must also use the keypad to adjust the camera's view. The game uses an isometric perspective by default, but its camera is capable of only rotating in 180-degree increments or freely rotating some 90 degrees around your character before it automatically changes to a thoroughly unhelpful overhead view, which limits your field of vision even further. The camera also tends to automatically switch to this overhead perspective whenever you approach a large wall, hill, or other solid object, which often brings your character to a complete halt, even if he's on the run from dangerous enemies. That's because whenever you command him to move and he doesn't have a clear, uninterrupted path, he'll stop dead in his tracks. Since switching to the overhead view limits your field of vision, the path along which your character was running often gets changed, and he'll come to a screeching halt. As such, a simple run across one of Soulbringer's areas is often full of jarring pauses, and fighting some of the game's tougher enemies (which often require hit-and-run tactics to defeat) can be maddening.
Not only does your character take an undue amount of time to come to a stop, but he'll also pick up, use, and equip items equally slowly, thanks to Soulbringer's motion-captured character animation. However, motion capture is also Soulbringer's best feature - specifically, in its carefully choreographed melee battles. At the beginning of the game, you'll have only a simple knife, and you'll know only a few ways to use it in combat. However, as your character advances character levels, you can assign skill points to his "combat" ability; an ability that lets your character use a great number of advanced maneuvers with each of the clubs, maces, swords, and spears that he'll eventually acquire. Watching your character perform spinning attacks and swift, well-animated lunges is certainly exciting, especially when he's fighting a skilled opponent that parries, dodges, and ripostes.
Combat in Soulbringer isn't all flash; you can actually customize the way you fight by creating preset "combo" attacks. You must choose your weapons wisely, since certain enemies are vulnerable to some attacks but resistant to others (bony skeletons are impervious to slashing weapons but are felled easily by bludgeoning weapons, for instance). In addition, you must choose your attacks wisely, since Soulbringer's 3D terrain actually plays a role in combat: For instance, high attacks will often miss opponents who are standing beneath you. Your character will also acquire a number of different spells from six different schools of magic. If you rely heavily on spells from one particular school, those spells will become stronger while your spells from other schools become accordingly weaker. It's a fairly interesting system that doesn't factor as heavily into the game as it might have.
It's unfortunate that Soulbringer's lackluster graphics and poor interface compromise what's otherwise a fairly standard action/role-playing game with an interesting combat system. It's even more unfortunate that it was released in the United States around the time that so many other excellent computer role-playing games were - which makes Soulbringer especially difficult to recommend.