Summoner 2 Q&A
We talk to the producer of this anticipated sequel to the PS2 launch RPG.
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The original Summoner had the dubious honor of being one of the only RPGs to launch alongside the PlayStation 2. Though it was relatively well received by critics, many gamers didn't appreciate many of its game conventions. It more closely resembled, in truth, a PC RPG than what we've come to expect from a console. However deep it was, and however well conceived its world and narrative were, many of the play mechanics just seemed alien to the audience it was targeting.
With that in mind, Summoner 2 is nearing completion at Volition, and we've been very curious about how it's coming along. We've learned thus far that the game's structure will differ widely from what we saw in the original and that its story will involve all new players--and a new continent in the world to boot. We had a chance to steal some of producer Anoop Shekar's valuable time, and we're sharing the results with you.
GameSpot: How does the plot of Summoner 2 tie in to the original's story? Will there be any common threads?
Anoop Shekar: Summoner 2 takes place about 20 years after the first game. At the end of Summoner 1, Joseph, the main character, chose to reform with the other eight parts of the god Urath and ascended to godhood. At that exact moment, a girl named Maia was born halfway around the world. It was prophesied that Maia was the human incarnation of the goddess Laharah and would someday fulfill a great destiny.
Eventually, Maia became the queen of Halassar and is now looking for more information about her destiny. However, the priests of Urath, who consider the followers of Laharah their enemy, have begun a war against Halassar. Their leader, Krobelus, seeks to destroy Maia and her people. This is the point at which Summoner 2 begins.
GS: How does the new protagonist compare with the previous game's Joseph? Are her powers any different from his?
AS: Joseph begins [the original] Summoner as a poor farmer on the run from an army, and he is totally unaware of his destiny as a Summoner. Maia, on the other hand, is the ruler of a powerful kingdom and is actively seeking out her destiny. Also, Joseph was able to summon creatures to help him in battle, which was his power. When Maia uses her summoning power, she actually turns into the creatures. Those are the major differences between the two main characters.
GS: Will the game's structure be any different from the previous game's? What about its overall length?
AS: The structure of Summoner 2 is similar to that of Summoner 1's. The game progresses through levels, which are quite varied. You will be able to return to some places to complete quests and talk to NPCs, but some places you will go to only once and not be able to return. I don't want to spoil too much, so I won't go into any more detail.
We expect that Summoner 2 will take about as long as Summoner (25 to 30 hours).
GS: What types of environments will players find themselves in? Are they inspired solely by fantasy fiction, or has the team drawn on anything further?
AS: As I said before, there are many varied environments in Summoner 2. Players will visit a haunted island, fortress prisons, magical laboratories, aquatic cities, frozen wastelands, and even a few surprise locations.
For Summoner 2, we decided to go with a more fantastical approach and have drawn influences from many different places and not just a typical fantasy look. Several of the levels have a more "sci-fi" feel to them and are different from anything in Summoner 1. We've also looked at a lot of South Indian architecture for Maia's kingdom of Halassar.
GS:Has the game's RPG system been changed significantly? What is gameplay like now?
AS: Summoner 2's combat system has been completely overhauled. Since we are a PS2-only game, we decided to go with a more action-oriented, hands-on approach. In S1, whenever you were in combat, your character would attack and defend on his own, though you could influence combat by chaining attacks together if you timed your button presses properly.
For Summoner 2, we've made it so you have direct control over your character's attacks. So, whenever you hit square, your character will swing his or her weapon. Repeatedly hitting square will allow your character to execute two to three swing combos. We've also added special attacks that can be pulled off with a combination of buttons. The result is a much more involving combat system that gives the player better control of how the battles go. It's significantly more fun.
In addition, we've lowered the camera and brought it closer to the main character so that you are more immersed in the gameplay experience.
GS: How much control will players have over the types of characters that their party members become?
AS: EThe characters each have their own special abilities and spells that they have access to. The player will be able to control a character's development by assigning skill points to various skills as the character gains levels. So, for example, if a player likes Sangaril's assassination abilities better than her poison abilities, then they can assign more points to her assassination skill.
GS: What can you say about the supporting cast? What sorts of characters are they? Which are your favorites?
AS: The supporting cast consists of the following characters: Taurgis, Maia's bodyguard and instructor, who has helped raise Maia since she was a child; Sangaril, Maia's assassin, who doesn't get along with Taurgis too well; Neru, who was once a priest of Urath, then a gladiator specializing in hand-to-hand combat, and now the leader of a band of pirates, who agrees to help Maia because he wants to exact revenge on Krobelus; Iari is a machine that was created by the mysterious race called the unseen, and she uses both melee and ranged attacks; Morbazan is a spellcasting gladiator who has more information about Krobelus, which is why Maia seeks him out, and he can consume the soul of enemies and gain their powers in addition to his normal spellcasting abilities; Yago, finally, is from the first Summoner, whose daughter Rosalind, who was one of the main characters from the original game, has been missing, so he's on a quest to find her.
Personally, I like playing with Sangaril the most because I love to sneak up on enemies and backstab them, but that's just my style. All of the characters have unique abilities that make them useful in many situations.
GS: Can you talk about the different forms that Maia can morph into? What are some of the more impressive ones?
AS: Maia can turn into four different types of summons, each of which has three levels (for a total of 12). Each type of summon is based on one of the parts of the Summoner 2 mythology (blood, sand, tree, eye).
They are a little hard to describe without seeing a picture, but the level one blood summon is a huge hulking beast that pummels his enemies with his fists and horn. He's a lot of fun to bash monsters with. The level two and three summons are even cooler.
GS: How will the metamorphoses be regulated by the rule system?
AS: As Maia progresses through the game, she comes upon summoning stones that unlock within her the power to transform into different summons. Each stone will give her the ability to transform into a different summon.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's story?
AS: Well, I don't want to give too much more away, but basically, Maia is on a quest to discover her true destiny, and she knows that the summons are an integral part of that. She and her companions will travel to some far-off places and even some that are more surprising.
GS: Has the game's engine evolved significantly since its predecessor was released? What sorts of neat effects can we expect to see?
AS: We've made leaps and bounds with the Summoner 2 engine. There is no longer any noticeable slowdown while playing the game. Also, we've eliminated all draw-in in all of our levels. Our levels feel more alive, as we have lots of things moving and animating in many of the environments. Summoner 2 is certainly a major step up from Summoner 1.
GS: Care to comment on anything we've missed? Or any words for Summoner fans out there awaiting this sequel?
AS: I'd just like to say that Summoner 2 has been shaping up very nicely. We've been extremely happy with the direction it's going, and it's just been a blast to design and play. We think that even people who didn't really think Summoner 1 was all that great will take a look as Summoner 2 because it really is a different game, and I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at what we've done.
GS: Thanks for your time, Anoop.
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