Cladun: This Is An RPG ReviewGreg Knoll
About a month ago, I'd never heard of it. Like many wonderful games coming out this month, it was overshadowed by Halo: Reach, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Metroid: Other M. So when it was offered, I reverted to a Google search, routing around the massive search engine with the keywords "Cladun" and "RPG". Of course, I was bound to find it as it's right there in a title: Cladun: This is an RPG.
A tad silly, I thought, but watched the video none-the-less. One element in particular caught my eye-the ability to create your own main character-so I, sad to say, glossed over the rest. That one aspect was enough to sell me on the game.
It was a gamble, yes, but one that proved to be almost entirely fruitful-as it wasn't just that one aspect that made Cladun brilliant, but everything else as well.
Cladun is the epitome of old-school gaming. From its blocky, pixilated graphics and big-head-little-body characters, to its overdone synthesized music and sometimes abrupt dialogue, everything about it screams "retro". Don't get me wrong, though, this is the furthest thing from a complaint. Cladun is a more than welcome break from the Epic. There are no massive armies to rise against, no grandiose landscapes littered with air-ships and no storylines that are so desperate to be intricate they lose you halfway through and leave you for dead.
Cladun finds its charm and magic in being somewhat simple. The story is loosely based around the adventures of Souma and Pudding as they enter into the world of Arcanus Cella-a land connected not only to Souma's realm but countless others. Souma and Pudding start out as the main characters as they satisfy their urge for adventuring by battling through the countless dungeons provided in Arcanus. But as they progress, more travelers enter into the world, one who eventually takes over the item shop and another the tavern-as well as a couple rather eccentric characters in search of ultimate weapons. This leads to the driving factor of Cladun's story: the mystery. Some of the more prominent people are followed by strange creatures or involve themselves with an even more mysterious talking cat, one who seems to be orchestrating an event of mammoth proportions-though he gives no indication as to whether it's good or bad. A mask-which seemed harmless at first-continues to resurface no matter how many times it's discarded, and eventually begins talking to the other inhabitants of Arcanus.
And ultimately, there's the door north of everything else that leads to other worlds. Ones made completely of fire, others ice. One overrun with dragons and another made of gold. While you may be safe in the village of Arcanus, once you step through the door and choose a dungeon it's a different story. Though most of Cladun plays like an RPG, battles are done in real-time, along the lines of older Zelda games or Ys. One button controls the use of your weapon, another your shield. One button makes you run, and the rest are virtually useless. Cladun doesn't have the wonderful weapons like boomerangs, or unique items like the Pegasus boots; it's simply hack-and-slash.
That isn't to say battling through dungeons is a bore, though. Cladun put a spin on the rather stale element of exploration-one that appears rather strange on paper: you're granted no items of any sort once you've entered the dungeon. When I heard that, I was left wondering a lot of things-mainly, how do I heal?
They're everywhere, in every dungeon. Small simple blocks that are clearly visible once you're close-so that they can be avoided-but some shouldn't. Stepping on several will bring you harm, like the trap that triggers arrows to fly out of the wall, or one that knocks you out cold for a short period of time but some rejuvenate your hit-points (which is the only way to do so when you're in a dungeon) and others will grant you much needed speed when walking.
It adds an element of strategy to what could potentially be redundant. In most games, I wasn't worried about what lay ahead because I had enough potions to get me through. Not so with Cladun, so I was forced to analyze every step and avoid healing traps if I was in good health, as I may need to come back later and use them if I wanted to stay alive.
And it was not only my health and stats I had to worry about, but those of other characters. As I said, Cladun is incredibly unique, and while the traps idea is significant, it's in building your character that it truly sets itself apart.
You can build them the usual way by leveling up, buying better items and weapons or grinding dungeons but that growth is actually minimal per person. Cladun allows you to combine characters with an ingenious little addition known as The Magic Circle-a chart accessible in the menu, with varying designs. The character you choose to play is placed in the middle. On the outer edges are additional circles-anywhere from one to six-where you can place one of the several other Arcanus inhabitants. Connected to those circles are different slots, some for speed, HP, attack and defense. Once you've filled the slot, you can add artifacts to the surrounding edges to boost your stats-so long as it's the same type as the empty tab. The characters you've assigned then follow you into battle-at least in a pseudo kind of manner. You can't use them to attack, but any damage done to you will hit them first; any increase they gain you garner as well. The more you level up, the more Magic Circles open up for you, some with greater numbers, others with better attributes.
As you move on, more characters join on, each with their own unique properties and again, a strategy is required to find the perfect balance of HP, Magic and defense.
I was so enthralled by the variety, I had nearly forgotten why I started playing the game in the first place: the ability to create my own main character. It's an option, yes, and a wonderful idea. Once the tavern opens, you have the option of building him/her from scratch. It gives you a basic template and body type but the rest is up to you. Like old-school paintshop, you can create the character's face by filling in a series of dots with different colors one at a time. If you can envision it, Cladun lets you build it. From there it allows you to pick your dialogue, and even your archenemy, its name and the form it will take. It's incredibly involved if you want it to be, or simple if you're eager to get back to the dungeons.
I was one of the latter.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that they've given me that option but charging through the dungeons slaying monsters was far too entertaining for me to stay away. Cladun: This Is An RPG is the perfect mix of old-school style and contemporary ideas. Nostalgic enough to pay homage to those that came before it, but unique enough to stand on its own. There aren't many games I can say that about.
Matter of fact, Cladun is the only one.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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