The Chosen: Well of Souls

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Meridian 4 / CDV
Developer: Rebelmind


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PC Preview - 'The Chosen: Well of Souls'

by Keith Durocher on July 27, 2007 @ 6:17 a.m. PDT

The Chosen: Well of Souls, known in Europe as Fater, is a 3D hack'n slash set in the 19th century. You are Frater Simon sent on a mission by the monasteries to free God's Envoy, taken hostage by a mighty Alchemist Marcus who uses human souls to strengthen his own powers in order to rule the world.

Genre: Action-RPG
Publisher: Meridian4
Developer: Rebelmind Games
Release Date: October 1, 2007

At what point does one stop referring to games that are similar to one another as "clones" and start just thinking of the whole lot as a genre? In the case of Diablo and all its subsequent progeny, the number of titles that can be dismissed as mere digital apery has grown too long to keep track of. So is it fair to just call top-down isometric action-adventure RPGs part of an industry niche, or do we cling to scorn and call them all wannabes? For the sake of convivial "Canadian style" politeness, I'll go with the former. Today I am to tell you of an upcoming title that is clearly descended from Blizzard's masterpiece. It's called The Chosen: Well of Souls, and it's under development by Rebelmind Games, the same people who produced the sadly overlooked Space Hack. If you love to abuse your left-click mouse button through overuse, then do read on, as this should be right up your alley.

Chosen has been out for a while now in Europe, where it's known as Frater. While it is a fantasy setting, it borrows more from old-world mysticism than it does from Tolkein-esque standards. Expect dashes of steampunk, Kaballistic magic, oriental mysteries, fraternal sects, and outright infernalism. No elves, no dwarves, no goblins. Here is the basic plot outline:

The world is under the sway of an alchemist gone mad with power — Marcus Dominus Ingens. Having eliminated all other rival alchemists and sorcerers, Marcus is now setting his sights on the heavens itself. Knowing full well that to achieve such a task, he'll need the raw power of human souls, he unleashes as much of Hell's might as he holds sway over. Hordes of demons run amok, slaying with impunity and harvesting fresh life-essence. There is one remaining brotherhood that works against the insane magus; the Fraternal Order of the Mystery Guard trains hunters to stem the tide of slaughter. To you falls the task of choosing one of the three best hunters the Mystery Guard has to offer — Frater Simon, a monastic alchemist and sorcerer; Elena, a Siberian sharpshooter and musketeer with a werewolf-scarred past, or Tong Wong, a Chinese sword-master from the Tien-Szan province.

As I stated before, this game is top-down isometric in perspective. The action is all point-and-click, simple to pick up and enjoy. Like all other titles in this burgeoning milieu, you kill monsters, the monsters drop treasures, and you pick up the treasures and use them or use the gold they drop to buy better equipment. Each dead monster allocates a certain amount of experience, and as you pool enough of this "XP" together, you level up and get to improve your character in different ways. There are the requisite stats to bump up, like strength, dexterity, vitality. There are also three different skill trees to work: offensive, defensive, and the imaginatively named "other" category. The skills tend to go back and forth between active abilities like new spells or attacks, or passive effects like healing, defensive boosts, or damage boosts. During my time playing this advance release, I went with Tong Wong and didn't really work up the spectacular effect abilities, but being able to heal my party was a big plus.

As you adventure, you tend to do a great deal of rescuing. Whenever you do save someone from demonic harassment, he or she will usually join you for a while. In this way, you're often in the middle of a group of fighters, which helps a great deal. Also, when you first get to the hidden base of the Mystery Guard, an Egyptian wizard by the name of El Mahubar gives you control over two artifact-servants: the Jewish grandfather to Frankenstein, the legendary Golem, and the ancient Egyptian war-gadget, the flying insect-gun known as the Neferkar. Golem acts like a lumbering tank and has a knock-back effect on enemies, so it's good for the ranged classes. Neferkar is a ranged damage dealer, so it works well with Tong Wong. Both of these servants have their own experience scale, level up, and can be made stronger over time. They only have two statistics each though, strength and vitality, and they don't get new skills, either. Still, their inclusion makes all the difference to the outcome of battles. Sadly, you can only have one of them with you at a time, never both.

Another interesting little feature that Chosen has is the Pot of Transformation, an alchemist's dream. What it allows you to do is fuse items together. In this way, if you like the look of a basic item, you can hold onto it and simply add more and more powerful items that you find into it, making it more and more potent. This is also a handy way to keep your inventory more or less managed. The process costs money though, so it does get expensive over time to keep beefing up your little "starter stick of nuclear devastation" (for example).

Like Space Hack before it, Chosen is rendered in beautiful 3D that isn't too hard on current system configurations. Unless you have a really old computer, there is little reason why this game won't perform like glass. The angle of your camera isn't set either, so with nary more than a scroll up or down of your mouse-wheel, you can swivel around to any angle that lets you see the action better.

I've played most, if not all, Diablo-style action-RPG games. I consider myself almost a connoisseur of the form, inasmuch as one could claim such a spurious title. To that end, I can claim that anyone who does like this kind of play will find that The Chosen: Well of Souls has fresh ideas and a unique setting, enough to help it rise somewhat above the many contemporaries that are spilling out onto store shelves these days. All that remains for Rebelmind Games is a little extra work on the localization (there are still plenty of translation errors in the dialogue text, and the English voice-overs still need to be added in), so it won't be long before you too can jump head-first into the dark world of old-world European dark magic gone mad.

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