I was excited to download Korean developer Bicore’s Summon Masters because I was expecting some serious summoning action. I wanted some monsters, heroes and all that good, classic summoning stuff.
Unfortunately Summon Masters has but a single summoning feature which you can use to summon heroes. If it were renamed “Fantasy Adventurer Recruiting Agency,” I would probably be more inclined to give it a better score.
Summon Masters is a fantasy RPG with a heavy focus on grinding battles, finding weapons, and recruiting new heroes for your guild. There’s a large social element in Summon Masters, which even contains a chat function on the main screen, and it’s a game that demands both your time and attention. Five minute gaming sessions every few hours is not enough to make progress in Summon Masters.
Beautiful, simple and strategic combat.
The combat in Summon Masters is an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master affair. You can take up to seven heroes into battle, each with their own unique ability as well as a standard attack with base damage. Your characters fight automatically, so your job is to chose when they use their abilities.
Abilities can raise a hero’s defense, cure an individual hero or the whole party, cast a fireball, or poison enemies. The longer you wait before using an attack, the more powerful it becomes. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to take extra damage in order unleash an enemy-destroying fireball. This is a simple combat mechanic, but using it deftly takes some practice.
In the early stages of the game, you can let your heroes attack and select special abilities as they come up. However things become more complicated when you go into the “world boss” mode.
In world boss mode, you are trying to last as long as possible and deal as much damage as possible to a massive demonic entity. Other players are doing the same, and your damage is cumulative. You get rewarded for dealing the most damage, so you must time abilities well to avoid destruction.
One of the most important things about the combat in Summon Masters is how good it looks. Characters look great and as you upgrade and find new weapons, you can actually see your heroes using them in battle. It’s cool to see a particularly awesome sword being wielded by a hero you have leveled up since the beginning of the game.
All characters also come with battle animations and they look great. Combat is smooth and easy to control, without the clunkiness too often found in mobile games. It’s very important that the combat looks good in Summon Masters, because the rest of the game is basically a collection of drab menu screens.
What the hell is going on?
Summon Masters knows that it’s a complicated game and attempts to fix this by having one of the most tedious tutorials ever.
The tutorial is a ten minute introduction to the various menu screens in Summons Master, and how they work. If that doesn’t make you want to cry with boredom, I don’t know what will. The majority of my time withSummon Masters was spent in the the menu system. You need to upgrade heroes and weapons constantly and this wouldn’t be so bad if the menu systems weren’t so damn tough to navigate.
There’s no easy way to navigate the menu, and sometimes you need to return to the main menu several times to complete a single action, like de-equipping and upgrading items. At the end of every grinding session, you are going to want to change characters, upgrade characters, change weapons and upgrade weapons, and the lack of an intuitive menu system makes this a pain. While it doesn’t sound like much, remember there are seven characters, and many, many weapons.
To make matters worse, Summons Masters requires constant internet connection, so the menu screens open as fast as a one-legged tortoise. And the background music had me struggling with the temptation to drive chopsticks into my ears. In the end, I settled for muting my phone (it seemed less extreme) and then turning up the volume for battles. There is never an excuse for music this awful and repetitive.
Still give it a go, though
Summon Masters is not the game for me, but that does not mean that people are not loving it. There’s already a vibrant community of dedicated players in the chat room. If you are the type of person who loves leveling characters up and micromanaging parties of heroes, and if your favorite part of Final Fantasy 7 was experimenting with materia, then Summon Masters might just suit you.
Whilst it’s not for me, Bicore has created a solid fantasy action game. Summon Masters’ complicated management system will appeal to a niche and committed audience, and if this sounds like something you would be interested in, you should definitely give it a try.