The Chosen: Well of Souls is the latest action role-playing game from Polish developer Rebelmind, who is also responsible for Space Hack and Grom. The Chosen has been in development for years, but I’m not sure if it was ever officially released (Rebelmind’s web site gives mixed signals, and a search for Frater, the game’s European title, didn’t result in anything). However, I can say for certain that The Chosen is coming soon to North America, thanks to publisher Meridian4. Meridian4 sent us the latest build of the game, which appears to be all but complete, but cautioned us that the Polish-to-English translation is going to get a facelift (the game has a fairly literal translation now, with all of the unintentional humor and confusion that such translations provide), and that all of the spoken dialogue is going to be re-recorded.
Meridian4 also sent me a manual, but this is one of the parts of The Chosen that needs to be re-translated, and so I’m a little fuzzy about the game’s premise. From what I can tell, some dastardly evil sorcerer out there wants to take over the world, and to generate an army, or perhaps just to create confusion, he’s opened up several Wells of Souls, which have given a horde of nasty creatures access to our world. Standing in the way of the sorcerer is the Alchemists’ Fraternity, of which you are a member. That means, as the campaign progresses, you have to fight your way to these Wells of Souls and close them down, and then no doubt take the fight to the sorcerer himself.
When the game opens up, you get to select one of three characters: Tong Wong the Warrior (a melee fighter), Elena the Hunter (a ranged fighter), or Frater Simon the Monk (a magic user). However, despite each character having a class, The Chosen basically uses a classless system, and so the character you select is more a statement about how you intend to play the game rather than a restriction to that playing style. For example, Elena starts out with the highest dexterity, which makes her the best suited for ranged attacks, but there isn’t any reason why you couldn’t develop Tong Wong or Frater Simon that way instead.
Each character gets 27 skills, divided up into three categories: offensive, defensive, and other. About 25 of these skills are the same for each character, with only a couple being unique. For example, all characters get the “intimidation” skill, which slows down nearby enemies, but only hunters get the “piercing” skill, which allows arrows and bolts to pass through targets, and only monks get the “mana regeneration” skill, which increases their mana regeneration rate. All of the skills give passive bonuses, but you can only have one skill per category active at once, and so you have to choose carefully which skills you want to specialize in.
Gameplay in The Chosen is about what you’d expect. You left click to move and attack, and you right click to cast spells, and you use the keyboard to access a few hotkeys (such as H to quaff a healing potion) and to move the camera. Nicely, from what I saw of the game, the combat is tougher than what you might expect, so you have to pay more attention to what you’re doing, and Rebelmind did a nice job in mixing up the enemies and environments you encounter, so the game stays fresh. On the other hand, if you die during your travels, there isn’t any way to run back and retrieve your corpse; instead, you have to load your game, which gets a little tedious, especially since auto-saves appear to take place at fixed locations rather than after fixed intervals, and so you can lose a lot of progress if you’re not careful.