has its good parts and bad parts. The good parts -- the plot and the characters -- generally overrule the bad parts -- battle engine... okay, bad part. But the cheesy battle engine really hurts the game, in ways that it shouldn't have, and in the end make Koudelka
only half the game it could have been.
You take the role of Koudelka (surprise!), a young mystic who was summoned to an ancient monastery in Wales for reasons unknown to you at the beginning of the game. Soon afterwards, you meet up with your first companion, Edward, an admitted treasure-seeker (read: thief) who came because he had heard wealth and women were freely available. Not long after that, James O'Flaherty joins the party, a bishop on a mission from God.
I've got to admit that a more interesting bunch of characters would be very, very hard to come by. No one really gets along -- Koudelka's a bitch, James constantly babbles about the sinners and the righteous, and Edward generally sits stuck between a rock and a hard place. None of them are perfect heroes. Each has their own problems that they deal with, and often lash out at each other. This is a wonderfully human aspect of the game -- you can actually relate to the people, because they have issues just like the rest of us do. It's always amusing to see Koudelka blaspheme (at least, in the eyes of James), and then James go off ranting while Kouldelka laughs.
This symbolism even carries over to when you set up the formation of your party. Koudelka is the Queen, Edward a Knight, and James a Bishop on a miniature segment of a chessboard. This sort of consistency is very, very neat.
What is also very, very neat is the plot of the game. You start off breaking into the place by coming through a roof, and are immediately accosted by Edward, who's about to kick the bucket. As the game goes on, what you think is going on will be significantly altered, and truth after truth will be unveiled. The monastery is not a particularly happy place, and you'll be exploring all its nooks and crannies.
Koudelka uses both lavish FMV and spiffy engine plot sequences, and both work well. You'll learn to love, or at least tolerate, all of the characters, as more and more becomes uncovered as to what's been happening in the dark places of the game.
Koudelka, unfortunately, has serious issues. The battle engine, which you will be spending much time in, leaves a whole lot to be desired. It's a turn-based strategy engine, much like the recent Rhapsody, albeit in full 3D. The problem is that it's slow. Very, very slow. Every time someone moves, uses a weapon, or casts a spell, you may as well sit back and rest for a minute. Especially when you cast a spell -- everyone besides the caster and the target disappears, and after the spell is finished, the game has to 'reload' everyone onto the map. It's tedious and annoying. The graphics aren't all that spectacular to begin with, and this just makes it worse. And then there's silly battlefield logic -- why can't I go around an enemy? How do they magically block an entire row from being passed? I realize that this minimized having to pose people in different directions, as you can't get hit from behind, but man, it's a pain in the ass.
It doesn't help that the battles are unbalanced, either. You'll wash through tons of (tedious) random battles, get to a boss, and get your ass kicked. Try again, and you'll kill the boss without getting hit. Why? I don't know, and by the end of the game you won't figure out a pattern either.
There are some cool aspects to the battles -- leveling weapons is neat, the fact that weapons break makes good sense, and it's always cool to have enemies that often drop really nice stuff. But I can't tell you how many times I had to repeat about 20 or 30 minutes at the beginning of the game simply because there wasn't a save point to be found (another problem) and the random enemies kept tearing me up. Urgh.
Luckily, once you get all three party members, and if you waste some time leveling everyone in various weapons, the battles go pretty smoothly (with the notable exception here and there). Once you get to that point, the game becomes rather fun again, and you'll find yourself re-engrossed in the world of Koudelka.