Culdcept is an old Japanese game that mixes elements of classic monopoly (land owning and toll paying) with Magic the Gathering (card collecting and battling). Somehow, this conglomeration of hobbies turns into a surprisingly addictive mix and manages to give gamers a hefty adventure to play through.
Basically, you are a Ceptor, you move on a monopoly board placing monsters and spells (summons) cards on the lands in hopes of making opposing ceptors pay tolls or at least have to challenge you. There are abilities to get strings of similar elements (water, fire, etc.), land levels, transformations and strange spells to hinder/help your estates. Its all very deep and quite a cool concept, but overall it just needs a better explanation.
However, the gameplay, while presented well, is quite confusing for the most part. Many times, you'll be scrambling to know what the heck is going on early in the game, and the poor tutorials and grammatically insulting manual doesn't help either. The ability to check an in-game manual (that does in fact make sense) helps, but still makes the game a practice in frustration early on. This frustration is compounded by unusually lucky computer opponents that seem to understand the utterly confusing battles between cards. There are certain properties (strength, health, and first strike) that seem like crapshoot estimates rather than actual values. I'm a good 1/4th into this very long game and I'm still confused by it.
Moving on, the game does become addicting if you manage to avoid the frustration factor and enjoy collecting cards. That said, the game boasts an insane amount of cards and each with absolutely jaw dropping artwork. The game also has a host of rarities and many medals to collect for accomplishing various things during the course of matches.
Aesthetically, the game isn't beautiful by any means. It features a clean look however, and sports decent sprites that have a very old school approach to them. The battle animations are certainly retarded though and the game will never be shown as a system-pusher.
Musically, the game shines with delightful and unobtrusive music. Each track is nice and long as well, while giving each stage its own little flavor. Definite props. The sounds though, whoa -- crappy, if any.
Lastly, the game is very long, and will give you a ton of bang for your buck. The story, while not really integral, manages to give you a little incentive, but really never steals any thunder from the gameplay and card collecting basis of the game. Overall, buy this game if you can find it, but beware of the learning curve!