Koudelka

Moby ID: 5387
Note: We may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made via eBay or Amazon links (prices updated 4/7 7:47 PM )

Description official description

The year is 1898. A young gypsy woman named Koudelka, who possesses unique spiritual abilities, is off to Wales, to investigate the mystery of the Nameton monastery. This monastery was once a regular place of worship, but later was bought by a mysterious man whose death circumstances are yet unclear. Rumors say that supernatural powers have appeared in the monastery since then. But when she begins to explore the monastery, Koudelka discovers she was not the only one who was interested in its past...

Koudelka is a role-playing game with elements of survival horror. Players take the role of Koudelka as she explores the monastery, gathering clues and solving puzzles. This aspect of the gameplay is therefore similar to a survival horror game; however, the combat is strategic and turn-based. During battles, players can position and move the party members freely on the battle field. The amount of actions that can performed during a turn depends on the dexterity of the character. There are also various support and attack spells to cast.

The game features a refined weapon management, in which the damage that is inflicted with a particular kind of weapon (bare hands, guns, maces, etc.) increases the more that the weapon is used. Eventually weapons will break, but new ones can be found from defeated enemies. When one of the characters levels up, players can freely distribute experience points to increase and customize any of their statistics and parameters.

Spellings

  • クーデルカ - Japanese spelling

Groups +

Screenshots

Promos

Videos

See any errors or missing info for this game?

You can submit a correction, contribute trivia, add to a game group, add a related site or alternate title.

Credits (PlayStation version)

200 People (191 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Executive Producer
Producer
Director of Marketing
Product Marketing Manager
SQA Manager
SQA Supervisor
Lead Tester
Testers
3rd Party Coordinator
Documentation
Marketing and Creative Services
Public Relations
Sugar for
Koudelka Iasant
Edward Plunkett
James O'Flaherty
Charlotte
Ogden Hartman
Bessy Hartman
Alias
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 65% (based on 30 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 35 ratings with 4 reviews)

Surviving the horror of random battles

The Good
Koudelka is a bold mixture of RPG and survival horror, spiced by an impressive narrative and an original setting.

At first sight, the game seems to succeed in capturing essential elements of both genres. On one hand, you have a dark enclosed area with all sorts of weird and mildly horrifying creatures popping out at every opportunity; on the other, there are some interesting touches in the role-playing system that go beyond the automatized mechanics of most Japanese games.

Weapons are not "glued" to your characters, and you can freely exchange and experiment with different kinds of weapons, switch them between the characters and see how they affect your attributes. There are also many different weapon types in the game - various types of guns, swords, knuckles, and others. There is also weapon development and endurance system: the more you use a certain weapon in combat, the higher your proficiency level becomes and the more damage you inflict next time you use a weapon of the same type - but after a while, that weapon will break and you'll need to find another one.

You can also manually allocate experience points to raise your characters' main attributes. These grant you all sorts of advantages in combat, which is done in an interestingly tactical style (including turn-based movement on the field). You have action points, which are the core of the system. The more dexterity you raise, the more action points you get per turn. Actions include not only attacking or using items, but also reloading long-ranged weapons, and moving closer to the enemy.

The game has very good writing; that came to me as a total surprise after I had already made peace with the "soap opera" style of Japanese RPG. The characters discuss their lives and philosophical topics - sometimes ironically, sometimes passionately - and their conversations, delivered with convincing voice acting, are always well integrated into the narrative and the setting.

The game's setting is unusual for RPGs: it is an accurate historical environment, the "stylish" nineteenth century, and the characters are adequately presented types, not some multinational and chronologically messed-up hybrids like most Japanese RPG heroes. The story is suspenseful, generally well-paced, and contains some nice twists, including a surprising optional ending.

The Bad
Unfortunately, Koudelka throws all its cool ideas out of the window once the player is confronted by a contradictory combination of genres that essentially neutralize each other.

The essence of role-playing games is world exploration and character-building. But Koudelka won't give you that because - per survival horror standards - it locks you inside a single mansion with almost zero variety in location design. You'll be crawling through the same decadent golden-brownish rooms throughout the entire game. Exploration is severely limited even compared to real survival horror games such as Alone in the Dark. There is nobody to talk to and very little to find.

Vagrant Story got away with location monotony and overall "loneliness" thanks to its vastly superior level design, challenge, and depth of gameplay. On the other hand, the appealing features of Koudelka's role-playing go down the drain because of the insanely fast leveling, which eventually leads to an embarrassingly low difficulty level. Manual attribute-increasing becomes much less relevant when experience points come in such abundance that your choices don't really matter any more.

Making battles slow and tactical was perhaps the worst possible choice for a game that is supposed to rely on atmospheric immersion. Every battle begins with the (usually disappointingly unimpressive) enemies slowly marching towards you from the dark corners of a drab 3D map. No matter how overpowered you are, you'll need time and way too much patience to maneuver your heroes towards those pesky foes and hit them hard with assorted magic or your well-developed knuckles.

If you hate random battles, you'll hate them twice as much in Koudelka. They disrupt the already minimized exploration and utterly destroy our immersion in the otherwise fairly atmospheric world. Monster encounters are scary when they are scripted, i.e. when every monster is carefully placed in a specific place at a specific moment. They can also be scary when they come in masses, leaving you vulnerable and dependent on quick reaction and thinking. But you can't be scared by apathetic animated tables and sadly twisted body parts who slowly cast fire magic at you while you stand safely in your squares.

The Bottom Line
There are quite a few games out there that focus on the artistic aspects of design more than on actual gameplay. I usually have no problem with that if said artistic content is very convincing and if the gameplay at least doesn't impede the process of enjoying it. Unfortunately, Koudelka shoots itself in the leg with its disjointed and tedious mixture of two genres, resulting in a price that is too high to pay for occult references and semi-historical horror in a gothic mansion.

PlayStation · by Unicorn Lynx (181780) · 2014

Disturbing the Priest

The Good
Genre completionists always make a point to make some room in their libraries for games like Koudelka: A quirky, commercially unsuccessful game that attempts to blend two genres within a unique setting. This is the kind of stuff that makes a retro gamer drool.

Koudelka chronicles the adventures of the titular character as she is summoned by some spirit or whatever to a haunted monastery. In there she'll hook up with a couple of supporting characters and attempt to unravel the plot behind the haunted location. So far so good. As mentioned Koudelka's strongest asset is the use of somewhat unique primordial elements: The game is set in 1898 on a gothic monastery built along Wales's coastline, the title character is a gypsy girl with latent psychic powers and the ability to commune with the dead, the plot deals with occult magic forces brought about by pagan rituals and so on...

Being a horror game first and foremost, characterization is greatly emphasized, and to my delight Koudelka's characters come off as well rounded individuals fit for the adventure at hand. The game might be pushing the PS1's capabilities graphics-wise, but the great animations, superb voice-acting and solid dialogue scripting breathe life into each of the characters,. Particularly the main character herself, Koudelka, who avoids the stereotypical cutey-pie routine and comes off as a hard-boiled take-shit-from-no-one teen. Her graphic design might put you off (more on that later) but she has lots of character-driven memorable scenes that help build her as a likeable character, such as her constant clashing with the dogmatic priest James or a particularly interesting drunken sequence.

As I mentioned, the game is probably ill-fitted for the PS1's hardware, seeing as how the gothic ambiance relies so heavily on the graphic department. One must take note nonetheless of the efforts made by the creative team to squeeze moody backgrounds and some unique visuals.

The Bad
Koudelka "the game" is unfortunately a pretty drab and lifeless affair. It manages to combine two different and beloved genres and sap the life out of them.

As a survival-horror title it fails miserably. It may borrow the "3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds" formula from the Resident Evil franchise, but other than that, everything is done wrong because of the incursion of the RPG elements. All sense of suspense and intensity is thrown out the window when health, supplies and weapons are found in ample supply after defeating the randomly-generated baddies that fight you in generic arenas a la Final Fantasy. This might sound contradictory, but a monster encounter has much less drama involved in it when it ceases to be that and becomes "another grinding exercise till I get to the boss". Exploration is practically non-existent as aside from some secret items the game throws basically no puzzles your way and your objective is to grind your way to the end of the monastery as if it where all just one loooong dungeon.

Grinding by the way is the word that best describes the game's RPG elements, but unfortunately in the most bland and uninteresting way possible (as a proper grind-fest dungeon-crawler can still be an enjoyable experience). Combat is about as boring and unimpressive as it can be, falling back on all the cliches of Console RPGs from the menu-driven turn-based interfaces to the good ol' "hit the water-based enemy with the fire magic" concept of strengths and weaknesses, with your enemies being a puzzling mix of about 20% unique, inventive creatures and 80% of generic, unimpressive designs. The game earns points for allowing you to customize each character's stats and there's also a weapon/spell leveling system which increases the power of each particular weapon or spell after continuous use. Unfortunately none of these mechanics get to stretch their legs due to the ridiculously low difficulty level. Save for an impossible optional boss you'll find that Koudelka is an embarrassingly easy game, leveling-up seems to be an almost constant feature after fights and you'll find that there's no enemy in the game that needs more than a couple of hits to go down (but still the game drags you through the menus and forces you to stand by watching the battle animations, forcing you to contemplate drinking a bottle of cyanide to just end the whole ordeal). Players who entertain themselves grinding a bit just for fun will find out that by the end of the game they are practically demi-gods, able to defeat even the final boss by staredown.

For as interesting as the source material is, the overall execution is also significantly flawed. The game is set on the late 19th century, yet Koudelka is dressed as if she had just come out of "gothic lolita night" at her local goth club, a design that clashes with the strong characterization in the wrong way by confirming yet again that if you are a female star in a JRPG you have to look like an innocent, dewey-eyed cutey chick, even if your character acts nothing like that. James (the priest) is also a particularly baffling character, as he acts as the stereotypical religious fanatic in a way that seems to ignore everything that happens around him. That someone keeps negating the supernatural while they are casting fire spells at a floating eye is puzzling to say the least.

Finally, I know the game is set on a single location and all, but many other titles have managed to include more varied stages with similar formulas. Alone in the Dark had a haunted house, yet also managed to take the player into Lovecraftian hell for a bit of a change of pace. Same with Resident Evil and the underground research facility. Koudelka has the monastery and... that's it I guess. There are different sections and places to explore, but all feature the same designs, the same drab palette over and over.



The Bottom Line
As far as quirky titles go Koudelka has its merits and really stands out from the rest of the crowd. Not necessarily because of its quality but there's a certain unique flavour to it. If you feel curious about the roots of the Shadow Hearts lineage or feel like you can put up with lackluster gameplay for the sake of some decent characterization and ideas be my guest. But the reality is that Koudelka's novelty factor wears thin really fast and while I can't really say that it was a dreadful experience I can certainly think of dozens of better things to do rather than play it.

PlayStation · by Zovni (10504) · 2008

A Finely and Carefully Crafted Interactive Experience

The Good
"Koudelka" was an underrated title when it was released on the Playstation in 1999. The development team, Sacnoth, was made of many talented designers, including many former Squaresoft employees. Their influence is felt through the highly polished visuals, both in-game and in cut-scenes.

"Koudelka" is a game that succeeds on many levels. The visuals, (gothic-horror), are beautiful and interesting, and keep the player's attention through the entire adventure. The story elements are bold and mature and are manifested in the superior writing. In association, I claim that "Koudelka" is, so far, the best voice-acted videogame ever. Special attention needs to be paid by the player when the characters of Koudelka and Edward are sharing a drink while sharing their pasts. In conjunction with the excellent writing and acting is the best execution of motion capture in any game. Often times motion captured characters seem to the player as a fractured set of movements forced together to produce familiar yet odd character movement. "Koudelka's" motion captured actors succeed to a degree that the player never question the use of the motion capture. Interwoven among the visuals and writing is an excellent score. The music is very reminiscent of recent "Castlevania" games that integrate gothic melodies with modern beats.

The combat system is fun but not stand out. It does not, however, detract from the overall gothic-horror themes in the game. It is more than adequate.

The Bad
Usually, the only negative comment one will read about "Koudelka" is the combat system. I do not think this is a result of the combat system being deficient, instead I claim that because the rest of the game was so finely crafted and extraordinary, that the basic and adequate combat system has a gigantic shadow cast over it.

The Bottom Line
Koudelka was one of the greatest videogames released for the PSX. The title succeeded in nearly every category. The visuals, writing, acting, and music are extraordinary. The level of maturity has yet to be matched in any videogame. (The game coming closest would be "Final Fantasy X"). This is a true gem amidst the very average franchise titles released in the late life of the PSX. Thankfully there were enough sales to warrant a sequel, entitled: "Shadow Hearts", for the PS2.

The gothic-horror atmosphere is omnipresent, the characters, via their writing and acting convince the player of their reality, and the music glues the videogame together. For fun that has yet to be duplicated by any other game, with a close exception being "Shadow Hearts", give a look to "Koudelka".

PlayStation · by D P (129) · 2006

[ View all 4 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Weapon Questions... MasterMegid (723) Jan 26, 2008
Shame on those "professional" review sites Unicorn Lynx (181780) May 25, 2007

Trivia

Location

The cut scene at the beginning of the game says that it is set in Aberystwyth in Wales. This place does exist and has a ruined castle which looks similar to the monastery in the game. However, the game states that Wales is "small country in the north of England". This is wrong in two ways - firstly Wales is a principality, which like England is part of the United Kingdom. Secondly, it's actually in the west of the UK, and borders part of the west of England - geographically they must have confused it with Scotland.

References

Koudelka features a true historical figure: the medieval Franciscan monk and savant Roger Bacon makes his appearance in the monastery graveyard.

Mystic symbols

Just a small detail: one of the FMVs of the game (the one with strange symbols floating around, when the heroes talk about alchemy and mysticism) shows circles with Hebrew words engraved: Keter, Khokhma, and Bina. Those words (meaning Crown, Wisdom, and Understanding) are the attributes of God, according to the medieval Jewish mystical teaching, the Kabbala. They actually bothered to dig up 100% authentic and rare historical/occult material.

Information also contributed by festershinetop

Analytics

MobyPro Early Access

Upgrade to MobyPro to view research rankings!

Related Sites +

  • Official Website
    Koudelka homepage that contains game info, animations, music, wallpapers and more about the game.
  • Wikipedia: Koudelka
    Information about Koudelka at Wikipedia

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 5387
  • [ Please login / register to view all identifiers ]

Contribute

Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by MAT.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Martin Smith, DreinIX, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto.

Game added December 3, 2001. Last modified March 6, 2023.