From the official site, [t]o win, the player must take sides between the two great powers that share the world today: nature and technology. Throughout his adventure and during each quest, the player will be able to make choices leading to one way or the other.
That is an understatement! The number of choices are amazing; from armor, to skill set, and NPC party members you have thousands of possible choices. Amongst your choices are whether or not to even play this latest Diablo clone. Well I have put many hours into the first 20 levels in several different manners and I admit that I had fun doing it. I don’t know a great deal about the end game, but I will now be happy to focus on one or two of my favorite classes and work on that. For right now, the game has a few issues, but I enjoyed it overall. So without further ado, the details:
(My specs: Dell Inspiron 9400 “E1705″ laptop, 17” widescreen, Intel T2400 CPU(1.83GHz), 1 GB RAM, ATI x1400, Sigma Tel HiDef audio)
The graphics are detailed. It looks like cell-shading, but there is an option in the game to disable the black lines. The player’s avatar can collect and equip all sorts of armor and weapons which are displayed on the toon. This allows for highly customizable looks beyond mere colors. There are robes, leathers, plate armor, and even some samurai-esque items and I’m only level 20! The weapons range from staves to guns with chainsaws and crossbows in between. Claw weapons and katars allow players to dual-wield like ninjas, or perhaps a two-handed axe the size of your body is more your taste? It’s in there.
The grounds around the camp in the swamp look very much what I expect a swamp to look like, the city in the desert is complete with blowing sands, and the rocks and trees and paths are all very detailed and realistic. Trees fade when you get near to avoid blocking your view, but there is plenty of places for the evil creatures to hide and ambush you. There are red dots that tell you where zombies and other assorted undead are lying in wait in the swamp, but seeing the path and knowing the path are not the same thing.
The single player can navigate the paths and obstacles without too much hassle once you get used to the angles, but when in Multiplayer the aspect of trying to follow someone is a whole other task unto itself. As a healer trying to keep the tank-type alive, it was infuriating to have him dissappear around some tree when I am forced to actually click his form to cast the spell. With any sort of latency this was a huge pain in the tail; however, that is another section.
The music is very good. The introduction’s ochestral piece can play over and over and I don’t get tired of it at all. The moods change quickly depending on your state of combat and the area that you’re in. The overall theme, Nature vs Technology, even has an influence over the sound track. The music was composed by Dynamedion; Monte Cristo’s sound designer, Sylvain Prunier, was responsible for the choice and adaptation of the music.
The sounds of combat are appropriate and effective. Heavy shouts and grunts are heard on a particularly effective melee strike. Each of the plethora of magic spells have distinct chimes, and bows have the expected twang of the string as it launches its missile at your foe. The crunch of gravel or splashes of water when traipsing about the country-side are always present and natural. With my headphones on, I can pick out things sneaking up behind me or hear the water dripping off the bones of a skeleton warrior rising out of the swamps nearby. It is clear that a lot of thought went into this, and the execution is superb.
The controls are very similar to Diablo. There are some key problems, as lighted upon in the video section, in that the pathing can be somewhat difficult. Many times I would use the low angle camera view to give me a better idea of what is out ahead of me. The problem would come from me trying to click out into the horizon to move and end up interacting with a guard, or a companion. Combat would be very difficult to pick out a particular target if they were all huddled into a tight group; although, I find that aspect to be realistic as it gives me a sense of the horde protecting itself.
Also akin to Diablo is the combat system. The left-mouse-button has one attack, and the right-mouse button has another attack. The left side can be set to the 3 basics: Melee, Ranged, and Technique. The first two are obvious, but the latter refers to an inherent magic ability that doesn’t cost mana. Usually it is a ranged attack, but I assume there are other options. Each of these three are programable if you want to switch between something else; for example, different styles of melee be it defensive or berserk. You can swtich between these three-left-hand button options with the 1, 2 and 3 keys. The right-mouse button is even more versatile. The numbers 4 thru 8 can be programmed with individual spells. One can be for healing, another for the fireball, and so forth. You can use the number keys or click the unique glyph at the bottom to change the behavior of the appropriate mouse button. The 9 and 0 keys are for health or power (mana) potions respectively. The sheer number of spells you can have hits something of a limitation here, but you’ll soon have favorites. I don’t like having to use the keyboard a lot to change spells, but I don’t have anything better either.
Gameplay is quite a bit of fun. If you had any fun playing Diablo or Titan Quest you’ll love this one. While the missions are they usual “get me this thing” or “destroy this many
There is a chest for storing the special items though I have yet to find a single item worthy of keeping. Items typically seem to drop approximate to your level so you don’t have to “put things in the box for later.” A lot of the items are given to companions or sold once you make it to the next town. Money was never much of a problem after only a few hours of gameplay.
Many types of gear you’ll come across will only be useable for one particular alignment as well. So if you have your eyes on steam powered armor, you had best be ready for the tree huggers to give you the stink-eye, and if you wanted that powerful oak staff you need to be nice to the frogs. the best part is that you can do it anyway you want to. The game does not judge you if you select one type over another or even if you don’t select at all. You can have fun your way.
Right now the multiplayer is a bit of a detraction. There aren’t a lot of games to join, and there isn’t a nice expansive centralized server, a la Battle.net, to find people to play alongside. I will bet this is a blast in a LAN situation, but I didn’t have anyone local to try it out upon. That is not to suggest that the single player action is lacking.
Aside from a few glitches with the camera and path logic, the game is fairly straightforward. Take on missions, go forth into surroundings and kill things that get in the way. Inane aspects like armor taking damage were thankfully left out, but you do get to “enjoy” the occasional corpse chase. Best be sure that you’re insured, by the way, or have a good second set of armor because grabbing your tombstone does not auto-equip your body.