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SummaryA mission pack with an attitude
The GoodOfficially, it is labeled a mission pack, and yet sometimes it feels like a real sequel. Portal of Praevus (PoP for short) adds not only new levels and puzzles to overcome, but also a lot of new artwork, music, effects, engine enhancements, and even a new playable class.
It takes places shortly after the end of Hexen II – the heroes tried to enjoy their well-deserved rest, yet a mysterious winter has descended upon the land. Clearly, there is more nasty evil to defeat. This story is told through a short animated intro (rendered in the game engine), which also introduces the new character, the Demoness.
PoP follows the tradition of placing the player within ancient culture settings and adds a Tibetan theme, which fits pretty well among the other themes of the original game. The new maps have a unique atmosphere and definitely won’t feel like “more of the same.”
The new maps are divided into two hubs – in the first you will revisit the familiar medieval environment of the original time, though it will be considerably modified by the unexpected winter that has gripped the land. This part of the game also features perilous subterranean catacombs filled with various puzzles and nasty surprises. The second hub introduces the new Tibetan environment along with a rich variety of new textures and objects, which ensure its uniqueness. There are some new monsters as well, most of which are quite tough.
The new puzzles also come with new items that the player will use to solve them. These include some peculiar objects like a jar of dragon’s tongue or a funeral mask. The puzzles themselves are not very hard (still having nightmares about those constellations in Hexen II’s third hub) and try to give the player new and unexpected challenges – in one case, for example, you will have to deal with a sequence of meaningless symbols. You will either have to memorise them or write them down (I’ve done it both ways).
The new playable class, Demoness, is an anti-hero of sorts. She is a spawn of evil and fights against Praevus only for the sake of vengeance. She is purely ranged fighter, as even her starting weapon, which is simply the ability to shoot small fiery projectiles from her bare hand, is ranged (all other classes start the game with a melee weapon). The other weapons include acid bolts, fire blasts and the fearsome Tempest Staff. The Demoness’s unique skills include the ability to glide (useful for longer jumps or falling without taking damage) and the ability to convert damage taken into mana (a survival tool when things get nasty). Overall, she is fun to play.
Improvements have been done to the engine – some visual effects have been updated (e.g. the Necromancer’s magic missiles and bone shards). The greatest improvements are in terms of weather effects – the original game made a modest attempt for rain in the final level, in PoP there is snow falling from the sky – and it looks pretty realistic, considering the Quake engine’s limitations.
Other small improvements include an objectives window, which gives you a general hint about what your current goal is – very useful if you are confused and unsure where to go. Also, when your hero gains a level, you will be notified how much his/her maximum health and mana have increased. The level-up messages are more visible too.
Last but not least, PoP includes a Nightmare difficulty for the more experienced players. To play it, however, you will have to find its hidden entrance, which involves solving a very difficult mini-puzzle.
The BadThe only thing that bothers me are several plot holes.
In the first hub, it never becomes quite clear who the wizard Razumen is and why he wants to enter the castle's catacombs. This is an issue, as the player will find numerous references to this man throughout the hub and he is obviously an element of the story.
The origins and motives of Praevus are also not quite clear - I am pretty sure that a few hints about his backstory and ultimate goal would have made the second hub even more enjoyable to play.
The Bottom LineFans of the Heretic/Hexen series should not miss this expansion - it is an excellent experience and it concludes the Serpent Riders' story in a somewhat satisfactory way... for now ;)
People who like classic 1990's shooters could also enjoy this mission pack (as well as the original Hexen II).