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SummaryAn RPG-Style First-Person Shooter
The GoodHexen is a very underrated game, in a way it finally enabled the Doom engine to have features it was originally planned to have (like hub level structure). Pretty much every Hexen feature was a major advance for a shooter at the time: real usable inventory with artefacts, health items that could be carried (quartz flasks and mystic urns), three different player classes (mainstay for RPGs, unheard-of in shooters: fighter, mage, cleric), a serious variety of weapons (4 weapons for each class+flechettes), a cartoonish taunting master villain, and just the "spooky-yet-cartoonish saving-the-world ambience". The music is great, though the original had only MIDI scores and a rather low-quality Sound Canvas audio CD. Obviously how great the MIDI files will play depends on the instrument bank for the GM synth the soundcard can drive. The big plus is, with the right instruments the soundtrack is haunting and fits the game beautifully.
The BadNothing really. It could have a bit more detail, like NPCs (there are none). Hexen II introduced NPC-leftover "bait" (like corpses and notes and dead NPCs' diaries, etc.). The Tome of Power was missing (again, Hexen II remedies this).
The Bottom LineHexen is one of those games that can baffle people if they have no RPG experience, even repel them. The game is a masterpiece, and plays like a light, fun hack'n'slash adventure. If you're used to D&D and similar roleplaying games, that is. To folks who have never played an AD&D RPG (or anything similar), the puzzles might be frustrating, and of course the game requires the player to actually think, unlike point-and-shoot games where the most difficulty would be gathering ammo or unlocking a door/switch/lift/elevator with a key that has to be wrestled from an enemy (or mob).
Hexen is really more complex, but not by much. There're many items (such as the Chaos Device - emergency teleport; Discs of Repulsion - pushing wave generators; Quartz Flasks - 25 health point restorers) which transform the game from a simple shooter into a strategic delight, both for co-op and deathmatch. Deathmatch simply isn't anywhere as simple or stupid in Hexen, where you can turn an opponent into a pig or teleport out of trouble when nearly mortally wounded. Oh, and of course any player character can fly once the Wings of Wrath are found. Different classes have different weapons and different Flechette styles, too. Flechette is the local grenade. The cleric's Flechette is a gas poison trap, the mage's is a simple timebomb, and the fighter's is a glass grenade. Some of the greatest weapons ever in a shooter are also to be found in Hexen: the Arc of Death, the Serpent Staff, and the Wraithverge.
Puzzles might seem daunting, but really they're all straightforward and there's no set way to completing them - a player is free to travel among several levels at once in a hub. Puzzles though are mostly simple "flick a switch, something happens" or "pick a key, amass a collection of keys" type, except for a few deathtraps (hint: if you fall into a chasm or well, either fly out or use the Chaos Device).
The inventory and playerclasses' unique abilities make Hexen stand out among shooters. Really it's a masterpiece, the game never gets boring, even almost 20 years after its release.