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SummaryPoor sequel to an average game
The GoodThis is a sequel to Greg Malone's earlier game Moebius. I didn't especially like Moebius but there were a lot of good things about the game and I hoped this sequel would take the chance to sort out some of the problems. The plot is standard RPG fare. An evil warlord and his alchemist have deposed the emperor and enslaved the kingdom. You have to get the emperor back on the throne. More unusually, the game borrows heavily from Asian history and the manual lists a whole bibliography of books on the topic that were used as research. The game was obviously something of a labour of love for its author. It plays like a standard RPG except for the combat sections which use side on kung-fu fighting.
Windwalker uses a fairly unique perspective to show the world. It is still tile based, just like all Origins other RPG's but the tiles overlap for tall objects. i.e. the top of a tree appears before the rest of it at the top of the screen, giving a sort of curved world effect. Behind this the sky is animated to show sunrises, the passage of the moon, etc.. The whole effect is a little odd and made more so by the fact that, once again, all the characters are represented by disembodied heads.
There is some early soundblaster support with an adlib soundtrack. The music is limited to the intro and the end of fights, it would have been nice to see a bit more of it. Digital samples are used almost exclusively for effects in fights. The general impression is that the sound was added late into the project but its nice to see it being used at all.
The conversation system is greatly improved. The game remembers what you have learned from elsewhere and you just choose a conversation topic from a list. The cast of characters is small, however, and the dialog below average.
The BadMy main grievances with Moebius was that it was slow moving and repetitive. Moving around the map doesn't seem quite as painful as the previous game but it is still slower than I would have liked. You spend a lot of time in the game sailing between islands, where you run into storms. Each of these storms takes about 30 seconds all of which time you have to wait before you can move again. These storms are all too common especially in one set of islands where you can barely move before you run into another. If you are struck by lightning during these storms (and you invariably are), then you have to burn some incense to heal which again you have to watch slowly burning across the bottom of the screen. Moving around in these areas is a real chore.
Another of my grievances with Moebius was the lack of different opponents to fight. This game does nothing to improve on this with a grand total of 4 (1 of which is the warlord). This results in the game being unbalanced. As far as I'm concerned the opponents you face in an RPG should get harder as the game progresses. This game takes the opposite approach - at the start of the game you will need to hit someone 15-20 times to kill them and will die yourself in 2 or 3 hits. Once you have levelled up a bit, you kill everyone else in a couple of hits. This is simply poor design.
Speaking of levelling up, at no point in playing the game from start to end did I level up my character through combat. It was always by performing some task or other toward the main goal of the game. Again this seems highly unbalanced - you are forced at the start of the game to attempt to complete quests with a character that plainly isn't up to it making the start of the game very difficult.
Windwalker uses what is effectively a lives system. You start off with 10 karma and if you die you lose 1 of these. Lose all 10 and that's the end of your game with no option other than to restart from the very beginning. You shouldn't be expected to have to restart in a game this size and I really don't understand why this was included. You can't even get around it by restarting your game and loading the last save. If you do this the game reduces your karma by 1 when you load the game as an anti-cheating measure. This anti-cheating measure kicks in every time you leave the game without manually exiting.
The combat section of the game is quite badly animated - there are only around 3 frames of animation for example to perform a cartwheel. There are two modes to choose between for the combat, one is turn based where your opponent will not move until you do. The other plays in real time like any beat-em up. As far as I could tell combat was little more than judging how far away your opponent was and picking the right move accordingly. I didn't find it to be especially fun - in the early stages of the game it is far too difficult, in the later stages far too easy. Aside from the levelling up, you get an invulnerability talisman part way into the game. Once you have this, you should never lose another fight throughout the entire game.
Reading the manual for the game gives some insight as to the world Greg Malone was trying to recreate but little of this comes across. All the research feels more or less wasted.