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SummaryIt's not bad
The GoodIt's a pleasant change from the norm to play a FPS that involves magic rather than guns, and that's more or less the idea of this game. You have around forty spells to your disposal that fall into eight different catagories (attacks, shields, traps, etc.), and sooner or later, you will have used every one (or at least wish you had!)
The game uses the Unreal engine, and it works very well with the game. The graphics are quite good, and the textures are varied and numerous. Despite being on an (by today's standards) average machine, the game ran smooth as silk on higher detail/resolutions. Many levels - particularly the first level, the ancient destroyed city - are very eerie, complete with ghostly "worms" seeping out from the wall hissing at you as they chase you down the corridor. The audio - particularly of these types of levels - are very well done. The music score is very fitting, and the sounds that fill the battles sound very sincere. The monsters look nice (if you have time to get a good look before they're hacking away at you), and many of the structures both indoor and outside are very beautiful. Often times it's difficult to tell if the background mountains are polygon based or just the background render (that is to say, the backgrounds look very good.) There are plenty of non-static objects lying about that you can kick around with your spells, and dead soldiers often drop their weapons and shields, which detail the damage you had inflicted upon them.
The ability to use forty-or-so spells to defeat your foe gives you many a chance for some strategic thinking. Unlike nearly every FPS game, the run-and-gun method won't always work, and you'll have to resort to using that big wrinkly thing in your skull. Do you try and blow the monster away with fireballs before he can reach you, or do you set up traps and try and lure him into it? Do you want to risk trying to get away to a safer spot, or fight the enemy head on. Most (if not all) monsters are faster than you, so running isn't really an option, and they'll leap out of the way of your spells while others will either use a spell or their shield to reflect your attack right back at you.
Though most levels are your standard "run around, get the key, find the exit" cliche'd FPS level, some levels were very unique, both to the game and the FPS genre. Some levels allowed you to fight along allies, others even let you set up your own defensive perimeter, complete with traps, walls, and soldiers.
The cinematics are very lengthy, (no unecesarry split-second eye candy cutscenes) and the voice overs are done very well. The discussions between the characters in the cinematics fill you in on what lead up to where you are now and what you must do next, and if you miss that, thorough instructions are available at the start of the level.
The BadA parade of bugs and just plain bad programming and design kept me from enjoying this game to its full potential. While the levels look very nice, it's not hard to spot a "hall of mirrors" bug, if you look hard enough, and many levels allow you to reach areas that were never intended to be reached (which usually result in falling into a dark void in which you have to load back - don't save in there!) Many walls are too steep for you to climb, but a simple running jump can send you soaring to the clouds, like some Matrix up-the-wall jump. A few times I ran into strange invisible walls that neither allowed me to walk through nor fire spells through (and shooting a fireball into an invisible wall while standing next to it doesn't do you much good.)
The AI is awful. Once the monster sees you, his only desire is to destroy you at all costs...or at least, until he loses interest. Many (but not all) times, running behind a wall would cause the monster to stop chasing you and return to its guard post, allowing you to strike again without warning.
At first, you feel you have to conserve your spells, as only a few spells have infinite use, but if you take advantage of the sheer amounts of bugs in the game, the game is quite easy. Many, many, many times monsters would suddenly simply freeze in place, or in mid-air, and no longer be able to attack you or even care, and you can just whack at him with your air attack (which has infinite use) without worrying about a retaliation.
Many times, when you kill a human soldier, he'll drop his sword or shield, but you can't do anything more with it than kick it around with your air attack. Many times, you'll enter an armory, with shields and swords and crossbows are hanging up ready for use, but once again you can't do anything with it. Even if you are a witch and haven't the slightest clue how to use a sword, crossbow, or shield, I'd rather take my chances with that than resorting to your only inifite-use attack, your air spell, which roughly has the same effect on the enemy as blowing really hard at him through a straw.
There are a few bosses, which appear quite difficult to defeat at first, until for one reason or another, the boss simply stops attacking you, which completely takes the fun out of a strategic battle against a difficult boss, and the final boss is almost not a boss at all.
While the textures are varied and numerous, many of them seem very, very flat and dull. Much of the ground, particularly the walkways, seem to be just one dull shaded color. Fortunately, there are many polygonal objects scattered about the landscape that help distract you from it.
The cinematics aren't that great. The animation is bad, and the voices are greatly out of sync with the peoples' mouths. It looks as though it were rendered in-game, but they're not. In my opinion, they would have looked much better if they had been rendered in game. They're very long and often boring, with very change in the camera position and long drawn-out conversations. Often times, I wanted to skip it, but didn't in fear that I might miss something exciting (paying attention to the conversation did enhance the storyline, but since your instructions can be found at the start of the next level, they weren't good for much else.)