Hexplore Download (1998 Role playing Game)

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Hexplore is an interesting role-playing game. What makes it different than other games is the control of the characters. The game never stops as battles occur in real-time while users must control four characters in the game's single-player mode. Trying to move four characters when monsters attack provides a rather high difficulty rating.

You are given an isometric view of the area. The only areas you can see are the ones that you have already traveled over. Using the mouse the view can be rotated in a complete circle at any time. Monsters wander around the maps and during battles you need to control all of your characters with no break in the action. If a character is attacked they will automatically fight back so they might survive on their own.

The party must consist of all four character classes. Without each class you will not advance past level one. Hexplore is set up as individual levels which consist of one map per level. Each character can only advance once per level. With so many monsters characters will quickly reach their maximum experience at the beginning of a level. If a character dies all you need to do is move them to a resurrection stone which are located throughout each map.

Playing with other players is where this game excels. If you have four players then you each only need to control one character. Every player can move in their own direction and communicate with others at any time. Saving allows you to save one character of each class. The actual game is not saved but you can set the game to any level before you begin a multiplayer game. It is still a good idea to search each level to find new weapons and items. as most of your items will be found rather than purchased from a merchant.

Graphically Hexplore looks fine and contains some detail. Characters are not too interesting nor are the backgrounds. Sound effects include characters yell things when moving and attacking. The townspeople also have voices.

Hexplore contains a great mix of adventure, action, and strategy. More than 200 maps will provide plenty of hours of entertainment. The addition of online play helps out the fun factor. My only complaints are the character control in single-player games and the inability to create your own characters.

Graphics: They fit the game but lack the detail of other similar games.

Sound: Contains various voices.

Enjoyment: If you are playing with three others then the enjoyment is much higher.

Replay Value: Again, multiplayer games add a lot to the game.

This game had promise. Too bad it turns out that it sucks. Seriously though, reading all the info from the game's website while the game was installing made me start to salivate. Could this be the Zelda of the PC? Could it have a more versatile game engine and more RPG elements than Diablo? Would the co-op multiplay be as much fun as co-op Diablo, or better? I crossed my fingers as I started it up, enjoyed the intro movie (albeit not a patch on Blizzard's rendered intros), and started into the game. About 5 minutes later I was looking for the option to toggle the game from TERRIBLE to GOOD.

Graphics: [13/20]

Using a new voxel-based engine they called VoxIso, this game promised a lot of potentially impressive and functional features, like zooming in and out at any moment, and the main feature, free 360 rotation of the background, in real time, allowing traps, objects, characters or secret passages hidden behind walls or cliffs, etc. to be seen. However the game's graphics are really quite bad. Even in high-res mode, the characters are so utterly pixellated it's a joke. The best example of this is when I was in the first village, when I came upon this blob of pixels with no recognizable shape. I moved the mouse cursor over this blob, and the name it gives me is "village child". It was just ridiculous. As well, the entire game is super choppy, in low-res and high-res. When you highlight an item or creature, or pick up an item, you are treated to a cheap animation of different colored arrows doing different things. When you pick up an item, these 4 yellow arrows come up from the item and seperate. It looks bad, and doesn't help the game at all. Another cheesy "feature" is how enemies sink into the ground like 2 seconds after you kill them. I would expect them to stay a bit, or at least go through some manner of natural decomposition to explain their absence, not just them magically sinking in the ground. The free rotation is actually kinda neat, but when you combine the rest of the pixellated graphics, it's like giving a 3rd (height) dimension to Wolfenstein 3d, it's just an added feature to a severely limited engine. One of the very few neat ideas is shroud, the entire map is covered in black until you explore it, so you are always surprised about what is up ahead.

Sound: [12/15]

Some of the sound in this game is decent, the rest inadequate. There is an original score of music in the game that goes along quite nicely, it definitely adds to the adventurous element and to a certain extent inspires you to go on. The speech is good, the characters all have unique voices as do the villagers and such that you meet along the way. The sound FX are quite inadequate, the combat sounds are just weak, and there are tons of ambient sound effects that are missing. Combat is the worst however, you don't get any sword clanging, screams of pain, projectiles hitting flesh etc. It is MUCH weaker than Diablo in this respect. You basically click on an enemy and a little while later he's dead and lying on the floor, with you taking some damage. I can't believe they couldn't improve the sound to the same level as the speech/music.

Gameplay: [16/25]

This game is slow, very slow. There is no element of surprise, no excitement, no FUN. Your characters plod along slowly, occasionally wandering into an enemy. What a blast the combat is (sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell). Click on an enemy and you get a cheesy red-arrow animation. Your character(s) run up, maybe you'll see a sword animation, and a few seconds later the enemy is dead or you are dead. It is so tedious and drab it drove me nuts. There is no fun at all in the combat, and since a majority of the game is combat, you can tell what effect this has on the entire game. The problem is compounded when there are multiple enemies, since the game has such a terrible framerate and pixellated graphics that it becomes a chore seeing who you are attacking, and directing characters to attack. It seems impossible in a party situation to change the character you are controlling quickly, it seems, unless I am missing a shortcut key. You must click their picture in the top of the screen to select them, and therefore directing all members of the parties to attack different enemies becomes a huge chore. As well another stupid problem is when you select all the characters, there is a "lead" character who is the single character you had selected before you selected them all. This lead character picks up the experience points (which is cheesily represented as a white star that you have to pick up) and all the items, not sharing with the other members of the party. What this means is that if you want to raise all your characters experience at the same time, you have to get the different characters to pick up the experience at different occasions, instead of splitting the EXP between all the selected characters. This is an added hassle, one of the many that reduce the playability of this game. The RPG elements of this game are weak, you talk to villagers, and learn the "plot" through these non-interactive dialogues. There are some situations of having to run errands for people (pick up a sledgehammer from a farmhouse for a guy stranded on a road, rewarding you with a health potion) and solve puzzles, but basically the game is combat, and as I've mentioned many a time before, the combat is b-a-d. Probably the absolutely most annoying feature is the scrolling, which is jumpy and choppy and almost impossible to use. There is a large lag factor between moving the mouse to the edge of the screen and the screen actually moving, so you will be surprised when and how fast the screen scrolls. You will probably end up using the arrow keys on the keyboard to move, since its choppy scrolling is a huge improvement over the mouse scrolling. You _will_ get lost on the screen due to a scrolling mishap, and it might take a while to recuperate your position. There is no excuse for such terrible scrolling, and it makes a big difference in this game.

Fun Factor: [14/20]

This game had the potential of being fun, combining the elements of Zelda with the graphics of Diablo. It doesn't live up to its potential. Boring combat, terribly pixellated graphics even at high-res, and monotonous gameplay ruin what could have been a good title. The more you play, the more you will be dragged into this game, but it's very hard to stay with this game since it's so terribly boring and slow. The plot is adequate but not spellbinding. The dialogue is flat and non-interactive, and the entire game seems like a chore to play. It promises a minimum of 70 hours of gameplay, a very impressive feat, but I doubt there is more than a handful of gamers out there who will have the patience to pass it. The factors against enjoying this game are too numerous. Even the 360 rotation can't help this game, it is used in a very obvious fashion where you can see an object is placed in a certain position just so you have to rotate to find it. It is kind of neat, just spinning in place is more fun than actually playing this game.

Multiplay: [3/5]

This game has a neat premise for multiplay, up to 4 people can play co-op and run around as a little band, killing guys along the way. Although the lag is minimal (at least with 2 player mode with a cable modem hosting and a dialup), the game is still no fun. Perhaps if the adventure elements and combat were more fun, running around with 3 friends in a co-op party would be a blast, but unfortunately bad graphics, bad combat, and limited things to do (all CoMpuACiD and I found to do was kill stuff...) makes multiplay as boring as single play. It's a shame, 4 player co-op in this type of game could be as good/better than Diablo, since the game has more RPG elements and more things to do. Maybe in a sequel..

Overall Impression: [7/10]

This game could have, with a MUCH better graphic engine and MUCH better combat, been a huge improvement over Diablo in terms of RPG elements, and brought to the PC an adventure/rpg game comparable to the quality of Zelda on the consoles. Unfortunately the graphics are terribly pixellated, even at high-res, the combat is really bad, and the RPG elements are superficial, as is the plot. The 360 rotation is a unique feature and could potentially be used to add another level of depth to a basically "flat" game. Too bad it doesn't work in this game. Multiplay co-op could be good, but it's not, due to the flawed engine and combat. Basically this game has a lot of potential, it was just executed rather poorly. Perhaps another company can step in and use the template of this game and polish it up, and we'll have a hit on our hands.


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