You play as Heimdall, a demi-god based in Norse mythology. Heimdall's job is to protect the entrance to Asgard, the home of the gods, from all evil, including the terrible Ragnarok, when all the evil forces come together to try and destroy the gods and ultimately everything.
Unfortunately Ragnarok is on its way and if that wasn't bad enough, Loki, god of mischief, has hidden Thor's hammer, Odin's sword and Frey's spear in three worlds. You, as the newly mortalized Heimdall, must visit each of these worlds to collect the god's weapons.
The first is Midgard (or Earth), the second is Utgard (the world of the giants) and the third is Asgard itself, the home of the gods. Each world has around 15 islands and each island has countless rooms.
When you start your mission you are given three sub-games to complete. How well you complete these games determines Heimdall's stats (strength, agility etc) as well as how many people he can choose from to make up his party. If you don't do well then you won't get the full 30 characters to choose from and some of the better ones will not be available to you.
The first sub-game is the Axe Throwing Contest. Here you must throw axes at a young barmaid tied to a stock by her pig-tails. The idea is to hit the pig-tails and not her! Unfortunately because Heimdall is a bit drunk, your cursor wobbles all over the place! The second sub-game is Pig Catching (where you must chase and hopefully catch a pig in its pen) and the third is the Long Boat Fight (where you must try and get to the other side of the long boat without being thrown overboard).
Once you've done this it's time to wander around the isometric landscape solving puzzles and killing baddies (in a similar style to Cadaver) until you eventually find one of the god's missing weapons.
In Norse mythology, Heimdall is a guardian god that protects the only bridge between Asgard (The Land of Gods) and Midgard (The Land of Humans). In the game, though, there's no mention of this and he appears only in his mortal state, as your main character. The intro, which, except the moment when you die, is accompanied by the only music from the entire game, explains most of the story. It appears that in his attempt to change the course of the war in his favor, God of Evil Loki has stolen Odin's sword, Freyja's spear and Thor's hammer. The weapons were cast down to Earth and apparently, in this Age of Ragnarok, the gods can't enter Midgard without taking the human form. Thus they sent Thor to raise a storm above a northern Viking village, "and the next morning Ingrid, a young girl found herself 9 months pregnant".
After the long and euphoric intro, you get to choose between three options: load a saved game, new game with subgames and without. If you choose so, the way you take those trial subgames will help the computer define your stats. You'll get a default character if you choose not to take them. Either way I didn't see much difference. As the young Heimdall you'll have to participate in 3 different competitions: Axe Throwing, Pig Chasing and Boat Fighting. In the first you control the axe using your mouse, pressing Left-Mouse button to throw, while in the rest of the trials you'll use O, K, Z, X as directional keys and the Spacebar to perform the needed action, either an attempt to catch the pig or a sword swing. I don't know the reason for the poor choices in the key selection, but I spent a lot of time figuring them out.
In order to successfully complete your objective of recovering the divine weapons you need a couple of friends. You have to select a party of six, including you, before exploring Heimdall's world, and depending on how well you performed in those subgames I mentioned before, you'll see a different number of character choices (up to 30). These include various professions: warriors, wizards, shipwrights, navigators, druids, thieves. Each has different stats, warriors possessing greater strength and health, while druids and wizards are good in runelore. Runelore is very important if you want to identify and use the large selection of magical scrolls you'll find. Even though you have to choose 5 more party members, 3 of them will serve only for storing inventory items, since levelling up is so slow (I finished the game with level 7). They'll be completely useless if facing stronger enemies later in the game.
After this, the world of Heimdall will be open for your explorations. There are actually three worlds that need to be "vandalised": Midgard, Utgard (The Land of Giants) and Asgard. One for each godly weapon. Doesn't seem too logical to me, though, since they previously said that all the weapons were thrown on Earth (Midgard). You'll travel from island to island until you reach the one with the weapon. When debarking you should have three party members selected in the inventory page (the helmet image). You can choose which have the privilege of breathing some fresh air by clicking on the items button (in the same inventory screen).
After setting foot on the island you'll be transported from the map screen to a series of dungeons with some primitive rectangular rooms. Not what you'd normally call a detailed world (you can admire some torches, trees, statues and chests along the way), but the variety didn't leave me bored, plus, there are some special environments later in the game. Ignoring the lack of detail, the graphical style is really nice and deserves admiration. Basically your expeditions will become complete Loot Festivals, collecting all the stuff left by the dead enemies and stored in chests. You'll find some isolated NPCs (mostly "give me something and I'll give you something else in return"-type) and adventure-like puzzles, but those won't change the game into a deep RPG experience, especially when you don't know your secondary objectives or the stuff you need in order to accomplish the main quest. At the beginning you'll randomly visit the islands without knowing all the possible actions and the fact that some items you find on one island should be used on another in order to get a second item which is needed further in your quest. Some puzzles have indeed some hints written in the form of scrolls, but don't ask me which type of key you need to open a certain door. I'm totally clueless if there's actually a particular element you could use to identify them.
The other serious problems you'll encounter is staying alive and managing your inventory. But if you use the same characters on every island and drink all the potions you find (those increase certain stats with 5 points) killing your enemies will seem easy. I can't say the same about the ridiculous fighting system. Instead of dealing with them by point-and-clicking, every time you enter a fight a new screen appears, with several options like Attack, Defend, Run and Spell. However, the real problem is that you need to choose really fast a weapon and after that click on the Attack button, before your enemy makes a move. If you don't have fast reflexes you'll die often. You can use various methods to restore the life of your party, from food to extra heal and energy spells. In fact this is the kind of items I used to exclusively store in the inventory of the 3 members remaining on the ship. If one of your characters died, you can use a ressurection spell, which you can find in all the shops that are scattered on certain islands. It will be problematic, though, if you lose the one that has the most runelore and strength, because you need a specific amount of runelore to use the spell and the lack of strength makes you weak against future opponents.
The limited inventory space means discarding useless items. It's hard to do this in Heimdall because you have no idea which scrolls or things you'll need later in the game. You'll have to rely especially on your intuition and avoid throwing rare stuff, or else you'll have to revisit the same island where you previously found it.
For this type of games I like ambient music and interesting NPCs to keep me interested. Unfortunately, Heimdall lacks both and ends up being a generic RPG that forces you on a long trip of looting. On the other hand, considering the year of release, the lack of music is understandable, but the really primitive sound samples used for various actions like footsteps and sword swings is not. It makes no real difference if you play in silent mode (except the intro). There's no story progression except returning the lost weapons. Heimdall brings something new by combining genres and crossing the boundaries between them, but in the end it feels more like an introductory part to the sequel.
- You can save your game only when you're in the Main Map Screen, in the inventory page. Also there is only one saving slot.
- When running the setup you can choose between keyboard- and mouse-based control. I think it's designed for the latter, the pointer being used in both cases. Keyboard control uses the arrow keys, SPACE and ENTER. The mouse-based control uses the mouse buttons and the arrow keys. In both cases to switch between characters you need to press F1, F2 and F3.
- In mouse-based control, while you can move your character using the mouse, I'd suggest the arrow keys instead. The mouse should be used when fighting and managing your inventory.
- Escape to exit the game and P to pause.
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