Requital, developed by Russian studio Primal, claims to be an action-orientated RPG set in the Russian 6th Century where you, an orphaned rogue named Wolfhound, embark on an epic quest of revenge and redemption.
The game begins with little back-story other than a single paragraph in the manual: you've been abandoned, and are woken by a mysterious old man who, for no reasons, asks you to help save his favorite tree. This initial quest works as a tutorial to introduce you to the control system and game mechanics but, apart from the odd movement - you click the mouse on the ground where you'd like to go, and there's no WASD support - you don't really need to be shown how to play the game, as it's been in every other RPG ever released.
Despite the developers and the various material relating to Requital - press releases, the manual and more - stressing the unique Russian setting, (and it really is, in theory) it's hard to see where the Motherland's influences can be felt. The game world is, in fact, a typical fantasy RPG: wooded glens, lurching mountains, dense forests and timber houses and villages all give off an alarming stench of the generic medieval setting that's been seen so many times before. Later on, you'll also be given the chance to explore rocky, snowy mountain-tops and other climes that, again, bear little relation to the apparent setting for the title.
Going hand-in-hand with the generic world is the utterly, unfathomably mediocre gameplay that, try as it might, fails to exhibit even the merest hint of innovation beyond the aforementioned mouse-led control. The few character customization options are limited to allotting points to a series of oft-used physical attributes like strength, speed and dexterity, and the only changes you can make to Wolfhand's appearance are to basic things like clothing. When other titles in the genre, like Morrowind in 2002 and, hell, even web-based follies like Runescape offer deeper options for changing the look of your character, a title in 2007 skimping on these aspects - even if the 'Wolfhound' character needs to be preserved - is pretty unforgivable.
Typical hack-n-slash fare populates the Russian 6th century: your passage through the world is governed, simply, by who you need to click on next to slice them open, or which item you need to use on a certain object. There's little change in the gameplay that gets tremendously repetitive very, very quickly. It's not helped, either, by the linear nature of Requital: the map - and the long draw-distance that shows off the graphical engine to full effect - seems to promise a go-anywhere, do-anything world that's so popular these days.
Try to stray off the main paths through the wilderness, though, and you're confronted by a veritable army of invisible walls that stop you from going about 50 feet beyond the main thoroughfare. Any fantasies of roaming the land as a mad, angry adventurer bent on revenge are quashed when you descend into the forest and find that you can't actually go anywhere. Also, compared to the global-scale environments of titles like World of Warcraft or Oblivion, the world of Requital feels more like a village: there's only about 10 destinations with little space to maneuver outside of these.
Graphically, whilst the draw distance does attempt to show off the world that Akella have tried to craft in Requital, it's a pretty poor showing. Textures are grainy, washed-out and lack detail, while character models seem to be made from as few polygons as the artists could get away with. Weapons are typically unimaginative - spears, swords and axes, like anything you'd find in a fantasy-based RPG - and the world lacks detail. 3D models are sparse, too - from a distance, towns look warm and inviting, full of promise and people - like they do in many MMORPG's - but, when you arrive, it's a huge dollop of disappointment. Citizens wander aimlessly with nothing to do, and no buildings can be entered.
Sound is equally bad. Incidental music litters the game world, but is repetitive in the extreme and sounds like the sort of thing you'd hear in a lift and vacate the elevator a floor early just to escape from it. Requital does hold the dubious honor, though, of having possibly the worst voice acting of any game, well, ever. The short bursts of dialogue - because that's what they are, almost universally - often don't match up to the corresponding words on-screen. The vocal performance is woeful, with a range of stereotypically-accented people (you think they'd be Russian, but they all seem to have gruff, northern 'olde-English' dialects) seem to have been recorded by a thirty-year old microphone through a cup-and-string telephone. Sometimes, it's difficult to hear what's being said over the static.
Requital's combat is equally uninspired, consisting of three categories - hand, remote and close - all of which require a simple click on the enemy. That's it - a click - and your ability to heal Wolfhound whenever the fancy takes you also robs the fighting of any sense of tactical subtlety - why have to weigh up who to attack, and when, if you can just take potshots and heal yourself in between?
The lack of finesse and skill involving in defeating the various repetitive foes makes the combat seem even more boring as you click your way through another group of identical enemies. It's also made difficult by the default camera angle, which you're forever having to adjust. The viewpoint defined by the game is pretty much vertically above your character, meaning that you have no idea where you're going until you move it to a more suitable position.
It's astonishing when a game promises so much and yet fails to deliver so utterly spectacularly, although perhaps the box does offer a clue as to the product's quality when one of the four weapons listed to show off Requital's combat isn't a special sword or axe - it's your fist. 'Over 100 weapons', it proclaims - probably counting your fingers, too. A 'massive' world is promised - that you can't explore. 'Breathtaking scenery' is highlighted - and it would have been in 1997. This, though, is 2007, and one-click combat coupled with terrible graphics and every genre cliché crammed into one game just doesn't satisfy. It's disappointing that Requital has been released in this state, and it'll only lead to underwhelmed unhappiness should you find yourself playing it.
Requital's attempt to provide an exciting, action-packed, Russian-flavored RPG falls flat at almost every hurdle. The setting is, rather than unique, utterly generic, and the weapons, characters, plot and mechanics follow suit. It's an utterly typical RPG game that does nothing new and is content to serve up blocky, woeful graphics with the worst voices you will ever hear in a game.
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