Originally posted at http://www.gamerscoreaddicts.netDeveloper: Wizarbox
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Hack n slash games although having a very limited range of gameplay have remained very popular over the years and many of us still have fond memories of the original king of this genre, Gauntlet. Although we were promised a version of Diablo 3 on consoles, it has yet to arrive and with the lack of any decent contenders does Wizarbox’s Realm of Ancient War stand tall to take the crown.
Well things start off well with Wizarbox sticking to the tried and tested formula of three classes of warrior to choose from. You have the melee focused Warrior, range attack master Wizard and the general all rounder Rogue. The game itself is very similar no matter which character you choose apart from the opening prologue levels changing (in fact a script error meant that one character believed that the Rogue was a man!) and to be honest the story itself is a fairly predictable and familiar tale of saving the world from evil.
However story and classes are not the main importance of hack n slash games and RAW shows its influences proudly. Although the looting is reminiscent of Diablo I was often reminded of Gauntlet more often while playing due to the sometimes huge amount of enemies on screen at once. You will pretty much spend most of your time hammering at the buttons to destroy creatures as soon as possible before you get swamped by the hordes.
The controls themselves have been nicely simplified to avoid the mass of commands you’d find on a PC game (the usual home of hack n slash games). You have four skills you can attach to the face buttons and a second set can be attached and opened by flicking the right stick. Mana and health potions are activated by the triggers and the action button is mapped to the right shoulder button. Certain skills can even be powered up by holding down the face button for a couple of seconds before releasing which is a nice approach. This allows for a simple access to a fair number of commands and hopefully future titles in the genre will take notice as overall it works very well.
However the command system does have a few issues with the power up time varying randomly between commands and sometimes not registering for any apparent reason. I also often found that the right stick was a bit oversensitive and would switch sets when I accidentally touched it. Although this shouldn’t be a problem, most of us are used to controlling the camera with the RS and will automatically move it without realising it which caused a few problems in combat.
As previously mentioned the majority of the game will see you battling hordes of enemies. If you fancy a challenge I would recommend playing on normal difficulty as easy is far too easy and often normal will be too easy too. Thankfully you can change difficulty in game at any time and I often switched the difficulty up for a challenge if the waves of enemies got too tedious. And unfortunately tediousness is the game’s biggest fault too.
Due to the developers aim to stick to the true roots of hack n slash, side quests are simple and usually require just going off path slightly to defeat some extra enemies. These are often worth doing anyway as you’ll often end up exploring the entire map anyway to increase your XP and as the main quest often just needs you to travel through each level the variety in gameplay is lacking.
There are times when the constant battling through waves can get a tad repetitive and with 25+ levels of similar gameplay it can be a drag. I actually found the worst part of this was during the first half of the game where you spent a lot of time wandering through several levels in each section fighting the same enemies over similar looking maps. With each map seeming very long and with no save points throughout the map it really became a struggle to finish each map. Thankfully the second half of the game shortened the amount of levels in each section, introduced a greater variety in enemies and seemed to shorten the length of each map too as well which suited the gameplay more than the first half had.
Graphically the game is nothing outstanding but is not ugly either. Sticking to the traditional isometric view, the different characters are easy to spot and when behind scenery the shadow of the characters can make it easy to see what’s going on. There are some nice effects in use as well giving the world a more alive feel with enemies moving about in out of reach areas of the map giving the illusion of a populated world. There were a couple of occasions of severe frame freezing with the movement almost coming to a stop at one point but bizarrely this was when there was only about 3 or 4 enemies on the screen, when there were about 10-20 enemies there was no problem at all.
The audio is much like the graphics nothing outstanding but functional. Some of the cutscenes are voiced but other than that there is little speech in game and the majority of the sound effects will be the grunts and groans of enemies. There were a couple of sound issues where the game would continue to make the noise of enemies once they’d been wiped out leading me to wander around trying to find them to no avail.
The game has also suffered from a few crashing issues when loading games and while reviewing I could not connect to Xbox Live though that has now been fixed. Another gripe that many have picked up on is the lack of online co-op which is understandable but personally I often bemoan the lack of couch co-op as I often enjoy sitting with my kids or partner and playing games together so I suppose the inclusion of couch co-op over live co-op will affect you depending on your preferences.
Achievement wise the game is not too difficult and I picked up 9 of the 12 by the time I’d finished my first play through and about another 15 minutes to get another 2 after that. The longest achievement to obtain will be completing the game with each character but personally I look forward to this as having played as the all-rounder rogue on my first play through I now get to power through the game with the other two classes. This is the sort of achievement I personally enjoy requiring you to enjoy every aspect of the title and look forward to tackling it soon.
Overall Realms of Ancient War is a solid title. It is not going to win over any new fans to the genre but for those hankering for a bit of traditional hack n slash ala Gauntlet will be very happy. Although the game can become repetitive it is still enjoyable if played over several sessions and the ability to change difficulty mid game means you can adjust the challenge depending on your mood. 1200MSP may be a bit steep for the product on offer but if this hits a DOTW or gets a price reduction to 800MSP I’d definitely recommend picking it up.Overall 7/10