a first-person shooter video game
Read on, dear reader....
•• Story ••
Honestly, I had a hard time following the story and for one reason: It is told differently 8 times. Our tale takes place in a magical realm similar to most medieval games. Whereas other hack 'n slash genres try to recreate ancient Japanese history that absolutely no one cares about, in N3 your characters wear chain mail, have magic, large swords and fight Tolkien-esque monsters such as goblins and dwarfs. All of the stories revolve around the fight between the Temple Knights and the forces of darkness. At times you play members of the Temple Knights, other times Mercenaries who join the fight later on. And mid way through the game, you get to turn it all around and play the orcs and goblins you just spent hours fighting. Each character's story is bookended with cutscenes to tell the characters' stories and give some emotional resonance to their motives. Most of the time it works, but other times it come off as clichéd (A goblin looks into the sky while holding his just-massacred brother and yells "noooooo!"). Interestingly, after each character's story, we get a full developer credits list as if it was a self-contained mini-movie.
On the whole, this is one of the most unique games I've played in terms of storytelling. Obviously the narrative was important to the designers and while I've played games in which you play multiple characters in the same storyline, I don't recall any of them having it as the main narrative vehicle. A bold move that works for most of the game.
•• Gameplay ••
The core gameplay of N3 is simple. Move your character around and press either the X or Y button to attack. Keep pressing those buttons over and over again to slice and dice. Obviously, there's more to it than that. Certain combinations of X and Y will perform different moves and provide different levels of satisfaction depending on how many bad guys you sliced in that particular move.
As you slice up bad guys, you'll notice that as each one falls, he emits a red orb, which hovers and then is absorbed by the your character. The orb meter goes up the more you collect them. Once it's full, you can unleash devastating special attacks, which deplete that orb meter to start over again. Enemies felled by these special attacks emit a blue orb. When that blue orb meter is full, you can unleash a super-duper monstrous attack. Some of these are amazing with massive amounts of bodies flying into the sky, decimation as far as the eye can see.
And this, my friends, is why the game is so fun and addictive. As repetitive and carpal tunnel inducing as it is, there are moments of sheer joy like when you see an oncoming battlefield
of orcs erupt into onslaught of carnage from your blue orb attack. fun fun fun.
All of the characters are varied, with different looking attacks, which often amount to the same thing. You have sharp focused attacks or broad attacks that do less damage but take out lots of enemies. You'll need both types of attacks depending on the
situation. And this is where the hack-n-slash become less mindless. At first, it's all about button mashing, but as the game gets more difficult (and it does), you'll need to know your combo moves, when to use them and when to conserve your orb special attacks. Use the attacks on a small band of orcs and you'll be sorry when an entire army of goblins comes your way and you have nothing left in the tank. Choose your strategy wisely, young hero.
As you hack your way through the game, you'll upgrade each character. This upgrade gives you more attack, speed, range, etc. Pretty generic qualities, but noticeable as you upgrade your way to the level 9 max. Additionally, you can pick up various power ups in the field. Some of them are instant and temporary, others are objects you can keep in your arsenal. At any time, you can pause the game and go to your status screen and fill any available slots with various weapons and objects which increase certain skills. How many slots you have open depends on your level, so early in the life of the character, you have to pick carefully.
One of the complaints I've heard is that the AI is dumb and not very aggressive. This is true except for the bosses, who range from fairly easy, to very hard. And frankly, this laid back AI is necessary. Think about it: if you have hundreds of bad guys on the field all gunning for you, any modicum of aggressiveness by them would result in your instant death. As well, if your friendly AI were any better, they would decimate the bad guys before you had a chance, thereby robbing you of the very necessary orbs. Therefore, the AI is spot-on for most of the game.
My one gripe with the game is the maddening checkpoint system. Why is it maddening? Because there isn't one! You can only save after each mission and with each mission being 30 minutes long and usually ending with a boss, it can be an effort in frustration to have to start the entire thing from the very beginning because some silly goblin swiped you in the kneecaps.
Luckily, a little known feature makes this a little easier to swallow. Every 3 times you fail a mission, the difficulty is automatically bumped down one level ( In the loading screen, you can see the mission name followed "level x" with x being the difficulty).
•• Graphics ••
In a nutshell, the graphics are really good, but unpolished. The character models are finely detailed and textured and the environments are expansive and well crafted. Windmills, ice storms, flying dragons abound with massive amounts of characters. And this is where the game really shines. At various points in the game, there is a frighteningly huge amount of characters on screen. I mean, literally hundreds at a time. I've never seen so many bad guys coming toward me and there is nary a hiccup in the framerate. Where the framerate does dip is when all those bad guys are on screen AND I'm trying to perform an orb attack. A noticeable bump in framerate, but certainly very playable.
But while the characters are well done and the cinematics are great, often times, I'd see odd clipping of hair or a strange twitching of a weapon during a cutscene. And the background has a constant fuzziness that can only be described as motion blur even when there is no motion. But aside form those minor issues, the graphics are quite good and really show off the power of the console.
•• Sound ••
The sound in this game consists mainly of battle sounds and the corresponding effects that go with them. The battle sounds are very good, but not entirely realistic. A battlefield would have more of a cacophony of sounds and there certainly are a lot. But they are rather generic and don't necessarily correspond to what you're seeing. If two guys are duking it out, you won't always hear every sword clank. Certainly this is for economy and allows the game to have more characters on screen if the game does not need to detect collision for every single of the hundreds of people on screen who might be clanking swords. This isn't really a complaint, but more of an interesting note in the way games are developed. Cut out the things the player won't notice and you can improve or add the things the player will notice.
The music in the game is a mixed bag. While I found much of the classical music to be wonderful, it really amounted to untapped potential because it wasn't a symphony recording. It was a synthetic recreation of classical pieces. Obviously created entirely inside a computer, the music comes across a little flat and, well, synthesized. When games like Gears of War are using full symphony recordings, it's tough to listen to music in a game that obviously isn't. That said, the music complements the gameplay nicely and builds tension when needed and adds to the grandiose sweeping saga.
•• Multiplayer ••
There is no multiplayer in this game.
•• Achievements ••
The Achievements are simple in this game. Finish each character and get some points. Pretty basic. It should be noted, that if you are an achievement junkie, you need to not overwrite your save games
even if you finished a character. If you want to get the achievement that requires you to level up all the characters to their max, you'll need to use saved games. The game won't remember how high you got with any character unless you keep the save.
•• Parents Should Know ••
This game is rated M for Mature and contains no blood. It does, however, have much visceral carnage and there are a few violent killings in the cutscenes. Most teens should be able to handle it. One thing I wanted to note is that in one place early in the game, you go into a goblin village and kill women and children goblins. It was a little disturbing.
•• Conclusion ••
N3 is a highly underrated hack 'n slash game that is one of the best in this niche genre.
Xbox 360 Console - The Comprehensive Review
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