Game Review - by StormDaemon
The latest release from Westwood Studios differs quite a bit from the usual real time strategy games that they have created, such as Command & Conquer. This real time fantasy role-playing game (RPG), however, is just as ground breaking as their RTS titles and even then some. Some have compared this game to Diablo, and while it does share a theme of a 3rd person view RPG romp killing off monsters and going on quests, it has so much more that it could fill up volumes. This game is Diablo with volume turned up all the way and waking the neighbors two streets over. Even with the great action and fun, this game is just as beautiful as it is exciting, but that's for a discussion a few paragraphs down.
The game opens with Jack, the character you play, sitting in front of his t.v. in his nice comfy trailer. Everything is normal as always until there is a flash of light and suddenly Jack is magically transported into the land of Nox. Luckily, he is picked up by an airship captain who helps him start out on his quest. From this point you can decide if you wish to continue on as a Warrior, a Conjurer, or a Wizard, and the game is very different for each of the three from there on. The one thing that the three paths do have in common is Hecubah, the evil queen of the necromancers who wishes to take over all of Nox. Only you stand in her way.
The most important feature of this game is its depth; not only are there over 100 different spells, weapons, and abilities to play with, there are also tons of different monsters with different levels of intelligence and viciousness. The world itself can also be played with in that you can move around, break apart, or manipulate just about everything you see. No more static worlds to just walk around in. Here in Nox, you'll need to explore and take into account everything around you. You can also just barge through the game and kill everything in sight; Westwood lets you play this game just about any way you'd like, but you will have to kill things no matter what. Multiplayer is the same way, having both straightforward combat with swords and shields, and strategic combat with magical traps and enchanted beasts. No matter what way you play, there are more than enough features to make this game well worth its price.
Suppose you are whisked away to a fantastical land full of monsters, magic, and great adventures, how would you handle trying to go through hordes of monsters just to find a way home? Would you pick up a sword and cut your way through those monsters? Would you use the powerful forces of magic to hurl an explosive fireball upon them, or would you enchant powerful beasts to do the fighting for you? Well, you'll get your choice in this game, and there are three completely different, and wonderfully interesting worlds of play. The warrior gets to fight using everything and anything except magic, but he/she won't even need that. Brute force combined with a sharp blade and a stout shield can get through the hordes toe-to-toe without a shudder. The wizard, on the other hand, can't go head first into combat; that pretty robe would be cut through easier than a hot knife through butter. Magic from a distance, on the other hand, can completely disintegrate that knife and then some. Lightning bolts, fireballs, magic missiles, kinetic powers, and magical shields are just some of the things that a wizard can and most certainly will use to survive. If either of those isn't too appealing, there is always the route of the conjurer, who is a bit tougher than the wizard, but still can't fight too well toe-to-toe with a disgruntled troll. They get the amazingly cool ability to charm animals and have them do his/her bidding, which is mainly ripping apart enemies. The conjurer also gets to cast a few other spells, but they also deal with conjuration and control more than fireballs and lightning blasts.
Single player is most definitely a blast to play and will certainly keep you up many, many hours questing after this or that and trying to destroy the forces of Hecubah, but it isn't everything. Multiplayer is another way to go and is just as strong as single player. When you sign up for Westwood online, you can join games that mainly involve destroying your friends and enemies with spells, beasts, or swords. When you get tired of straight deathmatch, the designers of Nox have most kindly included Capture the Flag, Elimination, Arena, King of the Realm, and more. You must be wondering by now, 'What? An RPG with that? How?' Well, I don't know how, but they did, and they did it very, very nicely. I seriously doubt that the multiplayer will disappoint anyone, and I am sure that there will be a lot of people staying up until all hours of the night conjuring fireballs at one another.
Even though the graphics could be considered a bit dated with all the latest advances in 3D technology, Westwood has certainly done enough give these type of graphical games a big comeback. The game isn't really 2D because you can move objects around and you have a view that is 3D, but it isn't 3D because it doesn't have the polygons and doesn't seem to be set in a world governed by vertices. However, the artists of the game have made a convincing enough world that is combined with the special effects generated by 3D cards, and the enhanced texture handling that these cards can also provide. These factors all combine to make a really nice looking game that provides for a constant display of eye candy. If half of all the "3D" games looked this good, game designers would be rich and people like myself wouldn't have a dime to their name. From the start this game has such an artistic beauty that is makes you want to play the game just to look at everything. Thankfully the gameplay is good enough to hold up to the level provided by the graphics, but even if it didn't, this would be a game that is like a work of art. The artists and level designers have put an incredible amount of imagination into everything and should be highly commended. An example of something that is small but can really provide a good atmosphere is the mouse cursor in the menus. Yes, I know that a mouse cursor is nothing to jump up and down about, but for this game, they made it sparkle. Not just repetitive sparkles, but random ones that make the cursor come alive with magic. Put these little touches with the detail put into the weapons, people, monsters, and magic, and you get a game that looks great. The only way to really get the point of how good this game looks is to play it. If you can download the demo, do so, because you won't be disappointed.
The sounds and music that a game has can either spell its doom or quietly make it a hit. These are the things that don't get paid as much attention to, except in the case of Thief and a few others. While anyone can make a few monster grunts and maybe a swoosh made by a sword as it flies through the air toward one of those monsters that is grunting, few can actually make good atmosphere. Atmosphere is a central part of games that helps a gamer get into the mood and enjoy the whole experience while being rather unnoticed. Nox is a game that doesn't skimp on the atmosphere. Whether it is the ominous sound of tolling bells or the creepy noises made by unseen creatures, you'll feel like you are right smack in the middle of Nox trying to wade your way through. Combine those sounds with the wonderfully orchestrated music and you'll have yourself a grand time running around and hunting things down. Even the voices of the people were done well and don't sound like horribly acted recordings which have plagued some games in the past and probably the future. Describing the whole world of sounds effects that persist in this game is hard to do, so just as with the graphics, I have to say that in order to get an idea of how good these are, you must play this game.
In conclusion, this game is fun, addictive, beautiful, and artistic. The game developers truly put their hearts into the production of Nox, and it really shows throughout every part. I personally can't find a fault anywhere, and I know that even in a few years I'll probably be playing this game every so often just to show myself how a good game is made. Westwood Studios took a bit of a chance with this type of game, considering the flock of first person shooters and real time strategy games, but just like they did with Command & Conquer, they came up with a hit.