Game Review - by James Allen
There are basically two kinds of role-playing games on the et today: those like Morrowind and those like Baldur's Gate. I've played more (one) like Morrowind, and I've always felt that games such as Baldur's Gate, Diablo, and Dungeon Siege are more like strategy games with RPG elements rather than full-on RPG games. This meaningless debate brings us to Prince of Qin, another game in the long line of action role-playing games that have inundated the bazaar that is computer gaming. How will Prince of Qin set itself apart from the pack? Let's look at this preview demo version and see!
Prince of Qin is playable as a single player game, much in the vein of Baldur's Gate and Diablo, where you go around on quests and missions and kill things. However, Prince of Qin also includes the capability to support 200 to 500 gamers on a single server, and thus can be considered a massively multiplayer game as well. Usually games are either single player games with possible multiplayer support for up to 32 gamers, or just massively multiplayer games with offline "training" modes. It's nice to see a game bridge the gap and contain elements that can be enjoyed in both fashions. And it also seems that nothing was sacrificed in either arena (although the multiplayer elements were not available in this preview version, so I'm assuming they work as they are designed to). This is one of the reasons that Prince of Qin might take some notice in the future.
Prince of Qin has pretty standard sound effects, nothing that would stand out in the genre, but at the same time, isn't detrimental to the gameplay. The background music both fits the mood of the game and doesn't intrude often on the rest of the experience; I dislike it when the music overshadows the rest of the game, rather than being a functional aspect of the background. The rest of the sound department features nothing special in terms of memorable or exceptional effects, so we're given a quite average sound incident here.
The gameplay in Prince of Qin is, for the most part, the same point and click and kill enemy units style of play so prevalent in other action RPG games. The RPG elements are even standard: experience gives you a level-up, and then you can add to your attributes. I will focus on what sets Prince of Qin apart from the pack, and may make it a notable title in the RPG et. First, the setting is China 2,200 years ago, between the Qin and Han dynasties. The Qin dynasty lasted 14 years and was the first feudal Chinese dynasty: this was when the Great Wall of China was built. Most RPG games feature a fantasy based environment, so it's nice to see a historically based game that still has some fantasy elements to satisfy that crowd. There are five different types of characters in the game: paladins (good at weapon repairing), assassins (good at setting traps), musclemen (good at summoning beasts), witches (good at curses), and wizards (good at identification). Each class has their own specific weapons that they are skilled at using.
One of the most innovative aspects to Prince of Qin is the use of the concept of the five elements. This system kind of works like a game of rock-paper-scissors. Each element (which are the five ingredients that the Chinese believed comprised the world) has a positive effect on one other elements and a negative effect on another. For example, metal restricts wood and promotes water, while wood promotes fire and restricts earth. This works into the game in two ways. You can activate concealed attributes of an item by wearing an appropriate item: rings affect weapons, necklaces affect helmets, and belts affect armor. For example, you can wear a belt of water to unlock attributes of armor of wood. Pretty snazzy, eh? It doesn't end there, as you can use the negative relationships as well. Each of your enemies can be composed of one of the elements, and if you use the appropriate weapon against them, it will cause more damage. If you use an earth weapon on a water enemy, they'll get hurt more. This is an interesting system that Prince of Qin uses, and it promotes more strategy during the gameplay and makes the game more rounded and complete.
The graphics are an interesting bunch to discuss. The game is presented in the classic 2-D isometric view that we've all become accustomed to in past decades. Now, people automatically assume that if the graphics aren't in 3-D they don't have the possibility to be good. Prince of Qin debunks this theory. I'd say that the graphics in Prince of Qin fall somewhere slightly below Disciples II, which is quite a compliment. The level of detail is really what saves the ship here: the buildings, units, trees, weapons, and everything else is rendered in such great detail and style. Just check out the buildings in the cities: you can tell right off the bat that the game takes place in historical China. You will be amazed at the level of detail on the individual soldiers, too: even though they are small, they still possess an intricate amount of little touches, like distinctive clothing, weapons, and equipment. On first glance, I was unimpressed with the graphics in Prince of Qin, but as I continually studied the way the game looks, I was continually more astounded.
At first glance, Prince of Qin looks like just another action RPG game, but the game has some significant additions that may make the game rise above the rest of the field. Prince of Qin's single player missions coupled with massively multiplayer action, outstandingly detailed graphics, use of setting, and concept of the five elements makes the game something to watch as its release date comes closer. We'll see if all the fundamentals come together when Prince of Qin is released in mid-August.