Hexen II: Portal of Praevus
Following the defeat of Eidolon, Thyrion enjoys a time of peace until an unexplained winter comes upon the lands. A new continent controlled by a great wizard, Praevus, appears to be connected with the phenomenon. Each of the four Hexen II characters is motivated to do battle with this new evil which threatens their home. A new character, the Demoness, also rises to the challenge for different reasons.
As the other characters will soon find out, the wizard Praevus is capable of controlling and harnessing the powerful souls of the fallen Serpent Riders to suit his own ends. The Demoness will not allow such a fate to befall her former master, Eidolon, and vows to destroy Praevus. The quest of the characters will take them from familiar territories into the new continent to find and destroy Praevus before his mission is complete.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Okay, what do you look for in an add-on pack? I know what I expect from a Hexen II add-on: new characters, new weapons, new powers, new monsters, new levels and new artwork. And I was pleased to see what Activision had done in Hexen II: Portal of Praevus. In addition to the familiar Assassin, Crusader, Necromancer, and Paladin from before, Portal introduced a new character, the Demoness. She served Eidolon, but with his fall, she fights against the one who would take his place, Praevus. She comes with four new weapons in this fight: Blood Fire, Acid Rune, Firestorm and the nasty Tempest Staff. All of these are ranged weapons, and it was nice to play a character who, after using up all the mana, could still attack from afar. The Demoness has two small, vestigial wings that, with experience, allow her to fall slowly without taking damage. Eventually she can master the skill of masochistic mana, allowing her to gain mana as she takes damage.
Portal also brings a few new monsters to contend with; one impressed me, while another was just annoying. Yakmen come in two different colors and both are nasty. They'll blast you with deadly ice shards or head-butt you into the next world if you stand there and give them a nice target. They remind me of the Minotaurs from Heretic and Hexen. Another new monster, and a real pain, are the Pentacles. These are small little critters that attach themselves to walls and ceilings just waiting to ambush you. They blend nicely with the scenery, so they are hard to spot and they do a heck of a lot of damage. While a good fight with a Yakman would often leave me with my blood pounding, Pentacles just flat-out annoyed me. In the Tibet hub, I found some Snow Were-leopards who, like their were-brothers in Hexen II, are darn hard to kill. Praevus awaits you at the end of Portal, if you survive until then. He is very tough and I felt like I had accomplished something when he finally died. I was very impressed with the way he attacked and moved.
This add-on comes with 15 new levels divided into two hubs: Blackmarsh and Tibet. I loved the puzzles in Hexen II, but they often required me to retrace my steps through levels I had already cleared out just to complete a puzzle. Portal still has puzzles, but they require less level-hopping to complete and seem more linear in nature. This should appeal to those who thought the puzzles in Hexen II were too involved.
I really like the multiplayer fragfests with Portal. The ranged weapons of the Demoness really shine in multiplay. When the mana was low, I could still circle around my victims, blasting away while staying out of reach of their hand-held weapons. But personally, I like co-op mode best. This way I could play through the levels and enjoy the puzzles and challenges without having to worry too much about dying.
Portal continues in the Hexen II graphical footsteps. The levels are artfully done and visually stunning. If you have not invested in a good 3D graphics card yet, the graphics in Portal are a good reason to do so. While a 3D graphics card is highly recommended, it is not necessary to play. I was impressed with the small details that were skillfully added to the levels, and how those small touches immersed me in the levels. Several times I stopped playing just to marvel at the incredible details. I particularly enjoyed the winter effects, specifically the falling snow!
One thing I enjoyed immensely in Hexen II was unleashing my destructive impulsives. When my friend Mitch and I played through Hexen II and Portal we would break up everything we could get our hands on. I was slightly disappointed to see that Portal did not have as many breakables as Hexen II did.
I enjoyed the music in Portal. It fit nicely into the background and set the stage for playing. If you don't like music while you play, you can turn it off and still enjoy the ambient sounds. I feel that the best type of game music is the type that fades unobtrusively into the background, but if removed is instantly noticed as missing.
Pentium 90Mhz, 16 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, Windows 95 or NT v4.0
Reviewed On: Pentium 200Mhz, 64 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, Windows 95
Since this was an add-on pack, I didn't look at the documentation to begin with. Instead, I installed and got into the game right away. However, the documentation for Portal covered information I felt was necessary. It contains the information for installation, as well as the background story and information about the Demoness. I always look for a troubleshooting section, but I didn't see one. But since I didn't have any problem installing and running, I don't care.
It is not often that an add-on pack measures up to my standards of truly adding to the original game, but Portal of Praevus does this very well. If you enjoyed Hexen II, rush out and pick this up. You will not be disappointed. It also has the puzzles I love, but they are not as involved. This should make Portal more appealing to the plain "blow 'em up" action players. And it's a great adrenaline rush to turn a corner and hear the thud thud thud of a huge Yakman racing towards you. I give it a score of 87 out of 100. The only drawback in my mind is the number of levels. Fifteen levels were enjoyable, but I kept hoping there would be more.