Hexen II

a game by Activision
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 4 reviews
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Hexen II continues the sword-and-sorcery adventure that started with Heretic. This game, however, uses the Quake engine and polygonal objects for an effect that's more 3D. Gamers can play as four characters: A necromancer, an assassin, a crusader, and a paladin. As usual, each has their own selection of weapons and spells. As the game progresses, characters can also develop skills, such as immunity to poison and stealth capabilities, and their weapons and spells can also be upgraded. For multiplayer mayhem, Hexen II supports co-op and death-match modes. We'll have a hands-on preview of this promising title in an upcoming issue.

Game Reviews

Hexen II may not be the most anticipated shooter in the roll call of upcoming first-person juggernauts, but this title's poised to make a name for itself with sheer style and talent.

In the original Hexen, two evil Serpent Riders were defeated and mankind's realm was saved. Now, a third Serpent Rider, Eidolon, has entered our realm seeking revenge. To reach him, you'll first have to go through the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Pestilence, War, and Famine.

Dungeons & Doom

Hexen II offers a slick combination of first-person combat and fantasy role-playing. You control a necromancer, assassin, paladin, or crusader (each with their own talents and shortcomings) and increase power by gaining experience in battle and finding weaponry or magic. Each character has four unique weapons, which can be boosted by the Tome of Power.

Hexen II offers four "hub"-based worlds: Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Meso-American, and Medieval, each with interconnecting areas. Watch for several improvements, starting with a more interactive world where you can smash objects (and hack off individual limbs) as well as subtler features like translucent windows. The effects only get better with a 3Dfx board installed. There are also some great monsters, like lumbering stone golems and squids that blind you with ink.

Hexen II Quake?

Combining a strong story line and RPG elements that increase its single-player value with the stunning visuals and excellent multiplayer qualities of Quake, Hexen II may be the first title to truly deliver the best of both worlds.

Id Software has been busy conjuring up Hexen, the much-awaited sequel to Heretic. Id promises a number of changes and improvements in this version of the Doom-style action/adventure game with a magical Dungeons and Dragons twist. As one of three character types (mage, warrior, or cleric), players roam through more than 25 levels of first-person action, all with a darker, more oppressive feeling than the original Heretic.

Enhancements include new exciting weapons for each character class, all of which are powered by one of two types of Mana; new artifacts, including some that summon special creatures to your aid; and the ability to jump - sometimes out of trouble and sometimes right into it. New technical features include special effects and lighting that lend realism to surprises like falling ceilings, moving walls, swinging doors, and the like. To add complexity to the game, the levels are now interconnected. Flip a switch and you'll move from one level to the next and back again. The magic continues.

Overview

Okay, so you've played through Heretic and Hexen and now you're looking for a new challenge, or maybe you're just looking for the hottest new 3D game on the market. Look no further, for Hexen II is "all that and a bag of chips" when it comes to 3D gaming.

Here's the basic storyline: Eidolon, the last of the three Serpent Riders (the first two of which you undoubtedly dispatched in Heretic and Hexen), is holding dominion over the world of Thyrion. You must fight your way through his minions and gather your courage to face him one-on-one. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? Well, thankfully, Hexen II adds enough twists to the gameplay and puzzle-solving to keep it interesting for those of us with brains at least as well-developed as our trigger fingers.

Gameplay

Hexen II can be complimented for introducing some basic role-playing elements into what is still fundamentally a 3D shooter. But although I liked the new elements, I felt that the developers should have taken them a bit further in order to find a really successful blend.

In Hexen II, you choose one of four classes of character (Paladin, Crusader, Assassin, Necromancer), and your character will earn experience points for fighting and for solving various puzzles in the game. When you reach the next experience level, some of your character's attributes will be augmented (usually strength for the Paladin, dexterity for the Assassin, etc.). The trouble is that the attributes are increased automatically. You cannot assign points to the attributes that you choose to develop. Similarly, your character has an armor class that will increase when you find various pieces of armor. Yet, again, you have no choice as to what your character wears or any control over your AC (unless you choose not to run over a piece of armor, I suppose). So in essence, the RPG elements are really superficial in Hexen II. True role-playing can only be achieved by giving the player the ability to customize his/her character's attributes and items.

But while Hexen II may not be a very good combination of RPG and 3D shooter, it happens to be a great 3D shooter. The hub levels are vast, and they are tied together via puzzles that make much more sense than those in Hexen. Remember in Hexen when you would push a lever and were told "a door opens in the distance?" Well, that wasn't very helpful, considering how huge the hub levels were. I actually never finished Hexen because I got tired of running through the hubs trying to figure out what event I had just triggered. Hexen II uses puzzles tied to specific storyline-related actions to help you through the hubs. For instance, in the first hub, you are told that you need "the bone dust of Loric to form the potion of mithril transformation." Well, once you kill a particular skull wizard, a pile of bones appears, labeled "bones of Loric" ... and you remember that on another part of the hub you saw what looked suspiciously like a grinder. It's not rocket science, but it shouldn't be. It's just a way for the game to get you to think logically about how you are progressing through the hubs, a way to keep you on track. This is a major improvement over the hopeless meandering in Hexen.

Multiplayer

NO MODEM PLAY. Huh? No, I'm serious. The explanation from Raven is that you'll have an easier time connecting and far less lag if you simulate a modem connection by having both players join an IPX server and play over the Internet. While this may be true, there should still be an option for playing Hexen II over the modem. What's the world coming to? Luckily, Quake 2 promises full modem support.

Graphics

Quake in color! Ok, Quake had color, but one gets tired of brown and grey. Hexen II actually has some green, red, blue, yellow, and various textures besides the stone and mud look. You'll find forest and desert environments as well as the old familiar castle walls.

For some reason, the makers of Hexen II decided to use very Earth-like environments as the inspiration for their hubs. This "other" world of Thyrion has an Egyptian hub (complete with pyramids), a Meso-American hub (looks like Mayan ruins), a Greco-Roman hub (pillars and paintings), and the good ol' Medieval hub. Now don't get me wrong, the hubs are very well-designed, fun to explore, and great to look at. I just don't see how they mesh with the storyline ...

If you didn't get the hint earlier, Hexen II uses the Quake engine. Luckily, the folks at Raven have managed to tweak and upgrade the engine and its implementation enough to avoid having Hexen II seem like "Quake in Tights." For starters, in Hexen II you can duck. It may not seem like a big deal, but don't forget how much fun you had in Duke Nukem 3D crawling into little holes to find new areas. You couldn't have that fun in Quake. In Hexen II, your character can do just about everything you could want him/her to do, except maybe make you dinner (Hexen III?!).

If you have a 3Dfx-compatible accelerator, Hexen II will truly shine for you (provided that you also have at least a P-100 processor). You'll get the full effect of the revved Quake engine ... the transparent water, spinning windmills, etc. Of course, you'll see these features even if you don't have a 3Dfx card, but the difference in crispness of scenery and smoothness of gameplay is noticeable.

Audio

There are some nice ambient sound effects in the game, but besides those, I don't remember anything that really surprised me here. I know that I can play for hours without getting weary of the soundtrack, so I'd say it was pretty well conceived and implemented.

Documentation

The Chronicle of Deeds explains the storyline, character classes, items and enemies. You also get a little CD booklet that explains your basic movements and commands. I think a few other things should have been included, though, like a primer on game options and maybe a guide on using the console mode. I also found the explanation of multiplayer configuration to be a little lacking.

System Requirements

Required: Pentium 90Mhz, 16 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive, Windows 95 or NT v4.0

Reviewed on: Pentium 2-266, 64 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 2000 3D video card

Bottom Line

Hexen II has more of what I wanted from Quake. On top of the nice visuals, there are logic-oriented puzzles, better hub integration than Hexen, four character classes, some RPG elements and a lot of personality. As a single-player 3D shooter, this one is hard to beat. The lack of modem play as a multiplayer option, the somewhat scant documentation and the underdeveloped RPG elements keep Hexen II from becoming an instant classic, but it truly didn't miss by much.

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