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Reviewed: Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 6th, 2005
Page: 2
Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition is a relatively basic hack-and-slash game, and could reasonably be called an extension of Diablo's gameplay. The good news is that it runs on an incredibly modest system, so basic gamers who feel cut out of the latest crop of games can still play it. The bad news is that this comes with a few tradeoffs. First of all, polygon counts are kept to a minimum; the game looks its best when zoomed as far out from the action. If you've chosen to play a long-range character like a spellcaster or archer, this won't be an issue, but melee-focused players will be disappointed. Players who are interested in more than hack-and-slash may feel disappointed with some missions, but delighted with others, as there's a good variety in some of the missions and options on finishing quests in multiple ways. The game boasts six endings, though some are disappointing and feel a bit rushed.

Overall, there are minor indications that the game might have been rushed to market - certain indicators in the inventory system (items carried in bags can't be hotkeyed) are unfinished, and there's an "astrology" system that indicates gems have effects, but the effects were never implemented in the game's code.

Innkeepers are a good way to heal up. Character control and inventory are handled
 with solidly designed in-game menus.
The game's map shows all unlocked areas, to
 facilitate backtracking and exploration.

But enough of the bad, and on to the good - because Heretic Kingdoms, even with a few faults, is a budget title that's worth exploring. The storyline takes players through the Heretic Kingdoms, a realm where "religion" is banned after the popular uprising against a "theocrat" who declared himself a god-on-earth and ruled most of the world until his downfall. The Inquisition is the public face of a secret order of mages, who vowed never to let another theocrat rule the world, and who intend to rule it themselves in order to ensure that that cannot happen. Players play the game as a young initiate into the Inquisition, traveling the land on orders to root out "religion" wherever they find it.

In terms of roleplaying, there's a thankful slightly-multi-linear system, in which moral choices made in the game (such as who to side with in a conflict) don't affect the overarching plotline, but do determine what endings are seen and how NPC's through the game react to the player. It's a nice touch that gives the player the illusion of control without making the game little more than a level grinding experiment.

Special upgrade marks can be found
 only when in the Dreamworld...
...but so can some nasty enemies. Exploring the Dreamworld is also sometimes
 useful for getting the drop on enemies from behind.

The game's RPG elements have two sides: actual equipment used and worn, which affects physical statistics, damage taken, and weapon/motion speeds, and "Attunements", the magical component of the game. As the player plays and gains experience, Attunements are learned for various items worn (for example, equipping a certain sword allows the player to learn an attunement which breaks through enemy armor, or a pair of boots could grant an attunement to give faster movement). Once an attunement is learned, it can be used whether the item it was learned from is present or not. Players can stick to a few reliable items if they wish, but the better part of the game is finding more items and learning more attunements, so that complementary attunements can be used.

The well-detailed level maps are doubled in size by the addition of the "Dreamworld", an alternate-reality area where strange monsters like ghosts and elementals roam. It's an interesting mechanic for the game, and one used frequently by the developers; most quests involve NPC's on both the normal world and Dreamworld areas of the map. Exploring the Dreamworld is also critical for finding Hex Marks used to grant extra character points and increase the character's abilities. Enemies in the Dreamworld also tend to drop "Essence", which helps learn attunements - very useful for learning the attunement from non-combat-effective items.

Overall, Heretic Kingdoms has a number of interesting mechanics, interesting areas to explore, and a decent storyline behind it. As it's a value title, there's not much risk in trying it out - and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Added:  Thursday, July 07, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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