Kult: Heretic Kingdoms
This year, RPG fans are left a bit aside. A couple of games have been released but these hardly deserved the title of “classic” or “very good game”. 3D People are trying to change that with Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, although not going the hardcore RPG way. This singleplayer action RPG (hack & slash – ed.) comes on one cd and takes up over 1.9GB after installation. Let’s hope that’s some well-used space…
Due to some twist of the storyline you’re obliged to start with a female (and purely human) main character. Next to the name and some visual appearances you can also alter statistics (Magic, Melee, Ranged, Speed) and choose two attunements. These are a sort of abilities you can unlock by using specific weapons/armaments. Once having gotten an attunement you can place it in a slot, right before falling asleep. The next morning you can use it by putting on clothing and armor with the same attunement. Sounds a bit hard but it’s fun to unlock as many attunements as possible from the 100 available ones and try them all out. There are more than enough places where you can sleep, even on dangerous locations. More attunement slots become available as your experience rises and you’ll be able to try out more combinations.
Kult’s storyline is very tight. After tons of conflicts all forms of religion have been banned. The Inquisition makes sure everyone walks the same line and no-one dares to even think about making their own Mary-statue. After all, religion has been a source of evil over the last 1000 years. At least, that’s what most people (should) think. Still, not everything is as black & white as it seems at first sight… The player is a young member of the Inquisition and quickly gets thrown in the deep.
The infamous ‘Godslayer’-sword has been stolen. This sword can be abused politically but even worse is the fact that it’s supposed to be able to resurrect the Eternal God. A new and powerful cult that swarms over the entire country can be missed as much as the latest pedofile priest and that’s why the Godslayer should be destroyed… by you that is. And of coincidence, it seems that the blood of Arkor, the first carrier of the sword, flows through your vains which means you’re one of the few that can use the sword. Yes, this sounds like choices that need to be made. The storyline gradually continues but only at the end of the game you’ll get the real choices thrown at you which lead to one of 6 different endings.
Next to that there are only little subquests that bring forth a moral dilemma.
After ending Kult, you’ll receive certain honorary titles but during playtime you notice too little of being “good”, “bad” or “neutral”. This does have its effect on the replayability of the game.
There are different playstyles available; the manual talks about 5 “paths” to make an as effective possible type of adventurer. This and the large amount of difficulty degrees compensate the fact that finishing Kult is quick. I walked through it in 23 hours and had investigated about everything I could. Most of the time you’ll be molesting beings like demons, Sura specimen or the occasional Lich Guard. It all happens through the classic Diablo-principle: there are different locations and most of the time these are filled completely with scum. The element of danger also comes mostly by enemies that attack you at the same time. It’s pure hack & slash but a little less instense. You can change weapons during a fight to get a different effect, but even then the repetitive hits are a disappointment. On top of that all you’re also limited in the amount of attunements that can be active at the same time.
Interesting is the way you can heal yourself. The Healing Herbs you get in the beginning can be used until eternity. But (logical that there is a but now ;p) each time you heal through these herbs, you loose some of your maximum health during a longer period. Therefore you’ll need to get some sleep from time to time to get back to your normal health state and with all your hitpoints for battle.
And battle isn’t always as smooth as it should be as the AI has some itches sometimes. An enemy will sometimes stand still without reacting when you attack him.
Fighting gets an additional dimension (literally) because of the Dreamworld. At any time you can switch to this dimension which gives the locations a blueish glow and where other (and sometimes the same) creatures/NPC’s than those from the real world await you. Each location has its Dreamworld equivalent which you better check out to get Essence and Advancement Points. Essence can be beaten out of spirits that dwell in this twilight zone and it will give your quicker access to additional attunements. Advancement Points on the other hand are put in blue circles on the ground and you can just pick them up so that you get more points to push your statistics up. It’s a nice addition this parallel world although not completely original (What ? Did I hear someone whisper “Soul Reaver” ?)
The graphical engine gives prerendered backgrounds with 3D characters. This all has to be looked at from an isometric camera perspective (with a limited zoom function). Except for certain locations and a couple of monsters things look rather mediocre and dull. The mist effects and the Dreamworld-glow are nice, but the spell-effects are long aged by now. Also strange is that the backgrounds sometimes form weird obstacles. You’ll be held up multiple times by a shadow or will hardly be able to pass through a door. The background has lots of detail (look at the market in Kyallisar) but this could have been exploited more effectively if some more things would have been made interactive. Crates and boxes in remote and dangerous locations are apparently the only ones that can be opened.
Some may have a problem with the cut-scenes, just improved scetches that are shown in some sort of slideshow while someone gives some additional commentary. I personally find that approach to have some charm (just like with Icewind Dale). Rather this than CGI cut-scenes that would have looked ugly because of the small budget.
The sound doesn’t really spoil us, except for some moarning from yourself and the monsters there aren’t any voices present (except for the storyteller). You can’t expect from each (action) RPG that all dialogues are voice-acted but “something” wouldn’t hurt.
The music is already a lot better. The tunes stay inside your head and overall the quality varies from mediocre to good.
Multiplayer is sadly not present, a death sin since experience shows that this is creates additional value and a longer playing time for other games in the genre.
If you’re still with me, you’ll understand that Kult is far from a top game and that it’s in fact a very mediocre one. There are still a couple of things I need to tell you and which have made that the game didn’t even get 70%.
Most important are the crash bugs. I admit, there are already two patches released that should resolve these problems but I’m judging the store version and that means I’ll have to continue ranting about them with the following anecdote. At a certain moment I could carry some bags so I could increase the amount of stuff I could carry (the normal inventory is rather limited). Ok, I keep taking along bags as enemies just drop everything they have and more than once you’ll find some interesting and expensive stuff amongst the loot.
Shortly after I realised that you have to put items in your normal inventory if you want to be able to put them in your quickslot. Since I already was carrying 8 bags, I decided to throw a couple away (selling them didn’t work, strangely enough). Again a little later I decided to quicksave AND do a normal save. I shouldn’t have done the latter as a crash towards the Windows desktop was the result. Even better: I shouldn’t have thrown away the bags as from that moment on, I kept having the same crash each time I tried to do a normal save.
Hmmm, maybe load that last quicksave ? Don’t think so as none of my bags could be opened then. It’s weird to see such a bug end up in the “finished” game. Also extraordinary is how cut-scenes sometimes go away or give a distorted image, how a heavy confrontation could force a crashbug or how much trouble my PC seemed to have with loading a location. These issues didn’t happen all the time, but the amount of errors did make me think again about the overall quality.
Each game contains bugs, but one could have done a lot better by at least getting rid of the apparant ones before releasing the game.
Kult: Heretic Kingdoms is an action RPG with a strong storyline, a reasonably original attunement system and a couple of small characteristic features. The good intentions however, are completely outdone by lousy finishing. It’s a hard verdict for this debute title from 3D People, but you just can’t go around the bugs and multiple small irritations in the game. Without these unpunctualities from the release, Kult certainly could have been a decent average game without shining in any specific part.