Mage Knight: Apocalypse
Yep, you can throw them against the wall, those bad games. At E3 I was still impressed by this Mage Knight: Apocalypse, but after having checked out the game now I can conclude I was a bit too optimistic.
It all started pretty innocent, with a nice picture on the DVD. When the disc enters your system, though, the problems start. A standard installation that – to my surprise – took over half an hour, proceeds a very slow starting up time. Three to four minutes of staring at your screen until your desktop changes in a black void isn’t what you would call pleasant. But ok, beauty errors. After all, it’s the gameplay that counts, right?
The storyline is simple and straight forward: a couple of side-quests next to one big goal. You go out with one of the five characters in the game who, as it progresses, all take part in your entourage. You’ll never gain direct control over these characters, but you’ll have simple commands like stop, follow and attack. The choice of your main character is therefore reasonably important since it determines your fighting style and magic.
That your comrades have hardly any AI and therefore die pretty quickly can in the beginning be seen as irritating maybe, until you realise that dying doesn’t mean anything. All units respawn at the last checkpoint while the defeated monsters are still rotting away. Getting through a level is nothing more than rushing to the other side until you die. And again, and again… The only thing you really lose are active spells on your avatar.
The fighting isn’t worth much but does demand you to use both hands continuously. To attack an enemy you need to click him repeatedly while you need to use your left hand on keys 1 to 8 for spells. Next to that there are also quite a lot of potions that add a bonus to your character. These are mostly found amongst the remains of your opponents next to their weapons and clothing, but can also be created from the different plants found next to the road… which brings me to the inventory: way too small, clumsy, unclear and no automatic stacking of identical objects.
New spells are automatically learnt depending on the type you use most. Each possible character has three so-called “Skill Trees” that are developed in parallel. However, only a main character can level up. You’ve got no control over the other four except for maybe a general choice between close or ranged combat when hiring.
Also don’t expect to top title on the technical side. The graphics look outdated and the details are slim. A badly readable font ruins the interface and dialogues, and you better turn down the volume on the sound. Sometimes also the music just stops in the middle of a song for no apparent reason and you’ll only hear your avatar sigh now and then (don’t ask me why). And then there’s the camera that doesn’t turn along at all. You have to press the space bar yourself and click the mouse to change your view.
Just like with the boardgames – or tabletop games as the insiders prefer to call them – that the game is based on, the hood of MK:Apocalypse hides a lot of math. You can notice that with the weapons and potions that – as said – give a bonus.However, this technique doesn’t come to justice thanks to the bad gameplay. There’s no tactics necessary and the game looks more like a hack&slash than a decent RPG. Bad!