Heretic and Hexen
Towers of Darkness
Everyone's heard of Doom - they're even making a film of the same
name. The run-around-and-shoot first-person maze game was so popular that it
spawned a sequel and thousands of unofficial new levels. It also engendered
some games that were more than just cosmetically different, building on the
basic game engine with additional new features. Step forward Heretic.
All the basic conceptual elements of Doom survive in the unorthodoxly-titled spiritual successor, transcending into a fantasy plane. There are
new, nastier monsters, and a completely different set of magically-endowed
weapons. This is more than just a cosmetical overhaul, with the improvements
extending to a much greater use of height in the game. You now find rivers
that suck you along, large towers and plunging pits. To go with the greater
heights you now also have the ability to look up and down, and one of the new
set of power-ups allows you to fly. You also have an inventory, which
actually makes things simpler rather than more complex because you no longer
need to trek back to big power-ups when you want them - you can just store
them and use them when wanted.
The level design in this game is really wonderful. If you've played Doom then you'll know that it's not actually possible for paths to cross
over or under each other - the big advantage of this restriction is that
you can bring up an easy-to-understand overhead map of the level and
clearly and simply see where you have been and how to get back there.
Heretic still has this limitation but the levels are just so cleverly
designed that half the time you find it hard to believe! Ascending spiral
staircases and traversing low tunnels under towering escarpments I found
myself needing to bring up the map just to convince myself that I really
hadn't travelled over or under where I'd already been.
R-Comp's Acorn version of this game is up to the same high-standard as their
other conversions, with all the MIDI music, sound effects and game mechanics of the original intact - in fact you also get additional levels and CD music
if you want it. You can play two-player games with a serial cable between
two machines or on a local network, but currently the dial-up and internet
options aren't working or complete respectively, and I couldn't get the Acorn
to PC serial link-up to work reliably. The Acorn version does, however, allow
you to choose just about any resolution you like to run the game in so
StrongARM-owners are in for a real treat, especially if they choose the
24-bit colour option and turn on the software texture filtering to soften
the chunkiness of any extreme close-up views you might get of the scenery
A desktop front-end lets you define keys and generally set up the game, and
if you don't have a StrongARM you can select a special optimised version for
other machines - it's perfectly playable on my ARM710. And if pretty packaging is your thing then Heretic won't disappoint you.
Heretic also has a similarly spell-bound game in its decorative box,
going by the bewitching name of Hexen.
Hexen builds further upon
Heretic, but it is in fact a completely separate game (and sequel).
It has a similar fantasy setting but now you get to choose one of three
characters to play the game as, the choice of which radically affects the tactics you
must employ to progress. For example if you decide to be the warrior then you don't get the
long-range attacks which allow you to pick off enemies from a safe distance
as in Doom and Heretic, so the game play radically changes -
it's very refreshing, although it makes it harder! In the same way that
Heretic is harder than Doom, Hexen is in turn more
challenging still than Heretic.
There's more new in Hexen than just a choice of character. You now
have the ability to jump, which allows the game to have some even nastier
puzzles to overcome! In addition there are a host of new graphical effects,
including mist, blowing leaves and shattering glass - these all add to the
atmosphere of the game. Doors can now swing open and the environment can also be a lot nastier, with furnishings that attack you and floors that collapse. This is a very mature product, and it shows in the attention to detail.
Similar comments apply to the front-end and link-up options of Hexen
as to Heretic. All the same treats are in store for StrongARM owners,
although once again you can get by with a slower machine although I should
note that Hexen is definitely a bit more demanding on your computer
Completing the box set of games is a partner for Hexen, an add-on
pack called Deathkings of the Dark Citadel which is - you guessed it -
more challenging still! More mayhem, although this is one that has such
ambitious level designs that it has greater need for a StrongARM than the
rest of the pack.
Both Heretic and Hexen are excellent fun to play, and at
£32.50 for the box-set it's pretty darn good value for money too. You also
get the original PC versions in the box should you want to try these out.
So full marks to R-Comp for another great games release for Acorns.
Review ©Gareth Moore 1999
You'll need a Risc PC to play these games, and a CD-ROM drive to be able to install them onto your machine. They're published by and available from:
22, Robert Moffat, High Legh, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6PS
Tel. (01925) 755043; Fax (01925) 757377; Email firstname.lastname@example.org
...this page last updated: 6/3/99...
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