Review by Ofisil

"Heretic gone bad"

Hexen is a FPS developed by Raven Software. It is the next chapter in the Serpent Riders series, which include Heretic and Hexen 2. Hexen took everything good from Heretic, add a lot of improvements and small innovations, both gameplay wise and in terms of looks… but in the end it is a very bad game. Why? Because unfortunately, the few innovating additions cannot save the game from being nothing more than a titanic key search…

Story: 5/10
Presentation: 5/10

Doom has almost no plot. Who cares? Heretic has a simple, defeat the evil warlord plot. Lame but once again, who cares? Now Hexen… is a huge disappointment because it is supposed to be more RPG-ish. I don't mean they should create NPC characters or throw tons of text at you, but it could be much better. Hexen has the exact same story with Heretic… after killing D'Sparil you now have to kill the next bad brother called Korax. At least the game has atmosphere, it looks good and in a way it has that old school “plot-without-a-plot” magic.

Gameplay: 5/10
ReplayValue: 2/10

Anyone who has played Heretic, (or Doom), will find it easy to adapt to the world of Hexen… but will also find it hard to like it! So what is Hexen? It is Heretic with extremely large maps, that's what it is, but let's analyze that a bit. Like in Heretic, you can use items you find in the maps that are much better than the ones in Heretic, (although the wonderful Tome Of Power is missing), like for example the Maulotaur summoning spell. Also instead of many weapons you have only four but you also have 3 character classes to choose from. The Fighter is specialized in close combat with fists, hammers, axes and swords. Not my kind of guy but most people like him. Next we have the priest who starts with a weak mace attack but after a while he'll be able to use a staff that can throw 2 green energy balls or heal himself when used in close range, throw fire from his hands or obliterate a whole army of enemies by summoning undead spirits from your last weapon. Finally the Mage shoots stuff from afar with his staffs, turn bad guys to ice, throw homing lighting blots, but is a bit easy to go down.

2 major additions, (that make Hexen Map Editing much harder for modders), are the scripts and the hub system. By hub I mean that levels aren't linear like in Doom or Heretic, instead there is a central “Hub” level where various portals are that can lead you to other maps and back, meaning that a lever or a button or a key found in level #2 can open something in level #1. The problem and the main reason why I think this game sucks despite all the innovation is the fact that the game is all about key searching. Key searching in Doom & Heretic was there to break the monotony, but in Hexen key searching IS the monotony! You must travel between gargantuan maps and by gargantuan I mean GARGANTUAN, only to find a key that you can use in another level or push a button that god only knows what it does. You'll do a lot of backtracking since levels are gigantic and items and buttons are somehow hard to find, especially some switches that are hidden in the worst places. Oh yes there is shooting too, with enemies that are much better than the ones in Doom or Heretic, but unfortunately the game is all about button pushing and key finding. Now Scripts make the game much more complex than Doom\Heretic by providing a way for the programmers to do virtually anything. Spawn monsters, randomization, more complex level design or event handling and generally anything a developer wants, but while the Scripts could literally make the game excellent they weren't used so good… in fact they were mostly used in the graphics department to make the game look better.

Graphics: 7/10
Design: 8.5/10

The graphics of Hexen are at the same time bad and good. They are bad because while very detailed they lack contrast and somehow look more pixilated and dull than the ones in Heretic, not to mention that the resolution is unfortunately still the same! Heretic had a more distinctive design, with brighter colors and better contrast, which means less tired eyes and since Hexen is all about item searching be prepared for strong headaches! Apart from all that Hexen looks fabulous with extremely large and well-designed levels. You'll travel through dark castles, murky swamps with a white mist covering everything, barren landscapes, demonic temples and many more, all extremely detailed and with a lot of small decorations like candles, corpses, etc. The enemies are only a few but look great, like the armored centaurs, the large, (but somehow cute), Chaos Serpents or the best Boss character I've ever seen, the Heresiarch which is a body-builder version of D'Sparil from Heretic! Also the various special effects from weapons or the level themselves are wonderful, like fading lights, fire and lightning and many, many more. As, I've said Hexen uses scripts more to make the game look better and what I mean is that while in Doom\Heretic only floor and ceiling surfaces could move, here virtually everything can move in all directions making the levels much more complex and good looking with rotating surfaces, earthquakes that change level design and many more.

Sound: 9/10
Music: 7/10

The game has excellent sound effects, much better than those of Heretic. When hitting enemies with your axe you can almost hear the blood splashing around, enemies sound more menacing and the ambient effects are wonderful making the place sound real and wait to hear stuff like the Heresiarch, the screams of the undead spirits or the introductory speech Korax gives on each level. The music while well arranged and atmospheric isn't something special… then again it is very similar to Heretic so if you liked the music of Heretic you'll like this too.

Positives:
-3 Character Classes to choose from
-Excellent design and sound effects

Negatives:
-Once again no plot…
-Infinite key searching in irritatingly large maps
-Although not bad, in a way graphics are inferior to Heretic

Also Play:
Dark Mesiah Of Might And Magic (PC, Xbox 360)
Doom, Doom 2 (PC)s
Heretic (PC)
Hexen 2 (PC)
Quake (PC)
I highly recommend using the free DoomsdayEngine (PC)

Overall: 6.1/10

Hexen is a huge disappointment not only because it is quite boring but also because of its potential. It could actually become 10 times better than Doom\Heretic due to the power of Scripts, but chose to be nothing than a boring key searching game… At least there are wonderful maps out there made from very talented modders.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/08/10

Game Release: Hexen: Beyond Heretic (US, 09/30/95)


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