Review by jake-sf
Hexen: Beyond classics.
Hexen: Beyond Heretic is a classic, and a sequel to Heretic. I remember playing this when I was a child on the N64 and having an absolute blast killing things. Now, why is this game a classic?
Not because of its story. Like most games of its time, the only story you'll get is in the instruction booklet. Some story about Serpent Riders (the bad guys), and in this game one of them (Korax) is in your world and you have to kill him. Frankly, I don't remember. You don't play this game for the story. The settings is there, and that is all it needs.
This game is an FPS. The first game I can remember that has you swinging medieval weapons in a first person view in real time. You play as one of 3 classes. Each class has slightly different statistics (speed/resistance) and can obtain 4 distinctly different weapons, the last one being a super weapon (which I won't spoil).
The Fighter is the fastest and most resilient of the 3. His two primary weapons are melee, and are the most satisfying melee weapons I've ever had the pleasure to use. Killing anything with that electric Axe just never gets old. His third weapon throws exploding hammers. Its slow, its deadly. And you can use it to smash heads up close too, if you want.
The Cleric has 1 melee weapon only, which is very weak. His Serpent Staff can suck life of enemies up close or rapidly shoot green balls at a distance. His 3rd weapon is the Firestorm spell, extremely powerful.
The Mage attacks entirely at range. He's slow and weak, but starts with his wand. Understand, this game is full of melee enemies, which can make this weapon very useful. His spells are powerful and unique, but hard to use.
The game will have you run around and through levels, finding keys, and finding the right path. The game is not entirely linear: various levels in the game serves as a Hub, from which you go to various different interconnected level. Puzzles can run across multiple levels, a switch opening something in another level. The game tends to give you a message when this happens, as to not confuse you too much, but it can be hard to find your way. Some levels within a Hub can be done in different orders, and often will have you come back more than once in the same level after visiting another to finish it.
Of course, all of the levels are filled with countless monsters of all kind. The variety of monsters isn't particularly great, but they fill the game nicely. At higher difficulty settings, you'll be killing hordes of them.
The combat in this game is very satisfying, and so is finding your way through the levels. The puzzles are often on the switch hunting side, and some people don't appreciate that. You might want to keep a FAQ close if these things frustrate you, but you shouldn't get stuck if you're thorough.
The game also includes a simple inventory system for a limited selection of item , such as health potions (Quartz Flask), or Flechettes (offensive item that has different effect depending on your class), and various other items that can be useful. You can carry up to 25 of one kind and use them whenever you want.
Its hard for me to really judge this properly, because I play this game with the source port GZDoom and nothing else. I greatly recommend using it. With or without it, it can control like any FPS, supports strafe movement, jump, use, and aim with the mouse.
This game has everything it needs. Everything sounds ground, hitting things with an axe is great, the screams of the monsters when they die is great, everything sounds perfect. There are only a few sound in the game I would rework: everything else is spot on, satisfying, even addicting to hear. The game also has some ambient sound that can occur, greatly enhancing the atmosphere.
About the atmosphere: the atmosphere in this game is absolutely unique and engaging, and the music really helps set the mood. Playing this game with the music off would be blasphemy. Of course, it is midi-quality music, unless you have the N64 version. Despite that, its great.
Now, understand that I judge graphics based on the year the game was made. This game is by no means incredible looking today. But for its time, it was amazing. You'll be visiting various different environments, wastelands, caverns, castles, swamps, cemeteries... This game runs on the Doom engine, which means the world wasn't completely 3D (there couldn't be one room above another) and monsters/items are in 2D. For what it was, the graphics in this game are great, but modern eyes could be annoyed by how blurry or pixelated textures were back in the days.
Despite that, unlike Doom, you really know what each texture represent and what you're looking at. Beyond that, its important to mention that this game has blood: and monsters, when dying, bleed quite a lot. Some pretty much rip themselves in two upon death.
This game in my eyes is an absolute classic. Not to mention the medieval action-based FPS genre is very small. If that kind of game appeals to you, you simply can't ignore this one.
To get this game today, you can check online stores, such as Steam. They sell it for 5$.
I recommend using GZDoom or Doomsday, free source ports that will modernize the games and make them run flawlessly on modern computers.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Hexen: Beyond Heretic (US, 09/30/95)
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