"A great title to rent but definitely not worth a purchase"

While on my quest for the best multiplayer fighter on PS2 I stumbled upon an ad for Barbarian. The ad boasted about some amazing upgrade feature that after only a minor upgrade your character would beat others into the dust. Well... the ad fibbed to me pretty bad. What I got was an average game that has some annoying flaws.

Gameplay - 7/10
Four player fighters are generally fun and this one is no exception. But it gets old VERY quickly unless you have a few friends who don't feel like using their brains too much fighting along with you. The biggest problem is that the arenas are in full 3D and you can move anywhere you want. At first this seems great but it quickly becomes clear that this actually hinders the gameplay.

Games like War of the Monsters did a good job with fully 3D arenas. They would be really big so you didn't have to worry too much about getting screwed in the back by an enemy. But here the fighters tend to bunch up and things really turn into nothing but button smashing. The action gets so crazy that you can't even see what the hell is going on most of the time and all you can really do is use quick attacks and hope for the best. And unless you go through the Story mode and pour half your AP into defense your block action thingy will only protect a small section of your character. So basically if two people are attacking you from different directions you are screwed and can't do too much.

You can do different combos that have different effects on the enemy but I rarely ever find myself doing more than the normal square, square, square combo or maybe a magic combo. You really don't think too much about which combo to use when you are surrounded by up to 7 other enemies duking it out. And I guess that is the highpoint of this game, up to eight characters can be fighting at once. Unfortunately four of these characters are just thugs that suck at fighting and can't be aligned with any teams. Bleh. Still, eight people whacking at eachother is worth seeing at least once and thats why I recommend renting it.

The only small amount of depth in the fighting system is managing your magic. Each character has a magic bar and two types of magic attacks. Projectile magic attacks only use up a little magic. You can just tap R1 and fire off one weak projectile or you can hold R1 and then release it to fire off either more projectiles at once or a more damaging projectile. The other type is a Rune attack that uses up a huge chunk of your magic bar. These are what decide a match pretty much. You can only have one at a time and you earn runes by doing things like performing a combo on an enemy or throwing them. Rune attacks do things like hit enemies around you with an energy blast or power up your weapons to make them do more damage. Runes are about the only reason I ever come back to this game occasionally.

Oh and about that amazing upgrading feature I mentioned earlier, it sucks. You earn AP in the story mode as you win battles and you receive more if you do better. Unfortunately you can only gain AP on your first trip through a character's story. If you continue and go through subsequent times you won't receive AP. So that means you get enough AP to max out about two of the five stats and then when you take them into a VS battle you will hardly notice any increase in strength. Wowwie kazowwie, real amazing upgrade there.

Enemy AI - 5/10
The enemy AI really sucks in this game. After just an hour or two of practice you should be able to take on the highest difficulty enemies with ease. The real difficulty is in story mode. Some battles are just straightforward and easy as hell. Others are so frustrating you have to wonder what they were thinking when they chose to put the battles in this order. The most frustrating battle I have run into is a fight with Phade and two of her thugs after I had been poisoned. The thugs get up so freaking slow when you knock them down and every second that passes by is life lost.

Story - 7/10
The story here isn't too bad, its just that besides the opening there isn't A SINGLE CUTSCENE IN THE ENTIRE GAME. Not even an ending cutscene. But before and after each battle you will have a few short paragraphs read by a narrator explaining what is happening. The guy's voice is pretty good and I do sort of like this approach but come on, is it too much to ask for an ending cutscene?!

Anyways, the story is about this evil wizard guy named Zaugg who is becoming a god of sorts but he is draining the energy from the world. You can choose from 10 different characters to journey throughout Barbaria with and eventually meet Zaugg in the final battle. Although the main story is interesting enough most of the characters have a side story that isn't nearly as good. The characters all come out kind of boring and one dimensional but this is a fighter I suppose.

So when playing the story mode you can usually choose what your next battle will be. This kind of adds a little replay but not really, most of the battles between the beginning and Zaugg don't really serve too much purpose to the story. They are just random events that probably won't interest you that much.

Sound - 7/10
Just eh. The music is pretty good and fits the mood of the game well. The sound effects get old though. Its just a bunch of loud whacking as everybody beats on eachother and then an occasional hum or something as somebody launches a big magic attack. The announcer is still kickass though.

Graphics - 7/10
Very bland. The characters and special effects are very uninspiring. The level designs are pretty cool though. I really enjoyed fighting in some of the places.

Replayability - 5/10
Not a whole lot of reasons to replay. There is absolutely nothing you can unlock in this game and raising your characters stats a bit doesn't really give me any desire to play through story more than once. Going back and playing through different battles might interest you but it sure didn't cut it for me. Its not going to change the story or anything, you just meet different characters that you will no doubt have to fight and kill for very little reason.

Final Score - 7/10
This game is just begging to be rented. Its fun in short bursts and theres nothing to gain by owning it as you can't unlock anything. It's cheap nowadays though so if you have a thing for multiplayer fighters you might want to buy it. Just don't expect too much out of it and you can have fun. But you should check out the eight way melee action at least once, its mindless chaotic fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/08/04

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