It is a time of ancient Gods and fierce monsters, of heroes born from the blood of battle. It is a time for another RPG to add to the veritable slew of choice that has spewed forth from the maw of the Game Industry ever since the dawn of gaming immemorial. Diablo and its clones has been a staple of industry developers and publishers for a long time.
Each one has been looking to put the famed "hack and slasher" well and truly in its grave.
Now it is the turn of Loki, a brutal 3rd person "hack and slash" RPG that allows you to take on the role of four distinct heroes: The Norse Warrior, the Aztec Shaman/Priestess, the Egyptian Wizard and a Greek Warrior, who is a balanced melee and ranged fighter. Each one of these heroes comes with a different starting area, three separate Gods for them to worship and perform tasks for, as well as their own quest lines.
It is a generic RPG in many ways, but it doesn't paint itself to be anything but. Loki is one of the few Diablo-clones that I've liked for a long time, it's got a few rough patches (or the code we had did) and might not interest people who're looking for depth of story and breadth of character. This is action and adventure in an ancient world, pure, plain and simple.
Each of your heroes has a diverse set of abilities, skills and magical powers that can be unlocked/bought during the game. You earn XP to advance in levels by performing quests and killing creatures on the fairly large area maps. You also earn various 'deity' points as I call them. For example: Tyr points for the Norse character. These can also be used to upgrade your character with specific abilities based on their particular skill-tree.
The story is a typical fantasy affair and unfolds differently for each character. It is a fairly big game and it doesn't take long to learn the controls, holding down shift will allow you to shoot a bow or swing a sword from a stationary position. If you've played a Diablo-clone then you've likely got all the skills needed to play this game. It even takes a few hints from successful MMO's in the way it presents the GUI.
The Inventory System leaves a lot to be desired however, it's one of those systems that I'm still puzzling over, it's long-winded and there are more elegant methods to do things. Having a big long list of items is always a bit troublesome, look at Oblivion for instance. I would have expected an Inventory Grid ala most other RPG's in the genre.
There are the occasional glitches with some of the missile weapons, the disc (chakram) for the Greek character has an unpredictable flight path and sometimes decides to take an odd route to its target, or it will completely fail to hit even though it's actually struck home.
There is a possible reason for this of course; the game relies on an RPG like mechanic that allows you or the monsters to dodge, so perhaps the dodge message isn't showing up when it should when you use the chakram. Regardless of this (glitch or no) the game is surprisingly fun and should provide quite a few mindless hours of entertainment in the single player.
Monsters don't respawn either, once they are dead, they stay dead - so you can't farm an area for more XP than you could get by killing everything stone dead.
That about covers the gameplay mechanics for single player, apart from to mention that the game allows you to regenerate your health when your character puts their weapon away and is no longer in combat.
The graphics are big and bold, they're good looking and beautiful in places. The models are also pretty good; the designers have some good ideas when it comes to armour and weapons, although the weird shoulder pads and the strange wings on the Egyptian character took some getting used to when I first saw them.
Very odd, very epic in a way. You certainly don't think the heroes are anything but when you see them kitted out in the menu screen with their most powerful items. Again it reminds me of an MMO in a way.
The light and shadow effects in the game are used well enough (it has a day night cycle) and for those who happen to be conscious about blood and gore, there's a little, not a lot. The blood stains the ground and fades away after a time but it's all done in a fantasy violence way and it's not over the top. Not as though that bothers me, but it might bother some parents.
The AI in the game is typical of this kind of hack and slasher, it's not very bright. It often gets caught up on edges or objects, sandwiched between trees and stuck on rocks. This allowed us to sneak around the edge of the rock and get some clean hits in without fear of reprisal.
Sound and music is decent, there's some nice fantasy music as the main score for the game and its epic in the scope and feel. The combat sounds are Ok for the most part; some of them sound a little flat, especially when you're being hit in battle. The voice acting (the bane of games like this) is actually fairly well done, it doesn't often sound stilted or contrived and the dialogue is overall fairly well written, it's not up there with some of the better fare, but it's not down there with the likes of Two Worlds.
For those of you who like to play with friends, the game supports online and LAN play. You can tackle the SP story with some buddies or you can play a variety of game modes that are similar to death matches, duels and the like. I didn't really bother with those. I set up a LAN game quickly enough and my fellow reviewer: Serpent helped me run the MP through its paces.
Overall it was pretty good, there were some lag issues and a few times where we'd seem out of sync. The game does have a nice MP feature where you can click on your buddy and then you'll follow them around, this however needs a bit of a fix since sometimes the pathfinding code has a fit and your pal runs off the opposite direction (often into a mob of monsters).
In both single and multi, there are some long load times between areas...so be warned.
The bottom line is that Loki is a fun and entertaining romp through a fantasy world as four separate characters. There's a lot of replay value and you can play the game at various difficulty levels with more of the story unfolding when you take the higher challenges, this is definitely going to extend the life of the game since people who want the whole story will play through every difficulty to get to the max items (there's a lot to collect) and see everything the game has to offer.