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Evil Islands: Curse of The Lost Soul Review
publisher: Fishtank Interactive
developer: Nival Interactive
PII-233, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Apr 15, 01 (released)
|» All About Evil Islands: Curse of The Lost Soul on ActionTrip|
Now I can sorta understand the Diablo nuts. After playing Evil Islands and getting a bitch of a migraine because I stayed up in front of the PC for 48 long hours, I can safely conclude that Nival Interactive has developed one seriously addictive PC game. It can even be hazardous to your health, and it might have serious effects on your social life.
Strictly speaking, Nival's latest puppy doesn't offer anything new. However, the game is an excellent and original mix of numerous aspects that made Rage of Mages, Diablo, and Commandos so popular. The designers have based Evil Islands on the Rage of Mages universe (the islands are the same), and while RoM was a not-so-pretty 2D game, "Wicked Islets" comes at you with a wide variety of poly-based, detailed game environments. It also expands on the general concepts, which made Rage of Mages so popular by introducing some great new-to-the-genre gameplay features. One novelty that stands out as an excellent addition is the Commandos-like sneaking / tactical approach -- it allows the player to play stealthily and try to avoid detection by the enemy. Most importantly though, this additional feature makes missions more versatile and complex in terms of how you go about reaching your objectives. It opens a whole new area of tactics, which were unavailable to the hack and slash RPG fans up till now. Add to this the option to lead up to three characters in the battle, and you have one unique, complex and highly addictive game with loads of fun in store.
How It All Began.
You find yourself in the role of Zak - The Chosen, as he's known around the underdeveloped starting island of Glipath. Zak will begin his adventure in the small human settlement on the island of Glipath - an island once ruled by a mighty race that perished a long time ago, leaving only ruins and a few other scattered reminders of their past glory. To make matters worse, Zak cannot even recall who he is (the ole' Amnesia trick, how f-ing original), or why in the hell's everybody around the village calling him "The Chosen". They claim that it's because he is carrying a bronze dagger (all weapons in Glipath are made out of stone), but that somehow doesn't seem like a good enough reason. On his arrival to the village, Zak will soon take part in a power-struggle between the local hotshots, and will learn that somebody is very keen to see his head on a platter.
So, the quest is under way, as eventually you and a couple of your party members, venture into the wilderness to set things right and find out who you really are in the process. Not to give too much of a plot away, I think you needn't worry about your identity. Obviously, you're somebody very important or else they wouldn't put Zak in the leading role. It'd be a kind of an anticlimax, (or would it?) if it turned out you were an underpaid shoes salesman who was just looking for a cheap thrill, and got hit in the head by a large branch while walking around the woods one day. Yeah, I'm straying off subject a bit, but for a good reason. This is just an elaborate way of pointing out that the basic premise of the storyline isn't very original, and that it's certainly not one of the game's main trumps. However, the brilliant way in which the gameplay is conceived compensates the lack of a more enthralling plot background.
A Wealth Of Gameplay Features.
Have you played Rage of Mages? No? Never mind... As I said, Evil Islands is a blend of different genres. Primarily though, it's an action / hack & slash RPG. Meaning, a lot of gameplay is based on character progression, new skills, weapons, and spells. The gist of things is to take away as much health points from an enemy as possible, and you do so by simply clicking on your opponent. The combat is handled semi-automatically as you can still direct your blows by pressing the appropriate num keys -- num 8 for the head, num 4 for the left arm and so on. Although the combat is in real-time, the action can be paused at any given moment so that you could correctly issue commands to your teammates. This is just like in Baldur's Gate 2, or in Irrational's upcoming superhero tactical RPG, Freedom Force, and I must say this sort of real-time / turned based combat system works like a charm. It's highly intuitive, and a real blessing when you're in a jam.
As you kill more, your character gains experience points and money. Money is of course used to buy steroids and semi-automatic weapons... all right, not really; more like axes, daggers, and swords, as well as armor, while you use experience to better hit on chicks... again, NO... you use it to increase your strength, dexterity, weapon skill, etc. Finally, weapons and hand-to-hand combat go hand in hand with spells (i.e. magic), which plays a crucial factor, and is a MUST HAVE if you're looking to win battles against tougher opponents. You can construct and reconstruct weapons and spells in Evil Islands - for instance, you can add a spell to a weapon (if the weapon is complex enough), or increase the power of a spell by buying and incorporating different types of runes.
However, when brute strength and crafty magic fail, there's always the aforementioned option to sneak in using planning and stealthiness. Each enemy has a different level of alertness and line of sight. Each enemy also has (an invisible, but present) view cone, so you'll have to detect carefully the patterns of different patrols, and time your crawling to pass unnoticed. O' yeah, the characters can run, walk, sneak, and crawl, and depending on which of these you choose, you'll be less or more visible to your opponents (crawl being the least visible of course). Vintage Commandos stuff, and much to Nival's credit, the programmers and gameplay testers have done an excellent job of setting up the bad guys, so that it is tricky, but in most cases possible to sneak close to your objective without engaging into an open fight.
8.4 Very Good
Highly addictive (nicotine style), fantastic mix of tactical Commandos-like sneaking, character progression, and classic action RPG gameplay with the added possibility of leading up to two additional party members. Oh, and did I mention highly addictive?
Can get too damn (insanely) difficult at times; crappy voice acting and steep hardware requirements.