Nox Review

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Publisher: Westwood Studios
Developer: Westwood Studios


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB video card, 300 MB HD space

A generation ago, the world of Nox ended thousands of years of conflict when the humans of the Southlands constructed the Staff of Oblivion and killed an entire race of Necromancers, sealing their very souls into a magical orb. This mystical binding served to prevent the return of the Necromancers, and the wave of destruction that would surely follow. The great mage Jandor, who led the armies of the humans, was sickened by the genocide, and in an act of pity, spared a baby girl named Hecubah. Hecubah was left in the care of Ogres. The orb was banished to another dimension, and the world lived in peace until Hecubah grew to adulthood.

Now, with a deep loathing of humanity, Hecubah intends to recover the orb, free her fellow necromancers, and rule the world of Nox. The orb found its way to a trailer park on Earth, where it sits proudly displayed above Jack's TV set. Jack only wants to enjoy a dinner of bacon with his girlfriend, but when Hecubah summons the orb back to Nox, Jack and his TV follow. Jack is the only being on Nox whose movements can not be traced by Hecubah, and as such, it is up to him to choose the path of Warrior, Conjurer or Wizard, reassemble the Staff of Oblivion, and save the world of Nox by defeating Hecubah.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Nox is an action/RPG, with an isometric (above and to the side) perspective, that fails to innovate, but succeeds at providing diversionary entertainment. The action mostly consists of right clicking to move and left clicking to attack. While the game has occasional side quests, dungeons are mostly linear, and play is almost solely comprised of killing whatever beastie happens to lurk around the next corner. Unlike many RPGs, as your character progresses in level, your points are automatically distributed, so role-playing elements mostly manifest themselves as inventory management and occasional dialogue boxes. The game is not three-dimensional, so the dungeons and wilderness areas are composed of an extensive tile set. Spells and Warcries introduce the only real variation from point and click monster bashing, but a limited number of spells minimize the variety. Nox depends on a frantic chase of the Necromancer Hecubah through area after area to further the action, demolishing every moving thing that gets in the way.

In spite of retreading well-worn ground, as an action game, Nox has a lot to recommend it. The game was released nearly two years ago, and can still provide a lot of fun for both the hardcore and casual gamer. The game is easy to pick up for a few minutes at a time, and has a wealth of satisfying details. Even the installation shows attention to detail: the history of Nox is recounted as files are copied. The tile set used for the graphics is extensive and interactive. Bookcases can be pushed aside to reveal secret areas, bones and skulls spill out of crypts when the cracked walls are beaten down, and alchemical sets can be shattered in a spray of chemicals. The sound is good, if not spectacular, and a lot of attention is given to incantations as well as creature sounds. Many monsters will leap out as you turn a corner, but an attentive ear will often identify incoming perils. The game is attractive at all the available resolutions, but on the highest resolution setting some details will be lost, and you will occasionally see (or kill) monsters before coming within the creature's "awareness" range.

The action is fast and furious, and the single player campaign can be played as a Warrior, Conjurer or Wizard. The Warrior beats on everything until it dies, with few spell-like effects, such as the ever-entertaining harpoon that pulls the target into melee range. The Conjurer practices some natural magics, can use a bow, and specializes in charming and summoning creatures. The Wizard is a sophisticated but vulnerable practitioner of magic. While all three characters are on a similar quest, and often visit the same locations, the three character classes engage in substantially different journeys. Where one sees a peaceful village of merchants, another will find that same village overrun with ogres; or one class may fight invaders in a demolished tower, while the other searches in underground libraries for a specific book. These three paths give the game some replayability. At the same time, the characters serve as difficulty settings, of a sort. The Warrior is not so challenging, but both the Conjurer and the Wizard are hard. Very hard. Certain enemies, especially toward the end of the game, will kill the practitioners of magic time and time again. The autosave function is a player's close companion.

What Nox lacks is a greater ability to customize one's character. All attribute points are automatically allocated, so there is little opportunity make choices in the development of a cherished character, beyond hair and sneaker color. Certain games stimulate interest by offering a tremendous selection of random weapons or magical modifiers. This makes the search for a newer, better item an exciting task unto itself, and often a never-ending one. In Nox, the best weapon for a given moment is often obvious, particularly once the character begins to find parts of the Staff of Oblivion. This means that there's not a lot of incentive to play the single player mode more than once with each of the three characters.

Nox has two multiplayer modes. The first, which shipped with the original game, includes options like deathmatch, capture the flag, and team deathmatch. These can be played online with many opponents, and are similar to but considerably less fun than any first-person shooter with such options. The second mode was added as a later patch, and is a quest mode, which hearkens back to the days of arcade/Gauntlet style play, with monster generators and treasure to plunder. This is fun for a quick session of point, click and smash, and includes some surprisingly sophisticated environments, but as stated above, lacks the variety in items to make it playable for long periods of time.

Nox solidly delivers on the point-and-slay action/RPG model, creating an enjoyable, although not unique, experience. The glory of Nox is that it is simple fun in a detailed environment, and while still attractive, has low system requirements. That makes Nox a great game for someone looking to stretch the entertainment potential of an old system, and at today's prices, the Nox offers a lot of play for little cost.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 3, 2002 6:12 PM.

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