action adventure games have a tendency to take place in worlds of
fantasy with swords and sorcery, skeleton warriors and ogres, magic
armor and enchanted weapons. Harbinger
diverts from this by embracing science fiction, taking place on a
spaceship riddled with alien beings, robots, and firearms.
Unfortunately, despite taking this not often seen approach to the
genre, the game falls flat on its face thanks to its very rudimentary
Itís really too bad that Harbinger is such a shallow experience. Iím sure many fans of the genre would love a change of pace by having a solid sci-fi experience, but the moment you step into battle you realize that there just isnít a whole lot to this game. Players simply hold down one mouse button to use their guns, the other for melee attacks, picking off their enemies as they advance. Itís generally quite easy to herd these baddies into areas so you can take them out with relative easy, and even if youíre in a heavy fire fight while standing your ground, so long as you have a good sized inventory of healing items thereís little to worry about since you can keep your health in good shape with ease. The only real strategy comes in knowing which type of attack to use, be it plasma, electricity, disruption, EMP, and so on. Most of the time youíll find yourself bouncing between EMP and electricity since
these are the attack types the most common enemies in the game are most vulnerable to. Upon figuring this out it really feels like youíre just going through the paces when fighting.
Equally simplistic is the lack of character classes available, as there are only three to choose from in the game: human, gladiator (a big burly robot), and Culibine (an magical/psyonic being). The human and gladiator have full-fledged melee
attacks, while the Culibine is highly skilled in ranged attacks with
some marginal melee abilities. If
there were at least a couple more classes to choose from that varied
greatly from the current ones it wouldnít be so bad, but as it stands
having only three is disappointing.
more disappointing is the incredible linearity of the game.
Players are kept very much on the rails as they proceed through
the game with hardly any room for deviation.
You head to home base to have a new mission assigned, complete
it, lather, rinse, repeat. Thereís
no room for figuring things out on your own, and exploration is kept to
a minimum. In fact the only
exploration to be had comes in traversing the dungeons, and even then
once youíve completed them thatís it.
Thereís no chance to return to them to fight re-spawned beasts
and score some nice rare items. You
just keep on trucking through the game.
making your way through the dungeon it becomes very clear early on that
the best items that youíre going to find will indeed be in the
dungeon, tucked away in a treasure chest of some sort or another.
Ona doesnít start keeping a decent stock of weapons and armor
until later in the game, so he winds up only really being around so you
have someone to by healing items off of.
One problem with treasure hunting in the depths of the ship is
that there are tons of different types of treasure chests.
Itís easy to overlook them when heading into a new area since
youíre already used to what they were looking like in past sectors.
Often times itís a complete fluke to actually find them, only
discovering the things because you accidentally passed your mouse over
them and they were illuminated to draw attention to them.
A uniform chest design would have been much easier to deal with.
the visual design in the game really isnít much to look at either.
Even with the settings cranked up there isnít a huge amount of
detail to the environments or the many enemies that youíll come across
in Harbinger. The frame
rate stutters every now and then, and there is some slowdown when you
get too many enemies on screen at once.
The overall character design isnít going to be wowing anyone,
it has a marginal comic book feel, but it isnít very engaging.
the other hand, the music in the game is great.
If youíre a fan of Boards of Canada or either of Aphex Twinís
ďSelected Ambient WorksĒ albums youíll like the very stripped
down, atmospheric ambient tunes in the game.
Theyíre downright soothing and really bring a nice aural
experience to the table; easily canceling out the ho-hum sound effects
and often times laughable voice acting.
story too is a fun little romp. The
whole time youíre playing you get the feeling that something really
big is about to go down, and the way that the narrative slowly feeds you
the information and things start to dawn on you is a great ride.
Itís an odd mix of prophecy and political intrigue, definitely
an interesting combination of story telling in a game.
the very best feature in the game, and one I hope that other developers
take note of, is the EZ Stash in Harbinger.
Basically it acts as a means to help combat having a cluttered
inventory while traveling through a dungeon.
When it comes to PC Action RPGs it doesnít take long to fill
the inventory right up with all manner of enchanted weapons, armor, and
the like. To help deal with
this, Harbinger uses something called the EZ Stash.
Theyíre containers placed within the dungeon where you can
stash excess items youíve collected.
The beauty of it all is that there is also an EZ Stash at home
base where you can pick up the items later either to equip them or sell
them to Oda. It letís the
player have their cake and eat it too tucking treasure away for later
without being over burdened, instead of sadly having to give up a
potentially helpful item that they donít have room for at the time.
does have some good ideas, but ultimately the lackluster combat and the
very linear nature of the game prevent the title from really becoming
engaging. A lot of the time
it just feels like youíre going through the paces.
Just stick with Diablo or Throne of Darkness for now if youíre
looking for an Action RPG for your PC.
(April 12, 2003)
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