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Bandai Namco






T (Teen)



September 2006



- Well-imagined game world

- Detailed areas and maps

- Innovative experience leveling system



- Monotonous Gameplay

- Difficulties with combat, movement and inventory / object-gathering

- Confusing story



Review: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360)

Review: World of Warcraft (PC)

Review: Fable: The Lost Chapters (PC)



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Mage Knight: Apocalypse

Score: 6.5 / 10


Based on the Wizkids’s miniatures game, Namco Bandai and IS Games’s Mage Knight Apocalypse is an FRPG title which initially impresses but quickly loses its luster.


mage knight apocalypse          mage knight apocalypse


While Mage Knight borrows enough elements from Blizzard games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo II to raise copyright questions (it could be renamed Apocalypse W.O.W.) to its credit, its borrowings are well-integrated into its own distinct universe.  Unfortunately, the game’s faults are also its own.


The game chronicles events taking place in the Mage Knight universe following the “black powder revolution” as forces of evil threaten the peaceful.  The player chooses one of five heroic defenders -- a musket-toting dwarf, a vampiric assassin, an Amazon huntress, a dragon-like humanoid mage and an elven Paladin. While all other characters eventually become available as NPCs, the initial




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selection is important, since each hero character offers a different storyline and different strategic approaches.


Though some of the areas are impressively detailed and many of the 3D graphics attractive, after the novelty wears off, the flaws become evident as the game degenerates into a monotonous slog from 


area to area, cut scene to cut scene.  More than with other recent FRPGs, Mage Knights made me feel the old “kill monster; take treasure” grind.  This alone wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t separate difficulties with both the killing and the taking. 


Killing, first.  The game’s combat is hampered by tricky movement (neither the mouse-driven or WASD options feel adequate), a camera that never seems to be facing the right direction for strategic movement, as well as a few oddly distributed hotkeys and onscreen buttons (the Amazon, who has different hotkey setups for three different fighting stances becomes a particular problem.)  On top of this is the fact that enemies seem to be either leashed to a fixed point or oblivious to intruders who aren’t within spitting distance.  Though the game includes ambushes and boss battles involving encirclement (by the way, game designers -- it’s really annoying to cunningly sneak up on a group of enemies only to have a cut scene launch that shows your character wandering blithely into the middle of the mob) combat most often becomes simply a matter of putting some distance between oneself and the enemy, then returning to pick them off in small groups.  Worst of all, there is no real sense of jeopardy.  Die and you simply respawn by the nearest of many save points, fully equipped and ready for more action -- a minor inconvenience at best.


Now, the treasure taking part.  The game’s object retrieval system is fiddly, and in an apparent bug, some dropped items are difficult or impossible to pick up.  And unlike in Diablo 2, where the gathering of improved and enchanted gear was part of the fun, MKA doesn’t display nearly the imagination in its selections.  Forging enchanted weapons is interesting at first, but soon becomes dull.  Potion making is also only interesting until the player realizes most standard potions can be bought or found with little difficulty.


mage knight apocalypse          mage knight apocalypse


The game’s plot, in what I’m finding a disturbingly common problem in FRPG’s, is hampered by a lack of compelling or even comprehensible storytelling.  Even during the exposition-heavy early episodes, I experienced a number of “did I miss something?” moments.  It’s hard to care about what the traitorous [fill in the blank] has conspired with the foul [fill in the blank] to do to the innocent [fill in the blank] when you have no clue who any of them are.


One thing the game seems to get more right than wrong is its experience leveling system, which employs an Elder Scrolls-esque system where use of a particular skill gradually adds new abilities and proficiencies.  The system is good in theory, and interesting in how it allows specialization within each character class, though it is rather strangely implemented.  A few times I used the same skill repeatedly with no visible progress only to suddenly see it improve while performing some unrelated activity.


I can forgive Namco Bandai for this one, if only for giving us the enormously fun and underrated Sniper Elite a while back, but Mage Knights Apocalypse feels like a half-hearted effort in a saturated genre that won’t be keeping the folks at Blizzard up at night.


- John Tait

(October 11, 2006)


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