Throne of Darkness
Score: 7.5 / 10
Throne of Darkness is an action/RPG that has absolutely dominated my time. Seeing as two of the head honchos on this game were also head honchos on the original Diablo it's no wonder. At its core Throne of Darkness is a game very much in the same vein as Diablo with the hacking and the slashing and the collecting of magical weapons and doo-dads, but it is wrapped in a number of very interesting idiosyncrasies that help the game stand out from the Diablo series. Between the highly customizable weapons and armor, the four warrior fighting dynamic, and the general joys to be had hacking all manner of demons to ribbons, there are plenty of reasons to give this game a whirl.
The game takes place in feudal Japan where a Daimyo, Zanshin, has struck a deal with an evil force so to rule the country and has taken command of an army of the undead with a healthy mix of demons and underworldly troublemakers to help round out the forces of darkness factor. This tyrant has started to lay waste to the other Daimyos and the player chooses a house to represent then must gather up his seven samurai and head out to put an end to the evil. No matter which house you choose to represent there really isn't a huge difference in how things play out but it adds some variety to the game. The story really isn't strong at all which may be a disappointment to some RPG fans, as it just feels so straight forward. Even the Diablo plots are better than this one and they weren't exactly world renowned as being epics for the ages. Most should be able to overcome this though, as it is the hacking and slashing that is what carries the game, providing the fun.
Controls are plenty responsive and plenty simple. It's the usual left click on the monsters to hack them up, and right click when you want to use some magic. Digging around the menus and what not is also very intuitive and the hot keys just make this even easier. However if you're not much into the hot keys and prefer to click on the icons, be warned that some of them are quite small, so it can be a little trouble some getting where you want in the menus.
When questing about the countryside players will have seven samurai, total, at their disposal: the Leader, the Berserker, the Brick, the Ninja, the Swordsman, the Archer, and the Wizard. Leader, Brick, Berserker, and Swordsman are very well suited to melee combat, while the other three are best kept in the back to supply ranged support, though they can hold their own for a short time if absolutely necessary in
close quarter combat. Only four of these seven warriors can be in the party at any one time, the rest have to wait at the castle until you
call upon them. This can be done instantaneously, simply by clicking on
the icons for the chosen warrior in the field, then clicking on the icon
of one of those in the castle, resulting in their switching places,
assuming you've hit the command to start swapping characters. Once a
warrior is taken from the field and teleported back to the castle he
will slowly begin to regain any health he has lost as well as recouping
lost magic. Unfortunately more often than not this ability to switch
characters only results in the game becoming easier since if your party
is really weak or half-decimated you need only find a nice quiet area
then slowly switch the characters off to the castle until they are all
healed, then maybe fix yourself a cup of coffee as you wait.
system, however, isn't all that special. There are a lot of
spells, but most of them you'll never use. Magic is based on the
four Aristotelian elements, fire, water, air, and earth, and you get the
standard mix of offensive and defensive spells. It's too bad all
you really need to do is pick one or two spells per element and max them
out in order to have a devastating magical onslaught at your disposal,
it would have been nice if it was necessary to pay more careful
attention to magic. As it stands, just pick a couple of powerful
offensive spells and have at it. Monsters will be cut down left
and right this way.
around, though, is quite fun. There is a very good sense of exploration
in Throne of Darkness as there are all sorts of paths to take, some
bringing you to the big quest points in the game, others providing nice
interludes and extra special treasure. There is a map you can open up in
the corner of the screen to help you keep from getting lost, but it's
much more fun keeping it closed and figuring things out on your own.
Just like Diablo there are teleportation markers throughout the game to
get you around faster, but overall the way that the maps are setup there
is plenty of exploration to be done, but it is extremely well paced,
preventing it from becoming tiresome.
There is also
the option to play Throne of Darkness online. This way you can
have a number of people controlling the different characters in the
party, but that pretty much defeats the point of having the whole four
warrior dynamic in the first place. The other way to go is have a
race to defeat Zanshin with other players, each one controlling a
different set of samurai from a different house. Once someone
defeats him the game goes into a king of the hill mode where the winner
takes control of Zanshin's personal guard (zombified versions of the
samurai) and the players try and use their samurai to seize control of
the area. The only problem is that even with waypoints opened up
ahead of time to speed up travel it still takes a bloody long time to
get to Zanshin and beat him, so it just doesn't lend itself to pick up
and play as much as other RPGs with online features do.
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