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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

VR1 and Jaleco

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

February 2002

 

 

- Pretty lighting effects
- Unique control scheme
- Variety of creatures to kill

 

 

- Awkward combat
- Some goofy creature design
- Derivative gameplay

 

 

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Nightcaster

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

nightcaster-1.jpg (41941 bytes)  nightcaster-2.jpg (43666 bytes)   nightcaster-3.jpg (40385 bytes)

 

Imagine if you will, gentle readers, a cross between the ubiquitous Gauntlet series (particularly the recent 3D outings) and the arcade classic Robotron 2084. Okay, now throw in a bit of Zelda and stir. What does that lovely mixture get you? Unfortunately, a fairly average, though ambitious game: VR1’s Nightcaster.

Nightcaster allows the player to take control of Arron, a young boy who, after finding a magic orb, becomes able to cast powerful magic and goes on a quest to rid his homeland of the evil presence that threatens to destroy it. With the help of the orb and spells acquired as he advances through the game, Arron takes on a large variety of monsters across a number of unique levels.

Graphically, Nightcaster is above-average. Overall, there is little in the way of aliasing, polygon clipping, or visible seams. The draw distance is fine, as are the

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textures. It is not a game that is going to truly impress visually, but taken altogether the graphics pull the plow. Like so many developers in this generation, the Nightcaster crew apparently fell in love with lighting and particle effects, and they went completely overboard with them, a forgivable sin considering how well the XBox pulls these tricks off - but still, heavy combat occasionally starts to look like a Fourth of July

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fireworks show.

In Nightcaster, Arron has access to four different schools of magic (fire, water, light and dark). As you advance in the game, you can decide which of these schools to focus on, and can use glowing portals to immediately switch alignment (something that will get you smacked down by the gods in a Dungeons & Dragons adventure). One spell in each of the disciplines can be assigned to an active spell slot. These spells can then be cycled through using the left trigger and cast using the right trigger. Each school of magic affects different creature types differently. Nightcaster makes remembering which spell hurt which type of creature easy by color coding the creatures. This is handy, to say the least, but it gives the creatures a dorky, Sesame Street look that really weakens the overall art design of the game.

 

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Another problem with Nightcaster is related to the controls. Players use the left analog stick to move Arron and the right stick to move the orb (which is used to aim the spells). This means that a player can move in one direction while casting a spell in another. After some initial struggles, the controls become second nature, but they are still problematic because of the intricacies of combat in the Nightcaster world. Hand to hand combat with Arron is almost completely ineffective, and certainly less effective than spell-casting. Getting toe-to-toe with onscreen enemies is suicidal. This makes for a whole lot of running away while firing back over Arron’s shoulder, which, in the end, seems too wimpy for words. I felt that instead of taking on the baddies, I was getting out of the way and letting my big brother, the orb, fight the fight for me.

If one can look over the odd, “brave Sir Arron ran away” combat method, and a ineffective story sewn together from fantasy cliche’s, there is some fun to be had with Nightcaster. Though some of the creature designs look ridiculous, other creatures are quite creepy and organic. Boss-type creatures especially are cool and fun to fight. In the end, if all you are looking for is a cast-‘n-slash action adventure, Nightcaster will serve the purpose. If you are looking for a game with original gameplay, depth, or a great story, there are better places to spend your money.

- Tolen Dante
(March 21, 2002)

 

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