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Hard to be a God

To save running over old ground, may we direct you to our Hard to be a God preview, because not a lot seems to have changed since ploughing through the early code for a glimpse of what was to come. When given the chance to view games before release you have forgive the lack of presentation and instead take what lies after it. Usually the AI won’t have been fully coded, there may be clipping issues and not all features will work as expected. Sadly, I didn’t realise that Hard to be a God had been decided on the seemingly unfinished preview.

Thrown into action without an opening video or some sort of text would have left me completely bewildered had I not still possession of my fact sheet supplied with the game and numerous informative emails dating back to the start of the year. That’s a shame because the story here is one of the most enthralling to be found in videogaming – the problem is the gameplay supplied with it.

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Usually the protagonist will be given some basic moves and combo’s that can be improved and levelled up as well as some fresh skills available to be bought and discovered. Here, early combat seems to be the standard affair throughout the game. There’s nothing wrong with it in particular, just the lack of evolving techniques leaves the player trawling through and losing interest with every swing of their weapon. The gift of a horse with which to traverse the world on is right at the very start, when perhaps leaving the character to make his way on foot would make them more grateful and take more care of their faithful companion.

The lack of combat variety can be blamed on the woeful AI. Led to believe the environment could be used to unleash strategic battles, this actually amounts to getting the attention of the enemy, running away round a tree and then devouring them one by one. Against packs it’s very hard to succeed because of a stamina bar that feels like a noose around your neck. Once it runs out, you can’t move, let alone swing an axe, so you become a dead man walking. Taking opponents on individually is a far easier option because they just run in your direction, ripe for taking pot shots at. Conflict on horseback is incredibly dispiriting thanks to a lack of a timing bar. Pressing the correct button to swing your weapon and the time it takes to connect with the enemy takes precious seconds to achieve, so often enough you’ll be darting about on your horse trying to time your attack right. It simply doesn’t work as well as it should.

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Despite the lushness of the world, settlements are still a drab affair and buildings simply don’t have the number of objects you’d expect which makes looting a straight forward dash for the crate in the corner. Characters lack of detail adds to the growing list of disappointments that stop the player becoming fully immersed in a landscape that really does deserve some of your attention.

Hard to be a God is ultimately hard to like. The story is a compelling piece that will drag most bookworms through the many gameplay obstacles, if only to find out what happens at the end, and truth be told it really is worth the wait. Problem is, you could just go and buy the novel and save having the experience marred by a disappointing effort of a game. After several months of playing I suddenly realised that I was trying so hard to like the game, when in reality it should be the game trying hard to please the player; and that just doesn’t happen here.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

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