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Splinter Cell
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NoxSince the release of Blizzard's Diablo 2 has been repeatedly postponed (the game is now likely to be published in this year's third quarter), fans of action RPGs are yearning for a quest. For now, the search has come to an end: with Nox Westwood delivers a game in the tradition of the great classic. Nevertheless, Nox offers enough novelties to step out of Diablo's shadow (so to speak) - which is especially satisfying, since Nox constitutes Westwood's first steps in the action adventure genre (Eye of the Beholder and Lands of Lore had been full-blown RPGs).
WarriorNox's graphical specialty catches your attention after having taken a few steps only: moving shadows. They visualize the gamer's current line of sight, which changes constantly depending on his position and movement. For instance, pillars or closed doors block your sight at areas beyond. If you step through a door, the shadows in front of you part while everything grows dark behind the closing door. An interesting effect, no doubt, but it is not only straining for your eyes - more often than not it has no impact on the gameplay (apart from windows). However, the rest of the graphics is fully appealing, because many small and beautifully animated details like torches and water surfaces add life to the world of Nox. The dynamic lighting effects of most of the spells create an adequate RPG atmosphere. You can customize the screen resolution, but at 1024 x 768 pixels, the gaming world somehow reminds me of a teeming anthill.
ConjurerThe story can be narrated in no time and is therefore not overly spectacular. The evil witch Hecubah has proclaimed the subjugation of Nox her most prominent task and sets out to find the Staff of Oblivion, the most powerful weapon in the realm. But since it lies broken in three pieces that are unconveniently scattered all over the fantasy world, she sends out her vile henchmen, the necromancers, to do the job for her. During one of her conjuring rituals, our innocent hero Jack is accidently teleported from his sofa at home to the world of Nox, where he lands on the zeppelin of the Captain. To avoid being thrown out, Jack agrees to do the Captain a favour, not knowing that it will culminate in the salvation of Nox.
Choice of character:
MagicianThe choice of the character (warrior, conjurer, magician) has a major influence on the further course of the story. Even though the basic storyline remains the same for all three characters, the initial 3 of the total 11 chapters as well as some briefings do change. And, naturally, the warrior for example has completely different skills as the other two and vice versa.
The warrior starts near the city of Dun Mir and he's the only one who's allowed to use all sorts of weapons, armor, and shields that deflect even magic missiles. With every new level of experience he gains, he's rewarded with a special ability (e.g. berserk attack) to offset his disadvantage that he can neither make use of magic nor of bows.
The conjurer sets out in the city of Ix. His unique skill of subjugation allows him to control creatures with his will as soon as he has found the corresponding scroll revealing the beast's abilities. Later on he can even create monsters himself that fight for his cause. Although he knows how to handle bows, his body protection is restricted to leather armor. His magical abilities help him overcome even tricky situations.
The magician calls the city of Galavah his home and has access to a vast range of attack and defensive spells. In most cases, his equipment consists of (magical) staffs and robes. By the way, warriors and magicians tend to forget their manners once they have spotted each other...
In order to fill up your spent mana resources, you have to stand next to a bluish mana pillar that needs to regenerate its power after usage. Each of the approx. 40 nicely animated spells can be upgraded up to three times.


Action adv.

very good




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Pros & cons:
HecubahSimilar to Diablo, Nox captures your attention immediately. Without having to peruse the manual, you can dive into the action and accomplish the initial chapters in no time. The problem is that it goes on like that in the following chapters. It would take some searching to find a story more linear than that of Nox, and only rarely you stumble upon some additional subquests. The different characters make you see the story from different points of view, but even so you have to play most of the chapters two or three times. Apart from the rendered intro and extro sequence, there are no real cutscenes but merely chapter graphics while you are briefed by the Captain. And only one multiplayer mode (deathmatch) isn't very much to keep you entertained for some time.
But despite all the critics, the easy-to-handle game is fun to spend your time with. Not only that Nox's graphics and atmosphere are less gloomy than those in Diablo, the programmers have also included some useful details: for example, a small map cartographing your surroundings while you move, a quick-access bar for your spells at the bottom of your screen, and the feature that everything your character is wearing can be seen in the in-game graphics at once. All in all, Nox has the potential to rival the great Diablo, at least with reference to the soloplayer mode. In multiplayer gaming, Diablo, despite its age, hasn't lost its lead in the genre of action RPGs yet. Those who cannot wait until the release of Diablo II this summer, should venture forth into the realms of Nox.
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