Let me begin with the statement that this game belongs to "my genre". I just love 3rd person Hack'n'Slay, it is my favourite style of game.
Contrary to the gaming experience milestones such as the God of War series, Darksiders and Dante's Inferno to name but a few, however,
this one unfortunately leaves a rather crude impression. First, the goodies:
The developers have really put an effort into a stylish way of fighting with a host of possible weapon combinations.
Not only can you choose from one-handed sword style all the way to two-handed axe, with spear and shield, mace and axe and every other combination in between, but also combos are beautifully executed in a wholly authentic way of medieval weapons fighting.
You might play an extremely strong guy, but what he does with the weapons he wields seems in no way exaggerated or unrealistic, but very efficient.
With every weapons combination there is a minimum of two finishing moves, usually a rather quick and very brutal way of dispatching your opponent.
I have not seen them all, but let's just say while this is not Mortal Kombat, a really bloodthirsty player should still enjoy themselves very much.
Again, there is no fantasy here, these moves are believable, if somewhat show-offs, which I consider a very commendable effort and nicely done as well.
Graphics. Well, there is a good and a bad side to those. I find the characters themselves, especially their armour and equipment, to be designed carefully
and with good if not great detail. The environment, however, is - measured against the actual standard - poorly made. Everything has that blocky, harsh feel to it that I still know from the earliest of the open GL first person shooters on the PC (yes, I'm old, sue me).
Comparing the graphics with e.g. the latest Castlevania, this looks simply unfinished, as if the developers forgot some last stage of rendering or some such.
As the characters are done so nicely, however, one cannot help but speculate that they deliberately chose not to make the effort for the environment.
Now the really bad parts: First, "the Curse". At the push of a button you propel yourself to another reality, where everything is on fire and lost souls roam around, some kind of "overlaid Hell" (you don't actually change location, it just gets ugly). While this is an interesting idea, this game misuses it for a wholesale grating on the player's nerves.
Almost every mission has secrets. Coffers with gold lying around that you have to open, easy enough, a certain number of lost souls that you need to "absolve" in a mission and a defiled crucifix hidden somewhere that you need to destroy. The last two are only visible while you are "in" the Curse. While you are experiencing the Curse, you are stronger (very useful), but your Curse meter drains (it is filled by fighting while "outside" the Curse). This happens very, very fast. As you run out of Curse energy, you will start - very rapidly - to lose life energy, until you revert back to normal reality. So the only way of looking for the souls and the crucifix efficiently is to "flash-change" between realities every 5 to 10 seconds when exploring, which can be done without problems but is really annoying, especially since the Curse has a different music background score than the usual reality, thus accentuating your abuse of this ability by ruining your gaming experience somewhat with stop & go background soundtracks.
The fighting in this game is none too easy, nothing like the other genre classics where you are challenged only from Normal difficulty upwards.
Usually you are best served with staying well on the defensive and learning the "Deflection-Counter" (timed block) move by heart.
And here I have to introduce another deeply annoying feature of this game: Weapon Deterioration. Developers sought to implement some realism,
and this could have worked, but weapons are useless so fast - I am talking round three to five enemies, on Easy difficulty - that the game has you
virtually scrambling to exchange weapons at every given possibility (i. e., dead opponent's drops). While you can take a lot with you (one two-handed weapon,
one shield, two one-handed weapons and a crossbow, all at the same time), you'll always be on the lookout for new weapons and never are able
to have a "favourite" style of fighting, as you are quite literally living hand-to-mouth with regards to available weapons - you fight with what you find, so you have to be good at everything.
While fighting in this game is nice once you get the hang of it, this aspect really sucks, and especially in boss fights you'll find yourself more often than not
beating the villain with a stick - namely, what's left of your axe.
What destroys all possibility of this game actually being a load of fun, however, is bugs. It really has some serious issues.
I don't mean things like opening a portal together with your valiant companion and seeing both characters stand about 5 meters to the side of the portal in the wall,
this is somewhat ridiculous nowadays (I mean, guys, clipping errors, in a 2011 video game???) but doesn't kill the game.
I mean bugs like entering a street, making a turn in the next screen upwards where you should come to the next street of the city and, instead, you wind up in the same street you came from, where all opponents are already killed. And really, this is not some puzzle I didn't get.
Most such incidents can be overcome by playing the (whole!) level again, but really, I am offended as a customer by such errors, in a game with such a simple structure and very linear concept on the Play Station (not on the PC, and it is not a part of the Gothic series).
I paid the full price for this game, so why didn't I get a fully developed and tested game? The vast majority of game developers seem to be able to pull that off...
So, what does it offer? Apart from the already mentioned bright sides, this game features an interesting story that is well presented,
and the constant easy banter between the main character Denz de Bayle and his spanish companion Esteban Noviembre has you crack a smile even during the most frustrating phases of the game. Even being an annoying and frustrating experience more than half of the time, this game draws me back to it just to see how the story pans out.
The split-screen feature lets you enjoy this with a friend at home and is a nice idea, although I would have preferred both characters on the same screen (as I'd consider normal for this type of game, but then again, I'm old already).
Overall I'm not saying "stay the hell away", but you sure should either try it out first or buy it at budget price only,
because this game is simply not completely thought through and lacks a good deal of commitment from the developers.