Nox Rocks!

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I might be wrong, but I think I’m the only one on the entire GiN staff who doesn’t role-play at all. Aside from some console-based RPG experiences such as Lunar or the overrated Final Fantasy series (let the hate mail begin again!), I just never really got into it at all.

A couple years ago, however, a nice little product from Blizzard, entitled Diablo, was released to the gaming public. Combining basic role-play elements with the action of a real-time strategy game, I was instantly hooked with its unique style of gameplay, and am waiting impatiently for Blizzard to release Diablo II.

However, last fall, when I was reviewing Tiberian Sun, I decided to check out the preview clips. One of which that caught my eye as a little title called Nox. At first glance, it seemed like it would just be a cheap Diablo clone. Considering I’ve been through my share of bad Diablo wanna-bes (i.e.Cybermercs), I was a bit skeptical about another possible failure.

Was I ever more wrong? Nox turned out to be a very enjoyable adventure and an action RPG that kept me glued to my screen for a long time.

I kind of think of Nox’s plot as a humorous version of Diablo. The land of Nox has suffered a history of problems with evil Necromancers, who eventually are banished from the kingdom. Only one remains, an infant named Hecubah. Fearing that she will discover her bloodline, the rulers of Nox trust the Ogre race to look over Hecubah. It doesn’t work out though, as Hecubah discovers her heritage and uses her magic powers to open a portal to summon creatures to terrorize Nox.

However, something goes wrong.

Enter Jack, just your typical trailer park redneck who life involves eating bacon and watching TV. In a scene reminiscent of Army of Darkness, Jack is sucked into the portal along with his broken television, and lands on an airship. The captain offers to help Jack in his attempt to get home, but at the cost of one favor.

And that is where the game takes over. Jack is giving the choice of profession he wants to take up: Warrior, Wizard, or Conjurer. From there, he will be sent on a quest to free the land of Nox from Hecubah’s power.

Those familiar with Diablo will be right at home with the control scheme. However, instead of clicking on where you want Jack to move, you can use the mouse to lead Jack in the direction he wants to move (similar to Army Men). As the game progresses, spells and special skills can easily be set to hot keys for quick access. Combat is also simplistic and easy to understand. After a couple of minutes, you’ll be kicking monster butt in no time.

Nox also features an impressive line of sight capability. As you move around the kingdom, landscapes will appear and disappear as if Jack was seeing it for real. It also provides surprise as you never know who or what might be lurking on the other side of a wall or around a dark corner.

Graphics otherwise look pretty nice, although a bit basic since it’s 2D. There are however some nice particle effects and impressive lighting. Sound is also pretty good as well, and some of the voice acting is up there with the likes of Metal Gear in terms of quality.

If there is anything I could say negative about this game, maybe it’s that I’d like to see more character classes than the three available. I mean, a Warrior, Wizard, and Conjurer are pretty nice, but I’d also like to be able to play as a thief so I can get into all those doors without a key, or perhaps sneak up and backstab some of the monsters.

Searching for keys is another weakness. It is almost reminiscent of earlier FPS titles to search for the key before finding the exit.

I was able to solve the game as a Conjurer and a Warrior. The first couple of levels of each character class is unique, but after that you pretty much go through the same levels. However, based on your skills, you will solve puzzles in different ways. For example, when you are faced with a very tough monster, the Conjurer might summon some creatures of his own to join in the fight. And sometimes multiple little creatures can defeat one huge one. The Warrior might take the monster on headfirst while the Wizard can protect himself from whatever damage the monster deals, and then launch fireballs or lightning blasts to fry the sucker from a safe distance.

Each character has its own cinematic ending if you solve the game. And after the credits roll you will be challenged to try again as another character class. On one hand I think this is a bit evil, but on the other it’s a cool way to remind players that if you only go through the game once, you will really miss out.

The game was originally designed for multiplayer, and this is a strong aspect to the title. Since the graphics are 2D, bandwidth problems are greatly reduced. Play is limited to arena-style combat, so you won’t be able to adventure with friends through the levels, which would have been very fun. But this is ok since the multiplayer is fast and furious, at least as much as most shooters. Again however, more character classes would have made this more fun.

Still, Nox is quite an enjoyable title, and far exceeds other Diablo-like adventures. It gets 4 1/2 Gems, losing a half gem for the simple character classes and the "find the key" game levels.

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