Developer: Silverback Entertainment
Date: Feb 25th, 2003
In Dreamcatcher's "Harbinger," you are a member of a small raider community aboard a spacecraft so gigantic that it has its own ecosystem. The corridors of the behemoth ship are the only home you’ve known, and while most of the slaves are content with their lot in life, a shift of power is being planned, which will affect everyone onboard. Touted as a space-based RPG, Harbinger plays like a typical action/adventure game but does display role-playing characteristics in that you need to gather items in order to improve your abilities, weapons, and level.
Before we can start on the game's missions, we are required to choose our character. The three types of available characters are Humans, Gladiators, and Culibines, with each possessing unique strengths and weaknesses. The Humans are the weakest characters in the game but are also the fastest and have the most range. As robotic fighting machines, the Gladiators are the slowest -- and strongest -- characters, capable of the strongest melee attacks. Last but not least are the Culibine, who have the best long range attacks and are capable of manipulating raw energy. No matter which character you choose, you begin by running errands which will gradually escalate until you're facing off against the ruthless Overlord, the Harbinger's commander.
Always stationed at your home base are two residents of Torvus Junction, for whom you perform "jobs" like a bounty hunter The jobs or missions come directly from the technician, who is constantly messing around with his gadgets and toys. You converse with the other guy, a store manager, to buy and trade equipment that you've either found or will need on your mission. You need money to buy the equipment, and the only ways to make money are completing the missions, or if you're lucky, picking up money from the enemies. Even if you have an insanely large amount of money (which is unlikely), it’s impossible to buy out the entire store. The main reason for this is because of limited "inventory space." You can hold one weapon and maybe 11 small items like EMPs before maxing out your inventory space. The inventory must be rearranged so that you can maximize your inventory space. If your inventory is ever full, home base has a supply stash area where you can drop off items that are currently unnecessary. It’s also a good place to store weapons or items that you cannot use due to insufficient abilities and/or level.
Each mission has its own objectives, ranging from a weapon hunt to locating a fellow comrades. The missions are almost always identical, and the maps seem the same, as well as the tactics required to pass the stage. The tactics that I use would be the hit and run tactics, since it’s the only way I can stay alive. With only two attacks, I prefer the long range melee attack, as well as making sure that I carry extra health packs, since it is so vital in completing the missions. Once you run out, you're almost as good as dead. Remember, the space bar is a very important friend because it's the hot key for using the health packs.
The controls for the game are quite simple and easy to use. You'll only need to use two buttons on the mouse and a few buttons on the keyboard. The left mouse button is used for long-range attacks, while the right mouse button is used for melee attacks. Unlike Diablo II, attacking the enemy is extremely difficult: in order to attack, you must click over the enemy unit, which proves to be troublesome since the mouse button is also used for moving. If you incorrectly click on the enemy unit, you might run into the enemy, which isn't a very good fighting strategy. Because of the slightly problematic game controls, it is extremely hard to stay alive, requiring several health packs to complete a mission. The map itself adds another obstacle to surviving the mission, since the areas are rather small and confined, making it harder to run away from the enemy. The maps are fogged and uncover itself once you have explored the areas, making me wish for a map hack like the ones in Diablo II. When you hit the tab key, the map that you have uncovered will be plotted on the map overlay, quite helpful in finishing the mission. After you get used to these controls, however, you can start completing missions with ease.
If you are still finding the missions to be too difficult, you probably need to increase the level of your character. Unlike Diablo II, there are only a limited amount of options on which you can increase levels: melee and long range attacks, as well as some other minor options. This will help improve the power of your character and allow the user to handle more powerful weapons. After each amount of kills, you will earn enough experience to level up, and once this happens, you will be given a certain amount of points to power up your character. Choose wisely.
The sound in the game is kind of interesting. While the voices definitely fit the characters (unlike some dubs for PS2 games which shall remain unnamed), the voice acting is sometimes slightly muddled. The subtitles, which appear as comic book-esque word balloons, are a definite boost and make the game easier to understand.
Without the ability of online play, however, Harbinger is no competition for Diablo II, which still holds the crown for these type of RPG games. If the game developers had made Harbinger an MMORPG, it might have stood more of a fighting chance.
Score : 7.2/10
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