Publisher: Project Three
Developer: 3D People
Release Date: Q4 2004
We recently got our hands on a tasty beta-build of the upcoming RPG Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, an isometric role-playing adventure set in a world of mages and magical mysticism. Originally slated for a 2002 release it has been delayed numerous times and is now set to hit retail, depending on your region, somewhere early October 2004.
Kult: Heretic Kingdoms is set in a world where God is dead and religion relegated to heresy. You’ll play the role of a young inspiring female mage whose goal it is to rid the world of the lingering traces of religion. A large part of doing so requires tracking down an ancient sword that has recently been stolen which may allow a sinister group of mages to resurrect the Dead God.
The first thing we noticed about Kult: Heretic Kingdoms is that the entire game can be easily controlled with only the mouse. You can move around by using the on-screen arrow to point the heroine in the direction you want her to go and clicking the left mouse button to make her move. Attacking is performed simply by holding the right mouse button. Talking to NPCs is merely a matter of clicking on them and then clicking on the various questions and retorts that are often displayed during dialogue segments. But what is most surprising is the fact that even though everything can be comfortably manipulated with the mouse, Kult features the robustness and intuition of many complex and engaging RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and the sort. You are not restricted to using a mouse exclusively though, integrating keyboard functions into the gameplay you can activate different weapons or items simply by tapping on the ten different number keys.
A real-time world clock in the lower right-hand side of the screen will let you know at a glance how many in-game days you’ve been playing as well as the exact in-game time. The day/night system used in the game is executed very well in Kult; the differences between the blinding daylight and super exposed surroundings seen during 6am-2pm compared to the shadowy foreboding atmosphere that is present during the night is like the differences between, well, day and night.
At the beginning of the game you’ll be able to customize your female character, choosing between an assortment of different outfits and hairstyles as well as a specific ‘attunement’ that will align her with either water, fire, electricity, or earth. The attunement system also carries over to the game’s weapons and armor. If the weapon you are using is attuned to, say, thunderbolt, and your chosen attunement is electricity you’ll be able to use that weapon to greater effect than if your attunement is something other than electricity, etc. You can also change your characters attunement by speaking to specific NPCs, though they will charge a reasonable shekel (the game’s form of currency) fee to do so.
Much like other isometric RPGs, the majority of the game is spent completing and agreeing to different quests and sub-quests. A useful quests window can be summoned at any time which details the quests you’ve completed and the ones that have yet to be finished. It’s this style of gameplay that ensures a largely non-linear experience as well as keeping you from getting too stuck since you’ll often learn how to go about completing a certain quest by progressing or completing an entirely different quest. These quests consist of things such as delivering messages hither and thither, cleaning a town of its infested monster vermin, employing one-handed zombies to help out local townsfolk, and things of other drastically differing natures.
You’ll confront many enemies in Kult ranging from humans from opposing factions, bare-breasted mutant midgets, arachnid zombies, wild bores, evil shaman, and a literal gaggle of other unsightly baddies. While combat is pretty much relegated to pointing your mouse in a direction and holding the right mouse button, there is actually a bit of strategy involved here as well. For example, shiesty shaman tend to attack from a distance and quickly retreat, leaving you swinging your broadsword in the wind, so to combat these guys you’ll need to equip a ranged weapon or elementally charged melee weapon (which can be used for both close and ranged combat) and dish out damage from a distance.
Health is a bit of a strange thing in Kult. You’ll be able to replenish health using traditional RPG methods – staying at inns, taking advantage of campfires, etc – but you are also given an herb pouch at the outset of the game that also replenishes health. The thing is you never run out of herbs, health items simply never run out. I thought this to be very off-kilter until I realized that while I am able to recover health as much as I want, the more you recover health the less your overall health capacity is. For example, if you are beaten to a pulp and use an herb it will only heal about 90% of your overall health capacity, get knocked around some more and use another herb and you’ll be working at something like 80% health capacity, and so on. Not until you recover at an inn will your complete health capacity be restored. It’s an interesting system that works surprisingly well and allows you to prolong field combat requiring minimal trips into town.
At any time you’ll be able to enter the ‘dreamworld’ by pressing the ‘d’ key. This slightly transforms your surroundings to a more ethereal environment complete with spooky fog and a dream-like ambiance while mostly retaining the familiar surroundings of the area you are in. You’ll encounter entirely different kinds of enemies in the dreamworld, which often take the form of floating spirits and wraith-like entities. Defeating these types of enemies will not only earn you the usual experience points that comes with slaying regular monsters but essences will also be dropped by your fallen foes. These essences are spent on improving your character’s statistics and abilities, so it’s always a good idea to enter the dreamworld when you encounter new areas.
The cherry on top of the various dynamic elements of the gameplay experience previously mentioned is the very thorough and satisfying weapons and armor customization system, which is key to any good RPG. You are able to equip your character with all sorts of armor pillaged from fallen foes that are segregated to the head, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, chest, and even fingers. The menagerie of armor items that you’ll find yourself outfitted in after mercilessly cleaving undomesticated beasts adds quite a bit to the experience. Weapons are also often pilfered from prey but can also be purchased from traveling salesmen and include staffs, swords, pieces of broken off fallen foes, axes, bows, maces, and an assortment of other bludgeoning devices.
The presentation of Kult: Heretic Kingdoms is certainly on par with other RPGs of its ilk and feature lush detailed environments that are largely rendered in 2D, which allow for all sorts of graphical nuances that may not have been present had the game been created entirely in 3D, but there is also a considerable spatter of 3D elements in the game world as well. All the characters featured in the game are 3D as well as plenty of poly-produced environmental additions that add considerably to the often organic ambience of the experience. The music lends itself nicely to the on-screen proceedings, boasting everything from complex instrumental orchestrations to upbeat stylistic soundtracks. Famous British actor Tom Baker, known for his roles in BBC’s Doctor Who series and the dreadfully dense Dungeons & Dragons movie, lends his prominent pipes to the game’s narration as well.
Overall, we’re looking forward to getting our hands on the golden build of Kult: Heretic Kingdoms. The European release should be available in the next few months, though a US release has yet to be finalized, or indeed even announced finding a publisher. If you enjoy traditional isometric PC RPG games then you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for Kult: Heretic Kingdoms.
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