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Restricted Area

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Whiptail
Developer: Master Creating

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PC Preview - 'Restricted Area'

by Reldan on Jan. 29, 2005 @ 1:35 a.m. PST

Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Whiptail Interactive
Developer: Master Creating
Release Date: April 26, 2005

Restricted Area is a new action-RPG currently released in Germany with an international release in the works. It is very reminiscent of Diablo in terms of gameplay, however it takes place in an urban post-apocalyptic cyberpunk setting instead of some mythical fantasyland. Much like the classic Fallout the game presents a very dreary view of the future of mankind. Man and machine have become meshed together, and humans are more mechanical than they are organic. Body parts are worn and discarded as though they were clothes. Civilization has become nothing more than huge cities owned and operated by even larger corporations and wastelands where mutants and monsters roam freely.

The game world is divided up into sectors. There are towns containing NPCs that give you missions and sell you useful things, such as weapons, medkits, and cyberware, and then there are areas containing NPCs of the not-so-friendly variety that try to sell you things like beatings, stab wounds, and death. The cunning gamer will use what he gets from the first group of NPCs to give the second group a counter-offer in the form of shootings and maimings. You start out in one of the more urban towns, and walk around talking to the various NPCs. One might try to sell you cyberware (body part upgrades with attribute/skill bonuses), while another gives you a mission or a monetary loan. Interaction with NPCs takes place through a dialogue tree, although some dialogue paths lead to nothing and force you to retry the conversation from the beginning and say the right things to continue, a minor annoyance.

Weapons are very modern/futuristic but also very generic. The types I saw in the demo version of the game included pistols, submachine guns, plasma guns, and shotguns. The only variance between the different types of weapons had to do with damage ranges (but not average damage per shot) and stat boosts. One gun might have a special +4 damage modifier while another could give +20% accuracy.

Cyberware takes the place of armor in this Diabloesque game. The body contains several slots where cyberware can be installed, and each piece has stat boosts, much like weapons. There's no special process required to attach cyberware; you basically just drag and drop whatever you find/buy onto the appropriate slot (I guess people in the future are plug-and-play compatible). The only limitation on cyberware is that each piece has a tolerance cost, and your character has a maximum tolerance, which can be raised as you level up. Once you hit the cap, you will not be able to equip anything more, although you can unequip previously equipped cyberware to make room for new devices.

Weapons and cyberware can each have a manufacturer listed in the weapon title. This has some importance, as acquiring and equipping multiple pieces from the same corporation provides additional bonuses to stats as well. The more you wear, the greater the bonus.

Your character gains experience for completing missions and killing enemies, leading you to level up, giving both attribute and development points. The attribute points go directly into increasing attributes (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, reaction, willpower) which do useful things such as increasing your hit points, damage, and ability to hit. Development points are spent on any of 30 skills that your character can learn split into two different skill trees. Most of the skills seem to be passive modifiers that increase your damage and accuracy with specific weapon types, or give a percentage bonus to your run speed or a specific attribute.

How does the game feel, though? I was a bit nonplussed about the lack of any depth to the combat system. The best "strategy" I could come up with was to run away from the enemies (I run about twice as fast as any I found could move), shoot at them, then run away again, then shoot at them, and repeat until they're dead. I didn't see any special skills or abilities that I could actively use in combat, and my only fighting method was to click on enemies repeatedly to fire my weapon at them until they went down. I expect a game to have a bit more to combat than an auto-attack button, because it frankly gets boring really fast.

The background scenery is very well done; from the moment you start playing, everything looks and feels very cyberpunk and very post-apocalypic and futuristic. Unfortunately the character models, especially the animations, were quite bad, bordering on horrible. They are not of the same quality level as everything else in the game, almost to the point that they don't even look like they belong. It's like someone squirting ketchup all over a $30 prime steak. If you're going to use sprites, try and have enough different frames during the animations that it doesn't look jerky. It's a bit ridiculous when you see a guy fire a shotgun, then you see it at a 45-degree angle, then 90-degrees, then back to 45-degrees, then back to level. An RPG is about immersion, and when things look odd it makes it hard to forget you are just playing a simple game. Hopefully something will be done in the final release to address these issues.

Restricted Area will contain four playable characters, each with their own unique part of a shared overall storyline. Additionally it will feature a two-player cooperative mode and should ship sometimes early this year.


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