Release Date: TBA
Knights of the Temple 2 has at its core one of the best ideas for a video game that nobody's used yet, and this is probably why Cauldron Ltd stepped in to make the sequel after the first title failed to be terribly successful. The real question with this title is how well it's going to use its stellar premise, which involves following the adventures of a Knight Templar in a dark and sinister version of 13th century Europe where demons are real. We took a look at the console build for this preview, so we could get some idea of how the game would control. While the game's simple graphics are far more acceptable on the PS2, right now the play control on this build is "rough" to say the least. A lot of options haven't been implemented yet, so we only got to see a tiny sliver of what the game had to offer. Fortunately, in a build this early, we can feel confident that most of what's lacking now will probably be addressed before the final build.
We tried out the Tutorial and the new game options, and in both modes the sense of historical realism in the backgrounds was very striking. There were no anachronisms, and all the architecture we saw had a delightfully weathered, somewhat crude look to it. A downside to the sense of historical accuracy is that, well, the graphic design sense of the game is a little hard to appreciate if you're not any sort of a history buff. Paul's historically authentic Templar armor looks bulky and dull when simply viewed as a video game design, and the authentic medieval townscapes seem drab and claustrophobic. The graphics themselves aren't very technologically advanced, with the simple, blocky look of early PS2 titles behind them. Hopefully they'll be sharpened up before the final release, so it's easier to immerse in the setting and enjoy the realism.
The plot for the game is pretty straightforward, and entirely outlined by a single opening cut-scene. Paul de Raque lives in dark times, and he's watched evil forces possess the soul of a woman he once loved. Now he's out to collect three talismans that will let him find, pierce, and seal the evil gate into hell that lead to her possession happening. To help him on this quest, he has divine powers like extra-sensory perception, healing, and tricks for damaging evil foes. So you undertake three major quests to find the talismans, and then presumably a fourth where you descend into hell. Of course, only the three basic quests were available in this build, and only one was playable at all, the Birka quest.
Once you select it, you were set down in a dreary medieval city at night, with wailing moans and the sounds of flickering flames echoing in the background. People wandered around with torches, and would run from you if they saw Paul unsheathe his sword. If you approached an item to interact with or a person you could speak to, an icon would flash in the upper-left corner of the screen. A lot of interactions with the environment were supposed to trigger automatically, and although they weren't all implemented in this build, it made getting around easy when they worked as intended. Curiously, Paul was able to unsheathe his sword and go into "fighting mode" at any time, but hitting villagers with sword-sweeps caused no visible harm to them. All dialogue in the game was voiced, which was a nice bonus.
Sadly we couldn't access a combat sequence in the PS2 version, so we'll have to assume that it's going to basically follow the same pattern as the PC version, real-time action with the ability to power-up Paul by investing experience points in various skill trees. Hitting the cross button triggered a downward sweep of the sword, while circle triggered an upward sweep and the triangle button jumped. A look at the options listing indicated that a lot of skills would be triggered with the L2 and R2 buttons. As in most PS2 games, you moved your character with the left analog stick and the camera with the right analog stick.
It's obvious that the current built of Knights of the Temple 2 is quite unfinished, and they seem to be working on mapping all the controls for the console version as something distinct from the PC version. Once all the bugs are worked out, the potential for an engaging and different action RPG is definitely there. For all the faux-medieval veneer that most RPGs slather on, few have dared to actually approach the authentic look and feel of the period in their graphics or their plotlines.
If anything, it would be nice if eventually the plot of Knights of the Temple 2 embraced more historical aspects of the period. Right now, it hinges on a quest for doodads that is, when you get down to it, a fairly generic RPG "fetch quest". Something that involved having to exorcise demons or deal with corrupt Crusaders, even as a sidequest, would be a welcome addition. There's no announced release date for Knights of the Temple 2, so maybe we'll see something like that in a more developed version of the game.