Available: Fall 2002

Prince of Qin © Strategy First
Article by Don "Beaver" R.

Prince of Qin is another game that I have heard very little about before playing, yet now is a game I can't wait to be released. To say that the beta I played was incomplete would be an understatement. There was no multiplayer support, no intro or storyline of any kind (save for a small blurb in the readme file), and I could not choose my character class when I started playing. But what was included had me hooked.

The game revolves around five elements; wood, earth, water, fire, and metal, and how they interact with or combat each other. Well, at least that's what the loading screens' say. Truthfully I didn't see much of this in the actual gameplay, but I'm sure it will be more relevant by the time the game hits store shelves.

The first thing you notice when you play any game is how it looks. And quite honestly the graphics were one of the weakest parts of this demo. Understandably, most role playing games of this type don't have great graphics, just look at Diablo. So it really wasn't that detrimental to my overall experience. The colors just seemed a little bit bland and dark. And after an enemy wizard cast a flame wall, I got to see a really weak looking fire effect. The heads up display was the best looking part of the game, which is NOT a good thing. The plus side about the graphics being less than stunning, is that the system specifications are kept very low (the readme.txt called for a PII 233, 64MB RAM, and 2MB Video Memory), so no one should have a problem running the game. Although this will not impress people that spent hundreds of dollars on video cards, CPUs, etc.

The sound was on par with other games of it's type, yet was still nothing spectacular. The game sounded like one would expect, perhaps even too much like other games. However, just because it may not be ear candy doesn't mean it isn't effective. The music was pretty good as well. It grew louder and more intense during battles and very soft in situations where little was happening, which made it seem appropriate, instead of repetitive.

Now why would I be anticipating the release of a game that I have done nothing but nitpicked thus far? Because the gameplay is just fun. Like I said earlier, I couldn't choose my character class, and I was forced to play as the Paladin. If the rest of the characters are as interesting as he is this game will be a definite winner. The paladin has the very cool ability to build his own weapons from supplies (wood, rocks, skins, bones, and binds) he discovers along his quest and affix them with jewels to make them stronger (like socketed weapons in Diablo). I assume other characters do NOT have the weapon building ability because I could also pay the blacksmith to do it.

When I started the game I met a wizard in the town that agreed to join my quest. Having two characters is in my opinion much more fun than running around with one guy the entire game (and although I never did, it looks as though you can have up to five in your party). The best thing about the wizard was that he wasn't insignificant or "disposable" like the "help" you could pay for in Diablo. I could control him just as much as I could my starting character, and he could gain weapons and experience just as effectively. Admittedly though, I got a little crazy when I started playing and would just go screaming into battles. This got my wizard killed relatively quickly, and from what I've seen so far I don't think there is a way to bring him back. I kind of like that though. It makes you think more about how you want to approach a battle rather than just figuring "Oh well, if he dies I can use a spell/potion/alter to revive him."

The enemies were also something to be reckoned with. One on one, most enemies I faced were pretty simple, but having four or five surround me could mean trouble. It doesn't take a swarm of three hundred bad guys to kill me while I suck potion after potion like in Diablo. There are health giving items in the game, but when I got in a situation where I was in real trouble, potions or not, I was dead.

The only real problems I had with the gameplay lied in the navigation. When you can enter a building or new section of the map, a little icon pops up as notification that that section is accessible. However it isn't always easy to see the building doors to even think to click on them. The same goes for paths in and out of towns and other places. In fact, I didn't even realize there was a store, inn, and blacksmith in town for quite a while. This really wasn't that big a deal and if the player is more observant than I am they shouldn't have many problems. The other aspect of navigation that I didn't like was the lack of town portals or anything that would make travelling faster. Again, they could be there, maybe they weren't included in the demo or I just missed them somehow.

If this game is fine tuned the way I feel it will be, it'll be excellent. I was addicted without knowing the story and without having much of a party (my poor wizard *sniff*) for most of the game. Hopefully, come release time, people will not overlook this title and it's fun, innovative gameplay because of the smaller developer and lack of flashy graphics. I know I won't.