When you set out to create a game that has effectively been done before, there is a bare minimum effort required to belly up to the bar. Loki: Heroes of Mythology does not try to disguise the fact that it is a dungeon crawling RPG in the vein of Diablo and Titan Quest. But it does overlook precedents of gameplay and quality that have been set before it.
Loki begins with a cinematic of a robed wanderer making his way through the desert (stop me if you've heard this one before). He makes his way into a tomb within a pyramid and awakens the god of chaos and evil. Oh you have heard this one before, sorry to bore you. Seriously, I'm all for the tip of a hat to those that have come before, but this just felt like plagiarism. You choose your character from one of four mythological heroes: An Aztec Shaman, an Egyptian Sorcerer, a Greek fighter, and a Norse Warrior. From there, you set out on one of four generic and forgettable journeys.
Gameplay and Story
The formula for this game has already been concocted, a scaffolding with which virtually any setting or grouping of characters can work. The mechanics, skill trees, quests, and other gameplay elements feel familiar. And even though the settings are interesting and the heroes seem unique, Loki still manages to fall on its face.
There was no single hook that encouraged me to even walk beyond the opening screen and the story seemed like it was being made up as it went along. What I took away from quests: "Hey um...I need some stuff. Would you go get that stuff for me? Because I want that stuff." Any number of paths could have been taken to make the introduction to Loki more enticing, but instead it ends up feeling like a watered down, single-player MMO.
In terms of hands-on gameplay and interface, Loki suffers from a serious lack of polish. Pathing issues and UI snags make it feel incomplete and uncomfortable. And to that end, when you die on the battlefield, it almost always feels like you've lost a battle with the UI and not with your enemies. Combat doesn't really pack a punch and UI issues make looting such a pain that there's rarely any satisfaction in that either. Having a full 3D camera to work with is both a blessing and a curse. It's great to be able to see the action and combat from any angle, but sometimes the camera just got in the way. You can zoom all the way down to ground level to witness a fight up close, but this option makes combat almost impossible. Fighting, looting, walking, and using the UI in general never seemed consistent in Loki. Common actions often required clicking repeatedly and inventory usage required pixel hunting for just the right spot to activate buttons and items.
Mind you, Loki does pack some great gameplay features including the ability to respec your character's talents for money and the option to break down old or unused gear and use the materials to reinforce your existing weapons and armor. But new mechanics are quickly forgotten when the standards aren't working as expected.
The visuals in Loki are inconsistent but thankfully more on the positive side of things. Spell effects and environmental particle effects are very attractive. Monsters are well done both in design and animation. I guess I'll file a couple of bugs here as well: Characters and monsters were frequently seen floating, moonwalking backwards, getting stuck on things. The UI felt clunky but once again, I've been spoiled by the forefathers of this genre.
Sound and Music
Voiceovers range from great to uninspired and that can take me right out of the game. Music is actually quite nice, a sort of ethno-industrial mix that builds tension and establishes the environments well. Sound effects are good for the most part but often times I hear action from entirely off screen that makes gameplay confusing.
There are some patching issues that seem to be getting in the way of multiplayer at this time, but Loki seems like it would be much more fun with a party of players.
Loki may be a simple case of a studio setting its sights too high. You can tell that it is ambitious and that passion has been put into many aspects of the game. But without some major patching, Loki can only hope to appeal to the die hard action adventure gamer or mythology buff.