The beloved XBOX doesn’t have an especially low number of third-person action games. During 2004 we’ve seen some excellent examples in the genre of how a game can innovate, but still remain fun. Knights of the Temple doesn’t score high on the proverbial list of innovative games, but it’s actually fun the few hours it lasts.
You play as the seemingly normal son of this legendary templar knight, a man of almost infinite tales. When he was killed during a crusade you decide to emulate him as best as you can, and start practicing the art of combat. You eventually join the ranks of the templar knights, and it doesn’t take long until you start involving yourself in quests. Early in the game you search for a character by the name of Lord Bishop; supposedly an easy task. Days earlier you found a messenger who brought news of terrible evil. Could there be a connection? When you fail in locating Lord Bishop you begin unraveling dark secrets – secrets that’ll take you far from your home, and then some. The story is far from deep, but it does serve you a nice number of cut-scenes to flesh it out some more.
Knights of the Temple is essentially a hack-and-slash game. It doesn’t involve unnecessary RPG elements; instead it focuses entirely on combat. Fortunately it does it fairly well. You begin with a pretty standard issue sword, and a very limited knowledge of combat moves. During the game you’ll find a good load of weapons, ranging from swords to maces, to axes, to bows. Our hero can carry one of each, so he’ll automatically replace your current one as soon as you find a new weapon. Each of these weapons has certain traits that make them particularly useful against certain kinds of enemies. For instance, enemies with armor dislike the spiked maces, while non-armored demon-like monsters aren’t too fond of axes and swords. The bow isn’t used nearly as much as the melee weapons, but that’s simply because most of the action is tightly-knit and very in-your-face. A well placed shot with a bow can sink an enemy in one shot, but normally it’s used to kill enemies you can’t reach, or injure stronger enemies. You only have a limited supply of arrows, but they aren’t hard to find when playing the game.
There are at core two attack buttons, one for normal attacks and one for a more special attack. Several combos are learned during the game, which are all fairly easy to execute. After a while you also start learning special attacks, which are used to break enemy blocks, stun enemies that aren’t blocking, and so on. These special attack use a certain amount of what appears to be mana, depending on the power of the attack and so on. A little later you also start learning divine powers, which basically lets you heal yourself, enable a rage of some sort that lets you do more damage etc, and a few others. These divine powers cost a certain portion of your divine power bar, but it can be partially refilled by killing monsters. These powers will save you many times during the game, but there’s a bit of strategy involved in choosing the best time to use them. The combat is for the most part easy to learn. I’m not entirely happy with the key configuration and how the character does some of the moves, so you shouldn’t expect the fluid nature of Ninja Gaiden.
Luckily all of the human characters are motion captured, including you. Most of the moves look quite good and lifelike, but the transitions aren’t as good as games like Gothic 2. Graphically the game does fairly well. Even though many of the environments are similar you do venture to some diverse locations, so I can assure you that you won’t be doing one long dungeon-crawl. Lighting and shadows are nicely used, so while this certainly isn’t on par with The Chronicles of Riddick it’s technically superior to games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, although with considerably less content. The texturing is for the most part good and sharp. The enemies tend to look a lot similar, but certain types do vary in size, texturing, movement speed and more, so it’s not too bad. I really would’ve liked to see more cool special effects, such are more elemental weapons, but I suspect the rendering engine would’ve struggled eventually. In terms of performance the game is normally nice and fluid, and I can probably count the number of slowdowns on one hand.
So, as a player do you just run around slashing monsters? Well you do bump into the occasional boss, and especially during the first half of the game you have to solve some laughably easy puzzles. You won’t be doing any impressive acrobatics, and you can’t improve your armor or statistics, but you can improve the special attacks by finding semi-secret chests. Yeah, it is kind of limited, but at the very least you can play online using XBOX Live, which should clearly add to the entertainment once you’re done playing with yourself.
The audio in Knights of the Temple is also pretty decent. The background music adds a bit to the immersion, but it’s usually not something you notice. But on the other hand, if it’s not something you easily notice it’s not something that’s going to annoy you. The sound effects are perfectly okay, and the voice talents did a good job making the characters come to life. To me the main character didn’t sound all that much of a knight, but maybe that’s just me.
It shouldn’t take you more than about 6-7 hours to finish Knights of the Temple. It is a completely linear game where you’ll probably find most of the secrets the first time you play it. Therefore I doubt you’ll want to play the game when you’re done, unless you feel sociable and go online using the XBOX Live connectivity.
If you enjoy hack-and-slash games then this should be a good candidate for a rental. You should be able to finish it in a day, but if that’s enough to warrant a purchase will have to be your decision.