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Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) artwork

Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) review


"A cookie-cutter hack 'n slash on Steam? No..."


Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) image

A quick look at Hazen: The Dark Whispers' Steam page reveals a nasty red flag: the word "episodic" appears in the game's summary. The appearance of that dreaded "E" word might then prompt you to search for Hazen: Episode 2, only to discover that no such title exists. The only other product Hazen's developer produced was an RTS/RPG hybrid called Dimensity, which is completely unrelated. However, Hazen's page does assure potential consumers that each episode functions as a standalone game. You may not need to possess the second episode and might be content with just the primary adventure. After all, it's a simple Diablo-style hack 'n slash. Those games are difficult to muck up, right?

Right?

After you begin the campaign, red flags continue to surface. The adventure commences without much flair, as skeletons appear and attack a human settlement. You are literally just some guy standing there, who decides to grab a simple melee weapon and take action to defend your people. Muscles tense and jaw clenched, you pad towards the nearest undead monster and begin thwacking him with your empty hand. Your weapon sits comfortably in your off hand, only occasionally striking the opposition. However, you remind yourself that this isn't a serious flaw (even if it does cheapen the experience).

You reduce your foes to piles of bones and attempt to walk back to town. Intuitively, you hold down one of the mouse buttons and try to guide the protagonist with the cursor, but he only takes a single step and stops. In order to move him anywhere, you need to click all over the place. If you wish to control him as smoothly as you might in any other genre title, you need to rapidly click. This oversight may not seem like an issue at first, but it grows tiresome after a few hours of play.

Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) image

As you might expect, communicating with the locals advances the story and provides you with side quests. However, interactions range from plain to asinine. Some characters' ramblings, for instance, read as if you're permanently stuck in a tutorial. No biggie, because simple Diablo-likes tend to be skinny on narrative, anyway. Unfortunately, Hazen somehow manages also to drop the ball on dialogue. Now and then, you run across awkwardly phrased passages, such as (sic):

"The ritual has been interrupted. However creature is set in loose no matter that it is not with its full strength."

"Find a keg and il destroy the catapult."

Even when passages read properly, they occasionally detail groan-worthy missions. For instance, one of them sends you to find a flower and a phonograph so you can kiss a traveling merchant's daughter. Another asks you to locate bottles of wine and drink them before an altar for "hilarious" results that include passing out, transforming into a pig and temporarily changing genders. You end these quests not only scratching your head, but realizing you could have spent the same time playing more absorbing RPGs.

Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) image

Of course, Hazen could've used these segments as opportunities to flesh out its fantasy realm. Titles of this nature don't need to bog you down with cinematic sequences, and usually do well by presenting you with flashes of its history and tidbits about the races that inhabit it. Sadly, the only backstory you receive here come in the form of trite readings about three heroes stymieing a generic evil. Thanks to the lack of background information and the addition of vapid side quests, your travels through Hazen are nothing more than a series of straightforward battles across linear terrains.

Hazen at least should be commended on the volume of enemies it throws your way. You war against whole armies of skeletons, hellhounds, spiders, furies and just about anything else you would expect from a fantasy game. Sadly, these contingents don't demand much from you because you can squelch them with rudimentary character tweaking and a modest weapon. After I made only a few modificationsearly on, my own character could one-shot almost every monster that stood before him. I expected Hazen's combat to be simplistic, but the game's early enemies reduced the experience to a casual stroll.

It doesn't help that each stage consists of a tiny, basic area dotted with only a few standout features. On top of that, each task consists of charging through waves of weak adversaries before reaching your objective, then tediously backtracking through hordes of weaklings. Thankfully, Hazen does eventually push back, and you will need boatloads of potions to survive. However, acquiring potions is no biggie. They're affordable and restore a heaping portion of your hit points. Killing creatures automatically adds gold to your purse, so you will easily obtain enough of it to buy a few hundred potions without the transaction putting a noticeable dent in your funds.

To top it all off, the threat of crashes looms over you while you play. Whenever the game transitions between levels, quests or tasks, it runs the risk of shutting down entirely. When this occurs, you lose any unsaved progress. Thankfully, Hazen allows you to save at any time by clicking a button on your HUD, so this issue isn't as problematic as it could have been.

Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC) image

I struggled to come up with something positive to say about the game, and I wound up with this: Hazen's visuals are better than average. Various segments of the game highlight different palettes and colors. The icy realm inundates you with cool blues and pristine white, while the ruined fortress features a lot of earthy tones and fiery spectacles. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but each realm and its creatures showcases a particular color scheme. That's a simple feature, mind, but it's one thing Hazen got right.

Sadly, there's hardly anything else Hazen: The Dark Whispers nails. It's a functional action-RPG, marred by tedious combat, cheap design choices and cheesy side quests. If you look at the hack 'n slash genre as a whole, there isn't much difference between one game and the next. However, the best examples find ways to excite and enthrall you. They offer a variety of types of loot, insane character customization, memorable scenes and intriguing lore. Hazen offers none of that, and it's a damn shame. It's not hard to see why there is no second episode...

2/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (December 26, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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