"This isn't a particularly original title, but the level of craftsmanship in its components makes it something more than just another hack & slash RPG. Somewhere down the line, Loki cast away the clichés of its genre and became a work of art."
Back at school, when I was still young enough to go to school, I'd often find myself drifting off in history class, trying to imagine myself in the role of some she-warrior or other, wreaking havoc in the civilisations I was being taught about. I pictured myself skipping up to some huge predator, spear in hand, agile and unseen amongst the trees. I'd then hurl my great pointy stick of great pointy death straight between the beast's (or my PE teacher's) eyes. Marvellous.
So when Loki arrived in my in-tray, I was rather excited about it. I'd already heard a little bit about it, and I already knew that it involved pretty much re-enacting my daydreams from my school days, but within a huge gaming environment. One can choose from a set of four characters from the start - a Norse warrior, a Greek fighter, an Aztec shaman or an Egyptian sorcerer, and given that this is a hack & slash RPG, the entire point is to kill things. No matter which role you choose to take on, you'll need to play through all four areas of the world represented here: this decision affects only the order through which you play them.
Your initial choice of character will denote your skillset for the duration of play - each of the four has over fifty available skills, adding up to a total of over 200. These unique abilities range from defensive spells to reduce the level of damage you take, to brutal attacking spells to easily take down even the strongest opponents. Everything you'd expect to see in an action RPG is represented here, and a hell of a lot more besides. The sheer scale of choice offers something above and beyond your usual game, with few of the problems beset by other games where all too often, many of the spells seem to do pretty much the same thing as each other. Most of the skills are substantially weaker than just plain fighting however, which is a little disappointing - more could have been made of this feature, particularly given that so many spells are available.
The characters, enemies and storyline are all centred around their respective mythologies, in extremely clever ways. The plot is a standard good versus evil affair, with an ancient Egyptian god randomly deciding to crush the entire world (and presumably himself with it), by enlisting the help of a series of supposed allies. Each of these is the god/goddess of their mythology's respective underworld, and these form the boss battles which the player will ultimately need to overcome. The random enemies faced during play also fit in very well with their environments; for example, the Norse world is cold and oppressive, and filled with wolves and the like. Each world sits in stark contrast to the others, and each offers an enchanting and breathtaking experience for the player.
There's plenty enough to keep even the most hardened enthusiast occupied for hours and hours in solo play alone, but once this is exhausted, there's plenty more to do within the LAN mode, for co-operative play, or online for versus play. Players can duel online in an arena-style environment, and there's even an anti-cheat mechanism (online characters must be saved on a specific server) that helps gamers to avoid any unfair kills.
If you do stick with solo mode however, the four separate characters between them offer more than enough to do. As well as this though, you may be interested to hear that all levels are randomly generated - so you never have to trek through the same areas twice. Whilst this does mean the title is affected by slow loading times, it's well worth it to experience the array of customisation options that the title has to offer without becoming bored too quickly.
With so many weapons on offer, which again fit in extremely well based on the character you choose, one would be forgiven for failing to notice initially that blacksmiths in the game can actually reforge your weapons, to upgrade them or add new skills. This is an excellent aspect of play for those among us with a hint of completism, as essentially it makes the possibilities endless. All too often, details such as weapon design and armour are neglected during a game's development, but in Loki, no such thing seems to have happened. The attention to detail is striking, and quite beautiful. It's only right that this should have been the case as after all, this is a fantasy world, and even the toughest fantasy warrior's got to look the part.
Loki is the ultimate fantasy-based action RPG, taking place in the ultimate world of mythology. The stunning environments make the loading times easier to bear, and whilst the story borrows heavily from the nomadic storytellers of the time before writing existed, the fact that this game was so faithful to those myths and legends just adds to the intrigue. This isn't a particularly original title, but the level of craftsmanship in its components makes it something more than just another hack & slash RPG. Somewhere down the line, Loki cast away the clichés of its genre and became a work of art. And rather beautiful it is, too.
Freelance review by Lisa Harrison (September 01, 2007)
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