Azurik: Rise of Perathia
Review by Skinny Minnie
There are some fine action/adventure titles for the newest generation
of consoles. These games cause involuntary adrenaline surges as
intense plot twists, unexpected attacks, and spoils of sparkling
treasures for uniquely solved puzzles are served to the player.
These gems are so immersive that it is even worth discovering
you are already half an hour late for work as your phone rings
and your boss jars you back to reality ... Unfortunately for Microsoft,
Azurik isn't one of these.
Not all console launch games stink. However, the only thing missing
from the colorful plastic case that Azurik ships in is
a clothespin for your nose. After getting both Obi Wan and
Azurik, I am beginning to wonder why I spent $300 on a
black and neon-green doorstop. I have a right to grieve.
As an avid action/adventurer, I had followed the progression
of Azurik since its earliest screenshots were made available
for perusal. The looks of this game were, and still are, incredible.
Adrenium put gobs of creative energy and time into crafting spectacular,
flamboyantly colorful, truly gorgeous, and unique fantasy worlds
for Mr. Bad Hair Life Azurik to adventure through. Unfortunately,
the storyline, game play and horrid camera angles do not live
up to the potential of the graphics in this title.
The extremely stripped down plot is told almost in its entirety
during the opening cinematic of the game. The story poses Azurik
as a fate-embracing Lore Guardian, the sole mage left in a quest
for restoring order to the world of Perathia. Azurik's former
fellow mage, the suddenly gone-bad Bathizar, stole and scattered
the four discs of the sacred elemental forces that he and Azurik
were supposed to be guarding, then Bathizar himself disappeared.
It is subsequently up to Azurik to visit the four realms of their
world, recover the four discs, and return each to its rightful
place in the Temple of the Elements.
Over and over through four beautiful, spiritually uplifting realms
called Fire, Earth, Air, and Water will you aimlessly wander,
given little information except as regards certain sparsely placed
mechanisms that require repair. You are never offered any explanation
as to how they broke down, who put them there to begin with, or
what their true function is. In your travels you will jump across
chasms and attempt to tippy-toe across narrow bridges, frequently
plummeting off them instead because of a horrid camera control
system (explained in glowing detail below). All the while you
must collect not only the lost discs, but also groups of colored
jewels and glowing obsidian that are littered purposelessly throughout
There are too few save points in Perathia, resulting in much
backtracking when Azurik plunges to a lackluster death off of
a cliff. There are also gold and silver circular portals that
can be activated and used to shortcut from land to land, but these
are few in number as well.
Besides the gem collecting, Azurik's to-do list also involves
killing 98% of the natural inhabitants of each realm in his own
defense. These creatures are all inexplicably aggressive from
the get-go toward their only Guardian, seeing as how their world
will quickly fall to ruins without him. All killing is accomplished
with the same few limited jabs from Azurik's lone, double-bladed
staff called an Axion. You do eventually pick up water, earth,
air, and fire attributes for the blades of that staff, which do
more damage and can be combined for interesting effects, but it
takes half of the game to acquire these skills, and most enemies
can be extinguished without them anyway. The same rewards are
always offered for kills: boosts to Azurik's health and refills
of the various elemental powers for his staff. There will also
be a final sparring showdown with Bathizar before the closing
Each realm is a graphical showstopper, but awe escalates into
fiery frustration at a white-hot pace. The main problem visually
is with the camera control system. You must perpetually counteract
the sloppy, swerving view of Azurik and his surroundings manually
with a combination of the right analog stick and the left directional
pad, using the right trigger to center the view behind Azurik.
All this must go on simultaneously while you are controlling Azurik
and his weapon with the left analog stick and five of the six
game pad buttons. I tried thinking positively: "Hey, after
I finish this game I will be so coordinated that I'll be a shoe-in
for a new career defusing bombs and land mines for the military ..."
I even tried to blame this aggravation on the behemoth size of
the Xbox controller itself, which was obviously made solely for
large, manly-man hands. In this vein, I shopped and found a smaller
Xbox controller put out by Saitek called the Adrenalin Pad. The
salesperson that rang up my purchase had the nerve to blurt out,
"All of the third-party Xbox game pads suck!" To which
I countered, "Well, it's better than dropping that high-quality,
factory original Xbox game pad every five minutes!"
Alas, even with a smaller controller, the only way I could keep
an eye on both Azurik and the threats dwelling within the landscape
was to zoom out to the farthest overhead view. That way, when
the camera angle slid off to the left or right, I could still
see what was going on as I adjusted the view. Only with Azurik
more closely resembling a two-inch sprite from a 1998 RPG than
his full-screen sized, visually stunning, tattooed self was I
able to hack through this game. So much for appreciating the details
of the graphic finery!
Even with the extended view, there were areas where Azurik and
the enemies were oddly visible in otherwise pitch-black caverns,
and it took patience once enemies were felled to find the way
out again. When Azurik would turn a tight corner, a mad scramble
would ensue to adjust the camera while attacking monsters surged
forth from behind, out of view until they struck. Other times,
Azurik would get stuck in repetitive thrashing motions, mainly
underwater but occasionally also up against walls or corners.
The enemies in this game are extremely detailed and unusual, so
much so that I suppressed a gasp here and there at the bigger
bosses. Their varying looks and methods of attack are distinctive
and filled with visual splendor. Some creatures fly and spit poison,
some have huge, crane-like claws that scoop low toward the ground
and strike with electricity, and others zigzag their way toward
Azurik for a snack or zap him with tentacles. One shy, deer-like
creature is friendly by day, only becoming a threat at night.
Azurik does swim up, down, and all around quite well, which is
a plus as there are enemies under sea level to deal with as well.
Unfortunately, most of Azurik's enemies have one commonality:
They charge baldheaded at Azurik from wherever they lurk, which
is oftentimes right out in the open to begin with. There are few
surprises except due to camera angle frustrations, and the battles
for the most part get mundane and overly repetitive quickly. Enemies
also spawn again every time our hero revisits an area, which he
is forced to do often, as keys must be found in other locales
that will unlock new sections of certain realms before he can
finish with them.
The sound effects are rather scarce, Azurik's sparring grunt
becoming the epitome of repetition. The baddies groan only occasionally,
usually choosing instead to remain silent. You do hear Azurik's
footsteps as well as creaky bridges underfoot, and the water rushes
down waterfalls, but there is little else. The musical score,
however, is theatrical, bright, uplifting and strong, marred only
by lack of enough variance.
Had the camera views been acceptable, I guess I could have recommended
this title to those who care not about plot but love fabulous
graphics, unusual monsters, and very basic, predictable, repetitive
slash combat. Veteran consolers have played many a game with obligatory
jewel collecting, so this aspect alone isn't a real turnoff. Even
the jumping and balancing acts on ledges are commonplace; it is
mainly the futile camera control and lack of a storyline and surprises
that deep-six Azurik: Rise of Perathia. I hereby grade
it with a rotten egg (and not even a Grade A egg)saved from
the dung heap only by its incredible graphics.
Release Date: November 2001
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