Review by Kahlisi
"It's Diablo II in Space"
Locked inside cold walls, trapped on all sides by enemies, one
hero becomes unwittingly appointed for a camp's salvation. Claustrophobic
and dimly lit areas mark the spaceship's holdings. Barely anyone
lived, merely ragged merchants to aid a mercenary; here, that
seems enough. Welcome to Torvus Junction, final haven aboard Harbinger.
Beneath an overlord's shadow and between races at warthe
Vantir and Scintillacan the hero survive long enough to
escape with or without their comrades? What riches and fame will
be found, if any, before death beckons? How long before a proclaimed
storm hits? Shall the steely grave, Harbinger, claim another soul?
"If Ignorance Is Bliss ... Then Slap the Grin off My
Face" Solomon Torvus
Amid multitudes of hack-and-slash titles, Harbinger stands
out due to its futuristic theme. Based not on swords, explosive
spells, or elves, it brings a fresh breath of blasters, electronic
gadgets, and robots into an otherwise fantasy-saturated market.
Harbinger begins with the selection of class: the Humana
physical and ranged fighter closer to a Rogue; the Gladiatoran
enormous machine with melee and ranged capabilities, better geared
toward the former; and the Culibinea female with energy-blasting
attacks and amplifiers. Despite short descriptions, they are quite
diversified with four special abilities apiece and class specific
weaponry, armor, and goodies.
Quick trips to Onathe Torvus Junction merchantwith
filled holdings garnish a sizeable income early on. If one can
no longer hold items but wishes to keep something of value, EZ
Stashes are conveniently located (if scarcely) throughout Harbinger's
hulls. Uan (currency) flows well and purchases needed advancements
with items. Minus those upgrades, Harbinger suddenly grows
difficult after the third quest completion, for each entity, due
to large numbers of enemies. One wonders what greater evil is
perched around the next bend, takes a deep breath, and plunges
ahead. Offensive and defensive modifiers come highly recommended,
plus knowledge of the various weaknesses of what lurks about the
A minimal learning curve is required, easy enough for beginners
and veterans alike to master quickly. Leveling and point distribution
is simple in comparison with other titles. A player gets three
stat ticks per level and chooses between four options: for Culibine,
Ranged, Radial, Focus, Life; for Gladiator, Melee, Ranged, Override,
Life; and for Human, Melee, Ranged, Rigging, Life. Besides these
factors, not much is done with character development.
Using the default controls, one left-click and the player is
off to slay her first opponent. Problems soon arise, though, when
engaged in combatnamely, clicking on a monster and jogging
past it instead (pathfinding issue). Thankfully, the precarious
control system, although only with ranged weapons, is helped by
the shift key/stationary feature. Those who use melee tactics
must pay close attention to where they next move unless they wish
to run suicidally through a swarm of crazed artificial aliens.
A rigid control reformatting system does not allow for changing
mouse options except for inverting clicks.
"Second Chances Are Funny Things, You Know" Gladiator
"Swarm" would be the smartest descriptor of Harbinger's
enemies. Being bum-rushed by fifteen Gladiators one hour after
character creation neither seems like a well thought-out battle
system nor gives longevity to the "new game" feel. Be
prepared to reload saved games multiple times to complete an area.
Mob sizes increase, and originality in fighting tactics decreases,
even though new baddies are introduced regularly. Losses in speed
and mouse response occur when these frenzied attackers appear
onscreen all at once, despite powerful hardware.
Late in the game, players find themselves practically surrounded
and forced to retreat, while multiple health packs are wasted;
even after an armor upgrade. Balance between damage done and damage
taken weighs heavily in the A.I.'s favor and against the player's
frustration. Run-and-gun tactics do not work and all too often
culminate in the "you are dead" screen. Stealth, pull
and grab, and landscape usage do assist in toppling the beefy
Titans of Titanium. To experienced players of the action/adventure
genre, these statements are no shock.
With no multiplayer or large amounts of unique equipmenteven
with upgraded slots and attachments falling from rolltopsreplayability
drops to a factor of three: one for each class.
"This Place Needs a Jumpstart Before We All Start Gathering
Harbinger's story is shallow, with typical, "Kill
this, rescue so-and-so, bring me these special items" quests.
Little to no role-playing can be accomplished; this is simply
a fast-paced title meant for immediate gratification through the
smacking around of nefarious foes. To become "lost in a journey"
is laughable because of linear game settings.
Backtracking for an item or special area rarely happens. Players
mutilate their way through area after area and discover just enough
to continue. Random journals and tidbits bring to light small
diversions and information.
Each character does follow separate stories, with ultimately
equal results, though they do not rotate when repeat heroes are
created. While the plots are tiring, darkly humorous dialogues
between townsfolk and the main adventurer are often quite precious.
Sarcastic comments and things not necessarily meant to be funnymore
so on the Human siderun rampant. Quest Logs show personalized
thoughts of the playable people. Different selectable responses
bring more laughs overall, and sometimes rewards, such as added
Background music, on the whole, helps create an eerie setting
and rarely distracts from action. It is reminiscent of tribal
drums and rhythms during times of battle with techno mixed in.
Strangely, it adds to the sense of depression most nonplayer characters
express throughout their dialogues. The musical scorelike
other itemslacks enough originality to bring Harbinger
ahead but not enough to make it unpleasant. Sound effects
chime when neededsome fun, others new, and the rest annoying.
Most will be impressed by the game's voice acting. A comic book
idealism and philosophy rests behind the monologue bubbles that
pop up occasionally.
Harbinger displays in two resolutions: 800×600 and
1024×768, both exceedingly gorgeous. The interface is simple,
natural to navigate, not repeated for the individual personae,
and uncluttered. A fine minimap in a transparent green hue shows
obstacles announced by pictures, though no feature to scroll along
said map is available. Crisp graphics help a two-dimensional isometric
view, such as that seen earlier in games like Septerra Core.
Attentiveness to detail is evident on mechanisms like Umbilicals
and Portals, the two methods of transportation around the ship.
One sometimes stares at the intricacies of a junk pile in minor
awe. Character skins change with upgraded weapons and armor, another
keen touch in action/adventure games. Rifles, bladed weapons,
gauntlets, amps, injectors, cameras, and mines look distinctively
independent, with well-developed ornamentations. Harbinger
stands as a fine example of beautiful graphics.
Harbinger is worth the modest $29.99 plus tax (if applicable).
Most who purchase the game shall suffer from the "just another
five minutes" syndrome until the end screen flashes. Not
worthy of any Game of the Year awards, still it is worthy of an
avid gamer's time. It breaks the mold with its setting and manages
to stay traditional in gameplay. For diehard hack-and-slash enthusiasts,
or those in search of uniqueness, Harbinger is deserving
of a hearty recommendation.
- Witty content.
- Fast-paced action fix.
- Hordes of killer robots to destroy.
- Good voice-overs.
- Pleasant graphical features.
- Grows boring.
- No rich plot.
- PC slowdowns.
- Hordes of killer robots to destroy.
- An "it's been done before" feel.
Release Date: February 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 500
128 MB RAM
16 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible 3D accelerator
650 MB free hard drive space
4X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
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