Kingdoms: The Inquisition
Review by Toger
For nearly 300 years, Taryn Arkor ruled the Heretic Kingdoms
with an iron hand. Cruel and tyrannical, his reign as Theocrat
was not only a hardship for his subjects; the female descendants
of his line were sacrificed in order to preserve his power and
rule. The source of his supremacy is an immensely powerful sword
known as the Godslayer, which is said to have slain the God of
Unwilling to allow his reign of terror to continue further, rebels
plotted Taryn's assassination and the destruction of the Godslayer.
Unable to destroy the Godslayer, the rebels have hidden the mighty
sword from any who would attempt to, once again, take it up as
a symbol of religious power and authority. As peace returns to
the Heretic Kingdoms, the Inquisition takes hold to stamp out
all religion in order to maintain that tenuous peace.
One day, the protectors of the Godslayer are murdered and the
sword stolen. Determined to prevent the rise of any who would
lay claim to the sword's power, the Inquisition sets out to find
and destroy the sword, once and for all. Thus begins an epic adventure
for our young Inquisitor initiate. It's up to her, and you, to
destroy the sword. Or will she take up the sword and proclaim
Developed by 3D People, Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition
is a combat-based isometric RPG similar to the granddaddy
of all action/RPGs, Diablo. Now, before you commence to
groaning that's it just another hack 'n' slash, I want you know
that there are several features that vastly differentiate Heretic
Kingdoms from other games in this genre. So, stick with me
and read on ...
The game's mechanics are fairly standard RPG fare, with the majority
of tasks accomplished via a left mouse clickequipping items,
moving from one place to another, managing your inventory and
chatting with the various NPCs that you'll meetwhile a right-click
is used to attack. Hold down the right mouse button to keep attacking
or the left mouse button to move continuously toward the cursor.
I, myself, preferred using the single-point-and-click method of
moving, as I always seemed to get hung up on a piece of background
when constantly moving.
You'll also use several keyboard commands for items dropped into
quick slotsgreat for swapping out weapons or healing on
the flyor to access your character sheet, inventory, quests
and attunements. (I can see that questioning look. Attunements?
We'll talk about those in just a bit.) There's also a keyboard
command for a minimap, but it didn't seem to work. All I got was
a blank square where the map belonged. As of this writing, there
is a v1.5 beta patch that's supposed to fix the map malfunction
and a couple of other items, but I'd already finished the game
by the time the patch was released.
Speaking of the minimap, most of the game areas are relatively
small, so a map isn't really required. However, once I reached
the city of Kyallisar, a map would have been handy, as that city
is fairly large and somewhat complex. Good thing the city has
"street" signs and I have a decent sense of direction.
I should also mention the limited inventorythere are only
16 slots available initially. You will find or be able to buy
bags and pouches that will increase your ability to carry more
treasure. There are also opportunities to purchase a house that,
along with a bed to rest for the night, will include a rather
large chest in which to store various items. One issue of carrying
bags/pouches is that any quest items stored within the bag aren't
recognized as being in your possession. What that means is if
you've retrieved the herbs required to save the magistrate's son
and stored them in a bag, the dialogue option to give those herbs
to the magistrate won't appear until you've moved the herbs back
into your main inventory. A small niggle, to be sure.
Heretic Kingdoms' combat is real-time and fairly streamlined.
If using ranged attacks, you never have to worry about running
out of arrows. Using magic? You'll never run out of mana, as magic
doesn't depend on it to function. Just aim, cast, wait for the
spell to recharge and cast again. Just don't stand still while
you're waiting for that magical item to recharge. Actually, it's
best if you don't stand still for any reason, especially if you're
new to a particular location, because it's a sure way to get yourself
For me, this meant coming up with an actual strategy instead
of just wading into combat and wildly swinging, hoping to make
the best of a bad situation. The best strategy in the beginning
of the game, while not the most satisfying, is "hit and run."
Saving in Heretic Kingdoms will be different from what
you've seen before. You can save anywhere, but you cannot save
over a previous file, as the game time-stamps and names each save
based on the current area and the in-game day/time. There's also
a limit to the number of saves you can store in the save subdirectory.
(If you the play like I do and save after each skirmish, you'll
end up with a multitude of save files.) On the upside, the game
does autosave after the completion of each quest.
As with most games in this genre, you'll be asked to choose the
elementfire, air, earth or waterwith which you wish
to align yourself. Unlike those other games, at no point are you
locked into any specific element; you can even elect to wield
an element-neutral weapon. Any weapons you already possess can
also have their elements changed by a mage, for a small fee.
Attunements are where Heretic Kingdoms veers wildly to
the left with regard to other action RPGs; think of attunements
as skills. In other games, you only acquire skills as you level;
in Heretic Kingdoms, you obtain skills by actually using
items that you find or buy. Every piece of equipmentbe it
armor, weapon or jewelryhas an attunement connected to it.
Once you've used that piece of equipment long enough and met its
specific requirement, you unlock the associated attunement and
are able to tap into that skill at any time, even if you get rid
of the item linked to that attunement. Sounds confusing, doesn't
As an example: you're using a militia bow that carries the air
element. As you use the bow, you'll notice that the attribute
for the bow shows a percentage that increases with use. Once you
hit 100%, you'll unlock the Thunder Arrow attunement, which you
can then choose as an "Active Attunement" the next time
you rest for the night. When you have Thunder Arrow active and
are carrying any type of bow, your arrow will momentarily stun
your opponents for a small amount of time. If you're carrying
a sword or mage's wand, then that particular attunement is useless.
There are approximately 100 possible attunements.
Since you're limited in the total number of simultaneous active
attunements, a large part of the strategy of Heretic Kingdoms
is deciding which attunements to activate. As you advance
in levels, the number of concurrent active attunements increases.
I know it seems confusing, but it really does become clearer once
you've played around with a couple of items and have actually
unlocked an attunement or two.
Another novel feature is the Dreamworld, which is a parallel
universe that's inhabited by ghosts and other noncorporeal entities.
You can freely travel between the two worlds, even during combat,
and for some quests this will be necessary. You can use the Dreamworld
as a quick exit if things aren't going your way during a battle;
however, it's entirely possible that you'll find it's not exactly
the safe haven you thought.
Wandering through the Dreamworld, you'll find special locations
called "hex marks" where you can pick up additional
advancement points that go toward raising your stats. The critters
in this world won't drop treasure, but they will release Essence
when you dispatch them. Essence will help you unlock attunements
faster than normal, so you'll want to be sure to explore both
worlds in all locations.
Another difference is the way healing is handled. In other games,
you'll buy or collect hundreds of elixirs to quaff during combat
to keep you at full health. In Heretic Kingdoms, your healing
item is limitless. However (there's always a "however"),
every time you restore hit points, your Blood Points (maximum
health) will reduce by a proportional amount. Basically, it boils
down to the fact that each time you have to heal in the field,
you'll get a little weaker, so it behooves you to have a definite
combat strategy. Restoring your hit and blood points to their
maximum requires resting overnight at a campfire or in a warm
Voice work, superbly done by Tom Baker, is limited to narration
during cutscenes. All other characters are heard primarily through
grunts and groans while taking damage during combat. I enjoyed
the variety of ambient sounds: birds singing, water rushing headlong
down a river, my character's footsteps crunching ice and snow,
the wind blowing in the open expanses of the plains and the satisfying
"thunk" of an arrow finding its intended target.
Music for Heretic Kingdoms is symphonic and fairly unobtrusive.
Unless I heard the music ramping up to indicate combat, I really
didn't notice it. In all honesty, the music's crescendo signaling
combat was a great help to let me know when to nock another arrow!
Graphically, Heretic Kingdoms is rather pretty with its
prerendered 2D backgrounds and fully animated 3D models. There's
an amazing amount of detail to be seen: butterflies flit through
the forest, chickens peck in a barnyard, trees and grasses blow
in the wind, smoke curls from chimneys and fish flop in baskets
in the bustling market as they await a lucky customer. The default
view is top-down and high above the action, but you can zoom in
for a closer look by using the mouse wheel.
There are a variety of locales that include the barren, wind-swept
Sura Wastes, the frozen, desolate expanses of the Red Smoke Mountains
and the lush, wooded areas surrounding the village of Arethen.
You'll also witness the regular cycle of night and day and changes
in the weather.
Spell effects are striking. I was particularly partial to the
attunement "combustion," which set enemies ablaze in
a huge ball o'fire. Also, your character's avatar will change
appearance based on the weapons and/or armor that you're currently
The hand-drawn cutscenes really "rocked my world."
Instead of the heavily computer-animated cutscenes you'll find
in other games, Heretic Kingdoms sports gorgeous, soft,
colored pen-and-ink static scenes that serve to highlight the
narrative. I found myself clapping like a schoolgirl each time
I realized more exposition was imminent.
When I first began to play, I complained that I wanted the ability
to make my responses more or less snarky, but then I realized
that would have made the game just like any other. The fact that
the main character comes across as having "seen it all before"
was much more realistic. Some of her responses to situations made
me laugh out loud.
I also enjoyed Heretic Kingdoms' story. While a good number
of games' stories rely strictly on good versus evil, this game
seeks to let you make your own choices. The marketing blurb on
the box states that all of your actions will have consequences
within the game world; however, some of those choices are so subtly
integrated into the story, you won't realize you've made a definitive
choice until you're affected by it later in the game.
Overall, Heretic Kingdoms is fun, fun, fun and destined
to be a sleeper hit. The few niggleslack of a functioning
map, long load times later in the game and the fact that the game
is a bit unbalanced at the beginningnever really affected
my enjoyment of the game. With its engaging story and completely
different skill system, it's definitely worth your while to pick
it up and play.
Game (North America)
Release Date: April 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
1.2 GHz Intel compatible processor (1.6 GHz recommended)
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
32 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible graphic card (64 MB recommended)
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP (2000/XP recommended)
DirectX 9.0a or later
2 GB free hard drive space
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational
purposes only. FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction
entered into by any party(ies).