The First Templar Review
The First Templar, developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media, is going to frustrate you. Just a fair warning.
This game tells the story of Celian, a Templar during the Inquisition who is fighting to save his Order from destruction. During his quest, he is joined by Roland, another knight in the Templar Order, and Marie, who is branded a heretic. You have the choice to venture through this game alone or with a friend via Xbox Live or split screen. It's better to do it with a friend so that you can experience this train wreck of a game with someone else.
When playing the game split-screen, the first thing you'll notice is that the usual split screen layout is gone. Instead, the game uses two diagonally staggered boxes. The first player uses the upper left corner and the second player occupies the lower right corner. The other two squares are black, wasted space with a useless mini-map. In a game that has only one path through a level, you would think the mini-map would show you an outline of the path. Rather, each level has invisible walls that you can't pass through and no jump button that helps you navigate bad terrain. The map does provide red dots to represent the enemies and arrows to point you toward your quest objective. But you're going to try to run through the grass and vault over a tiny wall to get to the objective quicker, only to realize that people during the Inquisition apparently couldn't jump. It's so frustrating that you'll want to smash all of the crates and boxes that fill each level. Unfortunately, you can't destroy anything in the environment. It's little flaws like this that will annoy the player.
For an action-adventure game, one would think the combat would be engaging and exciting. On the contrary, every wave of enemies requires the same mechanics to beat it. Bosses are one trick ponies, as well. This would be somewhat bearable if your characters had some cool combos. However, the combos are watered down to "X, X, X" or "X, X, A" for the entire game. You can unlock a few more combos through the player progression/RPG element, in which you spend experience points to upgrade your character. Most of the upgrades give you extra health or make one of your four combos more powerful. This feature could have been so much more than it is, but no creativity went into the upgrades. While all enemies can be beaten rather easily, sometimes you'll have to counter, parry, or dodge an attack. That's right, you can dodge and roll out of the way, but you can't jump. In the cases of needing to counter or parry, an attack icon appears over the enemy's head, alerting you when to block. What makes the combat even more of a hassle is the horrible camera. You'll have more difficulty battling the camera than the enemies. Fights and movement require constant re-adjusting.
If playing alone, The First Templar takes a Lego games approach. Since Celian always has a sidekick, the player can take control of the other character by pressing the left bumper. You can also direct your teammate with actions assigned to the directional pad. With two players, you can switch up who plays who with the same left bumper click. The only problem is that Roland and Celian play exactly alike. They even have the same progression tree in a slightly different order. Marie's play style isn't unique enough to make a notable difference. It feels like a wasted opportunity to add different types of characters to a game desperately seeking variation.
Throughout the game you'll encounter puzzles and traps. Even when using your search ability, you'll run into traps that do nothing but frustrate you, waste your time, and force you to repeatedly tap a button to get out. Imagine doing that three times within a ten second time frame. Does that sound like a fun adventure game to you? The puzzles are a lever pulling system that the game implements to make the player take longer to get through the game. The other type of puzzle is a timed run through gauntlets that stab you with spikes. How creative.
While the story could be decent, the player will have no idea whether it is or not. One character speaks in a whisper while the other sounds like they're shouting. It'll force you to use subtitles, which don't always match what the characters are saying. Dialogue becomes horrible, no matter what it is, when said by characters who deliver lines like South Park's Terrance and Phillip. They are all dead in the eyes with no facial expression. They also have robotic mouths that just open and close to what someone would imagine is a bad dub-step beat. Graphically, the environments look nice but are repeated the entire game. Water and flame effects are executed poorly. It ends up a product that is laboring on the eyes.
This is a game that you're going to want to like. You're going to want it to succeed, but it'll only let you down. The entire time you'll be thinking about what they could have done differently and better. One method of entertaining yourself through this game is counting how many times Roland pounds his fist into his palm while delivering a line. Ultimately, The First Templar is a disappointment that could have proved a creative co-op adventure.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]