reviews\ Aug 25, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Lionheart - PC - Review

Two enemies at war in a battle stemming from religious difference when a rift unites them in an uneasy truce against a common enemy.

Richard the Lionheart was in the midst of his crusade to restore his vision of the Holy Lands when a supernatural catastrophe tore the fabric of reality. Magic and malign spirits were unleashed and the Third Crusade, called for by Pope Gregory VIII, locked the Saracen armies and the armies of Europe into a desperate struggle to free the land from this new enemy.

But the magic had another effect and some of the human race was imbued with spirits and became outcasts among their own kind. The Inquisition has enslaved those identified as possessing magic, and if proven, the slaves are put to death.

The world’s "fate is hanging on a spinning coin," but before that coin can land "it will be caught by the hand of a slave." And that slave will be none other than the descendent of Richard Coeur de Lion, the Lionheart.

Lionheart is an RPG release from Black Isle Studios, Interplay and Vivendi Universal. While this game does bear the basic characteristics of other great Black Isle Studio titles, such as Icewind Dale or the Baldur’s Gate series, Lionheart developer Reflexive Entertainment (which offers a copy of its arcade classic Ricochet on the game disk) has taken the game in another direction, and has primarily built a title that is more oriented toward battle in a seemingly linear setting with basic decisions and a lot of load times.

In short, the premise of this game is terrific, but the action plays out in a very elementary way. Does that mean this is not a good game? Not at all. It is entertaining. There have been few solid RPG releases of late and Lionheart may sate the appetite for now.

The game begins simply enough. You pick a character from the pro-offered ones, or create your own. Fans of Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale will recognize the alignment scheme. There are several adventuring types: the Demokin (descendants of humans imbued with fiendish or impish spirits), the Feralkin (imbued with the magic of a beast or bestial spirit), Sylvant (elemental spirits), and pureblood humans (which are untainted). Choosing a character class touched by magic also gives you special abilities but in turn marks you as an outcast. You won’t get much help from townspeople as you journey the lands.

One nice aspect is that you will encounter people from throughout history in your travels. As with other games in this style, there is the main quest and there are numerous side quests. One of the earlier quests you can undertake involves meeting William Shakespeare. You are tasked with recovering his muse in order to allow him to complete his current play. The kidnapper is the moneylender Shylocke - which seems a little too contrived. The payoff for completing the quest is 500 experience points.

Like other games in this style, you gain experience and level your characters through the journey.

As the world is locked in this medieval setting, your task is to drive back the malevolent forces, and claim your ancestry. With the backdrop of all of Europe to play in, one would think that Lionheart would be a huge game, but surprisingly, this game seems rather small in scale.

The games graphics are typical of the genre and the game tends more to simplicity in dialog and quests and heavy on the combat. Early on, when entering Barcelona, your avatar is forewarned that no magic or fighting is allowed. One of the responses you are allowed to choose is in the vein of ‘why do I get the feeling I am going to break those rules?’

The player interface does not stray too far from the typical alignment, and if anything has been simplified.

Lionheart is a game that could have been stunning and feature immersive gameplay. Unfortunately it fails to completely draw players into the game and it’s intriguing setting. This is an entertaining game, and it does have its merits in terms of the RPG element. But it tends to borrow too much in style from previous Black Isle releases and does not seem to want to stretch and create its own distinct gameplay identity.

This game is rated Teen for blood, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and violence.

Gameplay: 7
This game has numerous load times, which slow the gameplay down. The game also suffers from the fixed camera and fixed environmental blocks which make for a somewhat linear maze through forest and towns.

Graphics: 7.8
The look of the game is nice, and the animations are solid. This game does not break out any new ground though in terms of graphical elements. This is a rehash of other Black Isle Studio games. Towns lack the true distinction that made them wondrous capitals of Europe.

Sound: 7.4
The sound quality is well done, but somewhat repetitive.

Difficulty: Easy
The player interface does not depart all that much from other Black Isle games, making for a short learning curve for those who have played Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale. But this game just seems a little simplistic.

Concept: 7
The idea was great, but the delivery seems to be missing something that would push it over the top and mark this as one of the best RPGs of the year.

Multiplayer: N/A
This game does allow for up to four players to join in a cooperative game through the GameSpy Network. Numerous efforts to connect failed to yield any game servers active for the game during the review period.

Overall: 7.2
Lionheart is a game that has a rich and intriguing storyline, and overall this is a solid RPG at a time when there are few good fantasy RPGs being released. The setting of the game is terrific. However, this game lacks the gameplay that would take it over the top and make is an incredible experience. This game is good, it is not great.


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