Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nine Parchments (PS4)

Nine Parchments is an enchanting indie game with a 'Triple A' flair. It embodies such cult movie classics as the Harry Potter series, and gaming genres such as that of Diablo, if ever so lightly. At base level the game is a singleplayer, or four player multiplayer experience with optional difficulties that are both rewarding, and challenging accordingly. The story that carries the adventure, and adventurers along for the ride is one regarding a certain Astral Academy where the wizard headmaster is found scolding his wayward pupils before they go off on their own in search of nine parchments of mystical powers that were lost in a lab explosion during their heated discussion. The journey, in the stead of the optional pupils, takes the wizards in training through linear paths and environments of the most beautifully rendered sort to end portals, and boss battles for the very things they are searching for. Between the beginning, and the end which is narrated in segmented storytelling fashion, and inclusive of individual voice actors' talents you'll unlock new spells, unlock new playable characters, and collect gear in the form of staves and hats. All while leveling up, upgrading your spells, and improving your skill tree for better survival in regards to the increasingly difficult enemy encounters that you'll face.

Gameplay is fairly straightforward in 'Nine Parchments'. You are given the reason behind your adventure through the early cinematic sequence, and let to roam the halls of the castle-like Astral Academy reading over prompted tutorial hints that explain away the various in-game mechanics, and features. Each stage after the intro is a sequential beginning to end trek in which you'll kill enemies according to their spell affinity with spells opposite of the enemy's spell type. You can switch between learned spells on the fly through a rotational selection wheel that is browsed through by pressing either the R1 or L1 shoulder buttons. Spells can be equipped into the rotational choice bubbles using the DPad directions beforehand. As far as equipment goes once you pick up staves, and hats you can equip them via the 'TRIANGLE' menu. It is in this menu that you'll also be adding skill points to the perks, and spell upgrades. You earn skill points by killing enemies, and making it to end portal that tallies up your progress.

Beyond the basics of combat that includes using the Right Thumbstick to aim, and R2 to shoot the selected spell you'll find that your character can also melee attack with their stave/staff using L2. This comes in handy when your energy meter depletes, and you are unable to use your spell/s until it refills. Also to note is the teleport dash which allows you to dash forward with invincibility. This too runs on a refilling meter. Oddly enough the game features an additional platforming jump that plays into the traversing of the obstacle and hazard inclusive environments. Something a game like Diablo did not have.

When it comes to bonus content you'll not only be unlocking gear in the form of hats, and staves, but you'll also be unlocking character skins with graduated character specific titles as well as other playable characters. To unlock the gear you simply have to find it in hidden treasure chests, or defeat certain enemies. Obtaining the skins is done differently though in that you must meet level playthrough requirements tied to spell usage, combat, and stage feats. The additional characters you can unlock require that you collect the set number of feathered quills hidden away in each stage. Aside from all that you'll also be adding gear, spell, and bestiary lore to the game's information menu. All of the staves, hats, characters, and spells can be found in that listing along with your separately listed players stats pertaining to how you performed in-game. Things like kills, time spent, and friendly fire are accounted for. There's definitely plenty to unlock, and earn as you play. With the different difficulties, and the benefits within them there's certainly plenty of replay value included. Whether you play solo, or in the company of friends I think it's fair to say you'll have a fun time.

The Verdict ...

Nine Parchments has a charm about it, an alluring charm. The visual, and audio presentation is spectacular. The gameplay itself, though fairly straightforward is enjoyable. I loved the British accents of the characters, and the overall impressive design in the way of characters, environments, and enemies. When it comes down to combat effectiveness the combat system was streamlined enough to survive most situations, but when you have to cycle through more than three spells in the heat of the moment it can lead to a quick death. One thing I forgot to mention is that the game has a mercy rule. You get one free resurrection upon death, and after that it's "Game Over" if you die again. Thankfully there are checkpoints, and you can continue from them if you exhaust your free revive. Despite it's slight shortcomings regarding the combat options I think the game plays rather smoothly. I think it's the type of indie gaming experience I can get behind, and recommend. If you fancy an action RPG adventure that's lighthearted, and fun this may be a game for you.

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