We reintroduced ourselves to Rifts: Promise of Power at Nokia's pre-E3 press event, by playing through a quick 20-minute scenario at the controls of a Glitter Boy power suit. Rifts has made a huge, rocket-assisted leap forward in the few months since we played a pre-alpha version of the game. The world of Rifts is taking shape on the N-Gage in a form that fans of the RPG will almost certainly appreciate. This may be the most vibrant, enjoyable nightmare world we've soldiered through on any portable device.
Our demo started out on the game's title screen, which depicted a Glitter Boy crushing the alloy skull of a cyborg in one of its outsized fists. From this encouraging beginning, we were ushered into a small shanty town and urged to take a look around. We stopped to shoot the breeze with the hamlet's residents, which included human peasants as well as hideous monsters from the Rifts (called "D-Bees," for dimensional beings, in the books). Many of these non-player characters offered us useful advice on how to play the game, but we didn't really need it, because the controls weren't difficult at all. The camera rotated around our character with a button press, changing the isometric viewpoint, and most actions were mapped to a single button. If we walked in front of a civilian, a little dialog balloon icon would pop up in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, indicating that we could talk to him/her/it.
Before long, we ran into a mystic who gave us our first quest: interdict a gang of bandits before they reach the town. The quest popped up on our PDA-like logbook, which also featured an empty "subquests" section. We walked onto the town's exit grid and made for the world map, which had grown an area marked with a red flag as soon as the mystic told us our quest.
Once we reached the battleground--a swampy crossroads--the other two members of our party, a juicer and a mage, stepped out from behind the Glitter Boy. We commenced action against the three bandits, which included two humanoids toting energy rifles and a monster. The Glitter Boy proved to be the most effective combatant, thanks to his boom-gun cannon. The gun could strike virtually any space on the map and produced both a shock effect and an explosion effect that stunned and damaged the enemy. Using the boom gun also produced an authentic animation of the gun pivoting over the Glitter Boy's shoulder, followed by the armor bracing itself to absorb the tremendous kick. The Juicer had a ton of action points and an extremely powerful melee attack that could knock an enemy back halfway across the screen. Our mage was equipped with a full range of offensive and defensive spells, as well as a laser pistol, which we used to snipe at the bad guys.
This version of Rifts: Promise of Power wasn't just a fun turn-based strategy game pasted onto a colorless background. A great deal of care has clearly gone into the game's presentation, and as a result, it exudes a really authentic nerdiness. We're looking forward to playing through the full product in a month or two. Check back then for a full review.