E3 06: Mage Knight Apocalypse Updated Hands-on

This colorful action role-playing game was at E3, and so were we. Do the math.

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LOS ANGELES--Namco Bandai's fantasy-themed action role-playing game Mage Knight Apocalypse was on hand at E3 2006, and we took the game for a spin. Even though representatives from the publisher insist that the game is still in a pre-alpha state, it has clearly come a long way since last year. The demo version of the game we played offered all five of the game's playable character classes: the elf guardian (a holy warrior), the weapon-master amazon, the rifle-wielding dwarf, the life-draining vampire, and a winged dragon-man sorcerer.

The first area available was a neutral dwarf village, which, according to a nearby merchant, was under siege from armies of orc raiders. The merchant delivered this information in a brief in-engine cinematic sequence with a camera close-up and large dialogue subtitles, though the game will evidently include hours of full audio voice-over for these sequences.

We immediately jumped to the contested area using an instant-transport portal that sent us to a vast sunny grassland where orcs waited around campfires for adventurers to pounce on. The game's interface has no shortage of icons that can be hotkeyed or set to defaults; potions that replenish your character's health and magical energy can be added to hotkey slots, while your character's standard attack can be set from one of several different "skill trees" associated with combat.

The dragon-man character, for instance, has magic-based skills that tap into elemental powers of fire and ice; you simply use your mouse to choose a specific skill type as your default attack and left-click your mouse to attack an enemy. As we've mentioned in our previous coverage, your characters' skills will increase naturally over time with repeated use (you won't be forced to decide where to spend limited pools of skill points only to regret your choices later). The interface seems easy to use, and the action seems fast-paced and accessible. We were also shown a number of different environments, all of which were huge and designed in a way to promote varied gameplay, such as a jungle area ruled by an evil shaman character. While the jungle area began as a fairly wide-open environment, as we approached the lair of the evil mystic, we found ourselves in a maze of stony pillars that would occasionally collapse (nearly burying us several times) as the result of lightning bolts striking and toppling the pillars.

Mage Knight Apocalypse continues to look better and better each time we see it, and its combination of bright colors, accessible gameplay, and huge environments should hopefully entice both casual and serious fans of hack-and-slash games to give it a try. The game is scheduled for release later this year.

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