Gamestock 2001: Hands-on: Azurik

Azurik: Rise of Perathia puts the four elements at your fingertips. Details inside.

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The action/adventure genre is an essential element to the early life of any new console platform. Azurik: Rise of Perathia, developed by Adrenium Games, looks promising enough to fill that glaring void. Azurik seems like a complete departure for the newly formed development studio, which is comprised of members whose previous works include an eclectic array of games ranging from Total Annihilation to The Seventh Guest. The strapping young hero in Adrenium's first Xbox game shares his name with the game's title and is a master of the elements. The game asks the player to travel through vast realms of the four major elements--fire, water, earth, and air--to collect several sacred discs. The discs have been scattered throughout the world and as the protector of elemental power, Azurik must find and restore all of the sacred discs before an apocalyptic prophecy is put into motion.

In his quest, Azurik must travel through vast seamless worlds that are generated on the fly as the game is being played. This way Adrenium Games is able to seamlessly string together diverse levels such as the eerily beautiful ice level and the lush, green earth level without any loading times. Matthew Stipes of Adrenium Games describes the game as the "most expansive and immersive action-adventure game ever done." Those are lofty goals indeed, but several vast and impressive areas shown during our hands-on demo of the game show that the developers are implementing tangible visual elements in search of creating that ultimate action-adventure. For example, in one section, Azurik walks through a tunnel and comes out into a cavernous open-air location. The player has several different areas to explore from that point forward. To the left there were desolate sand dunes, to the right was a massive tree that will have its own transport system, up ahead loomed a sprawling mountain range, and down below were a hungry group of creatures and golems ready to pounce on Azurik. Because all of these areas are dynamically loaded, the player can choose a location in the distance and actually walk up to and through to another world.

The amount of detail can be staggering at times. In one sequence, we stopped the camera and zoomed into an insignificant group of fireflies. There were several dozen fireflies in that small group, but each one had a staggering amount of detail. They had had several textures on their bodies from their red glowing eyes to their light green and ribbed underbelly to their glowing tail. In one area, we came upon female fire and water spirits. The fire spirits attacked with fiery fists that left a glowing trail of smoke behind, while the water spirits loomed in their shiny, transparent form.

The game worlds are also very dynamic, as they change depending on the time of day, the player's actions, and the creatures that inhabit the area. Shy and cuddly creatures during the day can turn into vicious monsters by night. By that same token, creatures can actually combine into more powerful forms. Golems, who wield power over several different species under their particular race, can combine with a lesser creature to form more intelligent and aggressive monsters. Of course, there are several boss characters at the end of each world, and although Stipes could not discuss specifics, he did say that they would be visually rich and stunning in their own unique styles. Interestingly, the AI in the finished game will be advanced to a point where each of the different species will have their own agenda, and may even face off against each other.

To battle all these diverse forms of enemies Azurik is equipped with several different attack combos. Wielding his twin-bladed staff, Azurik can perform everything from simple lunge attacks to more complex move such as spinning swipes. However, this is all before he activates his elemental attacks. The four elemental attacks can be activated by using a combination of the shoulder button and combinations of the four face buttons--each is assigned to its own element. Once equipped, these elemental attacks can be combined to form even more vicious super moves. Although it is still hand-to-hand combat, the more complex the attack combination the more damage they inflict on the enemy. Azurik's physical appearance changes as players toggle between the different elemental attacks. Aside from the direct attacks, Azurik can climb, slide down ropes, and swim, among other actions.

Azurik was certainly one of the most visually impressive games at Gamestock. The game's visual style and some of Azurik's attacks are reminiscent of Eidos Interactive's Soul Reaver games, but Adrenium Games hopes to expand on that action-adventure formula by introducing truly seamless 3D worlds and new levels of visual detail. Judging from this early build, the development team is certainly on the right track and Azurik could become one of the games to watch for the Xbox launch.

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