Hexen II Preview

Raven Software promises to push the limits of the Quake engine with its follow-up to Hexen


Hexen II promises to address many of the problems that gamers have had with Quake. Its developer, Raven Software, has listened to players' requests and complaints and put together an action game with some RPG and adventure elements thrown in.

As with its previous games, Heretic and Hexen, Raven is working closely with id Software and John Carmack, id's lead programmer, and using an enhanced version of the groundbreaking Quake engine. "It's the best 3-D game engine in the world," says Raven co-founder and Heretic/Hexen designer Brian Raffel. Despite that praise, working with Carmack's software can be complicated. Where mapping time for a typical Doom level took about a second, mapping one Hexen II level can take up to 30 hours. What this means is Hexen II's 35 levels (five are deathmatch only) will be complex and deeply detailed.

Hexen II will go Quake one better in several aspects. There will be more color, plus shafts of light will stream down from above. Several exterior levels will break up Quake's (and Hexen's) dark, cave feeling. The improved AI means Hexen's creatures will come after the player , and "rotational brushes," a new Carmack tool, will enable terrific animations like spinning windmills, rotating gears, swinging doors and pendulums, and dropping trap doors. Hexen II will also include movable objects that can be used for climbing, and virtually all objects and many walls are destructible. Also addressing many complaints about Hexen, Raven will include more deductive, adventure game style puzzles.

For a number of reasons, Hexen II's many creatures will look better and move much more realistically. The frame rate has been increased from ten fps to 20 fps. Instead of animations based on vertices, each creature will have a wire frame skeleton with motion-control like animations. And Raven has overcome one little-known Quake shortcoming: The creatures will be textured all the way around. "What they did with Quake was kind of sandwich a front and a back and sort of 'schmear' them together on the sides," says Raffel. "We unfold our polygonal creatures and have textures everywhere."

You will play as one of four characters: a fighter, an evil magician, a defense-oriented clerical fighter, or a female assassin. Each will have special characteristics and abilities and will gain strength, armor, and experience as the game progresses. Each will have up to five unique weapons, and with the return of the "Tome of Power" from Heretic, each weapon will have a more powerful version. Another Heretic element, the red rain weapon, will come back in Hexen II as a meteor shower complete with polygonal boulders that will bounce off the ground and break into little pieces.

As the game unfolds, Hexen II will advance the "Serpent Rider" storyline by using plaques, message boxes, and a hidden diary that will also offer playing clues. Hidden on the game's five, hub-like sections will be five rings that give the player special powers like underwater breathing, flight, and spell absorption. You will be able to view a stat screen showing your inventory, artifacts, and weapons. Continuing this series' comic relief tradition, Brian Raffel promises a morph power-up like Heretic's "ovum chicken" spell and Hexen's "porkolator." But he refuses to reveal what Hexen II's will do. And in a move inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, Raffel has included several "Magic Mouths," polygonal lips in the walls that give clues or scream warnings.

To see all these enhancements at their full frame rate, a Pentium 120 or better is needed. The minimum platform will be a P75. Raven expects to complete Hexen II in May and it should ship by summer. "The action's going to be great and the visuals will be really exciting," says Raffel. "Like a good mystery, you'll want to keep looking to see what's around the next corner."

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