Requiem of Hell Hands-On

We've got hands-on impressions of Beijing-based Digital Red's latest dungeon crawl.

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Requiem of Hell is a gothic-themed dungeon crawler in the spirit of Diablo. Like the game that inspired it, Requiem of Hell couples hack-and-slash action with sorcery and light role-playing game elements. Developed by Beijing-based Digital-Red, the minds behind several graphically impressive Symbian games, Requiem of Hell is wrapped in a very pretty visual package. It's also shaping up to be the most "colorfully" localized game we've yet seen on the N-Gage. The unintentional humor that results from Requiem's nonsensical dialogue can actually be a charming addition, although the plot occasionally borders on incomprehensibility. The poor translation notwithstanding, Requiem of Hell is looking very appealing. Unless Blizzard suddenly decides to support the N-Gage, this is the closest approximation of Diablo N-Gage owners can hope for.

Requiem of Hell features some dazzling spell effects.
Requiem of Hell features some dazzling spell effects.

Requiem of Hell begins with the unforgettable words, "Once upon a time, when peace is an usual thing, no one suspected the wheel of time moves!" Fortunately, this hokey dialogue is complemented by some graphically-stunning cinematic sequences, from which we were able to get a sense of Requiem's backstory. Apparently, the notorious King Dalu has escaped from purgatory, where his power and malevolence both grew a hundredfold. He has become powerful enough to corporeally manifest himself, on earth, bringing "hell's dragon tree" with him. This gnarled flora-fauna hybrid perverts men's souls, transmogrifying them into demons. Naturally, it's your job to return the forces of hell whence they came.

Of course, as the hero, you also have an interesting history. Gigi the fairy, under the instruction of her master, oddly named "Rabbi," resurrects you, in hopes that you can defeat King Dalu. The game gives you the choice of having Gigi revive a male or female avatar, named Troy or Linda, respectively. Both available characters were once murderers who were eventually caught and killed. After you select a body, Gigi will perform her "resurrect" spell, wiping your memory in the process. Taking advantage of your amnesiac state, Gigi will explain that you and your family were killed by King Dalu, but that you are a legendary fighter, capable of exacting revenge on you killer and the Demon spawn he's summoned. Regardless of your avatar's gender, you'll instantly fall in love with Gigi, and vow to give you life for hers. When Gigi apprises you of the fact that you'll have to travel to hell in order to dispel the evil there, you'll respond "If I have to go to hell for you, Gigi, I will." Later, when you encounter other humans, you'll notice that they don't react to Gigi's presence. Your would-be amant will explain that only people who believe in her existence can see her, to which you'll tearfully respond, "But Gigi, you are so real to me." It's classical dramatic pathos...or something. Of course, Gigi eggs you on a bit, encouraging your affections. She'll compliment your physique, for example, saying, "Wow, you have great muscles. I certainly picked the right meat for the job." After hearing such praise, your character swoons.

Fortunately, there's a great deal of action to be had apart from this inspiring love story. You'll spend most of your time racking up combos by slashing your demonic enemies, using charge attacks against them, or asking Gigi to target a large group of enemies with a powerful spell. Linda takes to swordsmanship well, while Troy prefers axes. Your slain foes will sometimes drop new weapons for you to use, which the Mephistophelean fiends have apparently been caching away in their pelts. These weapons vary in strength, and in magical abilities. Some weapons induce negative status effects in your enemies, such as paralysis, which is caused by the axe or sword aligned with the power of earth. Unlike your standby weapon, these found items can be destroyed through overuse. It's important to make sure your weapon's not on the verge of breaking when you're just about to enter a dungeon.

You'll encounter a nice variety of enemies in Requiem.
You'll encounter a nice variety of enemies in Requiem.

One common complaint made of isometric hack and slash games, like Requiem of Hell or Diablo, is that they can sometimes seem repetitive. While Requiem of Hell doesn't completely escape this pitfall, it does boast a good variety of enemies, each of which attacks in a unique way. Cerberi (three-headed dogs) are your primary assailants in the early stages of the game. These creatures simply lunge at you, tearing out pieces of your flesh. These soon give way to anthropomorphic arachnids, however, which attack by rolling at you, like Metroid's Samus. Soon, you'll travel to a desert-dungeon, where you'll have to contend with translucent sand creatures which are largely invulnerable to physical attacks. You'll have to be creative to defeat them.

Although all this action isn't being rendered polygonally, and therefore maintains a fixed, three-quarters overhead perspective throughout, Requiem is definitely a great-looking game, on par with the best sprite-based dungeon crawls for the PC. The frame rate does not stutter, even during confrontations with dozens of enemies. Requiem's spell effects are gorgeous--their colorful explosions nicely illuminate the dank, dark environments that pervade the game.

Gigi the fairy will accompany you, throughout your quest, like Link's Navi.
Gigi the fairy will accompany you, throughout your quest, like Link's Navi.

Requiem's audio is a collection of mournful chamber music that fits well within the gothic mold. The sounds of your weapon slicing through flesh are fairly convincing, and nicely complement the game's operatic score. Although certain cutscenes are accompanied by extremely repetitive audio loops, Requiem's sound is, for the most part, pleasantly atmospheric.

Diablo II was interesting enough as a single-player game, but it was its online community that really gave it longevity. Requiem of Hell doesn't allow play over GPRS, so you won't see the kind of larger-scale multiplayer action that made Diablo II and its expansion pack shine. However, Requiem does feature cooperative play over Bluetooth, and this certainly is a welcome addition to the game. The amount of slowdown we encountered in this mode didn't affect playability, and it was certainly more fun to dispatch monsters as a team. Unfortunately, Gigi's magical attacks also will target your partner, so this limits her usefulness in a multiplayer setting.

In all, we are very excited about Requiem of Hell. If Digital-Red hires some translation talent between now and November 2nd (which is unlikely), we have no doubt that the game will be a mass success. If not, its hokey dialogue and campy atmosphere may instead end up garnering a loyal, if somewhat smaller, fanbase.

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