Resurrection: The Return of the Black Dragon Preview

We take a look at Nebula Entertainment's upcoming hack-and-slash action game.

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Thanks to games like Human Head's Rune and Rebel Act Studios' Blade of Darkness, hack-and-slash games seem to have been reinvigorated, with fans clamoring for more of the straightforward gameplay that the genre is known for. Small Spanish developer Nebula Entertainment hopes to jump into the frenzy with its own hack-and-slash game, Resurrection: The Return of the Black Dragon. The game follows the same general gameplay pattern of previous games in the genre, but Resurrection attempts to improve on the genre with its story, its selection of characters, and a control scheme that has more in common with console fighting games than other PC action games. In addition, since the current version of Resurrection has an incredibly high difficulty level, you'll need to get to know the unique attributes of each character and understand when it's a good time to directly attack your enemies and when you should use stealth techniques to avoid battle entirely.

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Resurrection: The Return of the Black Dragon's control is set up in a similar fashion to Rebel Act's Blade of Darkness' control, but it's a little easier to deal with because of the abundance of preset fighting combinations. The three characters in Resurrection--Daiko, Gau, and Domenico--have similar configurations for their combinations, with one special combination that depletes a part of your mana. Some of the simpler button combinations only require you to press a direction key a few times and then press the attack button, which usually results in a three- to four-hit combination that does a reasonable amount of damage. The character's special moves do much more damage, but you only use them in last-ditch efforts rather than as a primary attack.

Daiko and Gau's special moves are very similar in that they both produce a small ring of energy around the characters that damages every enemy that comes in contact with it. Unfortunately, it's incredibly difficult to time their special abilities so that multiple enemies run into the barrier at once, and since it's equally difficult to actually pull off the move, you may be better off sticking to your basic weapon combinations. However, Domenico's special combination appears to be a little more useful, as he launches into a frenzy, flailing his clawed hands in multiple directions and hitting all enemies within the general area. Not only can this special combination attack multiple enemies, but it also seems to do much more damage, making Domenico one of the better characters in the game--especially when you take into account some of his secondary capabilities.

Getting to know the individual character combinations is only half of the equation because some of the selectable characters are slow, but they can inflict massive amounts of damage in a single blow. Daiko is probably the quickest and most nimble of all three characters, which makes it much easier to execute some of her basic combinations. Gau's movements are incredibly slow, but he has more than enough power to back it up. Two of Gau's overhead slashes, which are incredibly easy to perform, can take out most enemies in a few seconds. Domenico is an average character with attributes from both sides of the spectrum, but because he lacks direct strength or agility, you often find him trapped within a horde of enemies.

Knowing When to Fight

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Even though the basic premise of Resurrection is to obliterate just about everything in sight, some situations require you to take a much more subtle approach. The first mission in Resurrection places you in control of Domenico as he attempts to infiltrate a Middle Eastern palace filled with palace guards, but since Domenico is a vampire, he has special abilities that make it a little easier to avoid direct confrontations. The most useful of these abilities is the ceiling climb. At various points in the level, Domenico can leap from the ground and thrust his claws into the ceiling, where he can travel undetected by palace guards. However, your mana slowly decreases as you use the ceiling-climbing skill, and when it drops down to nothing, Domenico falls to the ground. Not every area has a ceiling for Domenico to cling to, and for such areas, you just have to rely on more-basic skills to avoid palace guards. In the opening level, there's a large palace garden where there are four rather large hedges and a few palace guards patrolling the area. Like in Metal Gear Solid, you have to use the bushes to your advantage by hiding behind them whenever you think you're in a guard's line of sight or when a guard walks near you. When you see a guard turn away from you, you can either move in and attack or try to run off to the next area--if you attack, you need to take out the guard in a single strike so that other guards don't come to help him. Conversely, if you try to run to the next area, you avoid confrontation, but you also run the risk of coming into contact with that guard later when other palace guards call for reinforcements.

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When you finally run into a palace guard in the first level of Resurrection, get ready to spend a few minutes or so engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Palace guards are absolutely relentless when they find you because they can and will chase you throughout the entire level until you finally kill them. But the absolute worst situation occurs when a group of guards surround your position and you have absolutely no choice but to fight. Thankfully, Domenico has a few attacks that can take out groups of enemies--such as his attack from the ceiling, in which he drops to the ground with his claws spinning in all directions--but even with these attacks, it's still incredibly difficult to get rid of the guards when they attack in groups.

The other two characters in Resurrection, Gau and Daiko, don't really have the stealth abilities that Domenico has, but they don't really need them since they're both a little more powerful. In Gau's first level, in which he's trying to obtain a sacred sword from a blacksmith, you can take a much more straightforward approach where you attack enemies as they come to you rather than trying to avoid them altogether. Moreover, since Gau's regular attacks are so powerful, it's much easier to deal with groups of enemies. Daiko is similar to Gau because you're better off attacking enemies head-on rather than taking the stealth approach as you would with Domenico. When you reach the levels where you can actually switch between characters, it's often a good idea to take these factors into consideration.

Final Thoughts

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Resurrection: The Return of the Black Dragon is a straightforward hack-and-slash game that has some nice features and a surprising amount of strategy. The first few missions for each character--though incredibly difficult--are entertaining and offer a decent amount of variety even though the overall game follows such a familiar pattern. The first mission offers a nice change of pace from other hack-and-slash games because you rely on your stealth skills rather than attacking everything you can find. You can play later levels in the same manner if you decide to go with Domenico as your character of choice. For those looking for more traditional gameplay, there's plenty of it whenever you play as Gau or Daiko. The variety in the levels themselves is also surprising. You start off in a Middle Eastern palace filled with guards and move onto a blacksmith's fortress that contains a number of odd mechanical creatures. In one of the levels, you even enter a town that's been stricken by the plague and has zombies roaming the streets and bloody corpses strewn about alleyways and open squares. There are also some nice cinematic effects used during cut sequences such as the one where Daiko sees an execution about to take place. Before the executioner can drop his blade onto the neck of the innocent townsperson, Daiko throws her spear and the game transitions into a nice spear-camera mode similar to the sniper camera used in so many action movies.

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As surprising as some of these features are, Resurrection has its fair share of problems as well. First, the AI is incredibly difficult to deal with, and you can expect your characters to die quickly and often because enemies never give up in tracking you down, and running away from groups of enemies usually ends up alerting even more of them as you run through the level. In addition, most enemies use the block feature just a little too much, making it nearly impossible to take care of them with a basic combination of moves. You can sneak in a strike with your weapon by standing still for a few seconds, but doing so also leaves you open to attack from other enemies. Though it uses the basic Quake setup, which combines the use of the mouse and keyboard, the control in Resurrection is also a little frustrating because it's not quite as responsive as it needs to be, especially when you need precise movements to perform each character's special move. The visual quality in Resurrection is also one of the game's weak points because some aspects of the game actually look solid while others look rather dated. For example, some textures are really low quality, and it shows on some of the character models, particularly on Domenico. Many structures are often reused during the course of a level, which makes it difficult to actually gauge where you are. It's a huge problem in Daiko's level, where you must go through a town and then backtrack into areas that look similar.

Nebula Entertainment is aware of some of these problems, as illustrated by the fact that the recently released demo lets you select the game's difficulty level. Hopefully, the other problems will be addressed before its final release. Resurrection: The Return of the Black Dragon is currently available in Europe, but Nebula is still searching for a US publisher.

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