A Game So Good It Could Have Been Hexen III

A game so good it could have been Hexen III

In the mood for a retro-style FPS, I dug around the new releases on Steam and poked a few, not quite clicking. Until, that is, I found Hands of necromancy, and then played all weekend. This is a Hexen-like FPS, with huge, sprawling maps, a whole range of weapons, a range of enemy types and some fresh ideas that are original to the genre.

In three chapters, as all such games should be, the game’s 21 maps are spread between them through three hubs. Each hub has a collection of portals, unlocked by completing tasks in one or the other and jumping between all the portals as you find keys, new skills, and so on. It gives it a little taste of metro between the fast-paced frenetic battles and explorations.

What I really like here is that Hands of necromancy doesn’t feel obligated Heretic and Hexen, but rather inspired by them to be his own thing. So as you’d hope, there’s a mix of ranged and close-up combat, with a sword and fireball in your starting lineup, which then expands further as you progress. You’ll find a whirlwind spell that lets you unleash mini-tornadoes, swoosh those enemies backward, and if they’re pinned against a wall, you’ll really take them out. There’s an icy wand, a scythe with rather impressive power, and even a gun if you get in far enough.

Enemies are an amazing mix, with creepy crawlers, floating magic-wielding wizards, flying bats (which are not impossibly annoying!), and stomping golems. In Chapter 2, this same gang is joined by all manner of even more deadly beasts, until combat can be a frenzied barrage of color and blood.

Screenshot: HON Team / KotakuScreenshot: HON Team / Kotaku

It’s all in 2.5D, but with some very nice lighting, the whole thing built in GZDoom. The pixel art on the creatures’ designs is fantastic, and while the game leans too much towards a gloomy setting, the locations feel detailed and interesting to explore. More importantly, the level design is top notch, focusing on large locations to explore, packed with underground chambers, maze-like crypts and puzzle-filled cities.

Your character, himself an evil wizard, is not a hero, he is here looking to expand his skills and fight not for survival but because you just want to fight. Of course, this doesn’t greatly affect the experience, until you’re reminded when you pick up a powerful weapon and let out a mean cluck.

Oh, and as you progress, you’ll get the ability to turn into a variety of enemies, including the little snake, the spunky golem, and a horned devil-like beast. This can be used for solving puzzles and finding secrets, but also just for fighting in a different way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an FPS that gives the character the ability to turn into the enemies, and it’s such a great idea.

Screenshot: HON Team / KotakuScreenshot: HON Team / Kotaku

The game estimates a playtime of 7 hours, which is totally crazy. I spent almost as long just on the first chapter, exploring every nook and cranny, trying to find secrets and having a great time. I think you could fly through it much faster, but that would seem such a waste.

This is great stuff, a game that definitely could have been released and sustained alongside Raven Software’s fantasy shooters from the mid 90’s. (Although people would be mystified by the lighting technology.) Granted, you can get Hexen for a buck fifty nowbut chances are you’ve already done that. Hands of necromancy is a welcome addition to that fold, and developers HON Team have become a name to follow.

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