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The First Templar Preview

Kevin_Dermody By:
GENRE Action/Adventure 
DEVELOPER Haemimont Games 
T Contains Blood, Mild Language, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Nobody expects the Inquisition!

The First Templar - developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media - is an action-adventure style game, where the player controls one of a series of characters associated with the Knights Templar. They adventure through Europe and the Middle East in an effort to uncover some dastardly sort of conspiracy involving the Inquisition.

click to enlargeAs it stands, it's incredibly obvious that The First Templar has a long way to go in the development cycle. Numerous bugs were encountered, the graphics were incredibly poor, and the voice-over work (wherever there were voices) was done by Microsoft Sam. If nothing else can be said, I firmly believe that Microsoft Sam should be kept as the voice-over artist when the game is released, if only for the unintentional hilarity he provides: "S, H, H, H, we must. Be quiet."

In this early preview build, there was not a great deal to discover and enjoy, save for two basic, almost skeletal items: the gameplay style and the co-op feature. Despite that, I'm happy to say that the game is fun.

The style of play sits somewhere between hack-and-slash and RPG; a middle ground that's been occupied previously by Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Alpha Protocol, among others (each with varying degrees of success). But wherein other games seem to lean more heavily towards one end of the spectrum or the other, The First Templar has the strange ability to embrace both sides and barely suffer for it.

With every level players run through, the opportunity arises to find secret treasure chests, which grant both experience points and temporary bonuses to be used during the level. Additionally, killing enemies provides experience - and will, by and large, provide a bulk of the experience needed to level up.

click to enlargeUpon leveling up, a skill screen can be reached through the pause menu, displaying an equilateral cross - the symbol of the Knights Templar - with each prong representing a different aspect of the character in question. With the starting character, for example, one prong allows you to increase health and vitality; another might open up more combos; a third would unlock special “power attacks” and the final would increase a proverbial “special” bar (wherein you can smash people over the head with your shield multiple times, instead of just once).

In the first portion of the game, I cut a swath through enemies with a sword and shield, while shouting out anachronistic epithets as I mashed the “cut people until they bleed” button. It was an effective strategy - and one that only grew more effective, as I dumped my experience points into the appropriate skill tree.

Later, though, I had the option to take control of a second character, one whose “skill tree” encouraged the use of combos, timed attacks, and “interrupt” skills. Playing with that character was a wildly different experience than the previously described knight; but it was innately satisfying when, after getting the hang of the complex series of buttons to press, I became a whirling dervish of cleavage and knives.

It was during this portion of the game that I called in my boss, and asked him to play co-op with me.He sat down on the couch. He turned on the controller. He chose a character. He started to play with me.

click to enlargeI wish I could say more about the way drop-in co-op works, but the best thing I can say about it is that it's simple, fast, and effective. The First Templar is fashioned such that drop-in co-op is only natural, and almost necessary; and the method in which it is executed is almost seamless, and, if I might be unprofessional for a moment, incredibly frickin' awesome. It takes less than a minute, from the time the second player picks up the controller, for him to join in on the action. And I have no doubt that the already short time it takes to join in will be reduced, by the time the game is released.

While there isn't a great deal to discuss on The First Templar, what they've provided us is enough to make a judgment call; the game is fun (if a little silly at times), and a great romp, whether you're with a friend or alone on the couch.

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