Leftovers make a mighty fine meal.
In some ancient time, you were a manly man. You were someone special, but you did something naughty. Then you died, were cast into hell and got a little too well cooked. Happily for you, some wizard came in and yanked you out of the underworld, thawed you out, and micro-waved you back to life. Now you stand among the living, a little worse for wear, without a memory, and looking slightly gray and tasteless. You also have to slay a cult of deranged, uh, cultists, and all of their pets. Why? To save a little girl and, ostensibly, a small island. Thems the breaks, huh?
You are Locke, the aforementioned reheated hero. You are a revenant, one who has been resurrected. You are bound by a powerful spell to obey your rescuer, rather than kill him and lick his blood off the floor (Mmmm, floor blood). Finally, you have to succeed where an army has already failed by killing the cult, saving the girl, regaining your lost identity, and enduring some savage load times.
Revenant is essentially Eidos and Cinematix's answer to Diablo. Though it adds a little in the form of a neat combat system that really keeps the action going nicely, the game, while certainly entertaining, is about as new and different as the fourth night of Thanksgiving weekend turkey.
Basically, Cinematix took Diablo, added a lot of color to the graphics, made the characters and spells 3D, and implemented a kind of fighting-game style combat system. Are you as wowed by that as I am?
The entire game is played from an isometric perspective. In the side screen interface you have an inventory, a map, a scroll-book that records your spells, an outfitting screen with a 3D Locke all ready to get dressed up with heavy armor and a shinny battleaxe, and a bar at the bottom for quick items and spells. Both the side and top screens may be turned off to increase viewing range. Spells are cast by combining magical talismans that correspond to different features of the world such as Sky, Moon, and Life.
Locke can be controlled with the mouse, keyboard, or even a GamePad (this game looks like an obvious pick for a PC to Playstation port), or a combination of any. In combat, Revenant automatically points you at the closest enemy and allows you to choose from several kinds of attacks: Hack, Slash, Block - much like in a fighting game. There are even advanced combination moves that are only available as you become more experienced. In fact, besides the inability to duck or leap ten feet into the air, Revenant is quite reminiscent of a fighting game, complete with a health meter for the foe you currently fight and spells standing in for special moves.
The graphics should be duly noted as cool but aggravating. The backgrounds are lush, colorful, and detailed representations of the City, Forest, Cave, and Ancient Ruins locales you encounter. The characters are presented in 3D with just enough detail missing to make Revenant seem more like Final Fantasy 7 than, say, Nocturne.
A caveat of the game is that even though it is mostly presented in harmless 2D, the backgrounds incur some wicked load times. Typically the game loads the areas in chunks, the size of which you can raise or lower. What this means is that you might be happily walking or fighting, when out of the blue you cross some invisible line and the game pauses for 2 minutes to load. You can disable the chunk loading (they euphemistically call it 'Pre-loading'), but then you had better have a seriously fast SCSI hard drive to handle the constant drive reading.
Still, the graphics are effective. The spells are absolutely beautiful, conveyed through luscious 3D animations. Though it would be nice if the game were not locked in 640x480 resolution, it's not a huge issue unless you're playing on a very large monitor.
As far as sound goes, Revenant is certainty not impressive. When it comes to voices, it's downright annoying. At first, Locke sounds like his throat was shredded while in Hell, although he eventually calms down to a slightly less raspy British accent. The other characters are stereotyped both in personality and voice, such as the Chinese mystic (on an isolated island in fantasy land?) and a Chinese personal combat trainer (so cliché it hurts!). Eventually, you'll probably just wish Cinamatix had paid some real actors to do the voices, like Volition did in Freespace 2.
All griping aside, Revenant is not at all a bad game. The fighting system is fun, the graphics hold your attention, and if you can get past the dumb plot, there is a fun game out there to experience. It even comes with a full-featured level editor so you can make an entirely new scenario (or in this case, 'module'). Internet multiplayer is also supported, and there is definitely enough here to keep you entertained for quite a while.
However, comparisons to that 'other' game abound. Revenant really just lacks the sort of intense atmosphere, reasonable story, sense of purpose, and fluidity of gameplay that we all fell in love with in Diablo. It is not a disappointing game per se, but one that will merely tide you over in the long wait for Diablo 2.
Revenant brings a few new things to the table, nukes the old ones in the microwave, hauls them out with heavy oven mitts, and begs you to dig in. Do so by all means - just be ready for the turkey to be a little bit dry this time.