Dungeons and dragons and more dungeons and more dragons.
Have you ever seen one of those movies about a monster or ancient evil that is rediscovered, and the tagline is something like, ”Some things are meant to stay lost”? After playing Warriors of the Lost Empire, I would have to say the same thing. They tried to innovate, but they just fell incredibly short.
[image1]Warriors of the Lost Empire is an RPG hack-and-slash dungeon runner in which you play as a hero charged with saving a Roman-esque city from a great evil. You can be a two sword-wielding gladiator, a Highlander with one big-ass sword, or a goth chick with a sword and a shield conjured out of magic. And oh, I almost forgot my favorite, the Amazon archer described as ”helpless in close combat” in her bio.
Wow. That’s great. A game where all the levels are made of tight hallways and corridors, and enemies come in droves, and all this poor girl gets is a bow and arrows. That’s like sending your 8-year-old son to a NAMBLA convention dressed as a boy scout. You know he’s totally screwed.
In the end it won’t matter which one you pick, because the stories are all the same, except for some changes made for gender here and there. The plot itself starts strong but turns thin amazingly quick. Dialogue becomes extremely repetitive, little more than, “I beat the dungeon. I told the general about how I beat the dungeon. The General told me to go beat another dungeon.”
In fact, repetition is this game’s running theme. All the dungeons look the same. Maybe there is some slight variation to the palette of colors and patterns here and there, but it’s mostly the same sand-colored yawn for the whole adventure. This is really disappointing, because the artwork is wonderfully detailed and stylized. Character portraits and models both look great; it’s just everything else that falls flat.
Not only does every level look the same, but traps are few and far between and easily avoidable. Every once and a while, some spikes on a pillar or on the ground are thrown in to create the illusion of a trap. Maybe you’ll see a hallway of pendulums with an open walkway on either side of them, so there’s no need to run through it. Yet for some reason, the AI has a harder time maneuvering around them than I did.
[image2]To say the least, the monsters aren’t that bright. You can run around the room until they all follow you into a corner, and then you just beat them all down using one of your few combos or special moves. That’s right, combat is a broken record as well. While you receive new special moves at the end of each dungeon, most aren’t that useful and you can only equip four at a time.
The dungeon bosses are nothing special, either - usually, just bigger versions of the rats or spiders. I was quite amused when I beat a level with a Minotaur boss only to have the next boss be… wait for it… three of the exact same Minotaur I had just beaten. See the pattern?
Not helping the combat any further, the camera is difficult to manipulate. You can hit the R-trigger to bring the camera around to your backside, but it moves slowly. And the only other option is to use the D-Pad to rotate it, which takes just as much time. If you’re trying to play with my beloved Amazon, you’ll have a hell of a time lining up your shots. Even with one of the sword-wielding characters, this is a huge pain.
When not in the dungeons, your interaction is limited to a small town square containing only your general, a weapon-smith and a merchant. The merchant works on a bartering system that is irritating. Let’s say you want item A. You can trade item B for A, but you have no B. Item C can be traded for item B, but you need item D to do that. So now you must trade D for C to get B, so you can have A. You follow that? It’s no fun to keep going back and forth on menus just to buy one item. Can’t I just have some gold?
The weapons-smith is interesting, and the least whacked-out part of the game, but even that's still confusing. You have three numbers on your weapon, and when you synthesize a crystal or bone fragment to it, the numbers will go up, down, or remain neutral. Get a number to either 1 or 20 and you get a bonus to your weapon. Once you get two numbers to their max, though, it is kind of difficult to rework your attributes.
[image3]The in-game items are fairly limited - mostly your standard healing potions and magic replenishers. Almost all your offensive items are bombs and magic mushrooms that have status effects. Making sure you don’t accidentally use them on yourself is also a challenge, because if you hit the wrong button while blocking, it will just drop whatever item you have highlighted at your feet. There’s nothing quite like blowing yourself up in the middle of fighting a giant rat.
Warriors of the Lost Empire had some good ideas, but none of them were implemented in the right way. Probably the closest thing to compare it to would be the Dynasty Warriors series. Its games are not known for being the most in-depth, but they at least strike the good balance between hack-and-slash and RPG that Warriors lacks. If they make a sequel, it could have some potential, but for now, I’m afraid it’s better for some things just to remain lost.