I finally got to realize one of my fantasies and no... we aren't going there. I'm mean a fantasy set in the fantasy genre with fantasy characters. You know... the undead in various forms, magic and wizardry. Yes, I got to do something I've always wanted to do. Conjure fireballs from a wizard's staff to kill those undead creatures. It took a little more than that too and this is where the left-hand thing comes in... unless you're actually left-handed and then you can change to the right hand but I digress. You don't just point the staff (which is wicked cool looking in itself but I digress again). You have to conjure up the right rune symbol with the left hand. Not just any rune either unless you mean to light up the night instead of launching a fireball. If you don't do the right motion with your left hand, then you might as well be waving a Twinkie at the undead. For me the mistake was actually summoning light instead of the fireball which meant I wouldn't die in the dark.
Left Hand Path was an experience like we always wanted from fantasy games as I peeked around corners of stone fortifications, battled the undead and crawled through secret passages. It's old school fantasy in VR and it's cool. None of which is surprising considering the developer behind the title, Strange Company which in turn is the creation of Hugh Hancock. Some of you may have heard of him. He founded Machinima.com, helped pioneer that method of game engine based animation and is considered by some to be your basic creative genius trapped in human form. Like a lot of you reading this Mr. Hancock is a multi-skilled digital artist that wears many hats, can do many things with differing applications.
In gameplay you can light candles and braziers to provide more light. You're always on the lookout for books and scrolls that will increase your spell cache. It seems the spells are located in more than one book or scroll so you have multiple opportunities to find the magic. You are given a book (spell inventory) that keeps track of your spells as they are discovered. This is important because there are rituals and the runes have to be done a particular way. You don't do a ritual in combat, you make the sign for the proper rune while the staff is pointed at your target, but there is at least one ritual that requires you to make a circle around you, place your staff on the floor and then a couple of more rune motions facing the right direction. It's not as complicated as it sounds and in fact is quite fun. Like I said earlier, this game is what you expect from old school fantasy.
There is a bit of tension and suspense in this game too. I was actually startled twice by the undead attacking. This has only happened in one other game and not to the degree I felt with these jolts. Being a longtime gamer and freelancer on gaming projects there isn't much that startles me but this one pulled it off a couple of times during my review. It wasn't so much the imagery or the atmosphere as it was timing. I wasn't paying proper attention and I paid for it more than once. I actually found myself teleporting to corners then creeping up on them and peering around before advancing. I'm not at all sure this helped anything as the NPC's have to be triggered by walking into their zone but it sure did add to the immersive feeling. I WANTED to stare around that corner first! You can use the parts of the broken walls as cover from your enemies while you pummel them with fireballs.
So far it has been mainly discovery and skirmishing in just almost the right doses. The game is not perfect just as no game is. The aesthetics could be better but keep in mind this is not a huge team from EA. The gameplay basics are spot on for the most part. The right components are there such as the dark rooms, passages and lurking dead but there could be a few improvements to help maintain the flow of the game after you get killed off. The level bosses stay dead but you have to traipse through all the other undead one more time to get back to where you were. It can be very frustrating and aggravating after a while. This could possibly be remedied by more save points or better yet... a save game system but more save points would certainly be welcome or maybe not have to fight through all the monsters time after time if we make a mistake. Right now it is just too long between saves and can get tedious covering the same ground many times.
All in all, I would very much recommend this title if you are into wizards, spells and runes. While parts could be improved it's worth the price in its present form. It's a different take on a first person shooter or rather in this case... first person spell caster.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.