STAFF REVIEW of Nightcaster II: Equinox (Xbox)


Monday, January 27, 2003.
by l Maximus l

Nightcaster II: Equinox Box art The adventure continues on after it's predecessor. Nightcaster II is a fantasy action game that has *some* RPG elements. Like the first Nightcaster, it's one of a few games of its kind which includes the likes of Azurik: Rise of Perathia. One of the things I appreciate about this sequel is that it actually takes the adventure to a higher level and continues the story. Arran is the main character...and if you have played the first Nightcaster, you'll remember that he married Madelyn at the end of the game. In this game, you can play as Arran or Madelyn...and the mode they added in this game is that you can play cooperatively...so invite a friend over and share in the action. Both characters boast different abilities as Arran's specialty is the utilization of magic and Madelyn is all about full bore melee combat.


Like the first Nightcaster, be prepared for swarms of enemies as they will want to kill you and the beautiful Madelyn with all they have. But fortunately, Arran has the ability to use magic to eliminate their cause. Like the first Nightcaster, Arran has several different types of magic including: Water, Fire, Light, and Dark. Each school of magic can be used to penetrate and destroy enemies that cannot resist them, however, other enemies can resist certain magic spells...so, be prepared to use different magic for certain foes. The right trigger is your best friend as it is the fire button in this game. The left trigger is how you switch your schools of magic to equip you against the rampage of enemies that await you. I found the control scheme to be fairly user-friendly and was able to conquer the gameplay right out of the box.


Visually, Nightcaster II has some positives and some negatives. The use of bump mapping is rendered very well in the game. The way the magic looks when you are punishing foes looks very impressive and is probably the best looking thing in the game. The levels have some good detail, however, a lot of objects of graphical detail are used too abundantly. I wish they provided a little more variety to look at. Also, I found that a lot of the characters are rendered very small. It just seems to me that if the characters were larger, you would truly feel threatened when a huge enemy comes dashing at you. But, instead, what you see is a little bouncy elf trying shoot a bulls-eye into your vitals. Nightcaster II certainly won't boast mind-blowing graphics, however, it shouldn't disappoint the average fantasy game player.


I found the music to be a little redundant, however, the soundtrack in the game actually does fit the game well. It pretty much sets the stage for fantasy combat. Interestingly, the music has somewhat of a techno feel to it and the music gets louder and louder as enemies get closer. I did notice one potential glitch in the game in regards to sound...it's when Arran is using magic...and while some magic lasts for a few seconds, if you walk into the middle of it, the sound effects become extremely loud. A major disappointment that I found with the sound is that it does not support 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. This is very disappointing since the vast majority of XBox games do and due to the fact that this is an exclusive XBox title. I really wish they could have stepped up to the bar on this. But, other than that, I found the sound appealing and very fitting for the game.


Suggestions:
An onscreen map would be vital in this game. Sometimes I found myself wondering around trying to find my way through the terrain, however, I believe it would be much more beneficial with a map. All in all, thank you for a good sequel...I believe adding a cooperative mode really took the game to the next level. Also, on many of the levels, I noticed several objects that were repeated throughout the game. While the objects themselves looked good, they were used too much...so, a little more variety would help.


Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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