Review by Greg Wilcox

Silverback Entertainment


Graphics: 6

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 6

Overall: 6

On one hand, Dreamcatcher's new sci-fi based action/RPG, Harbinger will appeal to fans of tightly focused single-player dungeon crawls, but anyone else will find it to be a bit average at best. While it definitely brings back memories of old-school pre-3D accelerated classics like Crusader: No Remorse or Diablo, the game doesn't really innovate in any way that makes it a must-purchase over any current titles. Not to say it doesn't go down without a fight, though- it's just lacking some things that would have kept it in the ring a few rounds longer.

Players can choose between one of three races to play as- Human, Gladiator, or Culibine, each with a separate plot line that crosses over into the other. The Human and Gladiator races can use melee and ranged attacks, while the Culibine uses ranged attacks exclusively. This would make for some interesting combat choices if the game controlled like a console game, with moving and firing done via a control pad. However, the control scheme here is click and move, click and shoot, and while the action can get hot and heavy, it's far too repetitive after a few hours. Even though it's a PC game, it would have been an interesting design decision to implement a more console-friendly here, just to give players more of a feeling of urgency.

Also, as the game takes place entirely on a massive prison ship, replaying Harbinger means you're going through many of the same maps doing the same thing. Sure, there are loads of weapons and items to find trade off or buy, but only the most obsessed player will be able to put up with the click-heavy gameplay. Although ranged combat is the way to go, I can see more than a few players using the Human or Gladiator just to jump into a swarm of enemies and bash away. However, these guys will swarm you if you're not prepared- that and the fact that some enemies are only vulnerable to certain weapons.

Speaking of enemies, similarly to Metro 3D's flawed (but fun) PS2 dungeon crawler, Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse, there are only a few different enemy types in the game, and you'll be switching weapons a lot as you play trying to find weaknesses. It sort of adds a stop-start feel to the gameplay that again, should have been poked about with before this was shipped. Another quibble: there's NO multiplayer support! This would have scored higher if there was either an on-line or 2-player co-op feature programmed. As it is, you'll have to be one of those hardcore lone gunman players that doesn't mind telling your friends about Harbinger while or after you're done playing.

Visually, Harbinger looks good, unless you compare it to more ornate looking fantasy themed RPG titles like Neverwinter Nights or Diablo II. Personally, it's apples and lemons to me; I like the clean, simple look of what's here. While some of the backgrounds are nicely rendered, the character/battle animations can be a bit robotic and a tad jerky at times. But again, I didn't mind too much, in a retro sorta way (Go DOS!), it's cool. The sound effects are fairly plain stuff, with lots of clanks and appropriate booms where they should be. The music and voice acting are excellent, though- some of the background tunes make you almost too creeped out to continue forward, should you be playing at night with the lights out.

While it's hard to recommend Harbinger outright over any other recent (and some older) RPGs, I'd actually like to see the game tweaked and given an upgrade for the Xbox or PS2 at some point. With a solid multiplayer feature, better control, and the possibility of user-created maps and items, this could be a sleeper hit of sorts. As it stands, you'll want to pick this one up only if you're looking for something that's not going to blow you out of the water, yet has enough redeeming qualities to get into when you're in the mood.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:25 PM