Rating: E10+ for Everyone
Frozenbyte is quite busy working on new titles, churning out videog games at a rapid pace. With the release of Has Been Heroes and Nine Parchments this year, the question is, how does each one set itself apart? With colleague Joe Morgan already tackling the former, let us dive into Nine Parchments and see how it holds up!
Nine Parchments is a very clean game. There are no curse words, no immodesty, and the fantasy violence is not at all grotesque. The biggest qualm I have for this guide is the heavy use of sorcery, as the basis of your abilities is magic. There is a staff featuring a pentagram, a hat with the word “Occultist” in the title, and you yourself are a young wizard attending the Astral Academy. You fight creatures with similar talents, including a powerful witch at the very end.
Some may find this an uneasy area to traverse, so if you prefer a game devoid of any mystical affiliation, Nine Parchments is not the title for you.
Diablo III is a game I can pick up and play almost any time. It can take an hour to relearn at times, but the accessibility and couch co-op is a selling point. The fact that I can run through it again and again does not hurt either. That niche is not an easy one to fill. Nine Parchments fits the criteria for genre, but how does it stack up against competition like Torchlight II?
You begin as a student at the Astral Academy. In finishing your final exams, it does not seem that you will be given the opportunity of graduating. But lo and behold, an explosion in an upper chamber frees the nine parchments being held into the wind! Instead of viewing this as a setback, you see this as an opportunity to prove your worth to the head wizard.
One thing that is noticeable is a lack of story. There are moments of narration by the head wizards voice, but besides the beginning and ending cutscenes, there is not much. With the way the game plays however, it is not necessary, just as one may expect from a platform game.
The game plays as a twin-stick shooter, with the choice of using a staff to amplify you power. There are several different forms of magical abilities, including fire, ice, death, life, lightning and steam. I never came across steam, so I am left wondering if it even exists for the player. My only sighting of it was during the final boss fight. The forms they take consists of beams, projectiles, area of effect, and waves.
The differing forms and magic offer a needed twist to the formula. At the end of the campaign, the player has nine diverse powers to work with. When you start a new game, your abilities reset, but your leveling stays the same. That gives the player a chance to experiment with new mystic enchantments, but not lose out on hard-earned boosts to them. The system in place for these is simple, and while this may deter players searching for a challenge, this system is a nice way to introduce others to an ARPG.
Co-op is a very interesting beast. Friendly fire is in the game and cannot be turned off, but it can be modified. Taking half the damage you inflict will change things up a bit. My brother and I watched as Nine Parchments rated our teamwork “Civil War,” which admittedly led to much laughter. I do not even want to know what chaos would ensue with a full party of four.
Another variable to add is the way beams affect each other. When firing them at each other at an angle, they combine. This is an iffy proposition, as the joined laser goes in a different direction. There is also no bonus damage for using this method on your target, which is a disappointment given the game’s difficulty.
The visuals for Nine Parchments are crisp. The overhead view has an extra depth to it Frozenbyte takes advantage of to add to the beauty. While every level is not a new variant, each environment chosen is colorful and pleasant to look upon. This adds to an already smooth-running game.
A disappointing feature in Nine Parchments is its customization. You have a choice of two characters at the beginning, with six unlockable through certain achievements. Each wizard has their own buffs. The items you can add to each are simply a staff and a hat. The staff makes sense, as they have different benefits. The hats, however, are pointless. They offer no enhancement to the character, and given the overhead view, you cannot see them very well.
Another qualm a player may walk away with is the confounding decision of only one save. This is even present if you start an online match, which clears your current progress. It is a surprise that a better system is not available given the fact that multiple accounts is a typical feature in ARPGs.
The style most will prefer when playing Nine Parchments is usually going to be in TV mode. Playing portably is adequate, but the overhead view does not function as well on the smaller screen, especially when gaming with a friend. I also recommend using the Pro Controller. Nine Parchments relies on the shoulder buttons so it offers comfort.
While Nine Parchments is not a masterpiece, it succeeds as an easy to pick up action-RPG. I still do not understand the choice of the save system, but the drop-in drop-out co-op is a great decision. When you seek to create a game that plays as smoothly as a Diablo, you have the makings of a fun time. The question to you will be, “Do You Believe In Magic?”
Review code generously provided by FrozenByte
The Bottom Line
Nine Parchments may not be Hogwarts, but it is certainly a fun time. With up to four players, local co-op, and an army of spell variations you can enjoy yourself for hours. If you like Diablo, jump in for a few hours and before you know it, you’ll be spellbound!