It’s a familiar enough setting, the fiery magical fantasy world. We’ve seen it in numerous movies, books and games before. Familiar settings have positives and negatives. On the plus side, if your audience is already familiar with your game world then they will feel at home. They’ll know what to expect. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, using a familiar setting can draw too many comparisons and leave your audience feeling like they’ve seen it all before.
Ninety-Nine Nights 2 (N3II) uses this world of steel and sorcery, filled with a demonic invading presence and all the fantasy staples. Unfortunately it does a pretty poor job of giving it life.
The premise is simple; you play through the third-person hack and slash adventure game as a number of the usual fantasy stereotypes gently levelling up your characters via the inter-mission menu screens. These light RPG elements never seem to make a big enough difference to your character’s abilities (at least, incrementally) to warrant the endless button mashing required to kill the generic enemies and level up enough to earn the upgrades.
The combat is visually satisfying and manic enough to satisfy most avid hack and slash fans for about five minutes before it becomes painfully apparent that you are essentially just thumping the same couple of face buttons over and over again. There are some special moves (purchased via the RPG system) and some brief magically-augmented attacks when you’ve done enough slaying to warrant it. In truth though, it’s boring.
The tedious combat might be forgivable if it were brief moments in an epic narrative but it’s not. It takes ages to wade through the swathes of enemies on your way to some of the unimaginative mission objectives and when you do get a scene of exposition it is awfully modelled, terribly lip-synced and wholly uninteresting.
The narrative in N3II is about as generic and tedious as you can imagine for this kind of setting. You have literally heard it all before and in a much more enthusiastic, energetic and likeable manner. The voice acting is probably the worst in recent memory for a western release.
Some areas of the game are infuriatingly difficult and although it checkpoints reasonably well (if a little spaced out) there are numerous occasions where trying again will be the last thing the player will want to do. The incredibly stupid enemies can, on rare occasions, manage to find a rhythm to their attacks that are simply unbeatable. They keep striking at just the moment their last attack breaks and you regain control of your character.
The player characters, too, have very little variation. Each one plays in a very similar way and their unique special attacks are barely used and never in a way which would make you want to see them. It seems that the designers simply didn’t bother making the game’s characters – players or enemies – varied in any meaningful way.
That design time clearly didn’t go in to the set design either though, with everything looking similar and generic in a way which may have been excusable five years ago but now just looks lazy. Each play area is essentially a convoluted arena full of respawning enemies to murder your way through with very little satisfaction or interest.
Even the online multiplayer feels like an afterthought that they didn’t really put much thought into at all. There is no local cooperative play mode and no real cohesion or reason behind the online gameply.
- Some nice visual effects during combat.
- Uninspired setting.
- Unimaginative narrative which is implemented poorly.
- Repetitious combat becomes infuriating after five minutes.
- Difficulty spikes are maddening.
- Nothing to make you want to come back to it.
Ninety-Nine Nights 2 seems very much like a game which was half conceived, hastily thrown together and pushed out the door without much care. There is nothing in the narrative to draw the player in and nothing in the gameplay to make anyone keen on more than a brief period of gameplay. It feels like the developers just didn’t care about their product and that’s probably an attitude that will also be prevalent among their consumer base.