The lure of the 3rd person Action/Adventure genre of PC gaming has been a strong one for many years now. Every since the release of Tomb Raider back in the 90's, gamers have followed behind their character du jour, eagerly participating in the over-the-shoulder gameplay that the 3rd person perspective specializes in. Metropolis Software's latest creation Archangel pays homage to several of the earlier games within the genre (Tomb Raider, Soul Reaver, etc.), providing players with a familiar form of gameplay coupled with many new and original features found only within Archangel itself. Though not the most original game we've seen for the PC platform, it was those unique features for the game that captured our attention the most, warranting a closer look at Archangel as a whole.
Published by the up and coming gaming powerhouse, JoWood Productions, Archangel is a 3rd person Action/Adventure title that throws in several elements of RPG gaming into its overall makeup. Players assume the role of Michael Travinsky, a man from the present day, who after a horrific traffic accident finds himself shifting through time and space. One moment, Michael finds himself in a fantasy based distant past, the next, in the not-too distant future. In each world our hero visits, a tremendous battle between good and evil, darkness and light rages on: and it seems that Michael is the focal point for all of the conflict. Now, he must not only battle to destroy the growing veil of darkness that threatens everyone and everything, but also solve the mystery surrounding his true origins.
For lack of a better word, Archangel was interesting. To say anything less wouldn't be fair to the game as a whole: it wasn't a dismal failure by any means in comparison to similar titles. However, to say the game completely blew us would also be unjust. Archangel is what it is…a 3rd person Action/Adventure game with a decent storyline and several other interesting elements that happen to elevate it slightly from the norm. As with most 3rd person titles, this one contains its fair share of violence and action oriented gameplay that should keep PC gamers entertained (if that's what they're looking for in a PC title). Over a dozen or so weapons are available to players during the course of the game, including modern day weapons (like automatic rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers), as well as more archaic armaments (such as a the bow, hunting knife, and swords). The various choices of weapons reflects the time period in which the main character is currently journeying through, and can only be used during that section of the game (save for the knife and the demon killing 'Sword of Light'). The main premise of the game is to complete 'quests' or missions in the game in order to gain information about the main character plight and reason for existence. For the most part, these quests turn into combat free-for-alls, forcing players to battle various minions of 'the darkness' in order to complete the task at hand. By successfully finishing the before mentioned missions, players will be able to continue the storyline, as well as obtain 'Essence Points', which are used for another aspect of the gameplay found within Archangel: the RPG factor.
Where the gameplay found within Archangel is typical of most games found in the genre, one of the aspects of this particular title that stands out lies within the RPG portion of the game. Although not a true RPG title in the general sense, Archangel does contain a rudimentary role-play styled skills section that allows players to tailor Michael's powers and abilities to their individual tastes. This process actually starts with the very first encounter in the game's storyline, where players must choose between two supernatural forms; a Warrior Mode (allowing for superior attacks and defense) and a Ghost Mode (allowing better magic use and superior stealth capabilities). Each time a player utilizes his supernatural form, power from the 'spirit meter' is used up until it is completely depleted (which is automatically replenished over a moderately short period of time). Other abilities can be acquired over time, including Darkness Vision, Light Shield, Hypnosis, Life Regeneration, Stealth, and Holy Shield, among others. Player can use accumulated Essence Points during the game to increase levels of any particular power that is available, including the overall supernatural form. While some of the choices available seemed rather useless for our particular style of gaming, other abilities proved their weight in worth, especially the Life Regeneration ability. Either way, the RPG factor did spice up the gameplay the 3rd person action found within Archangel, making the game much more interesting than expected.
As for the other aesthetics that could be found within Archangel, most of them turned out to be positive, if not mind blowing. For example, the visual components of the game where solid in design and expertly produced: everything from the background artwork to the character models where pleasing to look at. Speaking of the character models, Archangel contained some of the most interesting and highly unique creature designs and enemy skins that we've seen for a game. The in-game menu even contains brief bios on each villain battled within the game, allowing players to keep tabs of special abilities with certain races found in the game, as well as specific ways needed to defeat them in combat. Unfortunately, the fast paced nature of the game didn't allow us to admire too much of the game's visual elements, forcing us to battle for our lives rather than take in the scenery, so to speak.
Where the visuals impressed us, the control scheme of the game left us rather disappointed. Though similar in design to other 3rd person titles, we found most of the controls to be clunky for the most part, and much more distracting than they should have been. The main over-the-shoulder camera controlled by the Mouse would flitter from time to time, giving players jerky motions no matter what the sensitivity level was set to in the Options menu. The difficulty in precise Mouse movements made distance weapons like pistols, machine guns, and bows difficult to aim properly: not a good thing during high intensity combat scenarios. Another problem with Archangel was with the inventory command menu, which allows players to change weapons and use the various skills found in the RPG portion of the game. When a player enters the menu, the game forces the character to pause his movements until a choice is made off of the inventory list. This actually forces players to become a sitting duck during fight scenes, which can bring about death rather quickly. On a positive note, the health power-up's that can be found during the game can be activated automatically, replenishing a players' hit points when the meter drops below a certain level instead of manually running through the lists of the inventory. The various weapons that the character currently has on his person can also be quickly accessed by pressing the hot-keys commands (keyboard numbers 1-10), allowing players to change their weapon without muddling through the inventory list.
One last serious problem we found with Archangel was with the mapping system for the game…or, the lack of a mapping system, to be more precise. The maps that are found in the game are huge, which in this reviewers' opinion is a positive thing: more map means more places to explore, creatures to battle, etc. Unfortunately, we found ourselves hopelessly lost on more than once occasion in several of the outdoor maps that make up the game. During one portion of Archangel that takes place in an incredibly large and dark cave-like map, we almost gave up completely after running around aimlessly for almost two hours, lost and aggravated beyond belief. A base map that allows progression in certain zones to be charted would have deflated this frustration, making the game much more enjoyable without seriously detracting from the mystery of the game.
Is Archangel the best game we've ever played?
To be honest with our readers, no. Over the last several years, there have been
other 3rd person Action/Adventure games released for the PC platform that were
much better in form and gameplay. However, Archangel shouldn't be tossed into
the cheap game bin so quickly. The game contains many positive elements, such as
an interesting and original background story, above average graphics, RPG
elements, and high intensity action based gameplay that make it stand out on its
own. Yes, the game does have its flaws, but taken as a whole, Archangel is an
intriguing 3rd person action title that should entertain fans of the genre
looking for a different spin on their gaming time.