Hard to be a God

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Hard to be a God review
Marko Susimetsä


Hard to be a good game...

Brightly-colored wrappings (cntd.)

The background music is nice – it disappears into the background and never really bothers you that much, but manages to turn perceptibly more menacing when any enemies are nearby. The melody is very repetitive if you actually stop to listen to it, but that's not the point of in-game music, anyway.

Disappointments for a role-player

Upon starting your first game, you will immediately be struck by how the game merely allows you to choose the name of your hero and nothing else. You cannot choose your hero's build, his hair-color, his facial features and not even his gender. What's more, there are no professions or classes to pick - instead, you are stuck with playing a standard character who will develop his skills as the game continues. As far as role-playing goes, this is a major drawback. In order to actually get into the role of a character, most computer RPG players want to have at least some say in what their character will look like. Now, the only way you can affect the look of your hero is to choose what clothes and armor he will wear. Your choices are restricted by the obvious need to wear the best stuff possible, so this is a poor man's choice at best.

However, clothes and appearance is something that you can be forgiving about if the rest of the game delivers. That is, if you can exercise your role-playing extensively enough in the rest of the game. Unfortunately, you'll find some pretty excessive restrictions in this area too.

'Non' non-linear gameplay

The promised non-linear gameplay seems to refer to the fact that you can run back to previous areas to explore them further. Other than that, you are pretty restricted to the few scarce plot lines that you have to follow. In fact, until you reach the city of Arkanar, thins are very linear indeed. Simple missions follow after simple missions, some of which you could pass, but have to do anyway because you need to grind up your levels in order to survive the future missions. You only get some semblance of non-linearity when you reach Arkanar, but also then it is just the fact that you have a few more missions to perform – the main plot still takes you into one direction only and even stops you from leaving certain areas if you haven't performed all the necessary actions yet.

I can only assume that some forks in the storyline are available later in the game, as promised by the developers, but it seems that you have to tread through a long linear story before any of those appear. This also transfers to the map that you explore – simple fences will stop you, as well as low hills, so you can only travel along a clearly defined path. And never try to climb stairs or other such contraptions in order to enter a house – your hero is simply unable to raise his foot enough to use steps and stairs, or climb over tree trunks. So much for non-linearity and the freedom to explore.

Boring dialogue and slow story

It doesn't cease to baffle me what went wrong when the developers hired a writer to write up the dialogue and the actors to deliver it. First, even though the NPCs have voice actors, they don't seem to be too special in their craft. The delivery is monotonous and sometimes you wonder if it could be just one actor pulling off all the male roles in the game. One character especially has an annoying nasal intonation – clearly intentional and acted, though - that makes you pull off your headphones and read the text instead. But the text isn't that much better. It surprises me how the actors managed to speak their lines even so well, when the text is filled with grammar errors and typos. The flow of the dialogue seems halting and the logical conclusions that the characters make based on the evidence they have are not well founded. Some of the dialogue is clearly intended to be humorous banter between the protagonist and the NPCs, but none of the humor gets across in the delivery.


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