by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Contest of Heroes
Numen is an upcoming single-player action RPG title from Cinemax and published by Akella. The game is also sometimes called Numen – Contest of Heroes and the name actually tells a lot about what the game is about. The developers promise that the game will stand out from the competition by its unique setting and magic system that is based on pleasing your deity as you try to accomplish the task given to you before the champions of other gods can do so. But, before we go into greater detail, there's something I must rant about...
Language police on the prowl
An RPG set in ancient Greece with Greek gods and myths with a name in Latin. That's sure to raise some eyebrows, but perhaps it can be reasoned that since the Romans borrowed and renamed all the Greek gods into their own mythology, a game set in Greek mythology has every right to borrow the language of Romans and call their game Numen, right? Or perhaps the Greek word referring to a similar concept, ichor, was too tainted with its past, bastardised use in low-rate fantasy literature?
In short, numen refers to the power of either a deity or a spirit that resides in places and objects. However, in the game it seems that the word is used to refer to the main character, who ends up being a champion for one of the Greek gods. For those familiar with the legendary Ultima series, a more familiar term for such a champion might be Avatar (also misused, though).
The background story of Numen is relatively simple: the Greek gods lose an artifact and recovering this artifact becomes a sort of a competition between the gods, each of whom backs up their own champion in the race. Similar petty strifes between gods and their champions are pretty common in Greek and Roman mythology, so it can be said that such a story is a pretty plausible, and even welcome, starting point for the game.
One of the champions (that's you!) starts his life as a young child, knowing little of the adventures that the future will bring his/her way. The player controls the young child in these early years of his/her development and starts to mold what the child will eventually become – a warrior, a mage or a hunter. After a certain life-changing event (not revealed yet), the game will fast-forward a few years and come to the protagonist's adulthood where he or she must choose one of the nine Greek gods to follow and serve. This choice will give the hero access to certain types of magic (depending on the god) and lead the protagonist to the grand chase for the artifact.
During this contest, the protagonist will encounter the eight other champions and receive help from them for certain tasks. However, since only one of the champions may be the winner, the relations between the champions are necessarily rather strained – even leading to duels to the death between them. Also, the bravery and cowardice that the protagonist professes during his explorations directly affect the favour of his/her chosen deity and the spells that they are allowed to use.
The world in which our protagonist adventures is the whole Mediterranean area, encompassing the lush forests of the north and the scorched deserts of the south and several islands in between. In addition to forests and deserts, the environment will include swamps, snowy mountaintops etc. Most of these locations house dungeons, caves and tombs to find and explore. The islands appear to the repertoire only when their location or means of transport to them is discovered. The hero does not have to visit all the locations in a single game in order to complete it, but the variety offers reasons for replay.