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At the root of many of these issues is the bewildering choice to put no checkpoints or save points in a game where missions can last half an hour or more. Having battled through the siege of Vargaand for twenty-odd minutes, it’s no fun to be battered by a super-hard boss within seconds and find yourself restarting the whole shebang, and this isn’t an isolated incident: it’s something that happens time and time again as you play through the game. To up your stress levels further, the game plays oddly tight with health power-ups, meaning you can spend ten minutes or more racing around the battlefield desperately searching for a small rotating chest with a health potion inside, just because that’s preferably to starting the mission again from scratch.
At these points, N3 feels like a bizarre Benny Hill skit, with your muscled hard man running around like a big Jessie with a string of dozy companions and angry foes in hot pursuit. What’s more, as some of the bosses can wipe out half your health bar with a single blow, you soon find it wiser to sneak in and whack them from behind rather than engage them mano e mano like a good hero should. The net result is that a game that should make you feel like a bold, mighty warrior makes you feel like anything but.
At times, the game is simply too difficult to continue, and it’s at this point that you realise that the current mission is beyond your character’s current level. The solution? Replay earlier levels again and again until you level up. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a grind. And just when the veins are throbbing in your temples and there’s a stress-induced ache in your neck, N3 throws in its final piece de resistance of stupidity. Should the game go into a cut scene just when you’ve started a special attack, tough luck. When the black bars disappear and the game returns to action, your attack will have halted, your red or blue bar will be depleted, and your killer move will be utterly wasted. If this was a blue attack, you may be excused if you burst into tears of grief and rage. I did.
Add tears of frustration to that mix, because the worst thing about N3 is that somewhere in here is a decent game, and one that could even be turned into a great one with a little more imagination and a lot more playtesting. Instead, we have this beautiful, infuriating, dazzling, and slightly depressing misfire. With Saint’s Row, Dead Rising and Test Drive: Unlimited just around the corner, do you really want to waste your £40 on this?
An astonishing-looking fantasy epic, where the simply but enjoyable gameplay is wrecked by a series of baffling game design choices that are guaranteed to raise your ire. Highly disappointing.