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Apr 25, 2001

GW Xbox > Xbox Previews > Preview Page


Azurik: Rise of Perthia

Adrenium Games



Q4 2001


Microsoft brings earth, wind, and fire to Xbox, and we're not talking about that lame band from the '70s.

The way I see it, 3-D action adventures are like romantic partners.

If you get a good one, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, it can complete your life.

If you get a bad one, like any Tomb Raider game since 1997, it can make you take your life.

Fortunately, no one has committed hara-kiri after a round with the latest Lara adventure, but it's only a matter of time, especially after players realize there aren't any "nude" codes.

On the other hand, we suspect that playing Azurik: Rise of Perathia will not drive anyone to the depths of despair (we cannot offer the same assurances about the effect of reading its name).

Only time will tell exactly how Microsoft's homegrown heir to games like Soul Reaver will turn out, but the early prognosis is peachy. Ingenious character design, time-tested gameplay mechanics, and mind-bending visuals already put Azurik in rare company. If first-party developer Adrenium Games can challenge the genre's stale conventions, Azurik will be a must-buy this fall.

The success of an action/adventure title hinges largely on the story's ability to engross the player. Azurik seems to lean more toward a classic tale of heroism than a storyline that bucks tradition.

You start with a trusty hero (Azurik), complete with blue skin and the baddest double-bladed weapon since Darth Maul ventilated Qui-Gon Jinn. Then you add a world divided into four elemental lands that teeter at the brink of destruction. Finally, you mix in a heaping dose of bad guys, heat it over an nVidia processor for several months, and--voila!--you have a game with the potential to whoop some figurative ass.

So far, the coolest aspect of the game, aside from the visuals, is the character design. The main character isn't anything to write home about, but the weapon he wields is a genuine crowd-pleaser. What we're talking about here is a body-length staff with a nasty blade at either end that can summon the elemental powers of earth, water, air, and fire. Not only can it harness these powers, Azurik can alter them on the fly, deftly switching from bursts of flame to shards of ice. This flexibility is essential because Azurik often faces multiple enemies who have different elemental weaknesses. The player will not only have to clobber the baddies, but also work to exploit their specific vulnerabilities.

The character design of Azurik's foes is stellar. The enemies are crafty, well-animated and not without a few tricks up their sleeves. For example, smaller enemies can suddenly merge with larger enemies, called Overlords, to yield an even more formidable beast. And furry critters that spend their days munching on the shrubbery become ravenous fiends when the sun goes down. Best of all, the developers are tweaking the enemy AI to make sure Azurik doesn't devolve into a mindless hackfest.

Gameplay is mostly familiar territory. Azurik begins with a limited set of skills and abilities that will improve as the game progresses. New abilities will give Azurik access to areas that were once off limits. In the spirit of Soul Reaver, Azurik's mettle will be tested through a combination of puzzle-solving and head-bashing. The aim is to let no single element dominate the game, but rather to enthrall the player with varied gameplay and an epic storyline.

Whether these goals will be met is still in question, but every observable facet of the game is coming along nicely. For one, the graphics are exactly what you would expect from Xbox. Gorgeous environments, intricately-modeled characters and dazzling effects lend the game instant appeal. Wielding a flaming staff is fun, but it's even better when the bursts of flame look real and your foes light up like Roman candles on the 4th of July (just imagine those screenshots moving at 60 fps and you'll get the picture).

Azurik's animations are a little stodgy and still need some smoothing out, but his enemies move extremely well. In fact, the game looks as close to completion as any Xbox title we've seen. The gameplay is sharp, the particle effects are particularly effective, and the environments are solid. The X factor is whether Adrenium Games will be capable of adding story development that distances Azurik from the rather faceless pack of 3D action/adventures. The game certainly has the looks--if the personality follows suit, we'll be hooked.

Tony Scinta
Now available in 4-D.

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