Aug 23, 2007
For a long while after Diablo II, the action-RPG genre was remarkably quiet, save for the Dungeon Siege series. Then Titan Quest was released, and since then it's seen a bit of a revival, with titles of varying quality being announced. Loki's jump into the arena is noticeable thanks to its mythological settings. Of course, Titan Quest beat it to the post on that score, but Loki does at least provide some refreshing alternatives.
Your setting is dictated by your choice of character: an Aztec shaman, a Greek fighter, a Norse warrior or an Egyptian sorcerer. While each character starts off in his or her own zone, after completing their particular missions, you'll be allowed to journey into the other zones as well, meaning you won't miss out. The game makes good use of the relevant mythologies, so, for example, the Greek storyline has you chatting to Athena, battling harpies and centaurs, visiting Troy and ending up in the depths of Hades. But it's the Norse and Aztec settings that really shine, with their unusual environments and mythical deities.
Ranging from the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Knossos to the regally armoured Cortés, bosses here are big and seriously badass. In fact, Fafnir the Norse dragon - who, even fully zoomed out, doesn't fit onto the screen - must surely be the front-runner for the title of "biggest action-RPG boss ever."
The game is certainly no slouch in the visuals department either. Enemies are served up in glorious hi-res textures, and a lot of hits are accompanied by dazzling explosions of magical effects. Settings range from the comparatively dull Aztec jungle to glowing lava-filled caves, decorated Egyptian temples and even the galleons of Cortés and his Spanish cronies. Weapons and armour also offer lots of variation and some pretty cool outfits, from wings for the Aztec shaman to dark hooded cowls and scythes for the Egyptian sorcerer, should you ever wish to impersonate Death.
Aside from the mythical settings, pretty visuals and mostly throwaway story, Loki plays out much like a standard action-RPG. That's to say, you see an enemy, click on it repeatedly till it dies and rinse and repeat until your fingers are worn down to bloody stumps. The skill trees are governed by which of three (character-specific) gods your hero or heroine is currently worshipping. This system provides you with a decent selection of spells and abilities to choose from - the Aztec's jaguar transformation and spirit-walking being of particular note - with good opportunities for customization. There are notably fewer drops than in most games of this ilk, which thankfully means fewer return journeys to town, and there are some other additions too, which, though helpful, don't really break any new ground.
Where Loki should do well is in the online market. With Cyanide putting a lot of effort into this side of things, you can take part in full six-player co-op in the main game, one-on-one and party duels, and challenges where up to six players can take on some of the game's tougher monsters. A full online ranking system and online storage of multiplayer characters are also provided, hopefully deterring some cheaters.
Thanks to its genre and settings, the comparisons with Titan Quest are pretty much inevitable. Although the graphics here aren't quite on a par with TQ's stunning visuals, Loki does score over its rival by offering an adjustable camera, with full pan and zoom. But whereas TQ feels beautifully polished all over, as though a team of dedicated testers has spent years buffing up its mythical carapace, Loki can occasionally feel a little bit rougher round the edges. Creatures sometimes get stuck on scenery, exploding chests often don't show the animation but still play the sound effect, walking in some areas of one level makes the water become static, frame rates suffer a drop in busy areas and we even suffered the odd crash to desktop, too.
While Loki's mythological settings, giant boss battles and pretty graphics make it a solid entry into the world of the action-RPG, there's not much here that hasn't been done already, even if it was only beat to the post on the mythology front by Titan Quest. Diablo fans who just can't wait to get their hands on the next click-fest will undoubtedly enjoy all the action, but for the rest of us mere mortals, Loki is more of a solid warrior and less of a gaming god.