If you're a typical role-playing gamer, you're probably a little anxious by now. The great games of the summer, Final Fantasy VII and Might and Magic VI, are probably gathering dust on your bookshelf, and the expectations for the next wave of games, like Baldur's Gate and Return to Krondor, are running high. This is probably the perfect time for a game like Hexplore to venture forth into the market; it's a decent game and will definitely satisfy RPG fans for a couple of weeks, but it doesn't represent the state of the art in role-playing games.
The game casts you in the role of Mac Bride, a Scottish adventurer. You are journeying to fight in the Crusades (the game takes place in the real world circa 1000 AD with magic thrown in) and you come across the handiwork of evil forces who have just terrorized the local village of Zarko. Further investigation sets you upon the quest to rid the world of the diabolical machinations of the sorcerer Garkham and recover the book of Hexplore, which leads readers to the Garden of Eden. Along the way, you fight henchmen of the dreaded wizard, gather information from villagers, and help rebel forces against Garkham.
To aid you in your quest, the party system of Hexplore allows three additional characters to accompany you. However, the classes of these are predetermined, consisting of an archer, a warrior, and a magician. Hexplore avoids the complications of having to deal with character statistics and simply allows you a choice between four heroes of each type with a variety of nationalities. All you have to do is ask one of them to join your party, and he is immediately under your control.
The game design is considerably similar to Diablo, with great pains extended to make sure that the interface remains simple to use, even when managing four characters. In this respect, Heliovisions has done a terrific job of allowing simple mouse clicks to control all your characters. In contrast, the beauty of the interface is plagued by the bad graphics. The detail on the characters and terrain will remind you of the ancient art of VGA graphics. The ability to rotate the terrain 360 degrees is superb, but it can't compensate completely for such agonizingly bad visuals during gameplay. They almost make you want to finish the levels as quickly as possible, just so you can get to the superior hand-drawn cutscenes.