Hexen II Coop Review

by MrBunwah

Verily, MrBunwah And Friends Do… Hexen 2.

This article / review type thing originally appeared on one of Stomped’s sites called Z-Axis. Seeing as Stomped is, if not dead then at least mildly stunned, we needed a new home for it. For reasons which presently escape me (Ho ho! That was a joke see? Nevermind) RavenGames.com seemed the ideal place, so here you go. MrBunwah – 19/02/02.

The team of fine, upstanding gentlemen:

MrBunwah’s chosen character is the Paladin, who possesses a particularly knobbly hat.
Eon’s chosen character is the Crusader, who possesses a chin you could land Dragons on.
MadGav’s chosen character is the Assassin, who possesses a fine pair of… knives.

Part 1: Being the introduction:

With a hey nonny nonny, it’s time to slip on your tights, buff up your pantaloons and dust off your bushiest beard. Yes it’s Hexen 2 and that, ladies and gentlefolk means it’s fantasy time (no, not those sort of fantasies you sick, sick little monkey). Join us as we frolic through distant lands, clubbing small creatures, stealing anything that’s not nailed down and falling into lava. And after that we’ll play some Hexen 2! Ho ho! (ah come on, you know you love it).

Released by Raven back around 1976, Hexen 2 is one of those Quake 1 engine games and that means it’s fast, furious and fun but in no way a simulation. Of course things were spiced up a little by the introduction of experience points, an inventory system and proper end of episode bosses (as opposed to Quake’s pathetic ‘ooh I’m so scary, look at me wobble’ wobbly blob of lard). The other major innovation of Hexen 2 was the introduction of non linear episodes, but we shall speak no more of these here. Fear not my lady, for the non linear episodes shall be appearing in yonder gameplay section! What? You’re a man? Terribly sorry, it’s these tights you see, they’re affecting my eyesight something chronic.

Hexen 2 co-op
See MrBunwah swoop through the air like a great big bird! All together now: “I believe I can fly…”

Ooh, and not to forget, another thing you spend a lot of time doing in Hexen 2 is beating up spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Admittedly some of them are disguised as were-panthers or golems but that’s not the point, we’re talking spiders all over the place. They’re everywhere I tells ya! Everywhere! Mother!

Part 2: Collecting the sayings of many wise and learned gentlemen and some stuff on setting up and general chimping about:

Forsooth Hexen 2 doth install and work pretty darned well. Yes. Naturally you’ll be wanting to install the GL version and getting the latest patch but other than that it’s straight into the game.

One thing you’ll need to do is decide which machine will be the server in advance, as this is the only one that can save the game. Because of the way Hexen2 plays you’ll be needing to save regularly (unless you’re going to play the whole game in one mammoth 20,000 hour session) so making sure the server stays on the same PC is essential. One odd little ‘thing’ that we discovered is that the order people join the server dictates which character they are. So if the third Player on board is the Necromancer then that’s the way it is until the end of time (when the great god Ion Storm plunges the world into darkness by mercilessly over-hyping the sun until everyone’s just fed up with the whole thing).

Hexen 2 co-op
“Down kitty! Let go of my leg! Bad Kitty! Aaaiiee!” Eon’s power over animals was almost mystical.

The final thing you may find you need for a game of Hexen 2 is a pen and some paper (shock! Horror! Etc!) because it doesn’t include any way of reminding you what you’re supposed to be doing. So if you have to stop play for a few days because, for instance one of the group has been kidnapped by giant spiders, then when you return it can be a nightmare to work out what’s going on. Of course you could just download a walkthrough from here and use that instead be we don’t condone that sort of thing, do we Gav?

Part 3: Concerning the playing experience:

Playing Hexen 2 is a test of memory as much as anything else because at any given point you’ve got a long list of things to do today. The complicated, criss-crossing, non linear episodes force you to run backwards and forwards through the fantasy (hey nonny nonny) lands, picking up bizarre items and solving bizarre puzzles. I’ll tell you right now that if you don’t like picking up things and carrying them about you can forget about Hexen 2. It’s like a delivery person simulator at times. Personally I quite enjoyed the change in pace from the usual key-door shenanigans but I know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So yay verily and, err, stuff.

Hexen 2 co-op
Having killed a team member the Golem prepares to poop on the body. Not really, but it would have been funny.

As an example of the sort of thing you don’t have to do in a Hexen 2 level here’s a completely made up list that we didn’t write down while we were playing:

  1. Find the crown of Heeby Jeeby.
  2. Put the crown on the statue of the dread king Bob to gain the amulet of the vibrating Pikachu.
  3. Curse as the vibrating Pikachu you paid good money for trundles around backwards before falling on its face.
  4. Buy more spider repellent.
  5. Fall in lava.

Part 4: Being a treatise on the gameplay:

In keeping with it’s puzzle and exploration based gameplay, Hexen 2 never really packs it’s rooms full of monsters. Obviously you still get a steady flow of nasty things to fight but it never really gets to the level of Quake’s ‘run around madly, shrieking like a loon battles’. Actually this is probably just as well because Hexen 2’s weapons don’t work as well as they could in terms of co-op play. The problem is that, this being a fantasy game, the weapons are a mix of long range shooty things and close combat pointy things. This means that while some of the group need to be up close and personal with the monsters, others need to stand back and snipe from a distance. The result? Plenty of shooting your team mates in the back friendly fire. Actually the problems with the weapons aren’t the end of the world if you switch on the teamplay and no friendly fire options. This way if you accidentally clip one of your chums with a fireball the worst that can happen is that they fly off and land head first in a pool of lava (not to suggest for a minute that MrBunwah did this to Eon. Several times. Per level).

The other thing you’ll encounter when playing Hexen 2 is the fact that you gain experience points for killing monsters. This is both a good and a bad thing: Good because it gives you a nice feeling of progression if you play through the whole game and watch your hit points increasing, but bad because only the person who made the kill gets the experience points. Initially we thought this would lead to trouble (i.e. a mad charge through the level as everyone desperately competed for the limited number of points). But it turned out not to be a problem because, well, the whole experience points / going up level thing is crap.

Hexen 2 co-op
MadGav does what Assassins do best and skulks behind Eon, deciding whether to attack or just run away.

Y’see the idea is that as well as gaining a few hit points per level, you also gain new and fantastic powers and abilities! Woo! However, having played the game several times I can safely reveal that the fantastic powers and abilities are not in any way fantastic (except fantastically poo perhaps). Allow me to elaborate: As the Paladin your first power is ‘being able to move quickly underwater’. Eh? Is there an underwater episode? No. There is in fact a single level in the entire game with enough swimming to make this power useful. But wait, it gets better! The Paladin’s second ability is a sort of ‘divine grace’ thing that occasionally resurrects you when you die. Except that, in the THREE playthroughs I’ve now done of Hexen 2 I have never once seen this power in action. Does it actually work? Does it even exist? Who knows? And the crapness isn’t just limited to the Paladin’s powers, oh no. For instance one of the Assassin’s powers makes them go invisible when they stand still. Yes? And? As soon as you shoot the monsters see you anyway so what’s the point? Gah. Anyway, because the powers are so crap the experience points never really become a major part of the game and as a result we could work as a team, without trying to hog all the kills. Hmm, perhaps they made them useless deliberately…

Part 5: Bringing the whole sorry tale to a conclusion:

So does our merry band of adventurers give Hexen 2 a thumbs up or a thumbs down? Well it’s actually a bit of both, with attitudes ranging from good to indifferent to bad.

MrBunwah versus extra huge-large-biggo spider. Well I know who my money’s on… Go spider go!

Probably the main reason that the game doesn’t achieve universal praise is its reliance on back tracking and carefully searching for yet another item. The Egyptian episode is particularly bad for this and almost had us giving up to go play something else instead. It’s difficult to feel any sense of progression when you play for several hours to gain item A only to find that you need items B and C before you can open the door behind which lies item D (which you were told about so long ago that you won’t know what it’s for when you do get the damn thing). If you’ve got enough patience that you don’t mind revisiting old areas or wandering around scratching your head then Hexen 2 will provide hours of entertainment. Whereas if you want a quick adrenaline fix or some team based action then it’s probably not what you’re looking for.

That said, if you like puzzling, exploration and an altogether more thoughtful pace (which still features plenty of combat) Hexen 2 is a good co-op game. On top of that, if it’s a fantasy (hey nonny nonny) atmosphere you’re after then this game is easily capable of drawing you in for the 6 billion hours it takes to finish.

Ladies and gentlefolk I’ve been Squire MrBunwah and they’ve been Lord Eon and Wise Old Man MadGav. Thank you, goodnight and hey nonny no.

The score: 3.5 out of 5