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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By:Kalypso Media
Developed By: Haemimont Games AD
Genre: Action Adventure
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: Q1 2011
Screenshots: Link
Written By: Christian Higley

June 21, 2010 - When I saw "Mystery Xbox 360 Title" on my list of appointments at the Kalypso Media booth, I was intrigued. I've never been in a position to get a peek at a "mystery" game before.

"What could it be?" I wondered.

The answer turned out to be a pleasant surprise: The First Templar, a co-operative action/adventure game developed by Haemimont Games.

The First Templar is a gritty, believable look at the Crusades era. We were assured that the developers are aiming for realism and historical accuracy both in the world design and the gameplay. No elves, no demons, no super powers; just humans facing off in believable combat, in 20 real-life locations representative of the time period. Players assume the role of either a French Templar or a noble lady falsely accused of being a heretic, on the run from the Inquisition (nobody expects it). The characters feature complimentary skill-sets, specializing in strength and speed, respectively. However, in our demo, a veteran Templar named Roland stood in for the noblewoman. Though we didn't get to see the strength/speed dynamic, Roland did give us a glimpse at what our currently nameless hero may play like later in the game.

First and foremost, I should make it clear that the version of the game we saw is very early in development. Many animations were either stiff and awkward or not yet implemented, the screen was cluttered with big, inelegant button indicators and instructions, and bugs were everywhere. Naturally, we were assured that none of these hiccups are representative of the final product.

Interestingly, one of the first things they mentioned about The First Templar was a comparison to LEGO Star Wars, of all things. However, with online or local drop-in, drop-out co-op, and an emphasis on fast pacing with minimal downtime, I can see why. At any time, a second player can jump into the shoes of one of the two characters and the two of you can hack and slash your way through the levels together. When not controlled by a human, the AI will take control of the other character and one player can switch between the two at any time.

Our hands-off demo took us on a brief hike through the woods, as we saw our nameless hero and Roland pursue a quest to slay "The Beast," a deformed giant of a man who's been terrifying the locals. Along the way, they fought various enemies and were, at one point, ambushed by a group of archers. No-Name blocked the incoming arrows with his shield while Roland simply swatted them away with his sword. When asked whether our hero will ever be able to do this, we were told, theoretically, he can, assuming the player progresses far enough in a particular skill tree. In fact, we were told that, while Haemimont and Kalypso aren't referring to The First Templar as an RPG of any sort, it does feature several strong RPG elements, such as skill building and equipment customization.

As our heroes made their way to confront the archers, we got to take a look at melee combat in the game. We saw no-name stun one enemy and bring him to the ground to deliver a finishing attack, while Roland grappled with another, disarming him and cutting him down. As another archer came running down the path, Roland hit him to the side, towards No-Name, who finished him off. Finally, Roland charge the final archer, delivering a wide horizontal swing and decapitating the man in a single stroke. It was hard to get a feel for the fluidity of combat in such an early build, but it looks violent (but not cartoonishly so) and somewhat strategic, which feels appropriate for the time period.

Next, the two Templars set to tracking down the elusive "Beast." As the two made their way through the forested path, they followed footprints as a method of tracking their prey. However, we were told that in the final game, especially on higher difficulties, tracking will be more complex, forcing you to follow other clues, such as markings on trees.

Finally, the pair made their way to the Beast's dwelling, where they ambushed the hulking, feral man. This is where we got to see a more substantial focus on co-op action, as No-Name acted as a decoy, distracting the beast for Roland to come in with a strong attack to knock him down. After a couple rounds of this kind of team-up, Roland delivered a slickly-animated, slow-motion finishing move, bringing the Beast down with a wide swing of his sword, before stabbing him in the chest.

Considering our demo was a pre-alpha build of the game, I can say it shows promise. The Crusades are a fascinating period of history not explored often enough in games and low-tech, swords and arrows co-op combat isn't something we've really seen before. At least, we haven't seen it without the free, easy range of versatility offered by the inclusion of magic. The game is still too early in development for a solid count on length, but we were guaranteed at least 20 hours. The First Templar is currently slated for release on the Xbox 360 and Games For Windows sometime in Spring 2011.

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