Hard to be a God – Demo and Impressions
For months, we have been reporting news regarding Akella’s Hard to be a God, and while the slated December release date came and went without any word from the developers, some of us were starting to get a bit concerned. Well, I was anyway. Yesterday, Akella sent us the English demo for the game and I was finally able to get a taste of what the game is offering. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hard to be a God, I will give you the basic rundown.
Hard to be a God is a non-linear RPG for the PC with several story branches and 4 endings depending on the main character’s in-game behavior. One of the gameplay features is the interference of two epochs in the game universe – the medieval and the alternative future. This provides the peculiar variety of different weapons and armors; from swords and bows to mini-guns, from full plates to force fields and equipment-like binoculars and night vision goggles at characters’ disposal. The standard RPG equipment “doll” is amplified with slots for swords, shoulder belts and hidden weapon scabbards on wrists and arms. The events in the game take place in a universe depicted in the novel of the same name, written by the Strugatsky brothers. But the storyline of the game doesn’t repeat what’s happening in the book, but rather continues it. The action in the game takes place about two years later after the events described in the novel. Hard to be a God is a third-person-view game featuring dynamic combat, many weapons and fighting techniques and also a well thought-out and diverse role-playing system. Also, special attention has been paid to in-game dialogs and the storyline.
Ok, now that you have been reintroduced to the game, I will give you my impression of the demo.
Like most demos, this one is short by most standards, but not so short that it does not give you a perfect idea of what to expect out of the full version. You start off with a slight tutorial, which is given as an “exam” by your superior officer, and you must complete a couple of tasks before he sends you off on your first quest. The first task is arming yourself, which is as easy as getting a key and going into the armory and opening some chests. Secondly, you have to show him how well you fight with a sword. This is accomplished by beating up some scarecrow-looking men on poles. Again, not too hard. Thirdly, you must demonstrate to him how well you fight while riding a horse. Once I figured out how to handle my horse (they move really fast) I accomplished this task with flying colors. After proving your meddle, you are ready to leave your encampment and explore the wild, wonderful world that awaits. Now, before you leave your starting point, you can receive an additional quest from another superior officer in the encampment. NPCs and other important characters that have something to say to you will have an icon hovering over their heads – therefore it is easy to see whom you need to speak with and whom you do not.
Once I left the safety of the walls surrounding my encampment, I came upon a peasant who was in need of help. You can choose to help him, or go about your merry way – I chose to help and when I got down off of my horse to fight some nearby bandits I was wishing I had just stayed the course and ignored the guy. The bandits themselves were not so hard to defeat, even with my character being a total weakling at this point, but wolves ganged up on me while I was fighting said bandits and killed me; thus ending my demo. So to be honest, I have no idea what the actual duration of the demo is, but I do know that if you die it is over.
The controls for Hard to be a God are your basic W, S, A, D with mouse clicks, tab, shift, and your standard I and M for inventory and map. The mouse will change your view, and you can zoom in and out with your mouse wheel. Like I said, pretty basic and familiar controls all around. The visuals are pretty decent and while they are not “eye candy” like The Witcher, it is a bright, clear, and colorful game with plenty of attention to detail down to the last petal on a flower. The voice acting is decent, the dialogue does not seem contrived, and the sound effects and music are above average. Controlling your character is easy, so is swinging your sword – the horse was the only thing I had an issue with as far as controls, but I eventually got the hang of him – so it was probably just me.
All in all, even with such a short demo and getting slaughtered by every RPGs favorite whipping boy, the wolf, I was pretty pleased with Hard to be a God. The demo definitely made me want to play the full version, and hopefully I will get to do that very soon. I highly recommend the demo, and when I have played the entire game through I will be more than happy to fill you in on the rest of the details. The game was originally slated for a December 2007 release in the US, but December has come and gone and Hard to be a God has yet to hit shelves, so stay tuned for a more concrete release announcement.
For more information regarding Hard to be a God, look over our previous posts which also include an interview with the game’s lead designer Stephan Vakhtin, and be sure to download the demo by clicking on the badge below.