When a game studio specializes on a certain genre, a change in pattern can become a real challenge, because you don’t know whether the game will be a success or a sign telling you to stick to what you know to do best. Cyanide Studios’ first attempt at a hack ‘n’ slash genre is Loki, a title very similar to Blizzard’s venerable Diablo 2. This fact allowed the French developers to work with a tried and tested formula, which however won’t win them too many points in regards to innovation.
Though in this type of game the story doesn’t count for much, often being just an excuse to continue the carnage, in Loki we are presented with a mixture of mythologies – Greek, Egyptian, Aztec and Norse – which also determine the types of characters in the game. The important thing that you have to know is that Seth, the Egyptian god of evil and chaos, somehow managed to escape from his eternal prison and wants to conquer the Universe. And in order to do that, he needs to eliminate the gods that could oppose him. All of them.
An interesting aspect is that Loki’s storyline is different for each hero – Greek or Norse warrior, Egyptian wizard and Aztec shaman – with each player type determining the course of the action, the magic powers and abilities which can be unlocked, as well as the NPCs and monsters that you will encounter. As expected, each hero is centered on a certain fighting style, the Norse warrior being an expert in hand-to-hand combat (and my favorite for this reason), while the Aztec shaman is a heavy magic user. Since each character has its own strengths and weaknesses, it all comes down to personal preference when choosing one over the other. This aspect, backed up by the unique campaign for each hero, greatly adds to the replay value of the game – an essential quality for any self-respecting hack ‘n’ slash.
Personally, I’ve always considered that action RPGs can be counted among the most relaxing games, being able to entertain even the most tired people, who come home from work every day and just want to relax for an hour or so. For this to work properly though, you need three things: a good skill system, lots of items and a limitless number of enemies to butcher to your heart’s contempt.
As expected, there is a different skill tree for each character, with the abilities being specific to the playing style of the hero. There are more than 200 skills available, and a neat thing that you can do is worship one of the primary gods in your hero’s pantheon, thus obtaining bonuses for skills. Take note that offensive abilities take a bit longer to improve with regards to their usefulness, so don’t be impatient.
Barring skills, items also play an important role in any hack’n’slash. Thus, in Loki you will have access to a vast number of weapons, potions, amulets, rings and armor, each with its own distinct cultural look. If you have too many items on you (and that won’t be so hard to accomplish), you can offer them to the gods, in order to get some extra belief points; or you can visit a smithy, and try to create new items from the existing ones, adding a few runes with magical bonuses in for flavor.