We are suckers for magic, aren’t we? Always captivated by the idea that something could be done by uttering some gibberish. And don’t even talk about how we crave for magic showdowns. We wish we could convert even a fraction of that into reality. Well, sadly that sort of thing is out of the question. But what we can do is play Frozenbyte’s new game, Nine Parchments.
The Finnish game studio rolled out their new game on December 7, 2017, for the PC, PS4, Xbox and the Nintendo Switch. And……it looks promising. The game opens to the Astral Academy, which much like Hogwarts, trains students in magic and wizardry. After a major explosion, the nine magical parchments scatter with the winds to the far ends of the world. Hence, it falls upon the shoulders of some rookie mages and witches to skip their training to recover them, simultaneously flouting all the safety guidelines of the academy. This forms the basic aim of the game.
Let’s talk about the single-player campaign. There are four difficulty modes to start with, ranging from easy to hardcore. The ‘hardcore’ difficulty incorporates a permadeath function, restarting the level if you die. You can begin the campaign with one of the starting two characters. Each individual has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited considerably. The single-player mode is flawed, to be honest. The game starts off beautifully with the player figuring out the game’s mechanics, enemies and what playstyle and spells should be adopted. But once you understand this, the game feels more like a rote campaign. It fails to keep things interesting. The boss battles can be cleared with definitive ease. You don’t need to think as what spells could be effective against an enemy. By the time you complete the campaign alone, it definitely feels like the game was repetitive in nature. There isn’t any particular need for a single player mode in this game. It feels like a warm-up for multiplayer.
The multiplayer mode is the where the Nine Parchments shines like a gleaming gem. You can invite your friends to play with you to beat the game. It is certainly a blast, as you and your team of heavily robed characters travel through the gorgeous landscapes, firing colourful projectiles to beat the shit out of monsters. It can also sometimes lead to hilarious gameplay, due to friendly-fire in the closely confined stages of the level. You can certainly become lost in the array of beams, projectiles, spell-circles and whatnot, as the medley of colours is amazing to watch. The sense of camaraderie is present, with players having the ability to revive their teammates, a mechanic vastly different from the ‘single-revival-per-level’ of the single-player mode. Also, two players can combine their attacks to increase the lethality in combat. The multiplayer mode is surely the way Nine Parchments should be played. You will have so much fun that you won’t even notice when you finish the game.
Another major issue this game throws at you is that you can have only one campaign running at a time, across all modes. This implies that if you switch from the single player to the multiplayer, or the other way round, you will lose all your progress. The only consolation is that you get to keep all your unlocked items and weapons. So make sure to beat the game completely in one mode and then the other one. No switching sides.
The combat mechanics are quite solid and satisfactory. The game follows a weakness/advantage style. Adhering to an elemental system, some spells are effective against a certain variety of spells and some are weak. The spells have a cooldown period associated with them, varying with their types. Melee combat is also available, but not as effective. You end up losing health rather than dealing damage. There is an upgrade system that utilizes skill points earned during the game. It’s not a deep system, but it bumps your stats. The RPG elements are in their simplest form. Upon defeating a boss, you recover one of the nine lost parchments. Each parchment has a different spell, which can be switched out for one of your existing spells.
The audio composed for this game is enthralling. Even the music for the main menu screen is so good that you must stop and listen to it before embarking on your adventure. The combat feels more engaging with the background score, amping up your experience. The fantastic art style is something straight out of an epic fantasy novel. The levels have been carefully crafted and each landscape looks amazing. A lot of attention has been paid to minute details and nuances of the terrains. Nine Parchments is beautiful to look at, and you will find yourself marveling at whatever portion of the level fits on your screen. The colour schemes implemented make up for a vivid palette, and contrast and saturation levels add to the authenticity of a magical world.
To sum it up, Frozenbyte’s new twin-stick shooter soars above the highest peaks, and then falls to the deepest lows, making the experience a mixed bag of emotions. The presentation is up to the mark, with the music and art style complimenting each other perfectly. The multiplayer mode is the game at its best. With the single player being the fatal flaw of this game, Nine Parchments falls short towards becoming the absolute magical adventure. The extremely linear storyline and repetitive gameplay wear you down, providing no major developments along the entire length of the game. I would recommend this game only if you have some friends to play with, as co-op is the way to go.
The multiplayer mode is the game at its best. With the single player being the fatal flaw of this game, Nine Parchments falls short towards becoming the absolute magical adventure.