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  NOX Review

Graphics

93% - Pretty Sparklies

With 3D graphics reigning supreme these days, it seems that 2D applications take a serious backburner on eye-candy. NOX shatters those barriers with absolutely stunning visual effects. This immediately becomes apparent in your first session, where you are introduced to the TrueSight feature.

The premise behind TrueSight technology is to allow the player to view only that which their character can see at any given time. In First-Person 3D gaming, this has never been a problem, because you already ARE looking through the character's eyes. Until now, however, top-down-view games have always provided the advantage of "x-ray vision", allowing players to spot that enemy around the corner. In NOX, a "shadow" is cast over any and all areas (and anything lurking in those areas) obstructed from Jack Mower's current 360-degree view. There's no screenshot that can really do the TrueSight technology justice, because what makes it so amazing is the speed and smoothness of it as you move through the game world.

TrueSight isn't the only thing smooth about NOX. Character movement and animations are also quite detailed and fluid. Equipping weapons and armor change Jack's in-game appearance, allowing for a customizable look. Cool, but this aint no fashion show! Due to the benefits that come with the certain types of armor, you'll likely end up outfitting Jack in a garish ensemble for most of the game.

The lighting effects are nothing short of spectacular. It's not uncommon to see a new player just sit and stare at the main menu for several minutes, entranced by the "sparklies" that flutter as they move the mouse cursor around. The sparks and explosions are impressively bright and detailed, though occasionally they are a bit too much and can obstruct a players view in close combat. Still, these are some of the best lighting effects ever seen in a non-3D title.

Sound & Music

84% - RRRAAAGGHHH!

The NOX soundtrack doesn't always jump out and grab you, but it tactfully fills the role in the background. From the relaxed and joyful renaissance melodies in the towns, to the dark and menacing gothic dungeon tracks, to the epic orchestral climaxes during boss battles. Again, a very Diablo-esque feel, but with far more quality and variety to keep things fresh. You can download samples of these tunes at The Official NOX Website.

All the character interaction in NOX is audio-based, with subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, a large majority of the voice actors aren't very convincing, and some are just plain cheesy. The sound effects, on the other hand, kick major arse. There's the nerve-wracking clatter of a giant spider's legs as it scuttles toward its next meal (you), or the stomping and bellowing of an Ogre as it charges, axe raised overhead. The stone-tossing urchins' maniacal giggling turns into a hilarious, terrified yelping as they flee from your approach. There are tons of little sound bytes like this that give character to NOX's motley array of creatures. The sound effects for the spells and skills are equally impressive, contributing to the awe-factor as you unleash your might upon enemies (insert Warrior War Cry here).

 

Game Play

86% - Must... not... sleep!

A friend stopped by and noticed the box on my desk. "What's this? Can I check it out?" he asked. Over 10 hours later, he was still glued to the monitor. Yes, NOX has that effect. Whether you're hacking and slashing with your Warrior, turning a baddie against his buddies with the Conjurer, or unleashing storms of fire and lighting with your Wizard, NOX is just damned fun.

The single player game is almost flawlessly designed. Throughout the game, your character's powers progress at just the right speed to match what he's going up against. The jump feature, while not earth-shattering, does add an element of action that was missing in Diablo. The warrior is given several toys to play with, including a (Mortal Kombat) Scorpion-style harpoon and the Berserker Charge, so it's not just hack, hack, hack all day long. Although the Wizard's spell-trap skill can be fun and add strategic value, there's not anything really groundbreaking, and playing as one can be a bit repetitive. The Conjurer, however, is where NOX really shines. Being somewhat effective in melee, having a bow as an option, and their special ability to charm or summon creatures, makes Conjurers and absolute blast. As if that wasn't enough, Conjurers can also create "bombers", little kamikaze creatures that simultaneously unleash three pre-loaded spells when they come in contact with your enemy.

The interface is mostly solid, but suffers a few downfalls. Although character movement is smooth and easy to grasp, interacting with objects can be a pain. You have to be within a certain distance of objects to use or pick them up, and the 2 animated icons, notifying whether or not you are in range, do not contrast enough. Working with the inventory/paperdoll screen is also a little unfriendly, which could have been avoided if Westwood had used the more standardized RPG format, with body-part associated slots.

Virtually every function in the game is hot-keyed and customizable, though the default setup is actually pretty efficient. For spell casters, there is a 6-page, 5-spell-per-page, hot-key bar that is immensely convenient for organizing your repertoire and quickly accessing a particular spell when time is of the essence.

 

AI / Difficulty

76% - Sick-em, boy!

Despite the fact that there are no difficulty settings, it's still well balanced for most gamers. The levels are designed with a sweet blend of enemies and puzzles. On the flip side of that, the levels also never change. Unlike Diablo's randomly generated dungeons, everything in NOX is pre-planned and designed. The game comes up bit short on overall length, as most people will be likely complete it in 25 hours or less. However, each class has completely unique missions for the first 3 levels, in addition to subtle differences for the remaining levels. Although this helps with the replayability factor, Diablo's scheme worked better.

The AI is surprisingly pretty effective. Heavy melee enemies will be more straightforward with their attacks, while spell casters and enemies with ranged weapons will be more tactful, using methods like the hit-and-run. When you have a pet or NPC tagging along, they usually do a very good job of keeping up, even utilizing elevators and such to find their way to you. There are, however, times where the AI seems to take a "walk a straight line from point A to point B" route, which can be used to trap enemies, or cause following NPCs to get caught as well. It also would have been convenient if, when commanding creatures, you could specify which general direction they would scout and hunt for you.

 

Multiplayer

76% - Fun, but what about...

In the tradition of Blizzard's battle.net, Westwood has constructed its own exclusive online gaming forum, known as Westwood Online. Outside of Westwood Online, the game can only be played on a Local Area Network (LAN). A second CD is included in the jewel case, acting as a "Companion Disc". From this disc you can install the files necessary to play a multiplayer game, though it will not install the single-player content. Only 2 copies of the game, using the same serial number, can be played online Westwood Online simultaneously.

The multiplayer modes, which include Arena Death (deathmatch) and Capture the Flag, are more reminiscent of Quake than Diablo. Players start out at the maximum experience level (10), but only basic equipment, so like a FPS they run around picking up items as the game progresses. Elimination boasts a "Last Man Standing" type contest, while the Flagball mode pits teams against each other, with players attempting to retrieve the "ball" and throw it into the opponent's flag post for a score. Lag is an issue that needs to be addressed, as it seems to become a frequent obstacle for modem users. Warriors in particular are put at an immediate disadvantage by lag, since they rely heavily upon melee combat. Despite this, the multiplayer mode is original and refreshing for the Action-RPG genre. We'd give it a very high score if it weren't for one, sorely overshadowing factor… no cooperative mode.

Diablo's cooperative mode allowed up to four players to go through the single-player game together. This feature is what gave the game it's incredibly addictive quality, and even today still keeps players coming back to battle.net. The game engine would include more enemy creatures, in addition to creating random maps, to compensate for the extra player power. Unfortunately, NOX's specifically designed maps don't include this feature, which is sure to damage its replayability. Phooey.

 

Final Analysis

84% - Bacon bound we go, Imp!

Singing the "Diablo's Been Delayed" blues? Have no fear, NOX is here! Westwood's blend of amazing graphics, well-designed levels, and addictive gameplay make this game a hit. Although it's biggest flaw is lack of a cooperative mode, the new multiplayer modes are still novel and refreshing. Definitely a worthy title to add to your collection during this slow season for quality games.

Rob "RJCombo" Garrett

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Review:
NOX
Developer:
Westwood Studios
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
Review by:
Rob "RJCombo" Garret
Published:
May 22, 2000

 


"Fire! Fire! Heh, heh, heh... "

"These critters are no match for the Staff of Oblivion!"

"Chaos!"

"Here come the undead."

"War of shurikens."

"That's gotta hurt!"

"RJCombo gets whooped online."

"I've got the flag!"

"A greeting from Horvath the wizard."

"The evil Hecubah."

"The Airship Captain."

"Which path will you choose?"

"Westwood Online servers."

"The townsfolk don't seem to mind your thievery."

"Hrmm.. I wonder what's in here?"
 
"For additional information on NOX, be sure to check out the following websites:"
NOX
"The official Westwood NOX website."
Loyal NOX Fan Sites
"Westwood has a ton of fan sites all dedicated to NOX"
 

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