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Developer: Saffire | Publisher: Titus Software
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/27/02 | Genre: Action

Barbarian is the story of a game that tries to be more than it actually is. Dressed in fine graphics and combat arenas and talking an elegant story, characters, and combat system, at its heart--Barbarian is only a button-smashing anger-fest. You enter a world controlled by evil as either a good or bad Barbarian, and, as you follow each individual story, face-off against a variety of opponents in combat arenas placed throughout the land called Barbaria. The most basic fighter elements are present, but Barbarian falls miles short of its destination with serious gameplay issues, an uninteresting stories, and poor characters.

Barbarian can be played in 3 modes: training, versus, and quest. Training gives you merely an introduction to the basics of combat from jumping and interacting with the environment to countering and combos. An attack dummy just stands and lets you abuse it until you have a grasp of what you're trying to learn. Unfortunately if you want more practice in that specific area, you have to quit and start again. You can also practice against a chosen adversary, who allows you to fight as long as you want without taking damage. But once you fight a real enemy, you can throw everything you learned out the window. In versus, you battle a friend with your leveled-up warriors, but, in reality, it is to see who is the faster button-masher.

Questing mode features 10 characters from which to choose, and each has an individual tale accompanying them. If you've ever read a 샨oose your own adventureook, then you know how the game is structured. Simply, you chose from available arenas to fight and, when you win, more choices open up. However, the story doesn't run in a fluid, comprehensible line, but is static, poorly written, and, often, just ends with little to no transition. There are no engaging videos or dialogue between fights, but, rather, the screen blackens and a narrator reiterates the script scrolling on the screen, leaving you uninvolved in what little story there is. A nod must be given to the attempt at trying to justify why these characters are fighting each other instead of just throwing them in a tournament.

Controlling your barbarian is incredibly simple... Everything is a single button press--even combinations--which differ based on the order that weak and strong buttons are hit, resulting in a finesse-absent, controller-crunching event. These combos are used to stun, throw, lift, and strike your opponent. Indicated by colored flashes, a successfully executed combo rewards you with a rune, depending on what type of combination you did. These runes are special magic attacks, which give your warrior the ability to perform techniques ranging from increased damage to protective shields. Your character also has access to standard magic, which takes the form of some projectile--usually the weapon they carry. These attacks, as well as the rune magic, drain your magic power, but you can regain power by inflicting damage on your opponent. By achieving victory in battle, you not only survive to fight again, but you also earn attribute points that you use to beef up your character whether it is magically, defensively, or offensively. Sadly, there is no evidence of improvement for your fighter.

All this magic, rune, special abilities, and combinations really paint a beautiful picture of what an action/fighter/RPG game should be, however, these elements do not gel into a solid gameplay structure. Fighting boils down to using the same combination repeatedly coupled with a few jumps, throws of magic, and blocks here and there. Some contests feature special conditions such as opponents with regenerative powers or your character being poisoned, but even these variations can't break the tedious cycle.

Graphically, Barbarian delivers. Multileveled arenas with interactive objects look incredible. You will find yourself fighting in arenas such as a castle tower cast against a ocean crashing with waves, a Mayan temple surround with lush forestry, and down to Underground Sewers oozing with murky water. The characters themselves are drawn in extreme detail down to the tiny pieces of jewelry they wear. There are no lags in the battle with each character jumping, swinging weaponry, and casting magic easily. Each character has nicely animated unique magical abilities gained by different runes achieved in combat. There wasn't much time spent in celebrations as each character just sort of yells and throws up an arm. The camera does a commendable job at keeping up with the action and containing the fighters in view despite the size of the fighting area. Only a few times did it get stuck behind an object.

Subdued is the word on the sound. Most sound effects are standard, but the grunts and clashing weapons are simple whispers. The narrator and music fits the dark miserable feeling of the game though they do not inspire you to grab the nearest weapon to lay down your life for your country.

Replaying the game can only be justified if you want to discover the stories of the remaining characters. Each character has the same combo system, and, if it hasn't been emphasized enough, the gameplay system is the same regardless of who you play as.

Overall, Barbarian should be left on the shelf. A struggling gameplay, dismal story, and missing replayability, Barbarian has little to offer unless you need a reason to smash your controller.

By Peter Humpton - 07/31/02
ESRB Details: Suggestive Themes, Violence

Screenshots for Barbarian

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