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NightCaster

Developer: Jaleco Entertainment | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 01/21/02 | Genre: Action

One of the most intriguing games I have been waiting for on the Xbox is NightCaster. Being a huge fan of Role Playing Games, I have been disappointed in the lack of good RPGs... or should I saw the lack of any RPGs... Since the Xbox I still without a single RPG in its lineup, it is safe to say that I will play any game that has some similarity to the RPG genre. While NightCaster isn't a Role Playing Game, it is the closest you will find to one on the Xbox. As an action/strategy hybrid, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this title from VR1.

Players control Arran, a young wizard who embarks on a quest filled with explosive spell combat and adventure. As the game progresses, you increase your arsenal of spells and gradually age from a young man into an old sorcerer. The story has that "been there, done that" feel to it as you are the world's only hope for survival in your quest to rid the world of "an evil" that plagues it. Even worse, the game provides horrible dialogue sequences with NPCs. To hear what they say, you simply stand next to them and they babble on about whatever they want to say. You never respond to them or interact in any way... Also, players will find scrolls lying around throughout the levels that will give additional insight into the story of NightCaster.

Each level is opened by a cinematic sequence told as a story with each line spoken told in a rhyme. While these sequences can be slightly annoying, I did find it quite a bit more interesting than the dialogue with the NPCs. Perhaps it would have been wiser for VR1 to include more interaction with NPCs or at least continued on with the rhyming theme setup by the introductions in each level.

Controlling NightCaster is a confusing experience. The game utilizes both thumbsticks similar to titles like Ape Escape. The left thumbstick will control our hero, Arran, throughout the game world, while the right thumbstick will control the spell casting icon. Wherever this icon is, when the player hits the right trigger, a spell will be cast. To rotate through your spells, hit the left trigger until the spell you desire appears. While you have a multitude of spells available in your inventory to select from, due to the number of spells, not all can be used at once during gameplay. To choose different spells to replace ones you grow tired of, hit the start button and you will be able to choose from the ones you have learned in your spell book. However, be weary of completely replacing one of the four schools of magic: Fire, Water, Light, and Dark. The reason you want to have at least one spell of each school in your castable inventory is because each monster within the game world has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, a Fire creature will not be harmed by fire but be completely destroyed by water. A dark creature's biggest weakness is from the light school of magic. This may sound easy but when you find 5 different types of monsters running after you, we will see if you are fast enough to survive!

Each school of magic has its own mana level. As a player casts magic, that particular mana level for the school you are casting depletes. A short time after casting the spell, the mana will increase. As the player progresses through the game, more spells and additional mana will be acquired, which will increase the number and types of spells that can be cast.

One major problem I have with NightCaster is the lack of a jump button. There were many times I found the need to jump but couldn't. After playing around for many hours, I grew accustomed to the control system and forgot about the need for a jump button. I also would have enjoyed interacting more with the environments, characters, and have the ability to enter buildings and use different types of weapons. Perhaps they may include this and more in a future sequel.

While the gameplay can become slightly repetitive after several hours of play, I found NightCaster to be overall a very enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, it is more of an action game than a RPG. However, there are enough RPG elements in it to keep my satisfied for now. If you are looking for a great strategy game with lots of action and a little RPG twist, NightCaster is definitely the game for you.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 03/12/02
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for NightCaster

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