Harbinger is a game that elicits many happy memories. Unfortunately, most of those happy memories were from other, superior titles that I very much wish I was playing. A game like Harbinger, which has been (rightly) called a “Diablo-in-space” game, should wow me with new and innovative takes on the now-familiar action-RPG genre. Instead, minutes after finishing up my trek through the twisted decks of the starship Harbinger, I quickly had to load up a different, vastly better action-RPG to cleanse my gaming palette.
That being said, Harbinger isn’t all bad. Visually, it’s actually quite pleasing. Clean graphics, interesting (if a bit repetitive) “dungeon” floors, and decent animations for all of the characters and monsters are a high point in the game. Sound follows suit, with solid effects and decent background music. The interface is also quite good—after a quick perusal of the hotkeys, players can jump in and be mowing through enemies in almost no time. All in all, the nuts-and-bolts of Harbinger lay quite a firm foundation for a great game. Alas, most of what’s built on that foundation just doesn’t hold up.
The first weak point is story. Granted, most games in this particular genre never have all that solid a plot—even Diablo quickly boiled down to “kill stuff, take their things, kill more stuff, and finally kill the Big Baddie”. So a weaker story can be forgiven if the rest of the game holds its own. The story here revolves around a behemoth of a starship called Harbinger, a floating city that basically wanders the galaxy, pillages entire planets, and then continues along its merry way. Living aboard this city-ship are several different races, some conquerors and some conquered. Players take control of one of three characters that have recently slipped through the fingers of the masters of Harbinger and made their way to Torvus Junction, a haven for outlaws and escaped slaves. The game hinges around a series of missions given by a handful of characters around Torvus Junction. Once a mission is given, the corresponding deck-level is made available, and the characters sets to work. Most of the missions follow the very predictable “slay this, find that” routine that plagues this style of game. There’s very little originality here. The storyline is painfully linear, as well. Not only are players railroaded through the plot, levels become unavailable after completion of a quest. There’s no going back and finishing off old decks once you’ve left them behind.
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