posted 5/14/2003 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
Character management is quite simple. The three available character classes are standard Human, robotic Gladiator, and alien Culibine. Each has a long-range attack, a close-range attack, and a character-specific set of toys to play with. The Human can use mines, the Gladiator employs robotic drones useful for scouting and remote attack, and the Culibine has mastery over Amps, little whirligigs that hover around her head and confer defensive and offensive bonuses. As for style of play, in fantasy-esque terms, the Gladiator equates to the warrior, the Human to the Rogue/Thief, and the Culibine to the magic-user. The classes do play quite differently, and have slightly different plots through the game. Experience points are gathered by killing enemies and completing missions, and levels are awarded when enough experience accumulates. Upon leveling up, three skill points are given to spread between the four statistics (close-range combat, long-range combat, life points, and special technological toy ability). That’s it. Except for the ability to use more powerful weapons and better technological toys, characters don’t ever gain any additional skills or abilities. This means that, after about a half-hour of play, once you figure out the proper way to carry out combat, that’s exactly how you’ll play for the rest of the 20-plus hours of game.

Which leads to the most disappointing part of Harbinger—repetitive play. Each weapon has or can be fitted with the ability to dole out a few different types of damage. There are basically 4 different types of enemies. Once you figure out which damage type works best against which enemy, the game falls into a rut. To make matters worse, there are only a handful of visually different enemies, with differences often being nothing more than a color change or a difference in weapon. Topping it all off, most enemies are exclusively either melee enemies or ranged enemies. The former is laughably easy to defeat with a ranged weapon as they recklessly charge the character. The latter stand quite still while shooting, making for a fairly easy time of destroying them while dodging their slow-moving energy blasts. Again, after about 30 minutes of play, nothing is really new or challenging. Occasionally the character might get surrounded by enemies, but that makes for most of the excitement of the rest of the game. Even most of the bosses were quite simple to defeat, using the same tactics employed against the lowly level-one enemies.

So is this a complete wash of a game? Not really. First up, this game retails for a bit less money than most new games. So, with a bargain in mind, there were amusing bits in the dialogue, and the story was mildly engaging (but just barely). And, as most action-RPG players know, there’s just something soothing about mindlessly mowing through hordes of enemies, even when there is very little challenge in doing so. If you’ve been through all of the Diablo clones out there and yearn for something more (but still more of the same), or if you’re tired of swords and magic and need to just shoot stuff for a change, Harbinger may do the trick. I can’t recommend this for anyone other than die-hard (and slightly desperate) fans of Diablo-style games, however, so if you’re looking for something new or innovative, or even engrossing, you won’t find it here.

A repetitive, unoriginal “Diablo in Space”. Still, for the bargain price, some may find a bit of amusement here, especially those going through an action-RPG withdrawal.

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