Review - Immercenary
Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 5:37 pm
Popular thinking is that you never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression. It seems though, that popular thinking is ignorant of this mostly forgotten 3DO game Immercenary. But why is it that this game is ‘mostly forgotten'? Surely the 3DO was such a mainstream hit that all of it’s titles would be known among gamers. In seriousness, this game may have been forgotten because few gave it a second look. I know … I was almost one of them.
There are a number of perfectly understandable reasons why all but the most hard-core 3DO fan chose not to devote much time to this game. And likewise, there are a number of perfectly good reasons why the should have. Let’s take a look at some of Immercenary’s weak points and see how they stand up under closer scrutiny.
From the start, I’m guessing that the full motion video probably turned off a lot of gamers. The actors are not especially good, and their dialogue is questionable. You will be seeing a lot of them in the early going too, and most of it will be them shooting disapproving glares at you.
If one can look past this though, the story is actually solid. I admit that most games of this type (first person shooter) don’t actually need much in terms of story, but it does add to Immercenary. And I bet that if you can persevere far enough into the game to see the story develop, you will begin to get into it. Still, this is but a small part of the game.
Graphics however are not. For many this is the biggest part of any game (whether this is a fair view or not is debatable) Immercenary’s graphics do not appear to be anything special at first glance. Some spots may even appear like a rushed launch title. Of course early on you won’t get much of a chance to see them anyway (more on that in a bit) but still they seem rather weak.
The more you play however, the more you will probably begin to appreciate a number of Immercenary’s graphical tricks. Things like the raging lightning storms for instance, have very nice effects. Likewise, the bosses that you later encounter are imaginatively detailed. Things such as these give pause to the argument of weak graphics. Again though, these are things that you will not see enough of unless you progress into the game.
My favorite thing about Immercenary’s graphics is the world itself. While they can’t match it’s namesake (Perfect) they are very good in the fact that they offer something quite different. Gone are the dark & cramped corridors seen in a variety of 1st person shooters of the day, including a number found on 3DO. Instead we are given bright, colorful, wide open terrain. Each “district” of the world looks unique and distinct thanks to a variety of objects and buildings. Of course (to beat a dead horse) these are things that can not be fully appreciated unless time is given to this game.
The main enemies in Immercenary are, sadly, for the most part bland color swapped stick figures. Compared to similar games on 3DO these fare quite badly. But if you are persistent (the dead horse is starting to stink ) and make it to the bosses you will find very creative creatures that vary wildly in look and speech (not to mention attack patterns) The fmv actors portraying them are almost always good (in sharp contrast to your support team) and they have interesting costumes and funny dialogue. I was driven to see what crazy creatures I’d encounter next … I wont spoil any for you. One thing I will point out though is that each has their own private agenda. As you will discover, the relationships between them are sometimes complex.
Probably the most well known feature of Immercenary (to the extent that it has one) is it’s difficulty. It would not be an understatement to say that Immercenary is very challenging. It would also not be an understatement to say that it’s challenge was poorly implemented.
Simply put, Immercenary does things backwards. Most games (and when I say most I mean like 99.9%) start off fairly slow and then gradually ramp up the difficulty to wean you in. Even the most brutal games usually have at least one or two “regular” levels. Not so with Immercenary, which tries to distinguish itself from most every game ever made by throwing it’s crazy difficulty at you instantly!
One way to illustrate it … imagine an rpg where your character only has, say 5 hit points. And each early level foe takes away 3 points with each hit. So, 2 hits and you are dead. And these foes appear within 5 seconds of the games start … yeah
Amazingly (or possibly stupidly) the game actually gets easier as you progress further into it! How many people actually realize this is a mystery since few would get to a point when this became apparent (the horse is starting to attract the buzzards )
This is a tough point to defend, and I confess that I personally think this design was indeed a rather big mistake on the part of the developers at 5 miles out. But it must be said that in spite of this foolish flaw, it does make it very satisfying to advance in this game. Finally hitting a point when you can make progress without dying every few seconds not only should give your ego a boost but it opens up the best parts of Immercenary that you otherwise would not see. Near the end of the game in fact, you should be so strong there is nowhere you can not go. Enemies will be cut down with ease, and even the bosses hiding in the various buildings should prove only a minor annoyance.
Speaking of minor annoyances, the control in this game is fine, although it will likely take a bit of practice to get used to stopping … sort of feels like you are gliding on ice. Balance is needed as you do need to move quick to escape clusters of enemies intent on your destruction. The drawback is that this quickly drains your agility rating, which at the beginning is virtually non existent (along with your other stats) Move to fast and you’ll shoot by a recharge point which you need to make smart use of in order to survive.
Sound effects in this game are average at best, but I rather enjoyed the music. It switches appropriately depending on your location. Fight a boss and it gets intense, reach the safe zone and it gets relaxing (you will be hearing this music a lot I’m sure) I think the tracks were a good choice to convey the strange and mysterious world of Immercenary. In any event, they are memorable, which is more than I can say for many video games, 3DO or not.
Despite being very much in the Doom mold, Immercenary manages to stand out from the rest of the crowd. It’s story, open world structure, bosses, etc… make it worthy to share shelf space among the many good 3DO games (even given the number of 1st person shooters found on 3DO) It may have done a lot to alienate mainstream gamers when it was first released, but it seems that time has been kind to it. In spite of its list of flaws I do give it a recommendation, especially to those who have tried (and disliked) it in the past. Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a game that really does get better as it goes along.