Sunday, 1 June 2014

Hexen (MS-DOS)

Hexen title screen PC
Today on Super Adventures I'm looking at the second game from Raven Software's Heretic series. It wasn't my original plan to play Hexen so soon, but after playing Heretic I had a sudden irresistible urge to see how the two games compare while the other is still fresh in my mind.

This is actually the very first PC first person shooter I ever played, my introduction to the genre, though I played way back when games were still loaded with text commands so I've forgotten more or less everything about it. Though I do remember that it came out at the end of 1995, about eight months before Quake and just three months before Duke Nukem 3D, so the Doom engine it's built on would be looking a bit dated very soon.

Unlike Heretic, this managed to escape PCs and went on an exciting two year journey to the world of consoles, eventually making it over to the N64, PlayStation and Saturn in 1997, where its 2.5D graphics likely didn't look any less dated.

PlayStation
"Suspended within the fabric of time and space lies realm of the Chaos Sphere. For eons the Serpent Riders, masters of the sphere, have travelled the dimensions sowing destruction.

D'Sparil is dead. Korax, the second rider, threatens another world: the world of Hexen"
The CD versions of the game start with a CGI video where a serious narrator explains the very serious events going down in the realm of Hexen that led to the righteous violence of which we are about to partake.

PlayStation
"Hexen, a world where magic's legacy has spawned corruption.

Three powers rule as one unholy trinity, each led by a single man. The warlord Zedek, High Captain of the Legion is both judge and jury to all the peoples of Hexen. Traductus of the Church holds their souls in captivity..."
Saturn
"... and Menelkir, the subtle master of the arcane, weaves his unholy magic to spread fear and weakness amongst all of their subjects."
Yes I had to look up how to spell all those names. Not that it matters at all really, as this is all just setting the scene and adding a bit of atmosphere. If these people ever show up again in the game it'll be as boss fights and I doubt we'll get a chance to chat much.

PlayStation
"Restless in an uneasy alliance, these twisted leaders rule a twisted land, crushing absolutely all who would dare to oppose them. Today they will trade their worldly power with Korak for the dark gift of unlife and a mastery of forces more terrible than even their depraved minds could ever imagine."
And then tomorrow I'll come over and shoot them to death with magic fireballs.

The DOS version I got from Steam doesn't seem to have any of this CD content though, so there's no CGI intro and no Redbook music. It just skips right to the menu.

Speaking of menus, it's funny how for years it seemed like every single first person shooter coming out of id, Raven, 3D Realms etc. all had the same centred list of menu options displayed over a gameplay demo, usually with some spinning or flashing logo as a cursor, like it was simply The Way of Things and no one wanted to be the one to break with tradition and dare trying something new.

Damn, now I wish I'd made them all animated at once. The filesize would've ended up being ridiculous huge, but it would've totally been worth it.

Whoa, I'd totally forgotten that this has a choice of three characters. Heretic protagonist Corvus is busy elsewhere, so this time I get to pick from either Baratus the Fighter, Parias the Cleric, or Daedolon the Mage.

You'd think the Fighter would be pretty fragile dressed like that, but his skin's apparently tougher than metal plate and has maxed out stats in everything but magic. The Mage on the other hand is the opposite, rubbish at everything, while the Cleric is almost straight sixes in every bar. Well the Fighter has 31 points of awesome compared to the Mage's 20 points, so it seems like a no-brainer going from the numbers, but who knows what magic even does in this?

I'll split the difference and go with the Cleric. 

Huh, that's actually pretty impressive, how this manages to simultaneously look more advanced than Heretic and yet worse at the same time. Little touches like the flicker of lightning and leaves drifting by in the breeze help make it appear more sophisticated, but it's so dark and gritty that it's hard for me to make out what I'm actually looking at right now.

Alright it seems I'm armed with a mace, so I'm heading inside to see if I can find someone to smack with it.

I guess the artist who carved that stone design must have been a Stargate fan. Hey there's a green potion bobbing up and down in the air over here; I'll be taking that I think.

Maybe if I collect enough of them I'll be able to simply float around the levels, unhindered by gravity.

Oh shit, it was a trap! They've upgraded the Doom engine to allow walls to rotate now and this one's gone and crushed me against the wall. Game over.

Well that was fun. Time to start again with a different class I reckon. I think this next time I'll go with... the Mage.

ZDoom source port (click for full resolution)
The Mage gets his own set of ranged weapons, starting with this wand, so it seems like he'll play a lot more like Corvus from Heretic.

This is what the game looks like running in a higher resolution with a modern source port by the way. I wanted to check whether it made the game any easy to see, and it does a bit.

Saturn
And this is how it appears on the Sega Saturn; the church hall don't look so pretty no more. It's basically still the same game, except with simplified level geometry and lower resolution textures. The shoulder buttons let me strafe left and right though so I'm happy enough.

This time I'm playing as the Fighter, who starts off armed with only his fists. Though considering that he can punch these two headed minions to death in just three hits I'm not feeling all that underpowered. The down side is that I have to be up in punching range to do it.

Nintendo 64
Hey, I found a secret passage behind one of the stained glass windows! I knew that smashing everything indiscriminately would eventually pay off.

This is the Nintendo 64 version here, which is much closer to the original PC version in graphics quality (with a decent amount of trademark N64 blurring to soften the grittiness). At first I was put off when I realised I couldn't use the shoulder buttons to strafe, but then I found out that by switching to d-pad instead of the analogue stick redefines the controls to use them, so it's all good.

I found an ambush and a green key down here! Damn, so that means that I had to find this secret room to continue with the level?

Back in my Heretic writings I mentioned how it is an asshole move to for a level designer to start hiding the main path behind secret walls, unless that was established as the way gameplay worked from the very beginning. Well Hexen here has just established it at the very beginning, so I can't say I wasn't warned this time.

Oh and now the doors I came through have started slamming open and shut in sequence, so I guess I should double check what I mapped the run button to before heading back out.

Hexen automap winnowing hall
Okay I've looked around some more and it seems that the hall and the secret side passage are pretty much all that's in this building. I was kind of expecting a bit more to this church really, like... somewhere to use this key perhaps.

Seems that there must be more to the level behind where I started off.


SOON.


PlayStation
Alright I used the green key to open a door with two switches inside. Switches that opened a second door leading to a tower. A tower sealed with a lock requiring a silver key. A key that I had to search for in a cave... and now I'm up at the top of the tower punching a bell.

What I've achieved by hitting the bell though I have no idea. The game could've told me with a message, or even let me watch it happen outside the bell tower window, but that would spoil the mystery! I suppose I'm meant to go backtracking through the level now looking to see what's changed. Yay.

This is the PlayStation version of the game this time, which looks about the same as the Saturn version, except cropped (plus it's drained all the colour out of my gauntlet). Also weirdly it's now taking me six punches to kill anything instead of three, which is less than ideal.

The CD soundtrack sounds like the PC midi version played through a soundfont by the way.

Nintendo 64
Turns out I just had to return to that church hall and walk into the smoky red teleporter that had opened in the center. I guess I was supposed to assume that the red column in the middle was something I needed to unlock, rather than decoration.

Only the N64 port gets these messages between levels by the way. Everyone other version is stuck with this:

Oh no, the scary face on the wall is trash talking me! He truly has a mastery of wit and intimidation far greater than I could ever imagine.

Alright skullface you can piss off now and let me through to the next part of the level.

Seven Portals looks a fair bit brighter than the Winnowing Hall did. It loses a bit of the atmosphere, but on the other hand I can actually see things now.

Seems that this area is a long rectangle with bronze doors along the walls to my left and right and a pair of towers in the middle. There are also two headed monsters everywhere! They're so far away though that they're basically invisible at this resolution in a screenshot. There's a switch over there on the wall as well so I'll stroll over and activate it.

Nintendo 64
Oh cool there's a floating axe over here behind the second tower, plus that bronze door behind it is open now. One or both of these things is due to the switch I'm sure of it.

I was kind of hoping that this would be a magic axe that fires off axes, but it's just a regular magic axe I'm afraid. Still, it means I can finally move up from punching everyone.

If I'd stuck with the Cleric I could've been firing double shots from this snake staff right now. But fuck that, why would I want a big green eye taking up a third of the screen when I can have a magic glowing axe? Well, aside from the fact that it's ranged and I don't have to walk up within punching distance to hurt anything I mean.

The Mage gets the ability to fire ice magic from his hand here, freezing enemies solid; which is awesome until you realise that you've got frozen enemies blocking your path just when you're trying to get a bit of distance on the ones sneaking up behind you.

Well I can't truthfully say this is what I expected to find behind the golden door: a tiny window looking out at a portal and two alcoves too high up to walk onto, with magic axe ammo mana pick ups floating around them. It's a total dead end!

I can't believe I'm already hopelessly stuck. There must be a trick to this room but it's completely eluding me right now. Okay, the lights turned off as I approached the window, so something might have been activated somewhere else in the level. I'll go back out of the bronze door and run a lap of the central area and see if any of the other doors have opened.

Oh man I am a fucking idiot. Either that or I've been playing too much Heretic recently. Wow I wonder how I can get up to an area that's above me... the JUMP BUTTON perhaps? To be fair this is the first Doom engine game with a jump button so I imagine that other players would've been thrown off by this back in the day as well.

Alright, I'm finally through to the adjacent room. Into the portal!


Okay I'm on a new map called 'Guardian of Ice' now. That bronze wall behind the two-headed gentleman with the mace seems like it should be a door, but it's remaining resolutely resistant to my attempts to get it open so I'll head onwards.

Further down the corridor was a room full of enemies, soon joined by more enemies teleporting in. Fortunately I've gotten the hang of melee combat now so they weren't a problem. They don't seem to have a pain reaction so I can't interrupt their attacks, but my axe's range is longer than their mace's range, so I just have to stay mobile and keep a certain distance and I'm fine.

It looks like I've found myself in a proper dead end though. Flicking the switch on the back wall made this sword shape appear, so I suppose I'm meant to be walking on the platform to escape, but I haven't really done anything down here yet.


Oh I see, the switch opened up a second bronze door back in the Seven Portals map. Sure would've been nice if it had told me that.

Inside the door... was a second portal! You know I'm starting to get an idea why this map might be called Seven Portals now.


Right, now I'm on the 'Guardian of Steel' map, and I seem to have found myself another dead end. Two of them in fact, on either side of a symmetrical staircase.

Believe it or not I'm actually facing a pair of windows looking into another room, but I can't see a way to get in there from here.

See, you can see the two windows and the stairs I came here from marked with lighter lines on the automap (I'm the white L shape), but there's no obvious way to get from where I am to inside that room.

Of course I could always try the big obvious switch on the wall behind me...

...but the switch does nothing!

This is the room down the stairs on the opposite side of the level, which is a mirror image of the one I was just in, and they both have switches. First I figured there might be a time limit on them, so I hit a switch and went running around everywhere to see what had changed. Then after trying that a few times I decided to pull one of the switches, then rush down the stairs to pull the opposite one as well. Nothing!

Well the last few times I hit switches they opened up a door in Seven Portals, so I'll go back there and check to see if anything's different. Back to the portal!


PlayStation
The third door actually is open now, with a new portal for me to visit! ETHEREAL TRAVEL!


Well that's just hilarious. I arrived at 'Guardian of Fire', stepped out into the next room, and the floor dropped away into a pool of lava!

Yes yes Raven Software we're all very impressed with what you've managed to make the Doom engine do, but some restraint would be appreciated. It's customary to let the player make a mistake first before incinerating them.

Actually to be fair, the lava quickly rose to the point where I was able to jump back out again, only lightly toasted, and I've got a decent stash of quartz flask medikits stashed in my inventory at this point so I was able to heal myself back to health.

Man, when the gargoyles are on fire that's never a good sign. At least they're unambiguous in this though. There were two types in Heretic, a kind that that threw fireballs and another that liked to dart up and scratch me, and they both looked identical. These guys on the other hand are all fireballs all the time. It's good to know where I stand... well, unless I'm standing too low to hit the flying bastards.

Well the message at the top assures me that I've got the falcon shield! What that means though I have no idea. Oh, I guess it made my A.C. go up... which I'm going to assume to be a good thing in this. What I am sure about though is that there's two doors down here that need a fire key to open, and a noticeable lack of switches.

Hey there's a big long corridor hidden behind a secret wall in here. I sure hope this doesn't crumble away and drop me into lava as I run across it!

Well, it did, but I made it to the safety of the door at the other side in the nick of time thanks to the Fighter's incredible speed. This turned out to be pointless though as the door slammed shut before I got there and I couldn't open it. On the plus side getting back wasn't so hard, due to a handy narrow ledge running along the wall, and I even found a switch to flick along the way.

Oh duh, there was a switch back in this room as well, behind me in the recess I ducked into while I was dodging those fire gargoyles earlier. In my defence there was probably a falcon shield sitting in front of it at the time.
"One third of the puzzle has been solved."
I don't have the words to express just how entirely useless that message is. Fine then, back to Seven Portals.


Huh, a door didn't open this time on Seven Portals.

The red dots on the right are the three portals leading to the Fire, Ice and Steel maps, each sitting in an area behind a bronze door, but the three rooms on the left side of the map are still closed off and hidden. I can't see inside so they haven't been automapped. I have nowhere new to go. Crap.

I guess I'll go over to the Guardian of Steel map and see if anything's changed. Back to the portal!



THREE MINUTES LATER.


I got sick of running laps of the level and checked a walkthrough in the end. Turns out that there are doors in each of the symmetrical rooms opposite the useless switches. They're the square shaped walls in between the windows.

C'mon, how can that possibly be a door? The block had giant metal rings sticking out of it! That's usually a dead giveaway that it's not going to slide smoothly into the ceiling.

See, this is basically what it looked like. Does that seem like a sliding door to you?

Anyway this exit is locked, but the there was a door just like on the other side of this room leading to a lift. The lift led to a branching tunnel, and one branch led... to a dead end. The other branch led to another switch though, and another helpful message!
"One third of the puzzle has been solved."
Fucking awesome. And that means I should head... where? Fine I'll check Seven Portals. Again.


One of the opposite doors is finally open back at Seven Portals! A green fireball breathing monster's come out of it, but that's hardly an issue. I could probably take him on with the axe, but I've got 23 green flasks on me (2 short of the maximum) so I might as well use a few.

These are actually flechettes, and their exact effect differs depending on class. For the Fighter they're basically grenades and I can throw them by pressing the item key, meaning that this is likely one of the earliest first person shooters to have a separate grenade button.

Anyway that fight was pitifully easy. Not that combat has been a joke in this so far, it's just way easier than figuring out where I'm meant to be going next. Okay maybe it's a little bit of a joke.

Right, let's see what's behind door number 4.

Oh shit, too many magic yetis! I'm getting my frozen ass kicked from all directions. Send help! Agh!

I wish to retract certain comments I made earlier about the combat being too easy. Enemies are certainly capable of reducing my health down to single digits in seconds if I'm careless and cocky. Thought believe it or not I actually... didn't make it out of this situation.

A few quick loads later though and I'd managed to clear a safe path through these abominations to the next portal.


Uh... this is the same place that I ended up in the very first time I went through a portal! They've just added more swords to it in the mean time.

Well more swords mean more exits, so I'll go try the one on the right first.

The exit on the right led to a dead end, but the left exit has been much more helpful. I've found that steel key now that I need to unlock the second lift back in the Guardian of Steel map.

First though I need to make it back across these ice blocks as they rise and fall and occasionally smash against the ceiling. Plus there's a bit of jumping across a tiny chasm or two. Did I mention that this is a slippery slidey ice world without a whole lot of friction?

Back to the portal... at some point hopefully!


Alright I got the steel key over to the steel door and unlocked the second elevator. This took me down to a branching corridor, one side leading to a switch, the other leading to a dead end. Exactly the same as I found down the other lift earlier.

But if you look at this map there's clearly two switch rooms down here, one of them's just been blocked off. It's the same on the right side of the map as well.

You know, I bet this is a giant sliding door that moves across both hallways, blocking one side while opening the other. But that means there must be a way to switch it over and these buttons down here certainly don't control it.

IT'S THOSE USELESS SWITCHES IN THE SYMMETRICAL ROOMS! Remember, the ones with the pulsing light effect looking into rooms I couldn't get into. That has to be it. One pushes it one way, one pushes it the other. It'll be a bit of a walk to get back to them, but it's worth a try and I have no other ideas.


SOME SWITCHING AND A PORTAL LATER.



Hitting all the switches in the Guardian of Steel map raised a staircase back in Seven Portals. The staircase led to another switch that opened up a door back in the Guardian of Ice map!

Man this level just keeps going and going and going.


ZDoom source port (click for full resolution)
I got stuck again and decided to give up and check a walkthrough to find out how to get this bloody fire key I need. Remember the collapsing walkway hidden behind a wall in the Guardian of Fire map? Well the door at the end closed before I could get through, so I just shrugged my shoulders and carried on. This was the INCORRECT move! You see, I passed a switch on the way back, and I was supposed to realise that it opens the door again revealing... a mask.

See if I stand in exactly this place with one foot practically off the edge of the ledge and take the screenshot at four times the resolution of the original game you can just about see what the switch opens!

But what do I do with this mask I've collected?


PlayStation
Remember I opened up two paths in the Guardian of Ice map earlier, and the one on the right was a dead end? You know, in the door with the swords shapes on the ceiling?

Well I have to use the mask on this wall you're looking at here in the dead end room and that gives me the fire key. Then I take the fire key right back to the place I collected the bloody mask!

After using the fire key I got more of this for my trouble:
"Stairs have risen on the Seven Portals."
I travel back to Seven Portals go up the stairs and flick the switch.
"A door opened on the Guardian of Ice.
I go back to the Guardian of Ice, find the door, jump a fire pit, get shoved into another pit by a trap wall, and etc.
"One half of the puzzle has been solved on the Seven Portals.
WHAT FUCKING PUZZLE ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT? How is it even possible for one game to have this much 'vague' packed into each and every message it gives out.
"Something has happened somewhere, I guess. Go back through the portal and have a look around, it's not like you've got anything better to do. Here, I'll even respawn a few enemies for you so you can pretend you're playing a video game."
No I'm not miserable, tired and frustrated, why do you ask?

Alright, back to the portal then.



MUCH LATER.


There's my reward for finally completing level two of Hexen: a wall of text promising barren deserts, dank swamps and musty caverns ahead. Oh please sir, can you throw in a sewer level as well please?


MUCH MUCH LATER X2.


Just in case the game suddenly transformed into something far more interesting on level three I decided to keep playing just a bit longer, through musty caverns, dank swamps and so on, but there's still a decent amount of backtracking back and forth through a portals leading from a hub area looking for keys and switches here as well. It seems like it'll be just like this all the way through.

I did manage to suddenly transform a bunch of enemies into pigs though, which was nice. Then I attacked them with my magic hammer that fires off hammers and turned the game off.


CONCLUSION

So, Hexen: Beyond Heretic then... is it really beyond Heretic? Well as far as the technology goes that's a clear 'yes'. The version of the Doom engine running under the hood has been turbocharged to the point where it rivals Duke Nukem 3D's Build engine when it comes to the crazy things it can do with sectors. Duke 3D could have a street collapse, but Hexen could have it collapse and then fill up with lava afterwards, and man does it love to show off.

When it comes to gameplay though... Hexen's still pretty good actually, despite the huge drag factor of its pitifully limited arsenal. Each character gets just four weapons to choose from, and for the Fighter one of them is just an upgraded melee attack. Running around punching enemies to death is way more fun than it could've been (even though you can't interrupt their attacks with your own), so I've got to give it a thumbs up here as well.

But the thing about the game so far is that I haven't gotten any satisfaction from achieving things, because it doesn't present me with goals, it just hints at the effects of what I've done. When I fight my way through a level and get to the switch on the far side, I'm not thinking "aha, I've finally reached the switch to make those stairs appear," I'm thinking "well I flicked the switch and it made stairs appear somewhere for some reason". Say what you want about Doom's keycards, but at least a locked red door is an obvious problem with a clear solution and I know what do when I find the key. Plus it's not going to be hidden in an entirely different level just to make the backtracking drag on for longer.

So honestly given the choice I'd rather play Heretic again instead.


That's what I think about Hexen anyway, but perhaps you feel differently, or maybe you share my opinion and want to back up me up, or perhaps you just want to talk about this website in general. Either way you're welcome to leave a comment!

Oh and don't worry if you're reading this in the far distant future. At the time I'm writing this the game's already 20 years old, so it's not like there's any time limit for comments.

9 comments:

  1. Hexen never drew me in, the hub-and-spoke gameplay is such a drag. It becomes a quest of flip a switch in one place, then run all the way across the map (which you've already cleared of enemies) to get to the thing the switch changed.

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  2. To be fair, the iron-ringed door does look like a, er, door. At least in the Doom sense of not looking like the walls around it. Even so, that doesn't excuse the poor level design.

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  3. Yeah the gameplay is constant run around blindly looking for a some thing you activated from the previous level and only four different weapons per character becomes boring quickly, as they have almost no tactical value whatsoever.

    But the game did some damn fine things with the Doom engine! The swamp castle in the second level hub has always been my favourite best looking level among all Doom engine games.

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  4. Heh, so to speak I assumed this game wont be your "cup of tea". :D (No offence meant.)

    But you have to admit one thing: this game truly is its own thing instead of being "total conversion of DooM" as Heretic is exaggeratedly considered to be by some gamers. As it features its own distinct gameplay style, mechanics and rules.

    "Oh please sir, can you throw in a sewer level as well please?"
    Well, you would eventually get it in 4th hub - Castle of grief.

    "Man, when the gargoyles are on fire that's never a good sign. At least they're unambiguous in this though."
    Again, I think you would get later dissapointed as 3rd hub - Heresiarchs seminary and since then new enemy gets introduced - it looks same as centaur but it has pretty strong ranged attack which it uses when it has its shield raised.

    Oh, and this gets me to next point - *FINALLY* somebody who doesnt automatically complain about centaurs using shields to deflect attacks. I mean sorry, but after reading so many complaints about them, I got pretty much "allergic" to these comments. :)
    Note to those who cant stand them: Not to sound snobbishly, but if they aggravate you so much, maybe this game isnt the right one for you. I mean this game greatly rewards patient and exploration kind of players and there are still other effective ways to deal with them like using clerics poisonous flechettes or with mage putting them into pain state by wand and then placing 2 explosive flechettes next to them.
    Ok, I end now, sorry, for that centaur rant. :)

    I consider characters as some sort of next layer of difficulty selection: being cleric easiest to play with (healing function of 2nd weapon, uberly owepowered 4th weapon) and mage most challenging (weak and very situational 2nd weapon, extremely fragile {especially on highest difficulty} and slow movement and situational 4th weapon that either can be very powerful or can easily go to waste). I challenge all players who find HeXen too easy to play its official expansion pack Deathkings Of Dark Citadel with mage character on highest difficulty - it will truly kick your ass. ;)


    To 57thError:
    I strongly disagree with you about weapons - I think in fact they are much more tactically diverse than DooM ones and I dont find their quantity in any way limiting. Take for example fist and pistol from DooM - they get pretty much useless after you get chainsaw (except for picking up berserker pack) and chaingun. As both thier successor fullfill their roles more efficiently, which in end theoretically leaves with only 5 useful weapons in later stages. In HeXen every weapon fullfills its very specific tactical role.

    In the end I think most characteristical for HeXen is that it either gets you sucked in or bore you to death. Funny thing is that I detested it when I played for first time, but then I tried it 5 years later and got totally enthralled by it.

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  5. Ah, memories. Bitter, frustration-laced memories. Maybe the hub level concept was super awesome at the time (I played it about ten years late) but the endless, clueless back-and-forth between the Ice/Fire/Steel levels was horrendous. Hexen is a fine game as long as you start playing it after Seven Portals.

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  6. When you first return from the Guardian of Ice, both side doors surrounding it open simultaneously. The Guardian of Fire doesn't open after going through the Guardian of Steel; it's already open.

    "I don't have the words to express just how entirely useless that message is." Good, there shouldn't be any words for that, because the message isn't useless. It's pretty much telling you that you have 3 switches to find. If it isn't telling you where to go next, or what it did, then those aren't its purposes.

    "Sure would've been nice if it had told me that." Come on, you really do need a mod to the game that adds a voice that guides you along every step of the way.

    A big gripe with your last paragraph is that it heavily applies to pretty much any Doom game, where switches often have an effect on something at the other end of the map. At least in this game, it tells you a lot of the times what the switch does, or what an action does as a consequence. Just the switch message alone should bring the player up to speed about what their goal is: one third of a puzzle activated on (whatever level), so you need to find 2 more. You'll then be told what is the effect of that. In Doom, finding keycard doors isn't any different. In fact, it often can result in the same complaint as you made for this game: The exit can be located near the start or middle of the map somewhere, but locked away. The key doors lead to switches that additively provide access to the exit. Just as an example.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah but in Doom you come across a coloured door, then you come across a coloured key, the link between the two is pretty obvious. Plus they're both on the same level, which helps.

      Hexen's much more vague and much more sprawling, to the point where it really could do with a quest arrow or a journal or a voice in your head leading you around. That's what I'd need to enjoy it anyway, obviously it has its fans who like it just the way it is.

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    2. True, but the level of explanation in this game isn't anywhere near inadequate. Any bit more and it spoils the fun of exploring, pretty much holding your hand. It isn't something that can't be figured out with exploration, especially in this game where you have the ability to look up/down. For the Seven Portals hub, it's a matter of looking around the tall structures in the center of the hub stage.

      Pulling a puzzle switch in Guardian of Fire, for example, will tell you that one third of the puzzle has been solved on the Guardian of Fire. That's more than enough explanation that you're now looking for 3 puzzle switches on that level. Same with Guardian of Steel. Pulling all 3 switches in a level will tell you that stairs have risen in the Seven Portals... ok, that is more than enough indication that you're looking for newly risen stairs back on the main hub stage. You don't really need to be told what these switches do to be motivated to find and activate them; you know they're needed to progress in the game and you find out later what they're for.

      This isn't like Doom where the keys in a level are only for that level; it works on a hub system. You have tasks in each hub. It's a matter of taking mental note of these, or even writing it down. Perhaps "3 switches for X stage, found 1 so far" or something to that effect.

      Again, observance is very key in games like this. That switch that opens the door to the fire mask should not have been overlooked.

      I'm not saying this game (and its progression) is perfect. There are several puzzle elements and exploration later on that are unacceptably cryptic or lacking in explanation; but the ones listed here are from it.

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