But surely not the last!
Haemimont Games, developers of The First Templar, appear to have stepped out of their comfort zone for this title. Previous offerings from this developer have revolved more around city building and strategy than action-adventure, with the really rather impressive Tropico 3 being the most well known of their back catalogue. So what made them take that decision to move away from what they know in The First Templar and create a co-op action-adventure game is quite beyond me. Whilst it may not have produced an all-singing, all-dancing hidden gem of a hit that they may have been hoping for, I applaud their choice to move away from what feels comfortable and can see potential in the game. Sadly though, potential does not make a game great, and The First Templar is not a great game.
Traveling back to the Middle-Ages, the player will embark on perhaps the most classic of quests from that time period. No, not the hunt for decent dental hygiene, but the quest for the Holy Grail. With Celian, the main character, being a Knight Templar, the quest for the Holy Grail and all of the goings on within the Templar Order make for what is actually a quite engaging story, especially for gamers who have an interest in that time period (and let’s be honest, if you weren’t interested in Templars and grails, you wouldn’t be reading this). However, to enjoy the story, the player will have to overlook the many flaws in the game which may be more than they can manage.
Things start to go awry fairly early on with some questionable translation work and some decidedly ropey voice acting. Although I am sure that none of this was by design, those gamers out there who don’t take things too seriously will likely find themselves pleasantly entertained by the overall strangeness of the dialogue and quests, and even be able to laugh outright at the switch between dull monotone and highly hammed up voice acting.
The game doesn’t look particularly pretty either. In fact, it looks incredibly dated. The main character, along with his companions, all have a rather cardboard look about them, which is even more evident in the supporting characters and enemies that the player faces throughout the game. The environments themselves are bland and lacking in the detail that gamers have become used to in recent years.
As a hack and slash game, it is to be expected that a certain amount of repetition will be experienced. After all, this genre revolves around killing stuff, then killing more stuff. The First Templar is no different in this aspect and gamers who don’t enjoy the constant grind of combat will be disappointed here. That being said, the devs have tried to mix things up with the occasional physics puzzle. These puzzles are not exactly inspiring, but their inclusion breaks the monotony to a certain degree.
All is not negative though, as the core mechanic of the game comes up trumps and works surprisingly well. Although the combat is not particularly complex, some could even call it simple, the block and counter-attack nature is very satisfying and easy to master. Progression through the game will improve the characters as they level up and such, but the core combat remains pretty much the same throughout. What it lacks in finesse, it more than makes up with a sense of achievement. Add to this the drop in/drop out co-op and things do not perhaps seem so gloomy after all.
The reality is that The First Templar suffers from an overwhelming lack of polish. The ideas are there, and the core combat mechanic works well, but everything else just emphasises the fact that this is a budget title, both in development and on the retail shelves. If you can come to terms with that fact, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the game. The overwhelming feeling from The First Templar is that of potential and I really hope that a sequel is planned that will polish all of the unpolished areas and improve upon that which is already good. The First Templar 2, or The Second Templar, is a game that I am looking forward to playing.