Hard To Be A God is an upcoming hack and slash role-playing game by Burut Creative Team that is currently scheduled to be released in April. The game is based on the Russian novel of the same title by the Strugatsky brothers, which includes the combination of science fiction and medieval fantasy themes. Earth and an unnamed planet with the capital of Arkanar (of the Arkanar Kingdom) were initially friendly with each other but devastating war left Arkanar in a state of ruin. Earth prospered but the mysterious Arkanar Kingdom is stuck in a medieval-like era. Earth sends spies to investigate a new situation on the unnamed planet where war has erupted.
This is where you come in. Two years after the end of the book, you take on the role of a spy that has recently graduated from the Academy of Secret Intelligence. The conflict in the Arkanar Kingdom between the monks and don Reba’s task force, the grey troopers, has escalated to the point of an all out civil war. Your objective is to gather information and remove the perpetrator of the insurgency. The game promises a non-linear storyline with up to three different endings, which is something that I would definitely consider a positive.
When you leave the walls of the first castle where the game begins, you soon realize that almost everything and everyone are out to get you in the forests and on the empty roads. When I first started out it seemed fairly difficult to maintain your health and survive the large amounts of thieves, bandits, wolves, etc. However, after gaining experience and leveling up things started to get much better. If you’re facing a challenging animal or thief just remember that you can run to the nearest imperial guard (or other ally) and they’ll take care of it. Having a horse really improves the situation because you can easily outrun opponents and then just swoop in on the attack.
The combat is fairly simple: attack is the left mouse button, “perk” is the right mouse button, and the middle button is used for a fatal blow while your opponent is on the ground. One thing that I found to be lacking at this point is the opportunity to use the shields. I’m assuming it is either done automatically or will be added in but at this point, there didn’t seem to be a way to defend yourself with the shields you can collect or purchase. Another aspect that I didn’t really care for in regard to combat was that every time I attacked, the character would take a step forward. Keep attacking and the characters will run into each other, which can make it hard to avoid blows from the enemy.
The impression I received from the graphics was that the game seemed a bit dated. They’re alright but certainly weren’t impressive. The game has video settings but doesn’t provide a widescreen resolution, which probably degraded the graphics a bit more for me. You are able to zoom in and out by scrolling with the mouse wheel and the viewpoint is almost a top-down view. I personally didn’t enjoy this very much and always found myself wanting to tilt the camera up to see further ahead but didn’t find a way to accomplish this. The view makes shooting the bow and arrow, for example, challenging. Even though you don’t seem to really aim yourself, I always wanted to see further.
A major negative at this point are the very long load times. I’m playing on a AMD 6000+/2GB RAM and was very surprised at how long it took to load and save games. The graphics and game in general don’t seem that system heavy, which left me baffled at what could be taking so long. I would hope that this would be greatly improved by the time this game is released because I found it to be quite frustrating. One of the introduction loading screens with a character sitting with his head leaning on his hand in front of a laptop seemed quite appropriate.
The sound in the game seemed well done. Sounds from villagers, animals, etc. helped bring out the time period and environment and there wasn’t anything that seemed out of place. Voice acting is somewhat mixed. You’ll have characters that don’t seem realistic but on the other hand the voice of your character and others seemed much better. I thought the music might have been a bit too relaxing at first but once I got into the game, it seemed appropriate. Like most games, music changes to a more intense style when you attack or are attacked.
It took a while to appreciate this game and while it has some flaws, I think that some RPG fans will be able to enjoy this game if the above issues are dealt with. Hard To Be A God suffers from long load times, and average graphics but looks like it will offer an in-depth storyline and non-linear gameplay. There is more than a month before the game’s release and I’m sure these things can be improved upon if not before the release, then with the first patch.