Rifts: Promise of Power «

Rifts: Promise of Power really reminds me of a tactical take on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I say that at the risk of getting you too excited only to be disappointed when you read on, but that’s really the easiest way to describe it. While the execution doesn’t reach that level of awesomeness, N-Gage faithful at least get a promise of playability.

The portraits are dang cool…

Rifts, for the unaware, is a long-standing pen-and-paper role-playing game set in an apocalyptic future. Earth was doing bad by itself, until a vortex opened up and flooded the world with more bad mojo than it could’ve imagined. Humans are now considerably lower on the food chain, but maybe you can do a little something-something to change that.

Create your character from several template choices, including class, skills, and stats. I personally crafted a psychic gal named Aquafina. Though it’s neat to agonize over points (you can also let the computer auto-pick them), few stats come into play until deep into your quest. In the mean time, you’ll be experimenting with a variety of weapons and relying on mercenary helpers to get you through.

The game also resembles KOTOR in its mission structure. Talk to citizens by affecting attitudes — will you tell a prospective employer to bugger-off, or will you kiss butt to make sure you get the gig? Aside from the main story arc, you can pick up several side quests to earn experience, money, and items. The order you do things even matters, as I was unable to complete one mission because I accepted another one — that led to the entire town being firebombed. I can’t help but feel a little responsible.

…but the gameplay graphics fall short.

Rifts plays similar to most tactical role-playing games. It’s turn-based, and you have several action options. Go for two less accurate shots, or spend your action points on one well-aimed blast. Hide behind corners to avoid fire. Rifts allows you to move after actions, giving you an out if you don’t take down your intended target. The damage system is interesting, because everyone has armor — which absorbs hits instead of your HP. Once the armor is gone, however, few characters will last one more assault.

Graphically, Rifts struggles to paint a gritty, sci-fi picture on the small N-Gage screen. More often than not, things end up looking a tad cornier than I would’ve liked. For example, my psychic protagonist looked a little too chubby — perhaps as homage to TV’s Miss Cleo? The portraits do look pretty sweet, however. Rifts‘ isometric view combined with large buildings can make navigating the world difficult — even if you can rotate the camera easily. It’s always tough using a right-angle d-pad in a diagonal world. You’ll see plenty of slowdown, as well. Odd, since the game is slow to begin with.

Pathway to Glory was kick-ass regardless of what console it would’ve been on. Rifts‘ accolades don’t go nearly that deep, but it’s still a top-tier N-Gage game, and something RPG fans should have no problem getting into. I was honestly hoping for something a little more revolutionary, but at this stage of the platform’s life any decent new games should be considered a pleasant surprise.

 

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