It must be great being a hero. Take Sacred for example. In it, my vampiress character is revered by the local townsfolk, decked out in the finest armour that money can buy and practically drowning in gold. Meanwhile, back in the real world, I get woken up by my neighbour's kids who just can't seem to appreciate that any time before midday on a Sunday is for sleeping, I haven't purchased new clothes for months and my bank account is drier than the Sahara. So when Underworld came along, I was more than ready to dive back into the fantasy world of Ancaria to find out just what the expansion has to offer.
AS YOU WERE
Fans of the original will be happy to know that the story picks up from where Sacred left off - although let's face it, it's little more than a thinly-veiled disguise to shunt you from location to location. If you were fooled by the title into thinking that you'd be spending all of your time exploring the dark crevices of the world, you'd be wrong.
Underworld is set in new areas that expand the already existing world by 40 per cent, and there's plenty of variety, from tropical islands to treetop walkways. The isometric engine hasn't been touched but everything still looks pretty enough, with cascading waterfalls, bloody shrines and other neat little features littering the landscape.
Disappointingly, it only features 30 new enemies and although these are varied, it means you find yourself hacking up some of the same enemies throughout the title. Plenty of new items, armour and weapons are available to beef your character up with and perhaps most interestingly, two new characters have been added: the male dwarf and female daemon.
The dwarf is pretty typical of the vertically-challenged folk, but as well as the standard head-splitting axe typically favoured by his kin, he's taken a leaf out of Charlton Heston's book and comes equipped with an arsenal of guns. Meanwhile, the daemon sports horns, cloven feet and little flappy wings, but despite being able to summon protective orbs and make life-sucking tentacles appear from dead enemies, she's lacking in the devilish powers we were hoping for, being more of a melee character than anything else. Also, if you grow rather attached to your Sacred character, you can choose to import them in or jump straight in with a fully equipped and levelled version of one of the new characters.
Sadly, Ascaron hasn't given Underworld the level of polish that was needed after Sacred, and as such it's prone to the same irritations as before. Voice-acting ranges from serviceable to ear-shatteringly awful (check out the new daemon character), the story is negligible, boss mobs don't provide enough of a challenge and the combo system is still practically useless.
It's a real shame because, given some TLC, Underworld could have provided the perfect old-school hack'n'slash vehicle for Diablo fans to slice their way through. Although like Sacred, it's great mindless fun, if you were holding out for a deeper storyline and more polished gameplay, you may be left a little underwhelmed.
- The old-school visuals still look gorgeous
- Extends the already massive world even further
- Great way to while away
- the hours
- Still prone to the same niggles
- Could have included more new enemies
- Gameplay and storyline remain overly simplistic