In Excalibur 2555 AD, a magician named Delevar sends assassins back in time to steal Excalibur. As Beth, Merlin’s niece, you are sent into the future to retrieve Excalibur and defeat Delevar.
You move around in a 3D plane, usually limited to the small room you are in. You can walk, run, pick up objects, or talk to people. When it comes time to battle, you hit R1 or R2 to slightly crouch and draw your sword, going into battle mode. “Triangle” will make an overhead slash (which seems to give more damage), “Circle” executes a right slash, “Square” executes a left slash, and “X” will make you block. If you hold down either of these buttons for a second or two (except block) your sword glows and deals more damage when released.
Enemies you fight have the same attacks you do. The strategy is, you can only block for 1 ½ seconds, but then so can your enemy. When you see them block, this is when you want to charge up your weapon and release as soon as they leave their block stance. You will rarely, if ever, get to use your sword fully powered up.
One problem with the enemies, is that when you attack them, two attacks usually pushes them back, putting them out of attack range, and they usually shoot a gun at you (that you can luckily block, though sometimes you’ll attack them only to swoosh your sword in the air). However, some enemies can shot you 4 times in a row before you can block in time, depleting a lot of your energy. Luckily, even though 3 enemies are the most you will ever see on screen at once, only one will attack you at a time
Later in the game you can acquire a slash attack and a jump kick attack when you press all 4 attach buttons in a certain unison, but the game doesn’t tell you what the order is, and you have to find it yourself. I found that the time it takes to perform these moves leaves you open to attack that will negate your attack in the first place. I went through the whole game without these moves.
Lastly, you can combine items (add a rat with poison to poison a guard blocking a door), or get a recipe from Merlin that allows you to combine items to create a spell (such as a spell that opens all locked doors or shots a fireball—good for blowing up robots). However, in once instance I had an enchantment spell I thought I had to use on a guard blocking a door, only for it not to work. You had to be in a more precise spot for it to work, which led to me thinking that was not the solution for a good while.
The level design doesn’t really make any sense sometimes, as you will find a guy at a bar, and you wonder how anyone gets here with criminals camping out next door. Most of the time, nothing makes logical sense and is only there as an obstacle for you, but then this is a video game, so it’s not a big deal, just a funny thing to consider while playing.
Let me start at the first level. You see a robot blocking a door, and then meet an injured man who needs first aid. You fight some enemies, then find a glass, give it to the bartender because he’s low on glasses and get some alcohol in return; give the alcohol to the trader for a key, use the key to open a door and find a cheese and mousetrap; combine them and place it on the ground to trap a mouse. Take the mouse to it’s owner who gives you a med kit in return, you take the med kit to the inured man, who gives you a battery to start up the robot in front of the door. The robot activates and lets you pass; Level Complete.
Most of the time it’s pretty self-explanatory if you find the item where it goes, but there is one thing that is pretty ridiculous in Excalibur; immortal enemies. Early on Level 1, you can go into this level where a guy with a gun and club will shoot you; after hitting him almost 50 times he still won’t die. You have to realize that you can’t beat him and leave; or die, then not go into the room next time. It’s frustrating in this level and is the reason I didn’t pick it up again for awhile. Later, I realized that you just had to collect all the items and avoid him completely.
Sometimes there are items that do nothing (though this problem vanishes half-way through the game), as well as characters that serve no purpose (they don’t need items or give you any hint or items).
The levels change, giving you some variety; the 2nd level is large and contains skeletons, zombies, giant scorpions, and two boss battles, while Level 3 has hardly any fighting, and involves some puzzle solving involving timed switches and contains lots of back and forth item collecting. The 4th level is huge and contains a maze of rooms with lots of fighting (and a puzzle), while Level 5 enemies are invulnerable robots you can’t attack, so you have to run and avoid every fight in this level.
After you beat each level; you get a password. There is no save feature; this means you loose all items collected and start empty at the next level. The password feature is interesting since this is the Playstation era, but if you don’t have a memory card, or find a level difficult and want to try the next one, I guess it works.
Then, when you beat a level, it loads, shows you Level Complete, loads, Password, loads, Next Level, loads, you start playing. Each room takes just a quick ½ second to enter, so you’ll never need to see a load screen game again once you play through the level.
However, the best feature has to be the Map. The map records each room you are in, and the room will feature doors that are unlocked in Green, and locked doors in Red, while all people are marked as Red Squares. The best part is that a pink room indicates a riddle or item. You will never accidentally miss an item and look at every texture wondering it is can be picked up or operated.
However, the story is pretty confusing. Each level looks completely different, as there are ruins in a cave, a futuristic food growing level, a storage level; each has a different background so it never gets boring, however, the story is hard to follow. There are apparently different factions, and you join up with one of them, and usually most people know who you are. I really can’t even tell you anything and I just played it. Really, all you need to know is that you help NPC’s along the way my giving them items, and eventually you fight Delevar.
The last two levels has some really cool architecture and enemies, such as a bird statues that come to life, and four unique guardians in the next to last level; Unfortunately, they can all be killed the same way. Delevar, however, is pretty simple. He stands inside a pool of lava and taunts you and you can’t hurt him; or can you? The solution is simple and then he dies, giving you a pretty horrid CGI sequence followed by a set-up for a sequel which never happened.
your previous sword, or give you any special powers (for the last level you get to use it on)
Puzzles exist in the game, but some are very simple, whereas others take you a moment to think. I hated the self-destruct room which killed me instantly, and all that required was a keycard that dropped off an enemy I killed and forgot to retrieve (the only enemy in the game to do so). The puzzles are a good variety, and one did stump me for 10 minutes until I figured it out (there are 6 differently colored buttons, and when any 4 are pressed, they all reset), but it was one that required you to restart the level to find the solution. Plus, one level has a puzzle that is solved by finding the answer on pieces of paper.
However, the puzzles are not the most frustrating aspect of this game, it’s all the secret doors. There is no indication they are in this game until you are just stumped in Level 3. The wall looks only slightly different than the rest, and you will only recognize it if you are stopped. Usually, I will not know where to go and start slashing walls hoping there is a secret door. I discovered a trick to find these doors. If you run directly at the wall and move slightly to the left or right, you will run, but you will jog in place at the secret doors hinges. This will save you a lot of time in your search.
One thing that is really good, is the voice work. It’s really good; better than most games I have played, and especially at the time. The voices are clear, too, so you won’t even need the Text option on. Whatever indie budget they had they at least got some good actors.
This was the developer’s 2nd game, the first being “Lone Soldier” for the Playstation.
Story 6 out of 10
Though the quest is simple, the universe you are in is very confusing. However, the characters you interact with have dreams and struggles you can help with (do you really not want to help the grandmother’s sick baby?) and do more to boost the rating than the actually story itself.
Challenge 5 out of 10
The challenge to this game is very hard because of the fighting; one mistake can really cost you. Another is the frequent running all over the place for secret doors. You’re not under any danger, but it gets frustrating doing nothing or attacking every wall you see because you need an item behind it to clear the level. This is not an easy game, I don’t see many people completing it past the first few levels, and I understand that the challenge isn’t always a good kind of challenge, but more an affect of the controls and level design.
Music 5 out of 10
The music is very forgettable, but it does match the mood of the underground world you are in.
Fun Factor 5 out of 20
In the beginning, I enjoyed the adventure aspect of it, the battles are very repetitive and become pretty much the same (block, attack to force enemy to block, charge up attack, block, walk closer to enemy, repeat). Also, searching for secret doors constantly is not fun. Plus, running back and forth with the item collecting does bog it down sometimes having to run through the same rooms multiple times a level. However, I did really enjoy the final level (the real last level is just a boss fight).
Controls 6 out of 10
The controls are described above. There is only one problem, and that is when you attack, you can’t block immediately after sometimes (so you get attacked), while other times you can. It’s as if the button is delayed then never implemented on occasion, but otherwise, there are no problems with the controls, but the mechanics themselves.
Graphics 7 out of 10
The graphics are pretty good, as there are many objects placed throughout every level to make you feel the world is populated with realistic people and objects. The funniest is a man on a table being cut with a buzzsaw. Many rooms are littered with objects like gardens, desks, and even flags. The graphics, if you look closely, seem to warp and defy the straight line. It’s a little weird, but usually you won’t pay it much attention.
Replay Value 2 out of 10
I don’t see much replay value on this one. Once you know all the puzzles, all you have is the repetitive game play along with searching for secret doors you forgot from last time; not an incentive to return.
Extras 3 out of 10
There are passwords, which can count as codes, a Level Skip and codes for Full Health and Full Sword Power.
+ 4 for good voice acting
– 2 for searching for secret doors
Yes, good voice acting really helps the game. I give them more points for this effort. However, they lose points for the poor decision or secret door hunting.
41 points out of 90 is a middle of the road average score. I realized that while trying to like this game, I was ignoring the bad parts of this game. I really want to enjoy this, but it gets too frustrating and annoying sometimes, the combant is repetitive and sometimes annoying and searching for secret doors is a chore. Only the adventure elements help to ad some variety to this game and draw it up from poor to mediocre status.
If you are stuck, I recommend this YouTube Walkthrough, as it will show you what you might have missed (and there are no current walkthroughs available on the internet): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QTR73kvICM
You can read this review and other game reviews on my website: http://www.shawnpmurphy.com