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Microsoft has released a string of quality games so far for XBOX, and their latest entry Nightcaster aims to please just the same. In Nightcaster, you control Arran, a young lad who is chosen to restore the world to the power of light. Arran does so by mastering a host of spells, and ridding the land of evil monsters. Yes, the plot is derivative and generic. But if that is the case, how does this game save itself from tedium?


Nightcaster's graphics are quite good, but not as spectacular as many of the other XBOX games out there. The lighting creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, while the environment and spell animations dazzle the eye. The only negative point I see is that NPCs could have looked a lot better.


Again, the DD5.1 music and sound effects do a great job of creating a creepy environment. As for voices, some are good, though NPC voices are quite weak. Overall a "good enough" effort in the sound department. You cannot use custom soundtracks with Nightcaster.


The gameplay of Nightcaster is most easily described by thinking of it as a combination of Gauntlet, Phantasy Star Online, and Robotron 2084. It has massive amounts of enemies coming from spawners you must destroy, along with an overhead battle perspective similar to Gauntlet. In addition, it has the loose quest-driven plot of Phantasy Star Online, a similar spell system, monsters who are resistant to certain types of spells, and a third-person exploring perspective. Lastly, it has dual analog controls which allows you to run in one direction and launch spells in an entirely different direction similar to Robotron 2084. So how does it have two different camera perspectives? Arran controls a ball of energy fittingly called the "Orb". When the Orb is with Arran, the game plays out in third-person style similar to Phantasy Star Online. This perspective looks the nicest, however the field of view is better for item hunting as opposed to fighting. When you move the Orb away from Arran using the right thumbstick, the game switches to an overhead perspective. From this perspective you can actually aim your spells using the right thumbstick and an onscreen target cursor, making it an excellent battle view. You switch spells by cycling through the four types with the left trigger, and firing spells off with the right trigger. The four types of spells are Light, Dark, Fire, and Water. Within each spell class, you can assign spells of varying power and range. For instance, you could assign to Fire a powerful fire spell that only affects the area directly around you, or you could assign to Fire a weaker fire spell that shoots out a projectile. Either way, you can only have one type of each spell ready at any given time. You will need one of each type too, as monsters are resistant to the element they are made of; in other words, a Fire creature is resistant to Fire spells, and a Dark creature is resistant to Dark spells. Of course in each level there are monsters of every element, so you will be changing spells throughout. The amount of mana you have is dictated by the amount of mana balls and elemental rings you find in the game. Some powerups, such as the mana ball, allow you to choose what area to increase your expertise in, adding an RPG element to the game. Make no mistake though, this is an Action/Adventure game, not an RPG.

Bottom Line:

If you are looking for a fun fantasy action game with an adventure twist, go out and grab Nightcaster. Be wary though, if you tire of the gameplay, there isn't a deep storyline to back it up.

-Pete Calderwood