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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Monolith

Great graphics, Good mix of RPG and tactical turn-based combat, Lots of monsters

Downs: Combat system could have been better, not much replay value.

System Reqs: P 200 MMX w/out 3D accelerator, P166 w/ 3D accelerator, 32 MB RAM, 4XCD, 500 MB of HD

odium_1.jpg (8621 bytes)This seems to be the year for challenging some long-held gaming formulas, what with System Shock 2's incredible mix of RPG and first person shooter, and Outcast’s engaging blend of third-person action and adventure. So what can be done to the old turn-based tactical strategy formula to spice it up? How about throwing it into the mix with some slick role playing and genuinely frightening adventure. What do you get? Odium. Is it any good? I’ll have some more.

Polish developers Metropolis’ Odium is the result of the deft hybridization of turn-based strategic combat and role playing, with enough adventure to make any adventure gamer happy, though that type of player may also unfortunately be turned off by the great deal of strategic fighting that serves as the centerpoint of the game. In fact, the combat is almost all of what I remember of playing the game; walk a little, kill some stuff, walk a little further, get killed by some stuff, over and over and over again. Whether you find this tedious or exhilarating will depend whether or not you relish the idea of roasting grotesque mutants with flame throwers, and doing it several times until you get it right, which, if you’ve gotten this far reading this review, you probably will-so carry on.

odium_2.jpg (8457 bytes)According to Monolith’s press release, Odium features a “horrific conspiracy-based storyline that ties into reported real-world occurrences.” I that's so, how come I haven’t seen any of those   giant - machine - gun - mounted - in - one - arm - big - sharp - metal - probe - on - the - other - arm monsters on CNN? This whole X-Files paranoia has leaked into everything; next thing you know someone’s going to claim that humans evolved on another planet, traveled through space in DC-8's and disembarked into volcanos. Anyways, you play as Lieutenant Cole Sullivan and his team of two other woefully unprepared military “specialists” in exploring an ex-spy training facility in Poland. The facility, which is actually a mock-city that was meant to be an exact replica of a typical U.S. town, was supposedly abandoned soon after the end of the Cold War. Strange reports came out of the area that called for another team of “specialists” to be sent in, which was consequently--and not surprisingly--never heard from again. Enter you and your team of twelve-bullet-packing commandos to search for the missing team and investigate these reports of strange half-human, half-machine, and half-insect monstrosities.

odium_3.jpg (8613 bytes)Soon after beginning the game, and I mean very soon, you confront your first set of monsters; these can be taken out rather easily, but they set the trend the rest of the game follows. You confront monsters-grotesque genetic hybrids-and kill them. There are forty different monster types, most of which are pretty cool, and though some look as if the developers were running out of good ideas and just piled some stuff together, these may be the scariest monsters in the brood. A beast called Grandma is one of the first boss monsters you encounter, and take my advice, don’t pick on her three dog-things. Each of the monsters tend to have their own fighting style and pace, which makes for the possibility of variation in your tactics, and little diversity. 

There’s plenty of combat, but the problem with having plenty of combat is that if a situation in the game looks suspicious, then it is suspicious; if it looks like a trap, then it is a trap. After you get over the initial surprise of having to fight every twenty paces the surprises lose their surprising nature and it just becomes “oh joy, another fight.” The challenge still remains, but predictability hangs around with it.

odium_4.jpg (7061 bytes)The actual implementation of fighting is my biggest beef with the game. Combat can get really frustrating in Odium; not that it’s especially hard, though it’s challenging enough, but with a little more thought it could have been so much more dynamic. For instance, for some reason the developers decided to use a square grid for character movement and weapon use. I feel a hexagonal grid would make considerably more sense, lending a lot more choices in movement to the player and therefore causing combat to be more complex and exiting. Another glaring oddity is the fact that you can’t shoot pistols in diagonal directions.  You can shoot you rifles in diagonal directions, so why not pistols? The weapons restrictions in the game are seemingly arbitrary and cause not a little consternation. Aside from the previous problems combat tends to plod along. Read: it’s really slow. Fighting a couple of lower-echelon monsters can take up to ten minutes, which is ten minutes I’d rather be spending fighting real monsters or exploring. It would have been nice if the developers would have thrown in some in-game options to speed up the combat animations, which occupy most of the time you're fighting.

There are a good deal of NPC’s in the game, and from time to time you will be put in charge of them to do with as you wish; just be careful and don’t trust them too much, it could end up costing you. These character’s main purpose seems to be to forward the story within the game, since you’ll spent most all of your time fighting. It’s a good idea to listen to what they say. This will make decisions a little easier and help you avoid some of the extraneous monsters. There are also a lot of cutscenes, some of them among the coolest I’ve yet seen in games. Expect to be introduced to new monsters and have coming battles foreshadowed in these scenes. I highly recommend--after finishing the game, of course--exploring the Odium disk and checking them out again.

odium_5.jpg (6429 bytes)The RPG elements of the game are worked in rather nicely; when a character has killed enough stuff and gained a level, an interface pops up--even while in combat--and offers you the choice to where among your stats you would like to add experience. I recommend working on your accuracy, as missed bullets can deplete your rather paltry supplies of ammo with no reward. Also, while I’m thinking about it, try to use your melee weapons as much as possible early on, and save the big guns for the meaner looking monsters. Besides all that, save your game frequently. Items will also need to be kept in inventory, and a good rule of thumb in the game is that if you can pick it up, take it with you. Nine times out of ten you will find a use for it, whatever it may be.

Odium’s graphics are really, really nice. The adventure screens are packed with loving detail, as every nook and cranny is filled with rendered equipment, buildings, and debris. Most of the game takes place in the standard camera angle that most all non-first or third-person games take place in, or what they like to call the “bird’s-eye” view. For this game it works well and no improvements could be made there.

odium_6.jpg (3452 bytes)Amazingly, Odium is a single-player only game, though it does sport a branching plot with plenty of twists and a couple of sub-quests, replay value is rather low. It is a better than average sci-fi-horror game that will appeal to fans of these genres, but may go unnoticed by most of the gaming community for lack of marketing on Monolith’s part. This is quite unfortunate, as Odium, flaws aside, is a unique game that deserves attention for its excellent graphics, sound, and original gameplay.

--Thomas Hoff