The noble art of the button-mashing hackandslash - an ancient art almost as old as old as gaming itself. Plug in joypad, turn on console, disengage brain, mash those buttons until you can see the dents coming through your nails. Perfect after a hard day of soul crushing desk job brain death. Ok, so maybe it's not quite that simple, but Starbreeze's obscure recent release Knights Of The Temple presumably aims to be slightly more interesting than that.
For a game hell-bent on all out action, the somewhat earnest and predictable setting hardly helps sell the game to the uninitiated looking for the next great interactive entertainment experience. A noble Templar Knight by the name of, er, Paul, has two things on his mind; putting a stop to an evil plot perpetuated by an evil Lord Bishop - of all people, and, naturally, getting the girl. That's simplifying matters somewhat, but at its sincere heart Knights Of The Temple is hardly the most complicated game we've played this century.
Chop chop busy busy work work bang bang
Right from the first hack, you know exactly what you're in for: relentless batches of enemies to be dispatched with ever increasing degrees of stylish violence, doors to be unlocked, keys to be found and the occasional puzzle to be solved. Owing much to claret-filled games such as Severance, EA's Lord Of The Rings titles and any Golden Axe clone you care to name over the past 13 years, there's a degree of following the herd to the point of just pretty much copying it wholesale and hoping for the best.
The first dozen or so levels take literally minutes to hack your way through, and quickly the tone is set for the rest of the game, with a regular addition of new weapons and new moves, as well as the occasional puzzle and boss to fight along the way.
But unlike, say, the LOTR titles, the combos are just arbitrarily awarded for making a modicum of progress, and within a couple of hours youre in full possession of all four main weapon sets (Sword, Axe, Bow, Staff) all six combo attacks and most of the various Divine Powers and Special Attacks. Numerous health vials and save points also make it a given that you'll blitz through much of the game unchallenged.
Now wake up and learn the combos
Of course, KOTT ups the ante considerably once it's confident you're ready and starts to offer the kind of challenge that will result in careful learning of the combos and much more than the tactics-free button mashing you can get away with for the opening portion.
But free of a remotely interesting story, characters you can feel an attachment to or any palpable sense of an atmosphere, you're left with a shell of a game that feels tired before you've even begun, and does little to nothing afterwards to change your mind. Rarely, if ever, did the game feel anything more than a formulaic slog - and for a full-priced effort that's patently not good enough.
Not enough claret left us feeling blue
Visually KOTT is acceptably detailed - by no means a disgrace, with some good texturing on the whole, but hardly likely to have passers by stopping open mouthed either, while the opportunity to deliver a no holds barred limb-strewn gore fest appears to have been entirely passed up. The massive change of scenery between levels helps liven things up a little, but it's never enough to give you an impression of true class.
The same applies sense of generic familiarity and lack of energy applies to almost all areas of the package, whether you're addressing the limp and annoying sound effects, the tiresome FMV, the overall presentation or the rather odd, slightly detached camera system that delivers an odd perspective on matters more than it succeeds in being atmospheric.
It's a shame that Starbreeze has opted to follow rather than lead, snatching at popular, well hewn gaming mechanics but never truly building on any of them. Knight Of The Temple is a crusade all right, but is never more than a trudge when it should have been a roaring charge.