Hard to Play?Hard to be a God
is, no matter what RPG elements and non-linear gameplay are stuffed in there, a hack and slash game at heart. Or, to put it another way, there are two different sides to the gameplay: Hack, and Slash.
The game is controlled from a third person viewpoint, with the camera angled down steeply to an almost bird’s eye view. It has to be said that, to me, one of the most annoying things about the game was the camera though – the viewpoint is angled in such a way that you can’t really see any great distance.
The player, no matter how zoomed in or out the game lets them get, is always trapped in the vast, painful middleground between bird’s-eye and over-the-shoulder. Plus, you can never get close enough to the character to take any decent vanity shots, which is occasionally a real shame.
Structurally, the game is fairly by-the-numbers and there’s really nothing in the game design itself to make it stand-out. From the third person perspective you use WASD to run around an area, collecting quests from people with glowing lights over their heads. When said quest is completed you can return to the quest-giver to collect a reward before promptly accepting another task.
The reason it's hard to be a God is simple: repetition
The quests themselves too run the usual gamut, though there are occasionally ethical choices and alternate paths to be had in the game. One example we found involved a villager who wanted a group of bandits slaughtered, as villagers are wont to do. However, upon approaching the bandits they asked that we kill a mutineer who had made off with some loot – before describing the villager.
OK, so it isn’t exactly an awesomely complex quest deviation and Hard to be a God
obviously has a long way to go before it can rival Planescape: Torment
for sheer ethical complexity, but it still sits above most other games in the Hack and Slash genre.
One of the things that does serve to make the game quite interesting too is the use of disguises to obtain new quests. In the process of mowing down the various types of AI fodder that are ordered to fall on your sword you’ll find an array of different fashions, many of which are attached to different roles.
There are outfits for thieves, monks, soldiers, farmers and more. Donning a bulk from a set outfit will disguise you as a member of that group and you can infiltrate them easily – though each comes with a burden too. While it’s possible to get into a bandit camp and accept some new, evil missions with the thief outfit, you won’t get anywhere if you wear it around the farmers – especially since you need a bit of privacy to remove your clothes.
God-games aren't fun until you can strip your deity naked...
Learning to use the disguise mechanic properly is an important part of the game and a great way to give the inventory extra depth.
Combat on the other hands is extremely limited – it’s a case of left click to attack, right click for special moves. More moves and attacks become available as you progress through the levels and there are the usual melee/ranged options to choose from, but that’s essentially it. A stamina bar has also been added to give the game a more tactical feel, but it’s fairly obvious that it exists more to stop the faster weapons being abused than anything else and the system is more of a pain than a justifiable addition to the game.
The game does have some problems though – especially the story, which is unveiled a little disjointedly and gives the impression that the writers were typing the whole thing with mugs on their hands. There are spelling mistakes in more than a few dialog paths and the conversations themselves often feel shallow and roundabout. At the start of the game the player is left off-guard and unsure of the game universe, with limited chance to learn of the very lore that would potentially make the game so interesting.