Night Watch PC DVD-ROM
Published by Ascaron Entertainment
Developed by Nival Interactive
Release Date: 1st September 2006
Night Watch, an introduction.
When we reviewed Silent Storm a few years ago we were very impressed with the excellent tactical RPG experience Nival Interactive had given us. The game was quite simply excellent and deserved to be mentioned in the same bracket as the Jagged Alliance games and the early X-Com titles. Naturally then any future tactical RPG games from Nival Interactive have been waited for with eager anticipation. Earlier this year we reviewed Hammer & Sickle but unfortunately it was a huge disappointment. Here we have Night Watch, a game based on the most successful Russian movie of all time. We were hopeful of it being a return to form for Nival Interactive but sadly it hasn't quite turn out that way.
What's the game about?
Night Watch is a tactical RPG that has to have the strangest story we've come across in a PC game. In the story you occasionally have supernatural beings that are born either aligned to the forces of good (the Night Watch) or the forces of evil (Day Watch). A treaty exists between the forces of light and darkness (whose ranks include vampires and such like) and it's the role of the Night Watch and Day Watch to see that the terms of the treaty are adhered to because essentially both sides do not trust one another. Until now a fragile balance has been maintained between light and darkness but now that balance appears to be in jeopardy and events seem to taking a turn for the worst at the beginning of the game.
The game begins with Stas (the game's central character who is initially unaware that he is an Other) about to kill someone he's been contracted to assassinate. Stas is under the impression his mother is seriously ill and in order to afford the operation he must carry out this assassination. As he lines up to shoot he realises his target is a woman and he can't bring himself to shoot her. As he hesitates his employers, two members of Day Watch, appear and decide to kill him for failing to honour his contract. In the nick of time a woman named Olga, a member of Night Watch appears and deals with them. Olga teaches Stas how to look after himself and informs him of his previously unknown special abilities. At this stage the whole thing seems a little crazy as Stas is shown that a magic apple can heal his cracked rib and that a flashlight can actually be used to kill members of Day Watch. After the first stage in this mini-tutorial phase Stas has to pick which class he's going to be. The choices on offer are Mage, Shapeshifter and Sorcerer. Shortly after this Stas teams up with a young woman named Vera and her class has to be chosen too.
What's good about the game?
Surprisingly Night Watch wasn't the game we were expecting it to be and it's difficult to pick out elements from the game that actually impressed us. Like Silent Storm the action is in real time until a battle occurs and then the action switches to a turn-based format. The battles are probably the highlight of the game but they aren't as impressive, or as dramatic, as the ones in Silent Storm. That said, there's a certain amount of novelty in using flashlights and halogen lamps to fight with. The numerous spells you can cast in the game look quite impressive too. Being able to switch to a place called the Gloom, a kind of alternate reality that only Others can see, in order to do battle is a nice twist especially as the Gloom gives your characters certain bonuses such as making their magic even stronger than in the normal world. Occasionally in the game you'll get to make dialogue choices that can avoid the need for conflict, which is good to see. The dialogue in the game is also quite humorous at times (sometimes unintentionally through awkward translation) and this is actually quite refreshing for a game of this nature.
What's not so good about the game?
We thought Silent Storm was excellent and we were eagerly awaiting Night Watch in the hope we would have a game that was at least close to Silent Storm in terms of quality. Sadly this isn't the case and we can't help feeling disappointed with what Night Watch has to offer. There are several problems with the game but essentially it's a fairly weak tactical RPG and the game just doesn't hold your interest in the same way as it did in Silent Storm. The game's story just feels too bizarre and disjointed. It's as if the story has been badly edited with some important parts cut out. You'll often find yourself wondering if you've missed sections of the story which isn't the best of situations. The dialogue also seems to have been poorly translated in places and you'll notice a rather clumsy use of English at times. There are pathfinding problems with your characters regularly taking the seemingly most awkward and lengthy route possible. The game is a linear affair and to make matters worse there's not a great deal of opportunity to shape how your characters develop, which means the replay value is actually quite poor. Unfortunately the developers decided to go with the StarForce copy protection system, which means just loading the game is going to be problematic for some gamers.
How does it look?
Graphically Night Watch is OK. The game appears to use the same game engine that was used in Silent Storm and although that's now a few years old the graphics are still acceptable, although there is no denying the game engine is beginning to look dated. The magical spells that are used in the game do look quite impressive and when your characters are in the Gloom everything has a blue tinted, distorted look about it which is kind of similar to an underwater effect. Generally speaking though the game doesn't look as good as you might expect. Most of the textures are bland and animations aren't what they should be. The characters still have an annoying tendency to swing their one arm in front of themselves during cutscene dialogue which is initially humorous (as it's completely out of context with the dialogue) but soon becomes irritating.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Nival Interactive did a great job of making Silent Storm deaf gamer friendly and thankfully they have given Night Watch the same treatment. Cutscene conversations are all subtitled with the character's name being placed in front of the dialogue so you'll know who is saying what. Comments that your characters make in response to orders you give are all subtitled. Comments your enemies make during battles are also subtitled. These comments are placed under the character portraits that are at the top of the screen. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Your objectives are shown in text and can be recalled either by clicking the objectives button on the lower left of the screen or by pressing the 'O' key. Just as in Silent Storm icons appear to denote that enemies are within earshot of your characters, which is excellent. Our review code didn't come with a manual so we can't comment on the quality of it.
Night Watch is essentially a disappointment and in truth you'd be better advised to choose Silent Storm or any of the Jagged Alliance titles over this if you haven't played them already. The battles are OK for the most part but even they do become very repetitive. The game's story seems very disjointed and you have minimal control over how your characters develop. For a tactical RPG the game also feels far too linear and the replay value is virtually zero as a result of this. Night Watch isn't a disaster by any means and I daresay some will find the game an acceptable shade of mediocre. Still, I doubt few will be impressed with what the game has to offer and I would class Night Watch as even more disappointing than Hammer & Sickle, one of Nival Interactive's more recent tactical RPGs.
Overall Game Rating: 5.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Whilst Night Watch is hardly a disaster, it's a massive disappointment considering it's been developed by the people who bought us Silent Storm. Sadly the quality of the game is similar to Nival Interactive's more recent Hammer & Sickle, which is unfortunate.