Haven’t played this one since it came out in ’99! I probably would have replayed it again sooner, but it was a particularly tricky one to get running on modern versions of Windows for the longest time until GOG fixed it up.
Requiem is certainly an interesting and ambitious game. It seems to take inspiration from many big first-person-shooters of the 90’s like Quake 2, System Shock 2, Strife, and Half-Life, but never quite lives up to any of those hits.
The story and gimmick of the game seem interesting enough. You play as an angel who’s sent to Earth to fight in never-ending epic battle between Heaven and…Chaos? For some reason they call it Chaos instead of Hell. I can’t see it being for reasons of censorship as this game is pretty graphic in its language, violence, and even a few bits of blocky 3D nudity. Anyway, it’s also a dystopian future where some generic evil empire, which is controlled or influenced by Chaos I guess, rules everything and only the resistance stands in their way.
The story all goes downhill from there with the big “twist” that Lucifer is actually behind it all, which isn’t even slightly surprising given the theme of the game. What is surprising *spoiler alert for 20 year old game* is that he was posing as the leader of the resistance all along. What? Why? Why would he be leading the resistance against his own evil empire? Oh, and then his final master plan turns out to be that he’s going to take a big spaceship up to Heaven to invade it. Spaceships seem normal in this world, so I’m not sure why he couldn’t have just done this at any time without all the elaborate deception and stuff. Oh well.
At least the combat is fun…mostly. All the basic gun types are there, with nothing particularly unique, but what makes the difference here is the large array of angelic magic powers you acquire throughout the game. The powers are a bit of a mixed bag. When they work they work well and had pretty impressive visual effects for their time. Most of them seem to have pretty limited usefulness and functionality though. I found myself sticking to the same 3 powers over and over throughout the game.
For example, the To Salt spell is probably the most powerful one in the game, but it has pretty severe limitations. You can instantly kill any non-boss enemy with it and you get it relatively early on, but its limited range and terrible accuracy mean that you can’t really rely on it, no matter how cool the effect looks. There are others like Blood Boil, another relatively visually impressive one that does massive damage, but has even less range than To Salt, to the point where you have to be standing directly next to an enemy to hit them with it, so it’s entirely useless. Or there’s Apocalypse, the ultimate attack spell that does a BFG 9000 style of attack, except again, with severely limited range and it can kill you too if you don’t find cover fast enough so there’s just not much reason to ever use it.
Mostly I just used the same spell, Locusts, because it can take out any standard enemy with one shot at any visible distance. It’s only drawback being the little invisible cooldown period between shots.
There are a handful of secondary non-attack spells too, but most of them aren’t really helpful outside of forced story situations. I just stuck with Heal, though even that wasn’t so great, giving you a pathetic 5 HP for each 50 MP use. Oh well.
Despite all these problems, the combat still manages to be fun enough most of the time, but it never manages to rise above being average at best, and feels like a massive waste of potential.
The bosses are honestly a bit of a mess too. They look cool enough, but the mechanics required to actually defeat them are pretty unfortunate. For example, the first boss fight puts you up against a pair of weird demons that seem to be completely invincible. Nothing you fire at them seems to connect. The most powerful weapon you have at the time, the grenade launcher, even seems to have its shots physically swatted away by some invisible force. First of all, it turns out that your standard guns can’t touch bosses at all (though the game never bothers to tell you this), then it turns out that you need to use some newly acquired Banish spell on them (which like all the other powers here, the game doesn’t explain the point of at all), and then that apparently temporarily removes their invisible force field so you can get a few shots in. You have no way of knowing any of this and there are no noticeable visual cues or anything.
Or the mid-game boss fight against Lilith, who also has some kind of annoying invisible forcefield that only lets you hit her if you get extremely close and use a powerful attack spell, which even at that range has a decent chance of missing due to the terrible accuracy on most of the spells. Not only that, but when you hit her once it doesn’t actually damage her, she just splits into two and then you have to try to guess which is the real one and land a shot on it to do the damage. This gets pretty annoying with how long this boss fight is.
Yes, the bosses all have a ridiculous amount of health making all the boss fights real tests of endurance. They don’t have any visible health bars either. In fact, in the original release of the game you couldn’t even tell when damage was being done to them at all, they had to add in a patch a red flash effect to show when your shots were actually doing anything. Fun times.
Then there’s the level design. You can probably tell from the screenshots that it was pretty nice looking (for its time at least). The visual design is definitely creative and effective, but the level design itself can often leave much to be desired. Requiem was clearly going for a Half-Life type “open-looking, but not really open” world with “seamless” transitions between areas, but levels usually end up feeling too big and with too many branching paths that mostly look identical to each other. There’s no map and usually no indication of where you’re supposed to be going so it’s pretty easy to get turned around or lost.
In the end, I suppose it doesn’t sound like I actually like this game very much, but it was alright, I guess. It’s not terrible by 90’s FPS standards, it’s better than Blood 2 at least, but it’s far from being great. It was a valiant effort by the developers at trying something sort of new (yet simultaneously sort of derivative) that will maybe be an interesting experience for those that are specifically fans of 90’s shooters, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. It’s a somewhat entertaining oddity, but not even close to essential.