Mageslayer (1997, PC)

Mageslayer is yet another classic Raven Software game that released exclusively on PC back in the day. This one was from the brief period of time where they started experimenting with top-down action games (with Take No Prisoners being the only other example). It was basically Heretic from a different perspective, but with a bit of Gauntlet mixed in as well.

If I hadn’t looked it up, I’d say it used the same engine aHexen, as the look and sound of everything is just so damn similar, but apparently it was a separate uniquely created engine that was only used in their two top-down games and Necrodome (They definitely recycled some sound effects straight out of Heretic/Hexen though).

I can kind of see why these kinds of games didn’t really take off back then though. Today a game like this would control pretty easily with modern dual-thumbsticks, but this was the 90’s so instead it had to have some awkward tank-like controls. It’s pretty clunky and takes some getting used to. You’ll find that most of the action has to play out with you perpetually walking backwards as you try to stay out of reach of aggressively advancing enemies, because with controls like this, rushing ahead and getting surrounded will probably result in your death.

Still, if you can get past this it’s still a pretty fun fantasy-action game. There are four characters to choose from, each with slightly different stats and attacks, a large variety of angry beasts to fight, a lot of activated inventory items and spells to smash them with, and some pretty inventive level design.

The bigger problem is that you’re not going to be able to get this thing running on modern Windows, at least not easily. It’ll need to be installed on a VM then copied over to your modern Windows or just plain installed and played in the VM (Windows 95-XP). Other than that though…good times. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the Heretic and Gauntlet series’.

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