During the past weekend I found myself playing three very different games, each offering varying levels of enjoyment. On the top of the pedestal is this, Nine Parchments. Developed by the team that brought us the beautiful side scrolling platforming gems that are the trine games, we get to see what they’re capable of in a different genre, and it’s good. What Frozenbyte has managed to create is nothing short of addictive fun, and I want more of it.
Playing on the Switch I found myself bouncing between handheld and docked mode numerous times throughout the weekend, and in fact I think this may have been the first title I’ve played which required me to do so. I didn’t want to put the game down, and why should I, it’s exceptional.
OK I think I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s follow procedure and cover the main aspects of this game before I gush about how much I love it, how much I wish you had it so we could play together. So, what is Nine Parchments about? It’s an isometric action rpg of sorts that’s heavy on the action, light on the rpg. The gameplay is not unlike titles like Bastion, or Transistor, but instead of a focus on wacking on enemies we get more of a magical long ranged combat system which heavily favors multiplayer game play. You are able to use multiple spells by selecting them on a spell wheel of sort, as well as teleport twice across the map. All of these spells have a cool-down, so knowing the right time to use them is always important.
In Nine Parchments you control a wizarding apprentice on a quest to retrieve Nine spell Parchments which have been scattered throughout the game’s world. When you begin the game you have access to two of the apprentices and gain access to the others by fulfilling certain requirements. Each of the eight apprentices also have their own skill trees along with four unlockable variations which each have different apparel and starting spells. Spells are gained each time a parchment is found. Each time giving you a choice among three spells for each parchment. These spell choices can potentially be swapped if you’re playing with friends, but for single player you’re stuck with what you get. The spells come in a few varieties, either life, death, fire, ice, or lightning based. There are also supposed to be steam and physical spell types, but I’ve yet to encounter either of them in my playthrough. These spells also come in an assortment of different forms. Some are beams, small energy balls, arched grenade styled spells and more. They each have their own effects, and can even be paired up for devastating effect.
This is definitely a game where you need to cross the streams…
Each time your characters level up you gain skill points to use on the skill tree for that character. They each have 40 levels and an additional 20 after you unlock the gilded variation of them, unlockable by playing the hard mode. Characters may also use different staves to augment their abilities. These staves are found throughout the game’s levels, and by collecting cleverly hidden blue quills. Most levels have 5 of these, usually well hidden collectibles. There are other things to collect like hats, but as far as I can tell they’re purely cosmetic.
When all of these systems come together accompanied by the extraordinarily well paced levels, music and visuals you get an amazing experience. The audio is a mix of eastern themed music, with the occasional voice overs during particular sections throughout the levels. The visually appealing levels are also eastern themed stunning depictions that give a sense of fantasy meets an ancient Asian culture. Partner this remarkable audio and visuals with a well crafted combat system we game a great game which favors multiplayer, but is still tremendous fun as a single player experience. This game is also a highly customization experience. Almost every aspect of the HUD can be tweaked to your liking. The game also has a substantial help menu that pretty much answers every possible question one may have about it. In a way it’s like the devs have thought of almost everything a player may desire and included it.
Now as mentioned before I played the game on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s also available on PS4, XBOX ONE and PC. The Switch version looks great in both handheld and docked mode without any slowdown or graphical glitches. Visually it’s beautiful on the platform, although I can see where the visuals had to be toned down to run as well as it does, like less detailed shadows, lower textures, and less visual effects. Which is in no way a deal breaker, just rather a notable observation.
This is a game that knows what it wants to be and it excels at it. It’s not trying to do everything well, just a few things extraordinarily well. It doesn’t have an engrossing plot, or any memorable characters to speak of, but does it need any of those? The answer is a resounding “NO”. Too many games these days try to do too much of everything, and in the process fail to make an impact in any of their many aspects. Frozenbyte focused on make the gameplay the best it could be, making it fun, enjoyable, and most of all, well paced. They did this while padding on a bit of a plot, but not so much as to distract from what this game is supposed to be about, it’s gameplay. Simply put, this a fun game that I can easily recommend especially to a group of friends or a couple looking for a great multiplayer experience.
The copy of the Nine Parchments used for this review was provided to us by it’s Publisher, Frozenbyte.