A barbarian’s life must not be an easy one, but it is an interesting one. Every day a brutal battle either makes your reputation or breaks it and your life depends on your skill as a fighter. In the game Barbarian, you fight for either good or bad but does the game have what it takes to live up to the interesting lives of barbarians? Fighting fans, be prepared to be disappointed.
There are three main playing modes — Quest Mode, Versus Mode and the Multiplayer mode. Versus Mode basically allows game players to select any arena and fighter (along with a choice of different costume) and simply fight. Any character saved during Quest Mode could also be used in this mode with all the upgrades included.
Quest Mode is the main mode of playing the game. In this mode you can select any of the ten characters and each has his or her own story and reason for fighting. Mainly each story revolves around an evil entity known as Zaugg whose corrupt magic threatens the land of Barbaria. Depending on the character you choose, you’re either for or against Zaugg. However, all of the characters end up battling Zaugg at the end anyway. Gamers move from battle to battle and even get a chance to upgrade certain abilities such as strength (allowing you to pick up heavier objects) and damage bonuses (allowing you to take more damage without losing too much health).
The game also mixes the Mortal Kombat style of fighting with the weapon styling of Soul Calibur, only here the fighting isn’t as smooth. Aside from the usual kicks and weapon slashing, you can use magic attacks that are easy to execute, but combos require an excessive amount of button mashing before the more lethal ones can be unleashed on your enemy.
One of the game’s main flaws is the enemy AI, which is also somewhat confusing considering that most of the time the enemy makes a formidable opponent. On more than three occasions the enemy can get stuck on a corner — something that happens a lot if you make a sharp turn up a flight of stairs. Yet at other times a foe will knock a boulder off your hands intelligently or use a magic attack to keep you from slamming his or her head in with a tree trunk.
Barbarian does provide enough challenges, though. There are times during Quest Mode where you will find yourself poisoned, your life meter draining slowly, and game players have to defeat the foe before the poison ends your life. It can also throw as many as four foes at a time. Fighting multiple foes is tough and sometimes even a bit frustrating considering they all tend to gang up on you but it isn’t at all that bad at all, in fact, it’s downright fun.
The graphics aren’t at all that bad either. Each fighter is nicely rendered … although not as well as those seen in the DOA series or even Tekken. It’s the fighting arena that is actually more wonderful to look — and there’s plenty to look at in this fantasy world. The Spider’s Lair, for example, is a huge cavern where fighters can battle on top of the remains of a giant spider. The beauty is that there is so much detail that all of it can be delightfully distracting.
Sound-wise, however, the game fails to deliver a soundtrack that sets the fighting mood. As a matter of fact, the game hardly has a soundtrack to begin with. The game is big on sound effects though and most of it is the sounds of battle. Tables can shatter into splinters and pillar crack when you smash them to pieces and you could occasionally hear your fighter groan in pain when your foe knocks you off your feet. Sound is not the game’s strongpoint.
The multiplayer option, however, is where the game truly shines. Using a Multitap, up to four players can be battling out on the screen at the same time. You can also add four CPU fighters to join the fray — and all of this is done without slowing the game down.
While not perfect in any way, Barbarian has plenty of characters to choose from and huge fighting arenas. Still, even with this, the game isn’t able to hold the attention of most fighting fans. It does possess a great multiplayer option — making this a perfect party game — but this isn’t enough to appease those gamers looking for a true fighter.
Reviewer’s Scoring Details
Fighting games seldom move from the punch, kick and specialty attacks and Barbarian is not any different in this aspect. It mixes two styles of fighting — hand-to-hand and weapons — yet neither one has the right feel. For example, you can unleash a set number of combos but somehow the enemy gets the upper hand and before you can even start a combo the enemy has already beaten you to it. One of the reasons this occurs is because unleashing combos requires the pushing of an insane number of buttons.
However, the most satisfying part of the fighting is that game players can use items around the arena against your enemy. Depending on your strength, you can yank a tree out of its roots and use it as a giant club to knock a foe down. There are several things such as boulders that you can toss or you can even use a fallen foe as a weapon.
The game isn’t a visual knockout but its characters do look great in the massively detailed arenas. Barbaria is filled with many unusual settings and this is where the game’s graphics are really displayed. Each arena has enough hidden areas and details that can sometimes be used in battle. Items you think the character can’t interact with break when you accidentally strike it with a weapon or wooden floors can break revealing a hidden area.
Sadly the game’s score is very underplayed in this game and is nonexistent throughout the main story mode. What little music is found in the game are just snippets, really, and the music would no doubt bring up memories of the Conan films. It would have been grand if the game allowed the score to be more of a presence.
The sound effects are what you might hear in any other fighter. Boulders crumble when you smash them over a foe’s head and a number of high kicks to the head results in the sometimes comical sound of face slaps. Using magical attacks have their own sound effects, though nothing quite impressive.
Those familiar with fighting games knows that the farther you advance the more difficult the enemy becomes and in Barbarian the difficulty is challenging enough from the very start. In Quest Mode you begin with little or no strength and magic while the foe you face is all stocked up on both. Defeating enemies in this game, however, is simply a question of using the environment to your advantage.
Also, the enemy AI can be alarmingly intelligent in some parts and unusually dumb in others. One fighter might anticipate your next move and use a magic attack while one might be incredibly confused when you run up a flight of stairs and attack the wall in a nonstop cycle.
It’s satisfying to see a game try to separate itself other titles of the same genre and Barbarian is a title that makes a great effort. Barbarian offers a story mode known here as Quest Mode and this is where it uses elements of an RPG. Every fighter has his or her own story and reasons fro fighting. However, the RPG part is simply a narrator reading a scripted tale that leads up to a fight. You can also upgrade your fighter’s abilities after successful bouts.
Barbarian might very well posses a multiplayer option that is a brawling fan’s dream come true. Not only can you seamlessly have four friends (using the Multitap, of course) on the screen at once, but gamers can also add four computer-controlled foes for a total of eight fighters. With so many characters on the screen, the game hardly suffers from any slowdowns… although during eight fighter battles you can’t go into secret areas without dragging everyone else along with you.
However, this doesn’t hinder the action one bit.
Barbarian is not a solid fighting game but its attempt to blend elements of RPG keeps this game from being a fighter with not much to offer fight fans. Sadly this game runs out of steam way too quickly but it does have a multiplayer option worth the price of admission — making this somewhat a recommended rental.