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oneselfSelf

Is Hexen criticized too harshly?

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I think Hexen was the kind of game that Romero wanted at the time. Not only because he was the producer of Hexen, but what he wanted in Quake (which got cut) and what ended up in Daikatana. So those who like Hexen probably have similar tastes in gaming as Romero (at least 90's Romero).

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I love Hexen as much if not more than Doom, including the art style, combat and exploration/puzzles but can usually empathize with most of the criticism it gets.

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The hub system was a good concept... It served no real purpose since one large map would do the same thing, but it was well executed. It felt like the future at the time.

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I also recently played through Hexen, and found it pretty enjoyable overall. The progression could get confusing at times, but aside from one or two sections, it wasn't too bad to figure out. I played as the Cleric, which does seem to provide the most balanced (or OP) experience, especially with good flechette usage. I found most of the game fairly atmospheric, but would have personally preferred more focus on the naturalistic maps earlier in the game, with the complexity/interest of the later maps.

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9 minutes ago, AllenB said:

The hub system was a good concept... It served no real purpose since one large map would do the same thing, but it was well executed.

Splitting the large map into multiple separate maps in a hub allows to outgrow the static limits of the game, preserve performances, and also give each area its own music, skies, fog, etc.

 

It's true for the music and skies and perhaps even fog, they could have coded in what's needed to change those dynamically -- they had ACS, after all -- but cramming all of a hub's map into a single map would have make it too big and CPU-intensive for the computers of the era.

 

Just for reference, Hexen's first hub has a total of 2638 things, 7137 vertices*, 8911 lines, 13161 sides, and 1716 sectors. (* not counting those added by nodebuilding.) That might seem like nothing nowadays, but back then, it would definitely have been far too much.

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Hexen thrives with mods. It's the game that got the most out of advanced ports. Playing it long time ago with keyboard only was miserable and frustrating experience even for my teenage me that had no standarts. But the game has the best atmosphere from all idtech1 games. The classes, monster design, raven artstyle all that makes it really memorable.
Main problem I see is that the levels are not that distinctive which adds a lot of confusion for the puzzles and switch hunts. The switch hunts are not that hard, the game is not big and if you are used to exploring you will have no problem, but if you have problem in visualizing spaces and reading maps, you will have miserable experience.

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Posted (edited)

I loved Hexen in the 90s and beat it on all 3 classes at the time. I loved that there were 3 classes and each had their own weapon sets. (I'm all about magic in fantasy games, so the mage and cleric were great for me.)

Hexen worked for me as a sequel to Heretic that wanted to do more fantasy stuff and more complex "Doom engine" advances than Heretic did.

 

 

For me, Hexen's faults were in things being too vague or levels (the hubs and everything connected) being too long.

On the first level/hub world, The Seven Portals, one of the later puzzles is the chain-switch that moves one wall side-to-side to allow passage to the small area beyond each side, toggled so one at a time.  However from the chain, to get to the wall that slides you must go up a stairwell into a new section, go around that doughnut of a section, then down an elevator into a darkish tight space, and notice that the wall was moved. Terrible design IMHO... at the very least the 2 small areas revealed by the sliding door depending on which side you toggled it should've been colored differently or such to make the change obvious to the player since the switch and the wall are not close to each other.

In short, the purpose of the switch wasn't obvious nor telegraphed.  In Doom, a switch almost always does something nearby, at the least within hearing range of the sound effect that plays when the triggered thing happens.

The next level/hub world (the swamp one) goes on too long for me, and the one after that I simply get tired of trying to find all the require little spheres for the wall puzzle jumping between the sub-levels (Do I really need 500,000? Will these 3 I already found suffice? No? Okay I'll go back again and look everywhere again).

 

 

I've never played a Hexen WAD, but now that we're talking about it I think I should find some excellent ones. I do enjoy Hexen, but apparently I never enjoyed the base game's levels much (atmosphere was always great!). I replayed some of Hexen last summer so my feelings were renewed.

EDIT TO ADD:  If Doom World had Heretic and Hexen sections, I'd probably spend a lot of time there. I desire to learn, and I've never tried making maps for either. =)

 

Apparently some people watch YouToobers who tell you how you should feel and form their opinions that way? I'll never do that, yuck.

Edited by DiavoJinx

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I like Hexen, but I don't think the criticism is overdone. There's really no indication about what the fuck is going on. And starting it with the Seven Portals ought to be a war crime, or something. You can figure out later that it works on these hubs, but yeesh.

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Can agree that Seven Portals was a really shitty thing to front-load the game with.

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Posted (edited)

Having replayed it last summer with its expansion pack, Hexen was alright, so called puzzles and obscure progression wasn't that much of an issue compared to Bob Evans maps from Eternal Doom or even the later hubs in Hexen 2 (esp. the egyptian one). Deathkings was underwhelming as it was just a 3 hub new campaign using the same resources from the base game, no new item/weapon/class, just maps. And quite harder, too.

 

What I found mostly irritating was the constant monster respawn in maps. It was still ok in the first game with only ettins repopulating maps, but in Deathkings it could spawn any kind of monster. Some monsters were a pain to fight, not only centaur slayers but also those aquatic stalkers jumping out of nowhere to claw you! Secrets also could have been tagged as such, even without intermission screens to track them.

 

Also, Raven actually wanted to make a more RPG slanted game with the Doom engine, just like Shadowcaster was with the Wolf3D one. But id Software wanted a fantasy Doom game foremost, even if things like inventory and class selection were kept.

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I agree with the consensus. The vague direction was its biggest hurdle.
Feels like the people doing the testruns were too familiar with the goals, and could have benefited from new eyes on the project.
However the aesthetic and style will always hold my heart.
 

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Posted (edited)

It is a great fantasy FPS game. I don't know what RPG elements people are finding other than picking a class. It just has more cryptic progression and a bit slower and more strategic combat than Doom, but pretty much the whole game is about shooting stuff, exploring, and collecting items.

If you actually make good use of your artifacts and weapons the combat flows a lot better. I think people kind of forget that they are holding 25 bombs, 25 disc of repulsion, a few kraters of might, a porkalator, and an icon of the FRIGGIN defender, and instead just sit there plinking away with their cheapest weapon as if this is a survival adventure game. Every class has a serviceable first weapon that doesn't require mana, so running out of mana and artifacts shouldn't be that big of a concern. Flechettes can do a ridiculous amount of damage and are plentiful around all the maps. Repulsion, porkalator, and banishment device can instantly nullify some enemies. They take falling damage too so pushing off a cliff is a viable strategy. Meanwhile you can be refilling your health and ammo from your stockpile.

At first it does seem like you might need all that stuff later on, but you really don't. Stop hoarding and start spamming!

Also, I'm pretty sure flechettes of all 3 varieties absolutely wreck centaurs. Mage's lightning also bypasses their shield. Again, falling damage works too. So what I'm saying is, there's a little bit more "which tool is right for the job" thinking than in Doom. Once you get into that mindset, the opposition doesn't seem quite as spongy.

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For those who mentioned Civvie's review of Hexen, I do agree that hes kinda ass at games. Nothing wrong with lacking some skill but it is amazing how people outright agree with him without really trying the games he reviews. Admittingly I was also in that same boat, especially with Hexen, until I tried the games he reviewed. I still watch him anyway for background noise.

 

Although I fear the day he suddenly reviews Marathon (he hates Halo or something so idk) because I know he's just going to make a joke about how the whole game is a sewer level and it's ""jank"". Then people who haven't even tried it will just parrot that making it harder to get people to try it.

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yeah, it definitely is. it's not that bad; it's certainly flawed, but it never becomes actually unbearable to play. in fact, i think that some of the often maligned puzzles are kinda neat :p

 

the combat is definitely a bit repetitive, but even then i don't think it's too awful or anything. it's satisfying enough that it never becomes pure tedium imo.

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In all honesty, yeah, I think it is. I've criticized it bluntly on this forum before, in spite of having been a fan of the game for over 25 years. Yes, the Castle of Grief hub and Seven Portals both have some rather convoluted puzzle progression; the other 3 hubs of the game have much more cohesive and clear puzzles. 

 

If you play on the higher difficulties, there's some rather poorly designed combat situations to overcome in the first hub, (there's a couple areas that SPAM you with Wendigos and Chaos Serpents, so good luck if you're the Fighter)---that being said, the weapon progression also means that the combat difficulty peaks right around the end of the first hub, though the enemy spawns do get a little ridiculous in the Castle of Grief.

 

Yeah, Hexen can be brutal and cryptic at times (again, I chalk up some of that to the classic difficulty you almost have to expect from 80's-90's games), but I genuinely think people make it out to be worse than it actually is. The thing to remember is that you can't play it like it's Doom. Heretic could easily be classified as a re-skinned Doom; Hexen, despite being a sequel, very much isn't. 

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Hexen has its problems but Civvies review of it was ridiculous. All the trollish ambushes he complains about are ones that only exist on UV -he even mentions it in Necropolis- but they are a cakewalk compared to Blood and Ion Fury which he praises all day long. The wendigo ambush is the craziest one in Hexen as they can kill you in secs but this ambush takes longer to kill you than the easier cultist ambushes in Blood.

 

 

The biggest problem of the game is the mappers not adapting the new tech in time, so it ended up with big issues like:

1) The first hub exists to PROVE to you that this game is different. The game won't let you stay in one map for more than a minute before kicking you back to the hub. You go to guardian of ice to step on a teleport back to the hub, go to guardian of fire to walk 20 steps and return to hub then go to guardian of steel to walk to an elevator and think the game is broken because of the buggy shitty elevator and the stupid misplaced switch puzzle (you can't see that your switches open the doors at the bottom, which seems to be the intention of the puzzle NOT test each puzzle and try to guess what opened). Your return trip to each of the three guardians is a bit better but spending 3 more mins to complete each map isn't a great improvement.

 

I am not saying the hub is completely useless , it was alright as the demo hub. But in the final game Winnowing Hall should've immediately sent the player to Shadow Wood to start the actual game. (Could just keep Seven Portals as a tutorial or demo episode in the final game)

 

2) Shadow Wood is a big upgrade in world building over the first hub but it has some of the dumbest progress issues to exist. cave of circe and the wasteland have stupid walls that probably caused a lot of players to quit, the swamp has a switch you might miss. The game also loves instakilling you with traps so you better be saving every 2 minutes. It doesn't get better as the final boss in it - the wyvern- is like someone finally learned how to use waypoints but forget this is a boss fight. Why is this wandering behavior on the boss and not random optional mobs instead?

 

3) It feels like they ran out of time after they spent all their budget on the Heresiarch Seminary and the castles/tower hubs. Like the game was supposed to end in the 2nd Heresiarch fight, but testers/devs thought the game was too short so they added Necropolis with maps that make Heretic look like the sequel instead of the other way around.

 

And well like everyone who played it will tell you, there aren't enough weps for each class or monster variety to cover the entire game. But I think those tie to the prior three reasons and if they had cut seven portals from the full game and had a bigger more fleshed out Dark Crucible (just put all 3 human bosses in it then Korax for a grand finale) less people will have that complain. Although then we might've had people complain about the game being too short instead.

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I recognize that objectively it is a game with a lot of problems and questionable design choices. But I will never not love it because it was my first experience with a fantasy-themed game (everything before that I had played was sci-fi or simulation) and I played it co-op with two friends. Both of those factors combined permanently cement it in my mind as an amazing adventure and I'll never be able to see past the nostalgia to stop adoring it.

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Korax is such a massive pushover compared to D'Sparil that it's rather upsetting.

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13 hours ago, AllenB said:

The hub system was a good concept... It served no real purpose since one large map would do the same thing

 

DOOM's engine cannot really handle large, open maps similar to Hexen's. Since it's derived from the same code-base, I wouldn't be surprised if Hexen had a similar issue. If that's the case, the hub system does indeed serve a purpose, but that's behind the scenes.

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3 hours ago, Lila Feuer said:

Korax is such a massive pushover compared to D'Sparil that it's rather upsetting.

 

Yeah, the Korax fight feels like something Raven had to crank out in a week's time at the end of the project. On paper, it's an interesting concept---the boss rapidly teleports to different destinations around the arena and shoots concentrated rings of projectiles that are basically an insta-kill if they hit you, also he summons waves of enemies from locked rooms. But with the way the fight is executed, about the only unpredictable element is where Korax teleports next, and he's not hard to track down. The waves of monsters end up being mere mana absorbers and Korax himself has no defense except teleporting away, since he's practically stationary otherwise. Occasionally, the fight gets spiced up a little when he releases the Serpents/Bishops, but the probability of him getting a chance to do so is low. The only class where the fight potentially poses somewhat of a challenge is the Fighter, otherwise it's basically a shooting gallery. There's not much interesting about the level except the traps and the architecture. The D'Sparil fight is FAR superior.

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24 minutes ago, Amaruψ said:

 

DOOM's engine cannot really handle large, open maps similar to Hexen's. Since it's derived from the same code-base, I wouldn't be surprised if Hexen had a similar issue. If that's the case, the hub system does indeed serve a purpose, but that's behind the scenes.


Indeed. Besides, Hexen was released in… what, 1996? We were glad to have the game running as well as it did with Pentium machines (I might still have had 486 at the time). Massive maps would have killed the performance.

 

Personally, I do think it’s critisized more harshly than it deserves :P There have been good points for and against already - I had only one real problem back in the day: softlock in the Castle hub. For weeks I looked for ways to progress, but some door just wouldn’t open. Internet was not a thing, so I couldn’t check anything from anywhere, so eventually I gave up thinking Hexen was just too clever for me.

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Hexen may have a lot of flaws, but I really wonder how different its reputation would be if only the Guardian of Steel was changed.  Although people have expressed other criticisms of the Seven Portals, I really can't imagine people putting that much thought into it if that one level didn't get so many people stuck.  Since it's mostly straightforward otherwise.

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Yes, Hexen is criticized too harshly. >)

 

That being said, Hexen is also one of my favorite games and the exploration / switch-hunting is, funnily enough, my favorite aspect of the game. Now I can understand why it can be frustrating for some (most ?) people, but I never found the puzzles as vague or obscure as some people seem to perceive them.

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I would have liked it, but the lack of weapons really holds the game back. Sure, there's items to use as well, but it just doesn't go far enough to make the gameplay interesting enough for me.

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Hexen, just like DOOM both, have mostly excellent maps. A couple of them feel like

that the author ran out time to spice them up a bit. Overall though, it plays very well.

 

It's too bad that not more mappers take it up for their own maps.

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9 hours ago, Caffeine Freak said:

The D'Sparil fight is FAR superior.

If that is so, then I am not looking forward to fighting Korax when I finally get to playing Hexen proper - because D'Sparil was already underwhelming enough. Easy to hit, slow to attack, his serpent dies real fast thanks to the chunky hitbox, and the disciples that he summons aren't much of a threat in an arena this open. The same old story as Doom, which had a similarly meh Spider Mastermind as it's final boss. Except Spidey at least had the decency not to drag out the fight way beyond what it's worth by teleporting frantically all over the place. :P

Maulotaurs truly are the Cyberdemons of Heretic - not only in design, but in the way they surpass the actual big bad of the game when it comes to posing a threat to the player.

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2 hours ago, Toxisploder said:

If that is so, then I am not looking forward to fighting Korax when I finally get to playing Hexen proper


At least it has hordes of enemies that release as well as environmental effects (floors sinking to lava and stuff). The map itself isn't that interesting but at least it does have some stuff to navigate, like a choke point in the middle that can quickly get flooded with minions, as opposed to the very boring field in D'Sparil. But, if you just rush the hell out of Korax I think you can kill him before he activates all of his scripts (so some of the monsters don't even get released). Both fights are easy, I think Korax is more fun though.

Annoyingly, there are no weapons on the map in SP/Coop. I think the fight would be more interesting if you could "pistol-start" and only use the first 3 weapons until late in the fight, when the full army has been released. 

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3 hours ago, Toxisploder said:

If that is so, then I am not looking forward to fighting Korax when I finally get to playing Hexen proper - because D'Sparil was already underwhelming enough. Easy to hit, slow to attack, his serpent dies real fast thanks to the chunky hitbox, and the disciples that he summons aren't much of a threat in an arena this open. The same old story as Doom, which had a similarly meh Spider Mastermind as it's final boss. Except Spidey at least had the decency not to drag out the fight way beyond what it's worth by teleporting frantically all over the place. :P

Maulotaurs truly are the Cyberdemons of Heretic - not only in design, but in the way they surpass the actual big bad of the game when it comes to posing a threat to the player.

D'sparil is easily the hardest boss fight in the id tech 1 games if you are playing on skill 5. Heretic's NM doesn't have respawning monsters so a lot of people play that instead of bothering with UV. Once on skill 5 you have very little windows of opportunity to hit D'sparil and you might even run out of ammo if you mess up badly enough. You also have to waste a tome and ring of invulnerability if you want to quickly kill the serpent which means even less firepower to deal with d'sparil himself. This is even harder if you are playing on pistol start as you might waste too much ammo or straight up die in the ophidian\disciples rooms.

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I just barely started Hexen recently, and so far the seven portals is not a great introduction. I really enjoy the combat and enemies so far (playing as the Cleric), but I’m not good at switch hunting in games, so it just makes solving the puzzles harder for me.

 

So it seems to me that Hexen as a whole is criticized too harshly, but the level design (at least for seven portals) absolutely deserves the criticism.

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