Hexen: Beyond Heretic

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Hexen: Beyond Heretic
Hexenbox.jpg
PC box art
Developer(s) Raven Software
Publisher(s) id Software
Distributor(s) GT Interactive
Director(s) Brian Raffel
Producer(s) John Romero
Designer(s) Brian Raffel, Eric C. Biessman
Composer(s) Kevin Schilder
Engine Doom engine
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Mac OS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64
Release date(s) MS-DOS
  • NA October 30, 1995
  • EU 1995
Deathkings of the Dark Citadel
  • NA January 1, 1996
Mac OS
PlayStation
  • EU March, 1997
  • NA June 30, 1997
  • JP March 19, 1998
Saturn
  • NA April 30, 1997
  • JP March 26, 1998
Nintendo 64
  • NA May 31, 1997
  • EU Q4 1997
  • JP December 18, 1997
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Floppy disk, CD

Hexen: Beyond Heretic is a dark fantasy first-person shooter video game developed by Raven Software, published by id Software, and distributed by GT Interactive beginning on October 30, 1995. It is the sequel to 1994's Heretic, and the second game in Raven Software's "Serpent Riders" series. The title comes from the German noun "Hexen", which means "witches" (in plural) or the verb "hexen" which means "to cast a spell".

Plot[edit]

Following the tale of D'Sparil's defeat in Heretic, Hexen takes place in another realm, Cronos, which is besieged by the second of the Serpent Riders, Korax. Three heroes set out to destroy Korax. The player assumes the role of one such hero.

Gameplay[edit]

A new series feature introduced in Hexen is the choice of character class. Players may choose to play as a fighter, cleric, or mage. Each character has unique weapons and physical characteristics, lending an additional degree of variety and replay value to the gameplay. The Fighter relies mainly on close quarter martial attacks with weapons both mundane and magical in nature, and is tougher and faster than the other characters. The Mage uses an assortment of long-range spells, whose reach is counterbalanced by the fact that he is the most fragile and slowest moving of the classes. The Cleric arms himself with a combination of both melee and ranged capabilities, being a middle ground of sorts between the other two classes. Additionally, certain items behave differently when collected and used by each of the classes, functioning in a manner better suiting their varying approach to combat, further differentiating the three.

Hexen introduces "hub" levels to the series, wherein the player travels back and forth between central hub levels and connected side levels. This is done in order to solve larger-scale puzzles that require a series of items or switches to be thrown. The player must traverse through a hub in order to reach a boss and advance to the next hub.

Development[edit]

Hexen uses a modified version of the Doom engine, which allows jumping, network play with up to 8 players and the choice of three character classes. It also popularised the "hub system" of level progression in the genre of first-person shooter games. Unlike previous games, which had relied purely on General MIDI for music, Hexen is also able to play tracks from CDs. The game's own CD contained soundtrack in audio format that was exactly the same as the game's MIDI soundtrack but played through a high quality sound module. However, the most significant improvement was the addition of wall translation, rotation and level scripting.

Engine modifications[edit]

"Polyobjects" are the walls which move within the game. Because the Doom engine uses the binary space partitioning system for rendering, it does not enable moving walls. Hexen's moving walls are actually one-sided lines built somewhere else on the map and rendered at the desired start spot when the level is loaded. This enables a pseudo-moving wall but does not allow moving sectors (such as seeing the tops of moving doors). This often creates problems in sectors which contain more than one node, explaining the relatively limited use of polyobjects.

Whereas Doom, Doom II, and Heretic rely on lines within the maps to perform simple actions, Hexen also allows these actions to be activated via Action Code Script (ACS). These scripts use a syntactic variant of C, thus allowing special sequencing of game actions. Programming features such as randomization, variables, and intermap script activation enable smooth hub gameplay and are responsible for most of the special effects within the game: On-screen messages; random sound effect and monster spawning; sidedef texture changes; versatile control of polyobjects; level initialization for deathmatch; and even complex environment changes such as earthquakes manipulating floor levels and textures.

Source code[edit]

In 1999 the source code for Hexen was released by Raven Software under a license that granted rights to non-commercial use, and was re-released under the GNU General Public License on September 4, 2008.[1] This allowed the game to be ported to different platforms such as Linux, AmigaOS and OS/2 (EComStation).

Hexen is compatible with many Doom source ports; Hexen '​s features are also compatible with Doom WADs made for source ports regardless of what game they are being played on.

Music[edit]

The score was composed by Kevin Schilder. In contrast to Heretic, some songs, in addition to MIDI versions, had higher-quality versions on CD. When playing in CD-audio mode, songs absent from CD would be replaced by some existing CD tracks.[2]

Console versions[edit]

Hexen was also released for the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64, all released by GT Interactive during the first half of 1997. While presenting several specific differences in their respective translations of the original computer game, all of them constitute essentially the same game with no major changes to level design, plot, or overall delivery.

The PlayStation version, developed by Probe Entertainment, has the FMV scenes and Redbook audio music from the PC CD-ROM version, but no multiplayer mode. The scripting and 3D animation is slower, enemies have only their front sprites and lack gory deaths when attacked by strong hits or weapons, and the frame rate is slower. Although all levels are present in this version and feature their correct layouts, their architecture details are somewhat simplified and there is some loss in overall lighting quality. This port is based on a beta version of the original PC Hexen as many gameplay tweaks are shared, such as the simpler level design and the Warrior's fists being underpowered compared to other versions.

The Sega Saturn version, also developed by Probe, inherits most of the restrictions of the PlayStation version, such as the simplified scenery architecture and the downgraded lighting, although it does feature some improved aspects. The scripting is faster, and the frame-rate, while not fluid or consistent, is slightly better. The enemies still have all but their front sprites missing, but they retain their gory deaths when killed by a strong hit or weapon. This version also has hidden two-player link-up cooperative and deathmatch options, accessible only through the unlockable cheat menu. While this port shares the FMV scenes and most of the Redbook audio music from the other CD-ROM versions, it has some new music tracks.

The Nintendo 64 version, developed by Software Creations retains all graphical quality and scenery architecture, has a consistent framerate, and includes high detail and smooth filtering options. This version also has four-player split-screen cooperative and deathmatch options, although they must be played in low detail mode. Due to cartridge storage limitations, the Nintendo 64 version is based on the original PC floppy version and lacks the FMV scenes and Redbook audio music introduced in the CD-ROM version, although it has new narrative introductions to the levels.

Deathkings of the Dark Citadel[edit]

Deathkings of the Dark Citadel is the official expansion pack that was released for Hexen in 1996. It features three more hubs, for a total of 20 new single player levels and a couple of deathmatch levels. Unlike the expansion pack for Heretic, it had to be purchased in retail stores or by mail order. This was unusual at the time, as most non-free expansion packs also included other new or revised gameplay elements. Also, this expansion pack did not initially include nor enable any music. Music could be fully enabled by applying a patch, specially released to address this issue (usually found online under the name "dkpatch").

The names of the expansion hubs are as follows:

  • The Blight
  • The Constable's Gate
  • The Nave

Each of the hubs features new levels, one secret level per hub, and new puzzles based on the quest items from the original game (no new quest artifacts were added). The difficulty of the puzzles is mostly on the same level as in the original game. The overall game difficulty is slightly higher, as is typical for game expansions.

The final level of the expansion, the Dark Citadel itself, is an arena-like level, which features teleporting waves of monsters and three bosses (Fighter, Cleric, and Mage clones).

Reception[edit]

The game received mostly positive reviews in computer gaming magazines[citation needed]. Reviewers complained of the graphics being crude in comparison to the preceding game in the series, Heretic, whilst praising the level design and new features.

References[edit]

External links[edit]