In 1995, Raven Software released Hexen (also known as Hexen: Beyond Heretic), a spinoff to their previous first-person shooter, Heretic. Hexen originally began as an expansion/sequel to Heretic but when the project took on a life of its own (figuratively... there was no software running around eating game designers to the best of my knowledge), it became a different, but related, game. The game, which used a modified version of the Doom engine developed by id Software, pitted the player against another of the three Serpent Riders on another world (i.e. not the one Heretic took place in). The game allowed the player to choose a class (Baratus the fighter, Daedolon the cleric, Parias the mage) and the choice the player made changed which weapons the player could use and slightly altered the locations and types of certain enemies. Hexen, by the way, is German for witch.

The storyline of Hexen is basically the same as Heretic: The player is the only one of his/her species left able to fight the Serpent Rider which has enslaved his/her world. In the case of Hexen, there's actually three left. In single player they become separated and must do on their own what they hardly hoped to do together. In the cooperative mode of multiplayer, they aren't separated (and if there is a fourth player even have along another comrade to aid them). Single player is a fun, challenging battle against evil involving fighting off hordes of enemies and solving a few puzzles (helping to break the monotony of kill-kill-kill... repeat that many first-person shooter games suffer from). Multiplayer is either a two to four player version of the same or a two to four player deathmatch in any of Hexen's levels.

Each class the player can choose from in the game has four distinct weapons, the fourth of which must be assembled from various pieces strewn throughout the levels. Each class' first weapon uses no ammunition. The second weapon uses blue mana. The third uses green mana. The fourth uses both flavours of delicious mana in generous servings. Best used only in emergancies (or when you really want to watch a lot of those buggers splatter apart at once). Some graphics in the game hint that there was another type of mana in the world Hexen takes place in, purple mana, that was used by the player's enemies (most noteably the Heresiarchs, one of which is seen after the epilogue at the end of Heretic's third episode). One theory about this is that one of the mana colours represents good, one neutral and one evil. Since the player character isn't evil (presumably), he/she cannot use purple mana (or just doesn't have a weapon that uses it).

The game ends (assuming the player doesn't have the expansion, Hexen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel) with a battle against Korax and his personal guard of four hordes of creatures the player will have encountered plenty of by the time he/she encounters this final fight. Korax is another of the three Sepent Riders (in Heretic, the player fought the supposed weakest of the three: D'Sparil). Despite Korax being known as more powerful than D'Sparil, he seemed easier to defeat. This is likely attributed to the fact that one of his attacks didn't spawn irksome disciples that whispered things that vaguely sounded like "deep dish pizza, i love you" and as he became more damaged, though he could summon some rather irksome entities to his aid, didn't summon a non-stop barrage of said disciples almost constantly on the toughest skill setting making it so even if he didn't teleport away from a lot of the player's shots, the disciples would probably absorb all the damage. Not that there weren't tons of his minions flung at you in that final level. In Hexen's beta version, one horde included a more powerful variant of the creatures that made up that horde. Apparently this was toned done for the final release, as was the power of the cleric's fourth weapon (which was changed so its attack didn't pass through walls, delightfully cutting down enemies players didn't even know existed).

As did Heretic, Hexen too makes some improvements to the Doom engine. Whereas Heretic allowed flight, the ability to look up and down (to a limited degree), the ability to carry items that weren't keys for later use and some widely unnoticed, very technical improvements (e.g. being able to move under and over enemies), Hexen gives players the ability to jump, fall to their deaths, face enemies that strafed and more.

The games vicious nasties compliment includes some completely new fiends, some very familiar meanies (significantly weaker versions of D'Sparil's serpent make regular appearances) and some slightly more intelligent variants of Heretic creatures with new graphics (compare Heretic's gargoyle to Hexen's afrit).

Hexen has roughly the same visual technical quality as Heretic, which though it was great for the time would seem poor and blocky by today's standards. The game runs at a resolution of 640 by 480 in 256 colour VGA and doesn't have a low res option like Doom and Doom II. The majority of the artwork for Hexen is new, though it does borrow some graphics from Heretic. The sound quality is equal to that of its predecessor as well with the exception of the music from the CD, which is absolutely great for enhancing the creepy yet adrenaline-rushed feel of the game.

Another nifty feature of Hexen is the hub style of level grouping. Unlike Doom, Heretic and many other early first-person shooters, Hexen's levels aren't separated into episodes of usually nine levels each. The advantage with this is that at the end of each episode, the player doesn't lose his hard-earned arsenal and assorted goodies. Unlike Doom II (which also doesn't use the episode format its sequel did) however, Hexen's levels are grouped into five separate hubs. Each hub has a main level, which served not only as a traditional place to battle your foes, find power-ups, etc. type area but also to provide portals to all the other levels of that specific hub. The first and supersecret level (only accessible via cheat codes) were the only levels not to belong to a hub. Advancing past one hub meant that the levels of that hub could no longer be accessed. Each hub also had a secret level, typically only accessible as the player came very close to ending his/her stay in that specific hub. Noteably, one item found and used in the first hub's secret level is the heart of D'Sparil. The first hub is the only one not to feature a single boss type creature that must be defeated to continue. The remaining hubs final foes are, in order from second hub to final hub: the Death Wyvern (the only flying creature in the game to turn realistically); a Heresiarch; another Heresiarch; and Korax. Each hub typically has some types of puzzles to be solved by taking various items from certain levels to certain other levels and/or throwing switches in various the levels.

Listed system requirements for Hexen's DOS version:

Meaning of "Hexen"

The German word for "witch" is "Hexe". "Hexen" as a noun is the plural form, and therefore translates as "witches". "Hexen" is also a verb meaning "to practice witchcraft". A "Hexenmeister" is a sorceror or wizard. "Hexerei" means witchcraft, sorcery, or magic.


Weapons in the Game

Fighter's Weapons:
- Spiked Gauntlets - You start out with these. Baratus is very strong and can kill weak enemies swiftly with his mighty fists.
- Timon's Axe - An axe with a glowing blue aura. If you run out of blue mana, the aura will go away until you get more. The axe still works without mana, but isn't as strong.
- Hammer of Retribution - With this weapon, you can throw exploding hammers or just beat someone's skull in with it. I suspect that it's based on the legendary hammer of Thor.
- Quietus - A huge black sword with a flaming green aura. When Baratus swings Quietus, a spread of five razor sharp blades with the same green aura fly out, causing massive damage to anyone they hit.

Cleric's Weapons:
- Mace of Contrition - Parias begins his quest carrying this mace. It's not as good a weapon as Baratus' fists, but it still allows you to beat down enemies that come too close.
- Serpent Staff - This weapon has a large green eye that actually blinks, as if the staff is alive. It has two functions. At a distance, it fires balls of venom at an enemy. Up close, it actually allows you to drain your enemies' life, like a vampire.
- Firestorm - With this spell, Parias can lift his flaming hands and immerse an enemy in holy fire.
- Wraithverge - The most powerful cleric weapon, this staff allows you to summon the spirits of the dead to your aid. These spirits fly around and suck health from those that they touch. Sometimes known as Justifier.

Mage's Weapons:
- Sapphire Wand - A silver wand with a large sapphire on the end. It doesn't do very much damage, but it's the only starting weapon that can be used at long range. The beams it fires can pierce an enemy and keep going.
- Frost Shards - Daedolon throws a large spread of frigid shards that can transform an enemy into solid ice.
- Arc of Death - This spell gives Daedolon the power to throw lightning bolts. When a lightning bolt hits an enemy, it will lock on, continuing to do damage until the lighting fades.
- Bloodscourge - The master weapon of a mage is this staff adorned with a demon skull clasping a bloody red orb in its horns. It creates fireballs that home in on enemies and do massive damage, often bursting weak ones from the inside out.


Cast of Characters in the Game

- Baratus - The good fighter.
- Parias - The good cleric.
- Daedolon - The good mage.
- Ettin - Two headed thugs with maces.
- Afrit - Flaming winged demons that shoot multiple fireballs at a time.
- Centaur - Centaurs with shields and helmets. They have claws rather than hooves.
- Slaughtar - Like the Centaurs, but with a projectile attack.
- Wendigo - Dwarves made of ice that can freeze you solid.
- Chaos Serpent - Dragon-like creatures. They come in green and brown.
- Stalker - Swamp creatures that hide underwater.
- Stalker Leader - Stalkers with a projectile attack.
- Dark Bishop - Levitating robed people that fire a magical attack.
- Death Wyvern - Undead dragon that flies and breathes powerful fireballs.
- Heresiarch - Big robed demons with powerful magic.
- Zedek - The evil fighter.
- Traductus - The evil cleric.
- Menelkir - The evil mage.
- Korax - The final boss.


Difficulty Settings

A cool touch in the game is that the names of the five difficulty settings change depending on what class you choose to play as. If nothing else, you have fifteen interesting terms to investigate.

Fighter's Difficulty Settings:
- Squire
- Knight
- Warrior
- Berserker
- Titan

Cleric's Difficulty Settings:
- Altar Boy
- Acolyte
- Priest
- Cardinal
- Pope

Mage's Difficulty Settings:
- Apprentice
- Enchanter
- Sorceror
- Warlock
- Archimage


References:
- Langenscheidt Pocket German Dictionary
- Hexen Manual

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