Published by id Software and distributed by Activision, Hexen II is a medieval fantasy first-person shooter that was developed from 1996 to 1997 by Raven Software and was released for both PC and Mac. It bears similarities to other action-oriented shooters of it's era, including Quake, whose engine the game was based upon, though Hexen II places a significant emphasis on such adventure game staples as exploration and puzzle-solving. Light role-playing elements are also included, like separate character classes and level-based stat progression, which are combined with a non-linear game world that allows players to explore interconnected sets of levels known as hubs. Most of these elements are carried over from Hexen, the game's immediate predecessor, and Hexen II plays quite similarly as a result.
The version of the Quake Engine used for Hexen II was heavily modified from its original form in order to allow for features such as destructible objects and interactive environmental elements (like working catapults and ballistae). These upgrades were not only meant to increase immersion but also to serve an important gameplay purpose, since puzzles in Hexen II often necessitated environmental interaction. Unlike Quake, Hexen II also shipped with OpenGL hardware acceleration support right out of the box. The source code for the modified engine was released in 2000 under the GNU General Public License.
Considered the last title in the Serpent Riders trilogy, Hexen II takes place after the events of Heretic and Hexen: Beyond Heretic, as two of the three Serpent Riders, D'Sparil and Korax, have been defeated in the realms of Parthoris and Cronos respectively. All is not well, however, as Eidolon, the eldest and most powerful of the Serpent Riders, now threatens the free realm of Thyrion. To complicate matters, he cannot be challenged until the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Famine, Death, Pestilence, and War, have been defeated in combat. Only then will it be possible to face Eidolon directly. As one of four heroes, the player must set out on a journey spanning four continents in order to defeat Eidolon's lieutenants and ultimately put an end to his tyranny.
Players start Hexen II by first choosing one of four character classes: Assassin, Crusader, Paladin, or Necromancer. This choice not only dictates what weapons are available to the player, but also determines access to special class-specific attributes that greatly influence the style of play. Regardless of class, the game proceeds through a set progression of interconnected levels, or hubs, each of which ends with a boss encounter. Over time players gain levels through combat, which increases a character's maximum hit points and mana, and also unlocks class abilities. In addition to combat, each hub world requires a fair amount of exploration and puzzle-solving in order to reach the final boss, and advancement is often non-linear, as traveling back and forth between levels is frequently necessary in order to make progress. In keeping with its many role-playing elements, Hexen II features a rudimentary inventory system where various item types (Quartz Flasks, Tomes of Power, etc.) can be stored and used at a later time.
On top of its single-player, Hexen II includes a full multiplayer component which allows any of the four character classes to be played with all of their respective weapons and abilities available. While its initial release only included Deathmatch, later mods would be released which implemented objective-based game types like Capture the Flag and Siege, a mode where player teams take turns defending and attacking a heavily fortified castle.
Continents of Thyrion
The action of Hexen II takes place across four thematically distinct continents, with each hub leading eventually to one of Eidolon's generals: Famine, Death, Pestilence, or War.
Blackmarsh (Medieval)The first and last location the player will visit, Blackmarsh is a forboding land of medieval architecture and overcast skies. The Grand Cathedral, the King's Court, and the Mage's Tower are among the more well known locales of Blackmarsh. Eidolon's forces have thoroughly subjugated the continent, meaning cold rain and looming castles are not the only forbidding elements. Blackmarsh is rumored to be the base of operations of Eidolon himself, and is governed by Famine.
Mazaera (Mesoamerican)The land of Mazaera is largely untouched in comparison to the other continents, consisting largely of dense rain forests inhabited by nomadic were-creatures. Perhaps because of this, Eidolon has gained a strong foothold there in a short time. Sparely populated though it may be, there are still several locations of note on the continent, such as the Court of 1,000 Warriors, the Plaza of the Sun, and the Tomb of the High Priest. Since Eidolon came to power, Mazaera has been ruled by his trusted general, Death.
Thysis (Egyptian)Just as Mazaera is characterized by jungles, Thysis is known for its desolate, sandy deserts, punctuated only occasionally by human settlements. Only the coastal regions of Thysis betray any signs of lush, healthy greenery. Wondrous monuments such as the Palace of Horus or the Temple of Set remind visitors of the great civilizations that rose and fell in the shadow of its impressive pyramids. Thysis is currently soiled by Pestilence, who oversees the land in Eidolon's stead.
Septimus (Greco-Roman)The most populous continent of Thyrion, Septimus is home to a large cosmopolitan population who were nonetheless ill-prepared for the coming of Eidolon. The decadence of its inhabitants is evidenced by the many gardens and bathhouses one may find during their stay. The Hall of Heroes, the Gardens of Athena, and the Baths of Demetrius are among the posh locations one might visit among its great cities. Septimus is presided over by War, who keeps its callow inhabitants in check.
Hexen II has four protagonists, who each represent one of the game's four continents. They are a diverse group of characters, motivated in turn by vengeance, greed, justice, or power. In addition to different weapon sets, each has innate abilities that make for a distinctive play experience. The final weapon for each hero is composed of two parts, with both pieces required before it may be used. The Glyph of the Ancients artifact also behaves differently for each class, and each has a specific preference for one of the game's four armor types, which will grant them a higher Armor Class than others.
Hailing from Khitar, deep in the jungles of Mazaera, the Assassin left her home at the age of fifteen, being dissatisfied with the simple, unrewarding farming life her parents had chosen. With nothing to her name save her own ingenuity, the Assassin builds a small fortune stealing first from the drunk and slow-witted, eventually working her way up to richer and more lucrative targets. In time even they present no challenge to her, and weary from boredom, she sets her sights on the wealthiest, most powerful being in all of Thyrion: the Serpent Rider Eidolon.
The Assassin has two main talents. The first is stealth. While standing completely still, she is able to blend with her surroundings to remain hidden from enemies. Additionally, she is able to backstab, which causes additional damage to foes when attacked from behind.
Having been inducted into a Blackmarsh monastery at a young age, the Crusader has lived a life of austerity, never knowing his true parents. He throws himself vigorously into his studies, and the lack of distractions allows him to develop into a knowledgeable, passionate, and just man. Though peaceful, he realizes early in Eidolon's rule that such evil must be driven from the land by force. With this realization, he begins training in the art of combat. One day his practice is interrupted by one of Eidolon's minions. With even simple country folk now in fear of the Serpent Rider's ambitions, the Crusader sets out to end the blight which has enveloped his land.
Being a man of faith, the Crusader is sometimes granted boons by his god. These boons take two forms, the first being an ability to periodically and spontaneously heal himself. The other is a sudden surge of strength which may be granted upon defeating an enemy.
Residing in Septimus, the Paladin is a devotee of Kravnos, the God of War. His order suffers heavy losses to Eidolon early in his campaign, but are able to regroup, training and plotting in secrecy to strike back at the Serpent Rider. Or so they think. Their plans are betrayed before they have a chance to attack, and only the Paladin, meditating alone in the bell tower, is left alive. Cursing his brothers' weakness and Eidolon's treachery, he sets out to bring the tyrant down himself. Though he faces impossible odds, Kravnos will undoubtedly smile upon his efforts.
Kravnos grants the Paladin several skills in his quest to avenge his order. Being attuned to water, Kravnos gives his followers the power to move swiftly and without encumbrance while underwater. And if his disciple is brought close to death, Kravnos may intervene, making the Paladin temporarily invulnerable and superhumanly strong.
Spending his youth in a small village in Thysis, the Necromancer was raised by his aunt after his parents died of plague. Being frail, unattractive, and cripplingly insecure, he seeks to gain power and influence in any way he can. Aware that he had none of the traits that one would typically use to gain friends or acceptance, he slowly becomes a bitter and spiteful man. No longer concerned with the opinion of his fellow villagers, he enters the forbidden pyramid which overlooks the town. He finds several scrolls therein, and proceeds to use their unholy power to terrorize the villagers with undead abominations. His rule is short lived, however, as Eidolon's invasion quickly overshadows his petty sorcery. Enraged that he has been replaced as the object of dread, he resolves to put an end to Eidolon himself.
Being attuned to the life forces of others, the Necromancer can gather the souls of his slain enemies in the form of a Soul Sphere. This essence can be used to restore the sorcerer's health or mana. Additionally, his sickle can occasionally steal vitality from his foes directly.
Servitors of Eidolon
Hexen II does not have a particularly large monster menagerie, but most of the enemies present do have different sub-types which offer some variety from one encounter to the next. Developing strategies early on can pay dividends, as many enemies are seen throughout the game.
The Fallen Angel is primarily a ranged attacker, firing differing types of magical energy from its wingtips. They are distinguished from other ranged attackers by an ability to enfold their wings around themselves for protection. When this happens it is immune to all damage. While they have a friendlier appearance than other creatures, they are stalwart allies of Eidolon who will attack humans on sight. Ethereal versions may be encountered from time to time, which are much tougher than the regular versions.
These colossi form the backbone of Eidolon's army, and are therefore encountered often. Stone Golems are the first and most basic type to appear, and are only capable of a short-range melee attack. The next step up is the Iron Golem, which is larger and capable of firing a tracking missile. The massive Bronze Golem is the final and most formidable type, possessing a sweeping laser attack and an ability to shake the ground with his footfalls.
One of the few creatures in the game to have only one type, the Hydra is unsurprisingly the main nautical threat of Hexen II. They can hurl spikes at the player as well as an inky bile which is temporarily blinding. If one is foolish enough to get close to a Hydra, they are also able to quickly flay the flesh of any hero.
The Imps of Eidolon come in two flavors: Fire and Ice. Ice is definitely the more formidable of the two, though their small size and erratic movements makes both a nuisance as they hurl projectiles from afar. Ice imps can also dive at the player, which can be difficult to avoid. They are prevalent in many areas of the game, so it is advisable get used to their presence.
Perhaps the most common of Eidolon's forces, the Knight Archer is a consistent harassment, preferring to pelt the player from range with his arrows and often ducking return fire. Toward the end of the game they are supplemented by Archer Lords, who are even more lethal and accurate than their subordinates, and much tougher to kill. Knight Archers fire green arrows and occasionally a more damaging red arrow, while Archer Lords fire red arrows exclusively.
One of the more vexing foes in the game, the Medusa can not only launch a poisonous cloud that persistently tracks the player, but also has a the option of petrifying a player for incredible damage when they get too close. It is not a bad idea to use your most powerful weapon when fighting a Medusa.
Mainly inhabiting the tombs of Thysis, Mummies are proficient in both ranged and melee attacks. They are somewhat slow, however which allows the player to set the terms of engagement in many cases. Stronger versions called Mummy Lords exist that are capable of summoning fire with their scepters. Mummies must be killed thoroughly, as even when dismembered they will crawl along the ground to continue their attack.
Even lowly arthropods cannot escape the influence of Eidolon. There are two main varieties of these poisonous pinchers, Sand and Bog, though there seems to be little discernable difference besides color. As with Spiders, their small size is perhaps their most troublesome attribute, as they are one of the game's smaller targets.
Members of Eidolon's personal cadre of summoners, these mages are capable of firing magical skulls from their fingertips, and have a tendency to teleport away from danger when the player tries to retaliate. They can also evoke a powerful repulsion field to ward off any who may get too close. There are even stronger practitioners plying their dark arts in Thyrion, known as Shadow Wizards. Wizards tend to spawn Spiders when they die, though they are weaker versions.
Twisted arachnids bound to the will of Eidolon, these come in two main types, Black and Brown, with Brown being the tougher of the two. Though the weaker ones are content to go for the ankles, larger Spiders are prone to leaping at the player at inopportune times. In a humorous Easter Egg, the Black version has the Quake logo on the underside of its abdomen.
Calling Mazaera their home, this race of cat men is highly proficient with sword and shield, making it more desirable to aim for the feet when using ranged weapons. They are also highly mobile, often ducking and weaving to gain better positioning. Intruders in their jungle abode might also encounter the Were-Panther, a darker colored and more dangerous version of the Were-Jaguar.
Hexen II was generally well-received at the time of its release, with some of the common points of praise being the game's detailed and diverse environments, the focus on exploration, and the sense of immersion and interconnectivity the game's hub-based level system provided. Less well-received was Hexen II's puzzle design, which reviewers often found to be overly reliant on well-hidden secrets. Due to the detailed nature of the environments, many critics also noted that it was sometimes hard to tell which objects were important and which were merely decoration, forcing players to revisit areas in order to scour them for items and information. This sentiment intensified when discussing the late-game segments, which were frequently criticized for containing frustrating puzzles with vague clues. Despite these complaints, most reviewers came to the ultimate conclusion that the game was worth playing, albeit with patience required.
A single expansion was released for Hexen II, entitled Portal of Praevus. The main additions were a brand new character class, the Demoness, and an all new hub world with a wintery theme. The storyline of the expansion follows the game's heroes as they track down the titular Praevus, an evil wizard who rises to power after the defeat of Eidolon.