Numen: Contest of Heroes surprised me on Steam the other day as it was fun looking RPG that was only $2.50. Obscure cheap games often scare me because it means they're either absolute garbage, great games with a few major flaws, or something completely out of this world. With the ever growing free gaming market taking over I decided to see what a $10 game on sale for $2.50 had to offer.
Numen: Contest of Heroes is a RPG set in ancient Greece developed by a small Czech Republic developer Cinemax. With a decent story and a familiar interface Numen blends some interesting ideas with some frustrating mechanics to create a game that leaves a wanting feeling from the moment you click start.
Contest of Heroes kicks off with a surprisingly tragic tale of your chosen protagonist. You can pick from a boy or a girl and after you select your gender you're tossed into a small Greek village filled with people who have hovering exclamation points over their heads. Numen controls like the majority of MMORPGs and third person RPGs play in today's market. Players control their soon to be hero with the WASD keys while using either the mouse or keyboard shortcuts to attack enemies and interact with the world. Right off the bat it becomes apparent that two things are going to be the bane of any experienced player's playthrough.
After getting your bearings you start questing right from the get-go. After an awkward talk with your uncle who explains to you that the warrior class is the best choice and being a mage or archer is useless you set off killing and gathering things in typical RPG fashion. Most quests in Numen follow the typical kill 10 X and gather 5 Y. While some quests differ in mechanics, such as being a spider or finding a bird, most quests are simple and a bit dry.
Killing tons of things is the name of the game in Numen as most areas are populated with enemies who need to be killed so you can level up and move on in the game. The combat works well enough with the left mouse button attacking and the number keys assigned to various spells for whatever class you may be. The three starting classes in Numen fall into the staples of most role playing games. There's a warrior, a mage, and an archer. However, picking your class isn't as simple as clicking what you want to be at the select screen. Instead Numen takes a different approach and let's the player's choice of weapons and spells at the beginning of the game lead to their class choice at a later cut scene.
The problem I ran into here was that I wanted to be an archer but towards the end of my childhood phase my bow broke and there was no vendor around to fix it. So, wanting to move the story along, I grabbed my wand and headed out blasting baddies with some fire and shadows. At the end of my childhood the cut scene revealed that I was fond of magic and proven to be a squishy mage. I like the mage class, but it's not what I wanted to play.
After having your class decided you pick a god to worship. Each god has different abilities to offer you for leveling up your favor with them. Zeus gives you extra damage spells, Poseidon provides some heals and buffs, and Athena gives the player buffs on buffs on buffs. From their the game explains that you train for years and after that you're dropped off on an island. This is where the game loses a lot of its charm and becomes more of a grind that is covered with a simplistic overlay.
The graphics of Numen are decent but clearly dated. Objects and people look decent enough but they don't have any great features in particular. Combat looks decent enough with creatures and enemies taking hits and dishing out pain in ways that looks alright. Overall the game doesn't have any one graphical asset it holds above the rest but none of it is awful either.
Perhaps the strangest, and most fun, aspect of the game is the text. There is no voice over in Numen and all talking is done with text boxes. The translation reads as if it was done with a dated version of Google Translate and that makes some of the dialogue fantastic. Reading through pages and pages of in game text isn't exciting but the occasional muck up makes the reading much more enjoyable.
Sound design in Contest of Heroes is much like its graphical assets, borderline decent. The spells make the sounds you expect them to make and the hits have the sound of a good slam behind them. Monsters have some decent sounds when they attack and die but other than that the game can feel empty sometimes. The ambient music isn't anything astonishing and often times it feels too repetitive.
Numen: Contest of Heroes has some decent gameplay mechanics and some interesting design choices all bundled up with elements that are both familiar and dated in an ever growing RPG landscape. It's not a game that will make you want to stop playing whatever RPG has you hooked at the moment but it will hold your interest for a few hours, if only to read some memorable text.
If you liked this I have more stuff like it at my site TinyGrenade.com
and hopefully soon I'll have videos up on my Youtube channel too, thanks for any and all support.