The First Templar Review
key review info
- Game: The First Templar
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
The First Templar is a pretty intriguing game, arriving from Haemimont Games, a Bulgarian developer previously known for more strategic titles like Imperium Romanum or Tropico 3, and trying to carve out its own space in the extremely busy action adventure genre.
Being set during the first crusade and focusing on the Knights Templar, the game is also stepping into territory already explored by Ubisoft's much more popular Assassin's Creed franchise, so new game has an even tougher job ahead of it.
So, did The First Templar manage to duke it out with the best of the action adventure genre or does it still have a long way to go before it can aspire to triple-A status? Let's find out.
The First Templar is set during the first crusade, more specifically on the Knights Templar and how their ties with the Church are beginning to wear out, especially with the appearance of a powerful Inquisition and the variety of problems encountered in the Middle East.
While this setting was already explored by Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise, which saw the assassins try to prevent the Templars from controlling the world, this new game shows the Templars as the good guys.
The main character is a young knight called Celian, who, slowly but surely, uncovers a huge conspiracy inside the Church while trying to find the fabled Holy Grail.
During his journeys throughout Europe and the Middle east, he allies himself with different characters, ranging from his Templar brothers to a girl charged with being a witch by the Inquisition.
While some parts of the story are a bit of a stretch, The First Templar manages to convey a pretty good narrative, with a lot of surprises, which keeps players entertained throughout its 9- to 10-hour-long campaign, depending on how much of a completionist you are and if you try to explore every level's nooks or crannies.
The First Templar's gameplay isn't that different from regular hack and slash titles, borrowing quite a few elements from Assassin's Creed or other such titles, as you can use your swords, shields or daggers to take down enemies by chaining together combos and dealing massive damage.
As you fight, you get Zeal which enables you to pull off even more powerful moves that can leave your opponents open to other attacks coming from your companions, or do bigger, area clearing ones.
The First Templar delivers a mainly cooperative-oriented experience, so Celian always has a companion by his side. Players can freely jump between the two whenever they feel like it, in order to combine their unique features and take down difficult enemies.
Sadly, if you don't play with another buddy or even a stranger, thanks to the pretty good drop-in drop-out mechanic, you'll be disappointed by the AI-controlled companions, as they get hurt very easily, meaning you need to keep an eye not just on your own life gauge, but also their own. If you're injured, seeing as how there isn't any sort of regenerative health, you need to retreat from battle and go back to the nearest bush of fruits or vase of water, which replenishes your life force. If a companion falls, you need to go by his side and, if you have enough zeal, you can get them back on their feet by restoring some of their health.
You can upgrade your abilities through a special talent and skill distribution screen, shaped like the cross of the Templars, which goes in four different directions, one for increasing your vigor, aka health, one for upgrading your toughness, while the other two focus on various types of attacks.
Each character has its own distinct skill "cross" and experience gauge, meaning you can unlock a lot of special abilities for everyone and use them accordingly throughout the story.
You can also augment your abilities by exploring the game's levels and finding pieces of clothing, which result in completing outfits that give you certain bonuses in combat. Some outfits also have special weapons like swords or shields included.
While you go through each level trying to complete story objectives, the game also throws at you bonus ones, such as helping non playable characters, finding various things or rescuing other people.
A pleasant surprise with The First Templar is that its open levels are pretty big and allow you to explore them without many invisible walls, so your path isn't that linear. Sadly, the minimap shown on the top left corner of the screen doesn't display an outline of your surroundings, limiting itself to depicting just you, your companion and the position of your objective(s). As such, expect quite a lot of backtracking throughout some of the more maze-like levels, not knowing if your objective is behind a massive wall or hidden beneath your position.
Gameplay can get a bit aggravating because of quite a few freezes, which we experienced when trying to play it on the Ultra quality setting, despite having a powerful PC. The freezes are more frequent when traversing a map, so the background streaming of map elements should have been a bit more streamlined in order to hide these transitions.
Just like Assassin's Creed, the game also has a stealth mechanic, which sees the main characters hunch a little, thus avoiding the attention of many enemies. Putting aside the hilarious change in posture, the stealth mechanic works pretty good in some cases, but, most of the times, it becomes just an annoying thing you need to do in order to progress through the story. You don't have lots of choices during stealth moments, as it's mostly just trial and error, with you needing to progress through certain steps, go from cover to cover and eliminate enemies until the game decides you can use your regular attacks once more.
Graphics and Audio
In terms of visuals, The First Templar can't really aspire to Triple-A status, as the graphics are a bit wonky in some cases. Animations are pretty fluid during actual gameplay or combat, but, during the cutscenes, the characters are extremely stiff. The visuals are decent overall, but pale in comparison to some of the other games out this year.
In terms of sound, the game has a decent score, but the voice acting needs quite a lot of work. While the voices in general are good, their dialog feels stitched together, with no changes in tone or any sort of emotion.
There are some speeches given by Celian that are flawlessly delivered, but they are few and far in between.
Overall, The First Templar is a pretty decent game, but you do get the feeling that certain aspects needed more polish, including graphics, game code or dialog, but it's still a good action adventure game.
While it's no Assassin's Creed 'killer', The First Templar will entertain players, especially if you have a buddy to take on the role of your companion through the interesting story.