Nine Parchments Review
There has been quite the mishap at the Astral Academy! A massive hole has been blown into the Headmaster’s tower, and now the Nine Parchments containing powerful spells have been swept away by the wind. Do you accept the quest to retrieve them?
Nine Parchments is the new isometric, cooperative, action-RPG developed by Frozenbyte Inc., and was released on Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam) worldwide as of 7th December 2017. Frozenbyte are working on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases, and will be announcing the dates for them soon, so keep an eye out for that. Frozenbyte is popular thanks to their Trine series, and this game follows a similar world of magic and fantasy, although in a completely different manner. You’ll be facing many chaotic battles with (or without) three other teammates to retrieve the Nine Parchments and complete their spellbooks. So what’s to expect?
The story is a simple one. You choose to play as one of eight wizard students, six of which need to be unlocked with special quests during your playthrough. You start off at the Astral Academy, running through the halls and completing numerous trials as a way of the game teaching you the controls, the mechanics, and in a way prepare you for what you’ll need to do later on. When you reach the Grand Wizard/Headmaster’s great hall, eager to find out if you’ve succeeded in your trials, the Headmaster declares that every single student has failed and will not continue their studies at the Academy. We’re never really told why, and I suspect it’s because, for no real apparent reason, a hole was blown into the Grand Wizard‘s tower, causing the Nine Parchments that contain powerful spells to be blown out and spread across the four winds. And so you (and one to three other wizards, depending on if you’re playing co-op or not), go on an adventure to retrieve the lost Parchments and complete your spellbook to become a full-fledged wizard.
Unfortunately, the story is lacking substance. The introduction felt rushed, sending you off with nothing more than a… “The pages have been blown away, now go on your way to find them”. Fortunately it makes up for that with the graphics, sounds, and gameplay. Even though it is possible to play the game solo, it is recommended to play it with others. Many laughs, or screaming matches, can be had with friends, because friendly-fire is always on, meaning accidents and player-kills are very possible and guaranteed if you don’t watch where you aim. Then again, you cannot be blamed if your friend happens to run into one of your projectile fireballs or ice-crystals. Movement is controlled via the standard WASD-scheme, with the mouse controlling the orientation of your character and, at the same time, your aim. What can make it quite odd is having four of the same characters in the same game, so perhaps playing the game solo to unlock other characters isn’t such a bad idea either, just to ensure diversity. The characters have little chats amongst themselves at the start of and during the levels, which can also be a riot.
You have six spell types; Fire, Ice, Lightning, Steam, Life, and Death, each having their own counters. Fire is countered by Ice, and Ice is countered by Fire, causing critical damage. The rest is pretty self-explanatory then, although I don’t quite understand how that is. Life and Death I can understand, but I’ve always understood that Fire counters Ice, and that’s that. Either way, it’s pretty fun freezing up a burning-baddy and then wacking them to pieces! Perhaps the quirkiness of the logic can be explained away by the quirkiness of the game itself. And in this case the quirkiness isn’t a downside. The characters are wacky, seeing as how one of them is a fully humanoid owl, as an example. The game also makes me think of a “coming-of-age” story for young wizards, who happen to go on an adventure together, resulting in many disasters and accidents on the way (such as slipping and falling off of a cliff if not paying attention), so like I said… Such fun. Much laughs! Though if someone dies, you’re able to resurrect them at any time, even mid-fight. As Frozenbyte said, “Be both the help and hindrance to your friends.” The different difficulties add to this experience, although naturally you’ll receive more rewards the higher you set the difficulty.
The co-op is available via Local and Online, so you can even have other random players joining your adventures, though I’ll admit, I trust my Friend’s list better than I do a PUG (and not of the doggo kind). There are 32 levels in total, and each level takes around 10-15 minutes to complete, maybe even 20 minutes, depending on how much you are messing around. It’s divided into 24 standard levels and 8 boss levels. More often than not there are 3 standard levels inbetween the boss levels, though there were times when there was more. You’re also able to level up your characters and unlock different appearances for them. Multiple playthroughs will be required if you want to unlock all of the characters and their other appearances. Each appearance gives the character different starter spells, adding more variance to the game. There are, in total, up to 49 different types of spells that can be learnt, although you will never be able to learn all of them on the same character, since you only learn 1 new spell from a retrieved Parchment. You are also able to unlock different Staves that your characters can use, as well as Hats. The hats are only for cosmetic value, whereas the Staves actually grant bonus effects to your character depending on the play-style you’re going for, such as Healer, Damage, Crowd-Control, etc. These can be unlocked through chests that are hidden in every level, killing the bosses or mini-bosses, and also collecting all the Quills within a level.
Nintendo Switch Review
Reviewed by Jean du Plessis
Nine Parchments is absolutely stunning on the Nintendo Switch Console. The graphics are strikingly rich and the fluidity of the gameplay and cutscenes are a pleasure to experience. The controls are admittedly a lot more simple on the JoyCon Controllers which make for a simple mastery of taking charge of your character, spells and your gameplay. If you own a Nintendo Switch, I would recommend purchasing this title for your library here instead, but if you do not, then you are really not wasting any money when purchasing and playing it via Steam. The Multiplayer segment functions the same as the Steam version, where you can have up to 3 friends join you in your epic magical quest to gather the missing parchments. A massive well done and show of respect is due to the developers of the game who have made sure that both platforms were polished thoroughly before releasing it to the public.
Nine Parchments is an intriguing little title, spoiling us with beautiful graphics and chaotic fun, despite a lack in a thorough story. It’s a lot of fun, even though after a few levels I felt I needed a break, because things felt a bit repetitive. This is why it is recommended to play co-op. This game is designed for multiplayer more than it is single player, and I cannot fault it on that front. I definitely felt that I was having more fun playing with someone else than on my own. Teamwork is essential, especially when you discover that you are able to combine spell-beams to create an even stronger and scarier spell-beam that annihilates your enemies. The characters are likeable, and the gameplay mechanics are easy to understand. If you’re looking for a fun and chaotic time with friends, give this game a go for (at the time of this review) an affordable R130.00 for Microsoft Windows on Steam, and R260.00 on Nintendo Store for the Switch.