27th Mar 2006 | 10:26
So hold on a minute: it's only 20 quid, it's from a little-known publisher and the box art looks like it was knocked up in Photoshop by a drunken blind man. The warning bells are sounding loud and clear for Neverend, an RPG which does its best to pretend we've never heard of big names like Morrowind or Neverwinter Nights.
Unfortunately for developer Mayhem Studios, we've sampled the finer wines at the gaming dining table, and we've acquired a liking for their elegant taste. It's hard to overlook Neverend's bland presentation, generic structure and earpiercingly bad voice-acting when we've been so constantly spoiled by the wealth of excellent RPGs out there.
PREPARE TO FIGHT
To be fair, Neverend's combat system is pretty good - not too dissimilar to the Final Fantasy games - especially its unique Freeze Time indicator, which shows you how much time you have till you can twat your opponent with your sword or cast a spell. The more powerful the move or incantation, the longer it takes to charge. So if you're really crafty, you can land several weaker blows before your opponent can say: "Sword, what sword?"
Sadly, Neverend's brief encounter with originality ends there. The structure remains the same generic role-playing fare that's been re-used for the last decade, while the game's collection of wizards and mages do very little to progress the game's narrative beyond the forgettable.
Crucially though, Neverend lacks the production values needed to propel it anywhere near the whimsical heights of the big PC RPGs. Menus are thrown together, the soundtrack is MIDI-calibre and the voice-acting is truly awful - it sounds like the developer rounded up whoever was in the pub at the time and gave them a microphone. Thankfully though, you can turn them off.
Championing pre-rendered backgrounds in this day and age immediately makes Neverend feel dated, and the gameplay does little to lift that 'samey' feeling. Despite its decent character models and combat system, there are plenty of other RPGs far more worthy of your time.