Have you ever wondered what Conan the Barbarian would have looked like if he were animated by Disney? Have you ever had the urge to hack entire hordes of evil henchmen in half with a massive axe? If you have, then Sony has the game for you- The Mark of Kri. Offering a strange twist of seriously gory combat combined with Disney like animation, The Mark of Kri promises to be one of the summer's biggest hits. More important than that, however, is how this game will change the way you view an action game. With a combat system so radically different that Sony made sure they patented it, you're sure to see violence in gaming in a totally new way with this game.
Not much of the story and plot have been revealed yet, but what is known is that characters will take on the role of Rau, an enormous barbarian who tips the scales at well over 300lbs. After ridding his neck of the woods of some nasty thugs, Rau learns that something far more dangerous threatens his home, involving a spell that has already afflicted 6 people. Rau is recruited by a mysterious wizard who tells him that he must retrieve 6 scrolls in order to break the spell. He soon learns, however, that by doing so he is actually helping his enemies. While not much else is known about the plot, there appears to be one level for each of these scrolls, varying from massive jungles to mountain landscapes. All these different areas will be animated much like Disney style pictures, lending a lighthearted nature to the game, which is very deceiving due to the incredibly violent gameplay.
Each of these levels starts players off at an Inn, where Rau can learn about the area, talk to people, etc. Rau will have to make his way through these hostile environments by fending off hordes of enemies, solving puzzles, and collecting items. At the end of each level, once all tasks are completed, Rau is transported back to an Inn. The game appears to be mostly linear, with little exploration allowed, but there are some optional gameplay modes and secret objectives that should give gamers plenty to do. During the game, players will be able to unlock a battle arena, which they can visit while at an Inn. In the battle arena, there will be two modes, Time Attack and Body Count. Both of these modes are pretty self-explanatory, with Time Attack measuring how quickly you kill, and Body Count being all about racking up dead bodies. In addition to that, you can unlock new outfits and costumes for Rau in these mini games, as well as character art.
However, while all those features are nice, it is the combat in The Mark of Kri that will make it stand out. Sony's San Diego Team has created a new battle system that is so revolutionary that Sony decided to patent it. Utilizing a new feature they call a 'lock beam', players can swipe the right analog stick back and forth to control a beam that resembles a laser. Once this laser passes over an enemy, you can lock on to him with any of the face buttons, designating that button for primary attacks on that enemy. You can lock on to several enemies at one time, and once locked on, you can attack any enemy from any angle. Rau will not have to turn around to attack someone on his side or flank, because simply tapping the button locked on to that character will execute an attack on the flanking enemy. Rau can also do several various combos while fighting, ranging from simple double tap combos to more complex ones involving multiple button sequences. There will be a total of 15 attack combinations in the game, and all can be performed with one of three different weapons offered. Rau starts off with a sword, which is fast but fairly weak. He can upgrade to a double-ended spear or an axe, but with more power comes slower attack speed. Players can switch between these weapons by simply holding the R2 button and selecting their preferred weapon with the D-pad. In addition to these three primary weapons, there will also be instances in which players can use a bow and arrow to take out the opposition from afar. You can target enemies in a first person view by holding L1, or use it while on the run. Blocking attacks while in combat is done with the R1 button, and Rau even has the capability to block attacks from behind.
If players feel like taking a less direct approach to vanquishing the enemy, they can enter a stealth mode by putting away all weapons. In this mode, players can sneak up on the enemy and perform stealth kills, similar in style to those found in Blood Omen 2. Rau can also sneak along walls to peer around corners, allowing him to view enemies up ahead without revealing himself. If need be, players can also use animals to aid and assist them, most notably Kuzzo, Rau's feathery sidekick. Kuzzo, a small bird, can fly to certain perches in a level, giving a 'birds eye view' of upcoming obstacles or foes. In addition, Rau can manipulate other various animals in the game for his benefit, such as boars and hogs, etc.
With such complete and complex combat, it is only natural that Sony reward you for your combative endeavors, and they do this by offering some incredibly violent imagery when doing battle. You can literally slice an enemy in half, watching blood pour from both ends of his bifurcated body. You can impale a man on your spear, ram a sword through their skull, and much more. All told, there will be over 30 ways for your enemies to die, and these deaths can be achieved through more than 75 different looking attacks. The Mark of Kri, while cartoony in appearance, is just as bloody and violent as any of the Legacy of Kain games, if not more so.
With only a few months left before this game's mid summer launch, The Mark of Kri is shaping up nicely, and looks to be one of the bigger hits this July, due to it's revolutionary combat, distinct visual style, and incredibly visceral gameplay. Much more information should be announced at E3, and updates will be forthcoming. Look for The Mark of Kri to arrive in stores on July 30th.
5/6/2002 Ryan Hartmann