In Heavenly Sword, Produced by UK Based Ninja Theory, you play as Nariko, the red-maned heroine and daughter of the leader of her clan. The clan is in possession of the Heavenly Sword, a mythical weapon once wielded by a deity sent from heaven to defeat the Raven Lord, a battle which predates the start of the game.
Over the generations after the defeat of the Raven Lord, the sword passed from hand to hand, leaving carnage in it's wake. It granted its owner immeasurable power, yet drained their life at the same time. It eventually fell into the hands of the clan, who vowed to keep, but not use the sword, until the next heavenly warrior appeared.
The game begins as the clan is fleeing from the armies of King Bohen (voiced and acted by Lord of the Rings' Andy Serkis). Bohen, in his attempts to conquer all the lands in his sights, sees the heavenly sword as a means to do such, and is as relentless as he is evil. The story is about Nariko's journey after attaining the Heavenly Sword to free her people and put an end to King Bohen's reign.
Heavenly Sword is an Action/Adventure game which uses the PS3's CELL processor incredibly well. Each environment is beautifully crafted. The models are well made, and versatile, and the animation is seamless and flows very nicely.
One of the most impressive parts of the game is in the cut-scenes. Serkis was made Dramatic Director by Ninja Theory, and thus, coordinated the motion capture for each scene. Not only are the actor's bodies motion captured, but their faces are as well, leading to very impressive facial animation, adding a new depth of realism to the game. The score, produced by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, borrows from both Asian and Indian styles and rhythms, enhancing each scene.
Each of the characters are well written, from the heroine Nariko, her adopted younger sister Kai (who reminds me of a certain Icelandic Pop-Star), to the ruthless Flying Fox and Whiptail. Each character has a distinct persona, and nothing is overplayed or reused, as is a problem in many modern games.
In the efforts to not spoil this game for anyone who hasn't played it, I won't go into much detail about what progresses. The game got good reviews, but also come criticism on two major points. 1) Heavenly Sword is so similar to God of War that some have termed it Goddess of War, and 2) The game is comparatively short, and can be completed in 1 to 2 afternoons. There are certain gameplay similarites between Heavenly Sword and God of War, but they do not detract from the overall experience. Heavenly Sword also borrows from the interactive cut-scenes of Shenmue.
All this aside, it looks like game developers are starting to utilize the PS3's CELL processor better. With games like this and Lair, we can only hope to see more beautifully crafted games for Sony's newest console.
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