Nine Parchments is an action adventure and puzzle game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4.Nine Parchments is created by Helsinki, Finland based development team Frozenbyte who was founded in 2001; making their debut with the successful PC indie games Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds: Survivor that released in November 2005 and 2007 respectively which are sci-fi action games that saw the player battling hordes of aliens. The Trine series began in 2009 with Trine 2 following in 2011. A new IP was introduced in October 2014 in the form of a fast-paced old-school platform game called Splot, then collaborating with Frogmind and Blitworks to bring Badland: Game of the Year Edition to home and portable consoles. A return to the Trine series happened in 2015 with an upgraded engine that focused on breathtaking 3D environments in the ambitious Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power. Further new IPs followed including Shadwen which seen a return to the fundamental routes of the stealth genre released in 2016 before action strategy roguelike Has-Been Heroes released in early 2017. Can Frozenbyte deliver a fantasy action adventure as epic as the Trine series in Nine Parchments?
The story revolves around young practising wizards at the Astral Academy; where they are taking their magic tests to ensure that they are up to the responsibility of being a wizard and harnessing such magic. Your wizard is ordered to remain taking the magic test to prove they have what it takes; until there is an immediate accident that scatters the nine parchments containing magic spells throughout the lands, therefore your chosen wizard is suddenly needed to step up and show what kind of a hero he or she is capable of being when given the opportunity to represent Astral Academy.
There are 32 levels that are gradually unlocked as you progress through the story along your journey to find the dispersed nine parchments, while collectibles come in the form of quills and hats which are hidden throughout each level in addition to chests that can be looted for treasure or helpful items.
Interesting tutorials located throughout the environments are quite helpful such as learning that opposite elemental spells are vulnerable to each other including fire and ice, lightning and steam and more besides, while discovering other important gameplay elements such as when all team members are down, one student will be resurrected at random as there is one last chance within each level.
Initially your chosen character begins at level 1 with 1,000 XP required before levelling up to level 2. XP is earned by looting chests hidden throughout the world, defeating enemies and completing levels. Levelling up is essential as it produces skill points that can be assigned to improve a particular skill in multiple gradual steps such as reducing the cooldown period for your wizard’s spells; therefore lowering the amount of time it takes to regenerate the quantity of mana required to perform the same spell.
Players start out with two characters named Cornelius Crownsteed and Gislan of Alcyon that both have their unique base spells. There are three unlockable variants of each unlocked character with a set of clearly outlined unlock conditions such as unlocking Cornelius the Cornflower involves achieving three feats, collecting a fashionable hat, collecting a wizarding staff and killing one of the monsters that guard spell parchments. However, unlocking an entirely new character includes finding their staff and completing their unlock quest.
Enemy design is diverse as there are vile beasts, hogs, scalefiends, raptors, seers and much more besides that vary in elemental attacks from normal hogs using their three tusks to fiery and icy hogs utilising their special attacks with other enemies capable of producing beams or bolts of elemental powers, while enemy bosses such as The Treasure Mantis has multiple special attacks and more health in comparison to most enemies.
Each individual character has a unique set of spells they start out with before honing their craft of performing more elaborate spells. Base spells include Cornelius Crownsteed’s ice beam which freezes and slows down the enemy after a continuous beam has been channelled into the enemy, inflicting 50 damage per second, although it takes 12 seconds to recharge the spell, while small fireball damages monsters that are within the small radius of the spell with monsters receiving 50 damage, albeit there are 8 charges and a regeneration of 3.5 seconds per charge, alongside a death circle inflicts 24 damage to monsters situated within its large radius, although it takes 15 seconds per charge. Meanwhile, Gislan of Alcyon creates a small life circle to heal ally characters around her for 20 health with 30 seconds worth of regeneration per charge, while lightning spray produces a burst of lightning which damages and stunts all monsters caught within its radius with 35 damage and 24 seconds to regenerate full mana, alongside death beam which poisons the monster at a rate of 70 damage per second with 12 seconds of regeneration until full mana.
Environment design is equally as magical as any of Frozenbyte’s Trine series which really highlights its qualities such as incredible picturesque environments that are a blend between realistic and fantasy environments complimented by lifelike foliage. There is some room to wander off the beaten path in certain areas with quills, hats and loot chests providing motivation to explore your surroundings in a manner that any game striving to be of quality within a magical fantasy world should look to encourage. Nine Parchments certainly offers environmental exploration given that not every area contains quills, hats or loot chests; therefore meaning that players have to be looking around just in case they walk past a collectible or valuable item.
Frozenbyte had a single venture onto the Vita when assisting Frogmind and Blitworks in porting Badland: Game of the Year Edition to PlayStation console, although no IPs created by Frozenbyte such as Shadowgrounds and Trine have ever made their way onto the Vita, but at least remote play is a consolation. Nine Parchments’ remote play performance is incredible as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance as the PS4 version. Nine Parchments has received a couple of welcome remote play control optimisations in the form of casting spells and performing melee attacks are re-mapped to the bottom right and left of the touch screen respectively; therefore resulting in a refined and comfortable remote play experience.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to cast a spell; pressing L2 to perform a melee attack; pressing R1 or L1 to cycle through to the next or previous spell respectively; pressing X or O to jump; pressing triangle to view your equipment; pressing square to skip forward a few feet by blinking; pressing right or left on the d-pad to swap your spells around to the next or previous spell respectively; pressing up or down on the d-pad to display your character’s current emotion; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.
Vibration occurs when an enemy has hit your wizard with one of their attacks. There is no touch pad implementation, although Trine 2: Complete Story and Trine: Enchanted Edition allowed players to draw and lift objects as Amadeus, aim and fire Zoya’s crossbow and raise Pontius’ shield in which both games provided an exceptional and most impressive touch pad implementation of all PS4 games. There is no light bar implementation which could have produced a neutral colour for each character when exploring with a particular colour reflecting the casting of an elemental spell by your character such as light blue when casting an ice elemental spell.
Nine Parchments always looks magical due to its superb graphical fidelity throughout every character and enemy model, environments and casting of elemental spells further complimented by consistent performance at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second on PS4 and PS4 Pro. Surprisingly, despite Frozenbyte’s Trine trilogy supporting stereoscopic 3D on PS4; the technology is not embraced in Nine Parchments, while there are no enhancements via PS4 Pro or HDR, despite the Xbox One X version receiving native 4K resolution while retaining 60 frames-per-second.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, single player menus, multiplayer menus, unlocks menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, while swiping across the touch pad scrolls between options, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick. Menu backgrounds are wondrously magical as the statue of a wizard is positioned in the centre, accompanied by other characters, while foliage produces luminous lights, alongside a beautiful night sky full of stars.
The entire voice-over cast bring life to their characters with excellent performances and the adventurous story benefits as a result. Two of the main voice-over cast from the Trine series return including Terry Wilton who once again provides an amazing narration of the story having also voiced Father Simeon and Vlad in Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse, the narrator in Dota 2 and Barny in Risen 2: Dark Waters and Risen 3: Titan Lords, while Kevin Howarth voices Amadeus having also voiced Georgie Porgie in The Wolf Among Us and various characters in The Witcher and Venetica. Ashley Margolis voices Cornelius having previously voiced Wiggins in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, Timmy Mouskovitz in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 and starred in over 100 episodes of the TV series Hollyoaks, while Tamaryn Payne voices Carabel having previously voiced Pit Fighter in Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Lohse in Divinity: Original Sin II and over 80 episodes of Hollyoaks. Jess Robinson voices Gislan having previously voiced Ivo in The Book of Unwritten Tales 1 and 2, Dryad in Sacred 3 and Marie d’Artois in Anno 1404, while Peter Marinker voices Marvek having previously voiced old Tiago Marques in Broken Sword 5, Straid of Olaphis in Dark Souls II and Thaler and The Pellar in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, alongside William Ash voicing Nim having starred in a number of TV series such as Waterloo Road. Keith Wickham voices Owl having previously voiced Yoritomo, Genji Warrior B and Heishi Warrior A, Goh the Bear and Kenobi Ninja in Shinobido and Dr. Tomoki in Ape Escape 3, while Alex Jordan voices Rudolfus having previously voiced Asher Forrester in Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Anton Schieldhand in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, King Gwydion and Leisurely Guards in Shadwen and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter. David Shaw-Parker voices Professor Butternut having previously voiced Ramon and Guard in Broken Sword 5, Innkeeper in Warhammer: Vermintide – The End Times and Lord Noboru in Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, while Rachel Atkins voices Anastasia the Undead having previously voiced Fleur in Broken Sword 1 and 5, Ezma Potts in Puppeteer and Gulainhi, Jezza and Lieutenant Fiona Murell.
Sound effects include walking, blinking, casting spells, spells and melee attacks hitting monsters and monsters attacking your wizard, alongside ambience such as a gentle breeze, waterfalls and birds tweeting. A soundtrack of adventurous music scored by award winning composer Ari Pulkkinen who previously composed the soundtrack for Frozenbyte’s Shadowgrounds and Trine trilogy in addition to Housemarque’s Nex Machina, Alienation, Resogun, Dead Nation and Super Stardust HD, alongside Antti Martikainen, Sauli Lehtinen and Jori Kemppi. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced ambience, casting spells and performing melee attacks, enemies performing their attacks or perhaps even the narration of the story.
The trophy list includes 39 trophies with 20 bronze trophies, 15 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. The majority of the trophies include achieving the required objectives of a set of three feats in order to unlock a character variation which also determines if you progress towards the platinum trophy. Harder trophies include The Gilded Cleaner gold trophy for completing Vandalism at the Academy on hardcore difficulty to unlock the Gilded Nim and The Gilded Hero gold trophy for completing Advanced Box Magic on hardcore difficulty to unlock the Gilded Hero. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around 10 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are four difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard and hardcore with the major differences being that there are no elite monsters in easy difficulty, while elite monsters appear in normal difficulty with a normal XP gain, alongside hard difficulty introducing random and harder enemy spawns. Hardcore offers an element of risk and reward as it is game over and back to the start for the entire team when all characters within the team die, although the reward for attempting and succeeding on hardcore difficulty is that gilded characters can be unlocked with the purpose of raising the level cap to level 60. Difficulty level can be changed at any given moment, although hardcore difficulty must be chosen from the beginning.
Nine Parchments excels in local and online co-operative multiplayer just as much as Trine: Enchanted Edition and Trine 2: Complete Story. Nine Parchments supports 2 to 4 players in local and online co-operative multiplayer throughout the entirety of the story campaign. Multiple players can join a local multiplayer session from the main menu or alternatively players can join in after a single player has resumed their story progression with a tap of the touch pad on their respective DualShock 4 controllers. Online multiplayer can be joined at any given moment by searching for an online lobby, while a player can also host their own online lobby for other players to join. There are some pretty good additional gameplay settings and approaches to playing in local or online co-operative multiplayer as a player can resurrect a fellow player’s character or cast spells in their direction via friendly fire. However, there is no dynamic split-screen in local or online co-operative multiplayer resulting in the potential of players being left behind the circumference of the environments covered within the camera angle which leads to a player’s wizard losing a life and needing to be resurrected after being out of sight for five seconds instead of just being repositioned on screen through the usage of the blink ability.
Nine Parchments’ replayability stems from numerous unlockables including characters, hats, staves, spells, levels, enemy descriptions and feats in addition to collectibles such as quills, hats and chests containing loot, four difficulty levels, earning XP and levelling up your wizard, drop-in/drop-out local and online co-operative multiplayer and more besides which is collectively going to bring players back for a significant amount of time.
- Title: Nine Parchments
- Developer: Frozenbyte
- Publisher: Frozenbyte
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Local or Online Co-Operative Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 4.08GB