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Overview

The first and only expansion pack for Raven Software's Hexen II, Hexen II Mission Pack: Portal of Praevus supplements the original release with a new campaign featuring fifteen levels (broken into two hubs), a brand new playable character class, the Demoness, and a handful of new monsters and enemy variants. Like Hexen II, Portal of Praevus is a medieval fantasy first-person shooter based on the Quake Engine which blends its first-person action with elements of other genres, namely adventure games and RPGs. Players are allowed to travel freely between levels in each of the game's "hub" worlds, earning experience by defeating opponents and solving puzzles in order to progress to new areas. With enough experience, players gain levels, which rewards them with larger stores of hit points and mana (the game's ammo), and occasionally new abilities as well. The core of Hexen II's gameplay remains unchanged in Portal of Praevus, with Raven choosing to expand on rather than revise the original game.

Plot

Eidolon's death was just the beginning.

In the days and months following Eidolon's demise, a chill wind sweeps across the continents of Thyrion, and shortly thereafter the entire world is engulfed in a perpetual winter. Concerned about the implications of this event, the four heroes responsible for Eidolon's defeat return to the scene of their final confrontation with the last of the Serpent Riders, hoping they might divine some causality within the lair of their old foe. Upon arriving, the four are greeted by the remnants of Eidolon's minions, who serve a mysterious new master. They are shocked to find Eidolon's body has gone missing, and in its place, a great chasm has opened The group is just in time to witness a wispy red figure disappearing within it.

Little do they realize that the crimson figure they beheld seeks answers as well. In truth, the dramatic change in temperature was the work of a powerful sorcerer named Praevus situated on the newly revealed continent of Tulku. With the Serpent Riders defeated, he sets in motion a plan conceived many years prior. Gathering in secret the souls of each of the three Serpent Riders, Praevus needs only to enact a dark ritual in order to combine them with his own, which would grant him power exponentially greater than any of the Serpent Riders. Only the four heroes responsible for defeating the greatest of the Riders, along with one of his former minions, are in a position to stop him.

Gameplay

Before commencement of the game proper, Portal of Praevus asks players to choose their character class and difficulty setting. The four classes of Hexen II, Assassin, Crusader, Paladin, and Necromancer, are all present and accounted for, and a fifth character class unique to the expansion, the Demoness, is also selectable. Once class and difficulty have been chosen, players will find themselves in the first of the game's hub worlds. Unlike many of its contemporaries in the first-person genre, progress in Hexen II is not entirely linear, as it allows players free roam over fairly large areas, and the primary objective often does not specifically require that enemies be defeated (though it is usually advantageous to do so). Players will grow in strength and ability as they defeat enemies, while in order to proceed to new locations it is usually required that they complete certain objectives within the environment. The player's current objectives can be viewed at any time with a single button press, though it is up to players themselves to discover clues and objects within their surroundings that will help them achieve these goals. Aside from basic items like health vials and mana pickups, all items in Portal of Praevus (including quest items) can be stored and used at a later time.

Raven's main contribution to the multiplayer side of Hexen II in Portal of Praevus was the new character class, the Demoness. With Portal of Praevus installed, all existing multiplayer maps supported use of the new class. Unfortunately, at the time of its release, no new multiplayer maps or modes were implemented, so players were limited to only the maps which had been released alongside Hexen II.

Locales

Being an expansion rather than a full game, Portal of Praevus takes place on two continents as opposed to Hexen II's four. One of these, however, is entirely new: the frozen continent of Tulku. Like the four existing continents, the architecture of Tulku maintains a consistent theme throughout, in this case betraying a Tibetan influence.

Blackmarsh

Blackmarsh (Medieval)

Much like the first game, Portal of Praevus' first chapter takes place on the overcast medieval continent of Blackmarsh. The landscape of Blackmarsh is typified by towering castles and quaint villages, and of all the Hexen II locales it could be said to be the most representative of the game's fantasy theme. After the heroes discover renewed signs of activity within Eidolon's old abode, players will travel through the lair of the once-great Serpent Rider, into the nearby village of Turnabel, and ultimately deep within a system of ancient catacombs, all in an effort to ascertain the nature of the threat looming over Thyrion.
Tulku

Tulku (Tibetan)

The latter portion of Portal of Praevus is set within the frozen northern wasteland of Tulku, which hides numerous dark and foreboding temples teeming with the devotees of Praevus. The continent itself appeared mysteriously out of the mists only recently, and as a result the entire landmass is shrouded in uncertainty, with little save the hostility of its inhabitants known for sure. Deep within its heart lies the palace of Praevus, where the dark wizard plans to invoke a ceremony which will grant him the power of the Serpent Riders. It is the heroes' ultimate goal to find this sanctuary and put an end to Praevus' ambitions.

New Character Class

The sole new addition to Hexen II's original character roster in Portal of Praevus is the Demoness. She comes complete with four new weapons and two abilities, though of all her implements perhaps the most notable is her starting weapon, Blood Fire. The Demoness is the only character class available whose staring weapon is a projectile, and thus she needs no mana or Tome of Power for a ranged attack. This means that she is never without the ability to attack her foes at range.

Demoness

Profile

The Demoness

The Demoness is a construct created through Eidolon's magic and nurtured by his malice. At one time she was meant to be the mother of an entire race of magic-wielding servitors, but Eidolon would meet his end before she reached maturation. Having lost the being she venerated as her god, the Demoness now spends her time plotting revenge on those responsible for his downfall. She ultimately plans to gain enough strength to resurrect her master so that he may continue his conquest. These goals are put on hold, however, when she learns that many of those who once served Eidolon now swear their allegiance to Praevus. She sets out alone in search of Praevus and his followers. Such betrayal must not go unpunished.

Abilities

The first ability learned by the Demoness allows her to use her vestigial wings to glide. By holding the jump button while in air, she may slowly descend from any height without sustaining fall damage. Her second ability allows her to replenish her mana reserves when her health is low. Any damage sustained when her health is low regenerates a portion of her mana.

  • Glyph Behavior: Poison Gas Grenade
  • Preferred Armor: Helmet

Demoness' Arsenal

Blood Fire

Blood Fire

  • Mana Used: None
The first and arguably most useful of the Demoness' weapons, Blood Fire is the only projectile weapon in the game that can be fired without the need for mana or a Tome. Its range is somewhat limited, however, so targets outside of medium distance require other weaponry. Each individual projectile is fairly weak, though the fact that the Demoness never needs to be within melee range makes it far superior to the starting weapons of other classes. The Tome of Power allows three projectiles to be fired at once (albiet with a slower rate of fire), and each one can ricochet if it hits an inanimate object.
Acid Rune

Acid Rune

  • Mana Used: Blue
Acquisition of the Acid Rune allows the Demoness to fire bolts of highly corrosive magical energy at her targets in rapid fashion. In its normal form, it functions much like a stronger version of Blood Fire (without the limited range), though when it is bolstered by the Tome of Power, the projectiles it produces explode on contact, causing both greater initial damage and additional splash damage within a radius around the point of impact. Much like Blood Fire, the Acid Rune is a solid, all-purpose weapon with fairly low mana consumption.
Firestorm

Firestorm

  • Mana Used: Green
The Firestorm Rune gives the Demoness the means to cast a devastating fireball spell which leaves a trail of fire along the ground and does sustained damage to a target over time. Given the lasting nature of its damage, it is usually wise to wait until the first spell has expired before casting another, as this can often save mana. The spiraling version of the projectile unleashed by the Tome of Power is even more spectacular, as any target unlucky enough to be hit by it will be pummeled with additional fireballs for a short period of time.
Tempest's Staff

Tempest's Staff

  • Mana Used: Blue & Green
The ultimate weapon of the Demoness is the deadly Tempest's Staff, an implement supposedly crafted by Eidolon himself. Its standard attack launches a ball of projectile lightning which can track targets and explode on contact, causing additional damage with tendrils of lightning unleashed upon impact. When combined with a Tome of Power, the staff emits a powerful lightning bolt which persists for as long as the fire button is held (and mana reserves permit), causing continuous damage and chaining to any nearby enemies.

New Enemies

Portal of Praevus sees most of the standard enemies of Hexen II return, though they now serve dutifully as enforcers of Praevus. In addition to returning enemies, a smattering of new variations on former foes and a few altogether new opponents appear.

Gyagk

Gyagk

Pronounced as though both g's are silent (i.e., yak), these normally docile Tulku natives, turned savage by Praevus, are towering minotaur-esque humanoids with large amounts of health and a variety of attacks. When at a distance, the Gyagk tends to hurl a torrent of icy projectiles that causes damage and freezes players with low health. When it so chooses the Gyagk is capable of closing the distance quite easily with a powerful shoulder charge, and can also leap high into the air in an effort to crush its foes under its own hooves. When needed it can take evasive action by sidestepping incoming projectiles. More than one version of the Gyagk exists on the continent of Tulku, and though both exhibit the same behaviors, one is much tougher to kill, essentially constituting a mini-boss.
Pentacle

Pentacle

In contrast to the mighty Gyagk, the Pentacle is a diminutive presence, and that is ironically its greatest asset. A Pentacle can be fairly hard to notice in its environment, and is actually much easier to recognize by its distinctive hissing noise than by sight alone. A Pentacle's behavior consists of hopping around between walls, ceilings, and floors, attempting either to spit a toxic barb at passers by or, in extreme cases, hurling itself at a hapless adventurer, exploding on contact and causing a sizable amount of damage. Once it has been located, a Pentacle is fairly easy to kill, as it is not high on hit points. Two versions of the Pentacle are present on Tulku, though the differentiation between the two merely provides each variant with camouflage more appropriate to its particular surroundings.

New Enemy Variants

While in some cases the changes are merely cosmetic, a small number of new variants of existing Hexen II foes appear alongside Portal of Praevus' new monsters. This includes the frosty themed Ice Archer, who, aside from arctic attire and blue projectiles, behaves exactly like the Knight Archer. Also new to the expansion are two new variations on the Were-Jaguar, the Snow Leopard and the Were-Tiger, both of which come with greater resilience than their garden-variety brethren.

Reception

The critical response to Portal of Praevus at the time of its release was generally positive, with most reviewers noting that the main strengths of the previous game, such as its well-detailed environments, were all in evidence in the expansion pack as well. In many cases, reviewers went even further in their praise of the game, claiming that even detractors of Hexen II might enjoy it. This was usually attributed to improvements in puzzle design, with many reviewers noting that puzzles in Portal of Praevus were less obtuse than those of Hexen II, and that it was less likely that players would be confused about what was required of them in order to proceed. It was also mentioned by some that the level design of the game's hubs was improved over the original, with less required backtracking overall than Hexen II and thus less opportunity for players to become confused about where to go.

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