Welcome to the world of the Others, a world within our own, beyond our site, where forces of Light and the forces of Dark fight a cold war to determine the fate of the world. Where the forces of Light have formed the Night Watch to keep the Dark in check, and where the forces of Dark have formed the Day Watch to keep the Light in check. This is their world.
Night Watch for the PC is a game based on the Russian movie by the same name. In it, you take the role of Stas, a bit of a wanderer in life, just as he realizes his role as a Light-aligned Other. From there you'll go through a fairly forgettable story in a campaign against the Dark, learning new spells and abilities as you go along. As with many film-based games, you don't need to watch the movie, but it'll definitely clear some things up for you, as well as help you understand what's going on.
It's a turn-based strategy game of the fairly simple sort: each of your characters have a certain amount of action points they can use to move around, attack, cast spells, and so forth. When your characters have run out of things you want them to do, you end your turn and the enemy starts theirs. There are a few twists thrown into the mix, either to follow the premise of the movie or to just add more to the game, but essentially it has a strong feeling of 'been there done that' around it.
You 'create' a few characters in the game by assigning them classes and fiddling with their base statistics. Their names, appearances, and so forth are already predetermined. You can either be a Mage (good in magic), an Enchanter (charges objects with magical energy,) or a Changer (fights and turns into an animal). Your choice of class affects the abilities that you will gain as you go up in level, and little else. What is most important is how you allocate your main stats, because they affect things like damage, energy points, and the standard RPG elements like that.
You, and every other, er, Other, have the ability to enter into a parallel dimension called the 'Gloom.' It is a place that mirrors our world, but sensations like sounds and sights are more subdued. In the Gloom, you're invisible to the rest of the normal world, and your spells are much more potent, but these benefits come at a price. As you stay in the Gloom, your energy points will drain every turn, and when you are out of those, your vitality starts to go down as well. It's an interesting concept, one taken almost directly from the movie, but it has some serious flaws. First, the Gloom is immediately less beneficial to Changers, because they have few energy points, and likewise, few spells to be amplified. This means that it's a lot easier for them to perish. Second, most of the game will take place in this alternate dimension because the enemies jump into it the moment they have the opportunity. And because you can't even see them unless you're in the Gloom as well, you are forced to jump in. But, if you have no energy points, you can't get into the Gloom and instead are forced to watch as your hapless character is beaten down by an enemy they can't even see.
The items of the game consist mostly of mundane items like sunglasses, apples, or feathers, to name a few. To use them, you must have an Enchanter 'charge' them with magic, so that you can, for example, restore health (apples), raise your defense (sunglasses), or grant you more action points (feathers). While an interesting idea, it felt plain annoying to me. It was annoying because you find yourself picking up twenty kinds of junk just in case you get your Enchanter learns the skill that'll allow them to make that junk less useless. It's annoying because, instead of learning useful skills, you need to waste your ability points on things like 'charge apple' or 'charge lottery ticket'. It makes the Enchanter feel less like a viable character class and more like some sort of tool you have to drag along. Even worse, if you happen to not choose an Enchanter as one of your characters' classes, you're stuck with a pile of garbage that you can't do anything with. Heck, if you don't pick Enchanter as a class for one of your first two characters, you find an item that is completely worthless, even when you do get an Enchanter in your group eventually.
Overall, the game feels unbalanced. First, your spells and abilities go up the more you use them. However, some of your abilities can only be used on enemies, of which there are a finite amount. So while a few of your abilities will be maxed out immediately, a fair amount will remain low most of the time. This normally sounds fair, except that the Changer's abilities, for example, comprise mostly of attacks to be used on enemies. Adding to this is the fact that of the three stats, strength is fairly worthless to everyone but the Changer. However, the other two are also extremely important, as they determine how much the character can do in one turn (number of action points) and how many energy points the character needs (which is important if you want to stay in the Gloom for any amount of time). So basically, while the other classes need only two stats, the Changers need all three. While not necessarily a problem, the game felt shoddier when I realized that the developers didn't take more time to figure these problems out.
And if we're talking about shoddy, well, there's a whole new can of worms. The game feels rushed and unfinished. There's the various spelling errors scattered throughout the game, as well as the discrepancy between what is being said on the speakers and what is being displayed on the screen. And then there's the weird aspect of a single tooltip for the 'In Gloom' effect, as well as a few other small icons, containing the entire list of credits for the game's crew. At least, I think it's the development team; it gets cut off at the bottom of the screen. Or the weird event of watching some items fall off the side of the map and into the black void below, unreachable forever, when an enemy dies too close to the edge. Oh, and I say 'Enchanters' and 'Changers' because that's what the instruction booklet says. The game, however, feels fit to also call them 'Sorcerers' and 'Shifters,' as well as referring to the Gloom as 'Twilight' and 'Dusk.' Whether this is intentional or some odd translation error, I have no idea, but as is, it just feels incomplete. The game crashes from time to time as well.
The dialogue is pretty poor too. The script feels okay at times, but what I can't understand is why, when everyone's written script is fairly normal and to the point, the main character's lines are so terrible. He sounds like some sort of idiot who, instead of realizing that lives are on the line, cracks a bad joke instead. Normally, I'd say this is a unique character, but no one else in the game seems to realize what a fool he is, and it all seems like some terrible parody whenever he opens his mouth. Oh, and the voice work is pretty bad, too.
The music, though; I liked. The gloom felt suitably suppressing to the senses, and the rest of the game varies between a thumping battle tune and an interesting mix of instruments that feels mystic, yet modern as well.
In the end, the game just exudes a feeling of sub-average development. The engine, while used well in previous titles, is a poor choice for this game. The linearity of the title is constricting and aggravating when it feels like there's a big city full of Others waiting to be explored. And the 'strategy' aspect of the title alternates between too easy and too pointless. There's little more strategy to the game than staring at your enemy while you just fire spell after spell into each other's faces. Unless you're a big fan of the movie and the world it creates, there's just no good reason to pick up this game. The worst part is, there's a lot of potential in there to make a really interesting magical strategy game, but little of it is utilized, and instead we get a below-average game that fails to live up to anything. The main reason that the game feels playable in almost any sense is because the engine of the game is good enough to make it work. Aside from that, you'll want to give this one a pass.