Decent hack 'n slash with a fun co-op mode helps make The First Templar worth more than just a single run-through...
The story itself is pleasantly uncomplicated. I didn't even bother much with it. What's that? We're a knight in search of the Holy Grail? Whatever. Let's get our swords out and start slashing. You'll visit a variety of locations that genuinely feel different, even if it is easy to spot the direction you're supposed to go. How could it be hard? This is not an open world. Travel too far one way or another, and you'll come up against an invisible wall. Exploring too much would slow down the action, anyway. The voice acting is on the whole good, but some of the lines are just so cheesy / stiff that I doubt anyone could make them sound effective. The graphics don't look as horrible as some reviewers have stated. You will
come across some incredibly low-res rocks and water at odd places in the game (usually towards the end). The faces of the characters barely move in the engine-driven cutscenes. But the general environments are nicely detailed - in particular, Acre and the d'Ibelin estate. Not earth-shattering, but nice. Fire and smoke are particularly well-rendered. And the game is light on system resources; I was able to run everything at Highest / Ultra @1080p while running an AMD R7 260X graphics card.
Single player mode works well. The controls are smooth if simple (like in a lot of hack 'n slashers), but there are a number of combos and special moves that can really change things up. You don't need to do them, which is nice; you can play the whole game with the basic attack / basic block if you want. Jumping / dodging is a little trickier, requiring a double-tap of the direction key. Now this sounds simple, but in the boss fights, you will be dodging a lot
; my hand certainly needed a break afterward. But this is a minor fault. The combat is very quick to learn, and the upgrade tree is very deep. Custom weapons and outfits are only cosmetic that I could tell, but obtaining them does grant XP, in some cases large amounts. Stealth sections are simple; hold down the Shift key and time your movements. You will never confuse The First Templar with Assassin's Creed or Deux Ex Human Revolution; but there are several places where a stealthy approach is required to progress.
Switching from one player to another is simple and seamless: just hit the Tab key to change to the other character. And you will need to do this to solve some of the dungeon puzzles. Which is one of the most fun parts of the game - the puzzles. There are all kinds of traps and levers that need to be pulled in the correct order. Most fall into a few basic categories: you got your fire hazard, your spinning blades hazard, the spike hazard. There are more, and they almost always presented in combination. I never actually died completing the dungeon puzzles, but patience, tact and timing are rewarded.
If you're purchasing for the co-op, great. You have long hours of fun ahead of you with your friend. Only the hosting player gets achievements, though, so be sure to take turns hosting the game.
The game ran very smoothly, with not a single crash. There were several bugs, though, and they could appear at any time. All were related to side missions, whether looking for a series of chests or attempting to rescue a series of villagers. Sometimes, the area the chest was in would not unlock, even though I had done everything and the game itself indicated that I could go get the chest, I could not. Another time, I needed to help some soldiers, but when I went to the spot indicated on the map, there was no one there. I revisited the spot before progressing to the next level, and the soldiers were there, but I could not interact with them in any way! Incredibly frustrating, since there is no way to save your game; you are entirely reliant upon the checkpoints. The only way to fix the bugs was to reload the last checkpoint. There were also a few occasions of sound-drop (no sound, like sword 'clink' and 'clank' when there should be sound), but usually only in huge battles. I assume the sound queue got over-loaded.
Overall, The First Templar was a fun game that is worth a play-through, thanks to the engaging level design and variety of gameplay (slashing, stealth, and puzzle-solving). Not a must-buy at the current list price of $20; at $6 or less, though, it represents good entertainment value.