Restricted Area is a simple action role-playing game from Master Creating and Whiptail Interactive. It takes place in a futuristic world where large corporations have replaced governments, and where global warming has had such an adverse affect on the planet that people can only survive in large cities. The wastelands outside the cities are “restricted areas” where mutants and monsters roam free, and where freelancers can make their fortune. In other words, Restricted Area is what might happen if Diablo and Fallout got married and had a child.
In Restricted Area you can play as one of four characters. Johnson looks like an extra from The Matrix, complete with black overcoat and sunglasses, and he’s the only character who can use heavy weaponry like flamethrowers and grenades. Kenji is straight out of a Hong Kong action movie, and he can use a katana or dual wield pistols. Victoria looks like she came out of a late night “skinemax” flick, and if she’s not mesmerizing her enemies with her short skirt and skimpy top, she can use her psi abilities to finish them off. And then there’s Jessica, who has a wide range of computer skills plus a flying drone to help her out.
The four characters essentially act as classes in the game, and, like all good classes, they play differently. Kenji requires Zen for his special moves (like his whirlwind attack), and he generates Zen every time he damages an enemy. Victoria has a psi pool that she uses for her mental attacks (like mind storm), and the pool generates over time. And then there’s Johnson, who mostly relies on passive skills, and is therefore the easiest to play. In fact, the characters are different enough that you could play the campaign for each one and have a relatively different experience each time.
The problem with Restricted Area is that its campaign is so dreary and repetitive that you might not want to play it even twice let alone four times. For a click-and-kill role-playing game like this one, the developer has to do something to keep things new and interesting, and developer Master Creating didn’t even really try. If you look at games like Diablo and Dungeon Siege, enemies and environments change with regularity, but in Restricted Area there are very few environments (and the indoor ones are so dark that they all look alike), and the enemies, while coming in different shapes and flavors, basically come down to melee attackers and ranged attackers. Except for a couple bosses, enemies don’t cast spells or do anything other than rush straight at you and attack.
Worse, the missions in the campaign are almost all identical. Basically, you have to explore 3-4 levels and kill enemies, and then do something different at the end of the last level. There are two problems with this. First off, those first few levels are boring because there isn’t anything to do in them other than kill hundreds of enemies. Then, in the final level, the actual objective usually isn’t anything more than clicking on a box or killing a single “leader” version of an enemy. Master Creating should have known something was wrong when they created random missions for the campaign, and the random missions played just like the required campaign missions.
On a more positive side, Master Creating studied Diablo pretty closely, and they figured out (where most other developers have failed) how to make a game addictive. They did this by making characters fun to build up -- and by allowing them to play in the campaign multiple times so that you can continue to build them up -- and by giving characters a large assortment of equipment to wear, where each piece of equipment has a variety of bonuses that it can give. In fact, in a nice move, while the corporations that run the world are largely ignored in the game (the campaign simply focuses on bringing down the most powerful one), each piece of equipment is associated with a corporation, and if you wear multiple pieces from the same corporation, then you get a synergy bonus, with the bonus increasing with the more pieces you wear. I thought this was a clever way of handling set equipment in the game.
And so, overall, my view of Restricted Area is mixed. The game is simple and easy to play, the campaign is short (maybe 10-15 hours) but you can play it multiple times, and developing characters is fun. But the game is also a little sloppy (among other things, the pathfinding is weak, and enemies often get stuck in doors), the endless killing of enemies is repetitive, and the voice acting is downright awful. I think Restricted Area is the sort of game you’d be happy with if you found it in the bargain bin, but it’s a little shallow at its full price.