Since getting a Nintendo Switch, I’ve kept my eye on games with two player couch co-op modes so I could play games with my fiancee, and one of the games that caught my eye is Nine Parchments from Frozenbyte. Set in the Trine universe (arguably Frozenbyte’s most popular IP), Nine Parchments follows a group of wizard apprentices from the Astral Academy who are in search of spell parchments with the goal of filling up their spell book and graduating from their wizardry course.
The best and quickest way to describe Nine Parchments is to say that it feels like a stripped down version of Diablo II with different variations on the Wizard class instead of having several different classes. It is a twin stick action RPG but its RPG elements are very light, and some people seem to look down on Nine Parchments because of this. But it is because of this simplicity that I was able to get my fiancee to play it with me.
And while Nine Parchments is considered as a lite version of Diablo, it does offer enough customization and variety. You get a total of nine different wizards (only two unlocked at the start), each of which has four different versions with a different set of starting spells. Each wizard version has his/her own attribute tree, and when you unlock a new version of a wizard then that version’s attributes tree is activated, allowing you to customize your wizard by picking and choosing attributes across all the active skill trees. When you unlock a wizard’s fourth version (the Gilded version), that wizard’s level cap changes from 40 to 60, allowing for even more powerful combinations of attributes.
The spells in Nine Parchments also offer a high degree of variety due to the many different forms that they can have combined with seven different element types (fire, ice, lightning, steam, healing, death, and physical). Most of the wizards available has a specialty element, as well as the different monsters and enemies that you’ll face in the game so you not only have to play to your chosen wizard’s strengths, but you also have to keep your enemies’ weaknesses in mind.
Nine Parchments seems to be quite easy at the start but just past the halfway mark you start encountering enemies with dual immunities or resistances and if that’s not enough of a challenge, the game’s harder difficulties offer something special beyond being more difficult: in Hard mode, enemy spawns are random so you never know what you’re going to fight and in Hardcore mode, your playthrough ends if everyone gets killed and your Last Chance has been used up.
Lastly, I mentioned that I was looking for two player co-op games on the Switch when I found Nine Parchments – that’s because this game allows for both online and local co-op between two to four players. And personally, I’ve enjoyed playing this game either on my own, playing it with my fiancee, or with another of our friends. One of the things that I like about Nine Parchments is how people can jump in and out of your playthrough any time, so you won’t have to start several playthroughs just to accomodate different playgroups.
Story and Presentation
Arguably one of Nine Parchment’s weakest points is it’s story – it is really quite simple. The academy’s spell parchments were all blown away and scattered across the land, and it is up to the academy’s apprentice wizards to go out and gather them. The game only has one cutscene and very little dialogue which normally is a bad thing but was perfect for what we needed – a co-op game that we can pick up and play any time. Cutscenes and story sequences bog down the game experience for my fiancee, so the lack of those really helped her enjoy Nine Parchments. It also made the game something that I can play in the background while on phone conference meetings at work (gotta love how the Switch is portable) with allows me to grind through some of the easier stages.
What it lacks in story, Nine Parchments makes up for when it comes to presentation. The game’s stages are quite detailed and they look so good, it made us feel like we were looking at paintings. We really felt that we were exploring another world, especially since the game’s journey took us through a lot of different locations. While understandably biased, I asked my fiancee to compare Diablo III with Nine Parchments and she preferred Nine Parchments’ bright and beautiful world against Diablo’s dark and dreadful atmosphere (a matter of personal preference).
Nine Parchments also has really good sound and music, with tunes ranging from relaxing and ambient noise during some of the more serene stages to ominous melodies when in dungeons and especially near the end. I still can’t forget the theme that plays at the end of a stage – it has become one of my favorite video game soundtracks.
Lite is All You Need
If you compare Nine Parchments to Diablo III, it definitely won’t hold a candle. Diablo III is a full-fledged AAA title that’s seen several expansions added to it, while Nine Parchments is a small digital release from the makers of the Trine trilogy of games. Being a lighter version of Diablo III isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it is more accessible to casual players (like my fiancee) and won’t require commitment like the aforementioned game. I’d consider it as a gateway game as well, to ease a casual player into more complicated action RPGs later on.
My fiancee and I enjoyed Nine Parchments a lot, so I’m a little sad that the game isn’t getting the attention it deserves – especially now that Diablo III is already out on Nintendo Switch. Still, I highly recommend Nine Parchments for anyone looking for pick up and play co-op games.