User review spotlight: Carmageddon (DOS). Released in 1997.

Betrayal at Krondor (DOS)

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Written by  :  PCGamer77 (3026)
Written on  :  May 20, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars

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Summary

A Feist-ian bargain.

The Good

Set in fantasy novelist Raymond Feist’s world of Midkemia, Betrayal at Krondor (BaK) received great acclaim from the press. The game attempts to blend together storytelling, puzzles, and roleplaying into a cohesive whole.

Sales of the game were slow upon its initial release, but then picked up when the game was released on the then-new CDROM format. The game’s use of digitized photos of “actors” for the characters’ faces was innovative (if a bit cheesy) and even influential, given that Might and Magic VI would use the same technique a few years later. The musical score is appropriately sweeping and adds to the whole RPG-meets-Renaissance Fair atmosphere.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the graphic novel aspect of the game conflicts with the role-playing element, and thus the whole thing never quite comes together in a satisfying way. You get to control characters in combat and equip them as you go along, but this has a considerable downside: there is no such thing as starting out with a character of your own creation, nor do you have any idea which characters you will be using in future chapters. You may work extremely hard to bulk up Gorath, only to find out that he isn’t going to be a part of the story for a while, so you should have been working on boosting Owyn’s stats and inventory instead.

This game takes a long time to complete (easily over 50 hours, perhaps 100 or more if you explore everywhere and complete all of the quests), but very little of the time spent seems to be taken up by actual gameplay. Traveling outdoors is *very* tedious, and only by shelling out a pretty sizable chunk of your hard-earned cash can you use the jumpgates (found in temples) to move around the game world more quickly. Supposedly you can move around to the various areas in any order you want, but in reality the designers have made sure that you cannot do so. This would let the individual get too far off course from the storyline, so you are either blocked off by contrived plot devices (“Milord, this road is not passable until the snows have melted!”) or killed immediately by overwhelmingly powerful foes.

Losing even one member of your party in combat invariably means death to all, since you will almost certainly need to escape, but escape is only allowed when all members of your party are conscious (the need to keep characters in the story means no one is expendable) AND the way is not “blocked” by opponents. I say “blocked” in quotes, since I have not noticed the enemy ever doing anything in particular to achieve this tactic. Perhaps it is calculated by the CPU but not represented onscreen.

It is to Feist’s credit that Midkemia is interesting enough that some will want to plow through BaK to the end. It’s really just a blend of Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons, and a bunch of other fantasy and science fiction conventions, although I suppose it’s fairly cohesive and believable as these things go.

The Bottom Line

Betrayal at Krondor is a failure as a coherent game, since its adventure/story portions ruin the fun of the role-playing/combat portions, and vice versa. I can only attribute this game’s sales success to its clever use of the CDROM format, the dearth of other CRPG’s on the market at the time, and to the prestige of its nominal author Raymond Feist. Feist has wisely turned the core of the Krondor story into an old-fashioned paperback novel, Krondor: The Betrayal. Gamers and Feist fans alike are advised to pass the CDROM up and give the book a go instead.