Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181365)
Written on  :  Feb 03, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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One Thousand and One Details

The Good

After Hero's Quest introduced the wonderful blend of quality Sierra-style adventure with light role-playing, Trial by Fire takes the same concept and transplants it into a Middle Eastern setting reminiscent of nostalgically cheesy recreations of popular stories from the Arabian Nights.

Trial by Fire expands upon the ideas of the first game. It is generally more challenging; and while some of the difficulty lies in figuring out rather vague clues and spending some time studying the world's layout, those are by no means the focus of the game. There are simply more things to do. As an adventure game, the sequel offers tougher puzzles and cleverer ways to overcome obstacles; as an RPG, it is somewhat more demanding in combat. There are fewer battles and generally fewer "shortcuts" to absolute dominance; but the fights themselves are more interesting, with a wider array of options and moves.

Of all Quest for Glory games, Trial by Fire probably has the highest replay value. The differences between the three classes are implemented most consistently. In particular, the Thief truly flourishes in this installment, having several unique options available only at his disposal, and generally turning sneaking and breaking into people's houses into a goal in itself. In addition, a fourth class (Paladin) opens up if you have performed enough good deeds, which are monitored by your new Honor attribute. But even within a same-class playthrough, there is an abundance of little side quests and secrets to discover. You'll be able to appreciate this game more if you dedicate enough time to exploration and trying out various actions at every location.

The first game had a small city and a large wilderness area around it. The sequel works just the opposite way. I actually prefer the world design of its predecessor, but it cannot be denied that the city of Shapeir is a great place. It is huge and remarkably lively, with colorful, vividly portrayed characters, and loads of things to do. Talk to anyone about anything, wander through tricky mazes, visit magic shops and other exotic spots, buy souvenirs, watch cool Oriental dancing, or just go back to the inn and sleep. While the desert is much less exciting, the contrast between its unfriendly, ominous repetitiveness and the cozy colors of Shapeir does add to the atmosphere.

Storytelling and characterization is where an improvement over the first game becomes clearly noticeable. The plot is more complex, has darker undertones, and involves more characters occupying important roles in it. The denizens of Shapeir are more interesting overall, many of them having developed background stories that flesh out the setting considerably. The side stories of the game are well done, with one particular quest standing out as one of the most moving events in the entire series. This emotional intensity doesn't in the least reduce the game's humorous elements, which are perhaps even more plentiful than in the opening title.

The Bad

Every major location in Trial by Fire is built like a maze. I know this sounds extremely off-putting, but I must say I enjoyed deciphering the twisted layout of Shapeir. Also, you can buy a map that will make navigation much easier. Unfortunately, there is no map available for the desert; while you'll spend significantly less time there, you'll still have to visit it to fight enemies and complete a few quests, submitting yourself to aimless wandering and becoming prone to death by dehydration.

The city of Shapeir is huge - but in the end, it's just one city. The desert is mostly bland and cannot compete with the individually designed forest locations in the previous game. The second city, Raseir, is disappointingly similar to the first one, and you don't have that much to do in it anyway. Also, you cannot visit it before you have completed all your Shapeir quests, which occupy the by far larger portion of the game.

There are other slightly annoying elements in Trial by Fire. You can get irrevocably stuck in the game if you don't rather counter-intuitively talk to all the citizens of the first city one more time before departing to Raseir, acquiring a vital item needed to complete the game. Some of the tasks are obscure, and a few puzzles depend on timing and can get a bit too hard to figure out.

The interface begins to show its age in Trial by Fire. In general, I think Quest for Glory games were the ones benefiting most from the switch to icon-based interaction. Pure adventure games owe their existence to text parser; but RPG elements add many more variables, making figuring out the correct sentences needlessly difficult. Conversations are a good example of this: since topics have to be entered manually, I found myself stuck in the game without having talked to person A about topic Y, simply because it never occurred to me that topic might be of any importance for that particular person.

The Bottom Line

Even though Trial by Fire can get mildly frustrating, creaking under the load of an outdated interface and favoring mazes a bit too much, it is a beautiful, rewarding game with a wealth of options and gameplay depth. Many people name it as their favorite Quest for Glory, and I can certainly see why.