Written by  :  Nowhere Girl (3260)
Written on  :  Apr 24, 2013
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars

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Atmosphere counts too, not just the gameplay

The Good

As usually, the game has very good graphics. The VGA version of "So You Want To Be a Hero" was made some time after the original, but now, with "Wages of War", the series moves into VGA region for good. While I really enjoy good EGA graphics, I got used to this game in its only version and I couldn't imagine it having different graphics, despite some minor drawbacks (see "The Bad").
In this game we re-encounter characters from the previous one, especially Uhura and Rakeesh. Now they get a bit more three-dimensional, we can learn more about their stories and personalities. While it would be too much to call the plot very rich and complex, it does become emotionally touching as we see Rakeesh following the Way of the Paladin in practice and doing what he can to prevent war. The words he says are wise and it really would be better if more people remembered messages like this "in real life"...
However, what I liked most was the game's setting. The game never says directly Tarna is in Africa (the whole land is rather called Fricana), but it seems definitely African. I think this continent hasn't been the setting of adventure games too often, as if game designers too regarded Africa an uninteresting, backward land. Nevertheless, the Quest for Glory game model works as well in an African setting as it did in a Germanic one or will do in an Eastern European one.
(If only the hero would wear more realistic clothes... In Shapeir he wore a nice outfit in a local style, now his clothes get very plain, though at least more comfortable than the cloak he wore in Spielburg... OK, actually white shirts with long sleeves are a good choice in deserts and other hot areas, especially for fair-skinned blondes and redheads like our hero, but with the waistcoat - the same outfit the hero will get to wear in Mordavia - the clothes just look too thick and warm.)
I discovered yet better how I liked the game's atmosphere when it was already gone - after I had moved on to "Shadows of Darkness". There it got so creepy, cold, sad, autumnal that I just missed all these sunny "Fricanian" landscapes... The difference between Spielburg and Shapeir may be as great, but here the change in atmosphere is most pronounced.

The Bad

"Trial by Fire" already had the disadvantage of often dragging on. If you were quick to beat every Elemental, later you could just wait for a few days doing nothing, just following a very "busy" routine: talk to someone, go practise at the Guild, go lookin' for some trouble in the desert and sleep the rest of the day off. It got yet worse in Raseir which was so seedy the hero just wouldn't rest there - I could only keep walking back and forth and (when replaying as a Thief) train my Sneaking skill a bit. While "Wages of War" doesn't drag on as much as the previous game, it takes some time to kick into gear. In the beginning you can also spend some time pretty much doing nothing, waiting for some new events to happen.
Landscapes which repeat themselves, especially the savanna, look rather boring. Dangers (monsters) are encountered in a rather random way and you move from the map view to close view after you encounter one. In the beginning it makes getting around somewhat awkward, you just have to get used to this system.
Some aspects of graphics aren't too well made. Human proportions often don't look completely believeable (for example too broad shoulders). This will get slightly better in the fourth game and the big closeups, unfortunately absent from "Wages of War", will be introduced.
At some points the designers seem to be trying to squeeze a bit too many ideas into one box. Maybe the best example is Salim the apothecary. Judging by his name, he could have come from Shapeir or somewhere nearby. Judging by his style, he is a hippie - one of many anachronistic details in Sierra games. Actually I like such details very much, it's funny to meet people resembling modern Americans in a timeless fantasy game ("Quest for Glory"), Batmobile in a medieval-like fantasy world ("King's Quest 2")... However, when yet another idea is added - Salim becoming fascinated with the story of Julanar, the woman turned into a tree in the desert of Shapeir - this seems a bit too much for this definitely secondary character, all these different facets just don't suit one another. Maybe the tragic story of Julanar seems just too serious for this "light" character, anyway the end result is to some degree incongruent.

The Bottom Line

The game isn't a masterpiece or the best game in the series. However I also don't consider it a failure as some people do. While it has its share of darkness - anyway, in the end the hero fights demons in the Lost City - it is a welcome break before the heavy and creepy mood of the fourth game. And despite some drawbacks of this game, I tend to remember its sunny atmosphere more than "worse" details such as the game moving on too slow.