Written by  :  Apparatchik (18)
Written on  :  Jul 14, 2004
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars

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Can you change the world?

The Good

This game drops you into a world and from there you are on your own, except for those annoying non-player characters who show up in dungeons to trade or bicker with you. That is what made this game so great. There are other persons walking around Lost Guardia pursuing their own agendas. The bad and not so bad guys are not just sitting around waiting for you to make an appearance. This gives the game an urgency that other computer role playing games lack. The non-player character interaction is heightened by the existing rivalries on the planet. You have five indigineous races and three space faring ones who have set up shop on this little world and they are all out for each other's throats. Talk to a member of one group and see another get angry with you. Its really up to you who to talk to, who not to talk to, who to support and so on.

Did I mention that you are playing a group of humans or elves, or dwarves, or faeires or lizardmen etc (One race is called the Mook who look a lot like Sasquatch) and that you are the only such kind in this world. This is truly an interesting fantasy/science fiction crossover - my elven valkyrie now uses firearms - courtesy service in the Umpani military. All your characters can rise high in stats, which include not only basic statistics - such as strength, dexterity and so forth, but also skills. You can also learn new skills, such as my elven valkyrie, courtesy the planet's inhabitants.

Combat is turn based and the system has you input your orders to your party and then resolves the battle. Combats can last a long time (a certain dinosaur named SPOT comes to mind) and characters can lose both mental and physical stamina from all their fighting. The game demands good party management and as your characters develop they gain many ways to hurt and kill others.

The monsters, not to mention the new races, are a diverse lot. Still the system uses the same picture for all monsters of that type. For example, a black bird could be a raven, a vampire rook, a spectral raven, a fire crow and so forth. This seems primitive in the graphics, but it adds to the fog of war and makes combat more risky. Sometimes you can identify your opponent for what it is and sometimes you cannot.

Trap disarming is a real joy in this game, but I am a fan of games which can challenge both your brain and your hand/eye coordination. Trap Disarming requires, like combat, identifying the nature of the trap and then attempting to disable the mechanisms, in the right order. Picking locks works the same way. You watch the tumblers roll and try to click when it turns green. Hit at the wrong time and you can jam the lock. Hit the wrong color on trap disarming and that could be bye bye to some of your characters.

The Bad

Be prepared to spend quite a lot of time with this monster. Without the aid of a cheat manual, repeated play or the advice of someone else who has plowed through this I do not know who anyone can hope to complete this game in a timely fashion. Some fights are nearly impossible or at least demand constant reloading as you try again and again - in vain it seems - to press on. Just to confess my own dishonor in this department - I reloaded the game myself ten times on my first play in the first fight with a bunch of Rattkin who ambushed me. It took me that many times to get through. This is the only game I know with a Save/Resume function and thank heaven for it. Its the best weapon your party has.

Battles are a problem, but at least they are obvious. Solutions to key quests often are not and be prepared to search and roam and travel in what seems circles till you find out what you have to do and where you have to go. There is even one puzzle, in Munkarama, which changes with every game. There is no one solution. This can be interesting and challenging, but its rarely great fun.

Did I mention, by the way, that your mission is to find an artifact, that was used in the world's creation, before the Dark Savant himself nabs it? Talk about pressure.

The Bottom Line

This is an excellent game in many respects and can appeal to many diverse gaming types - whether you like hack/slash, puzzle solving, or non-player character interaction. This has all three. Still It takes a large investment in time and patience. I confess to never having completed it, but my current party may just get there. Remember that save/resume function!