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SummaryI really wanted to like this game. I really did. But I don't.
The GoodI remember when this game first came out. After viewing either the trailer or a demo (can't remember which), I knew that it was my destiny to one day play this game. At the time, I was freshly out of college and delightfully unemployed... thus, no way I could shell out the cash for such a game. Fast forward a few years, and I was able to locate the game at the local used bookstore for about $10. Imagine my delight!
This game looks great. The graphics are very well done, and still hold up today (2006). The game is set in a very detailed world, and the environment is very rich. Sound is also nice, though the random comments from your teammates get a bit boring and repetitive after a while.
I was a paper & pencil AD&D player right around the time they released the 2nd edition rules, and I always got excited when "official" AD&D games were to be released, since I felt as though I had a good feel for them. However...
The Bad... The game (and, in fact, most AD&D games that I've played, going all the way back to the Gold Box series) is *very* focused on the rules. And, quite frankly, I think that the P&P ruleset is just too cumbersome for a computer RPG. If you have never read a D&D/AD&D rulebook in your life, you will have something of an awkward learning curve. It can take some time to get a feel for how to generate a decent character and how to balance the party... and nobody likes having to keep starting the game over to re-do the character generation.
Another thing that annoys me more than a little is the walking around. The game world is, as I mentioned, fairly large and detailed. However, once you are in a location (town, dungeon, etc...), there doesn't seem to be any sort of quick way to get from one end of the map to the other. You just click where you want your characters to go, and then they walk there. Pretty standard, except they don't really walk fast. So walking around a town ends up being a series of click, wait, click, wait, click, wait... Or, you can move the map around and click directly on the location you want to walk to. Then you have a reeeeeally long wait while your party walks there. I'm honestly not sure which way is less annoying.
My biggest gripe about the game, though, is that it seemed to get way too hard way too fast. In fact, it was because of this that I never got very far into it. The old meet-an-NPC-who-has-been-hired-by-a-mysterious-force-to-kill-you routine gets old, particularly when the NPCs seem to be either much higher in level -- or at least, much more familiar with all the AD&D rules and the combat system in the game. Near the beginning, I often found that while I was struggling to remember how to tell my party members to move around and do different things, I got more or less wiped out in a couple rounds of combat. I do tend to prefer a turn-based or phase-based combat system, so the pseudo-real-time setup in this game was too much for me to manage on top of everything else. (That's not necessarily a fault of the game, it's probably just that my brain doesn't jive with it.)
There is a difficulty setting, which I left right in the middle (I recall the game telling me that making it easier causes the characters to gain less experience points from fights... so it takes longer to level up). It is my opinion that someone who has never played an AD&D game before should be able to read through the rulebook, start playing at the standard difficulty level, and still have a fair chance at not having to save and restore each time combat starts.