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SummaryVery well, very well! We came to an agreement that we both agree upon!
The GoodThe hiatus between the previous Quest for Glory game and this final installment was the longest one for any Sierra adventure series. Lots of things happened during those turbulent five years: the entire genre has sustained devastating damage, falling from fame and giving place to first-person shooters and RPGs. However, besides a few nods to popular design elements of the time, Dragon Fire feels very much like a true Quest for Glory game in almost every aspect.
The core of the game is, like before, exploration of rich locations packed with detail and things to do. The puzzle-solving aspect is somewhat downplayed in favor of heavier role-playing elements, but that doesn't affect the familiar sensation of solving things with your wits and resorting to the sword only when absolutely necessary. Solutions to problems may not be as tricky as they sometimes were before, and you do fight much more in this game; however, you still need to think how exactly to deal with a situation instead of taking the more predictable routes of most "pure" RPGs. There are still text descriptions, experimentation, feedback to your actions, and that particular, volatile charm of thinking outside of the box and measuring your own skills against the logic of the game, which has always been a part of Sierra's great appeal.
Optional content is plentiful. There are many side quests to keep you occupied aside from the main quest you must follow. In a brilliant move, the game actually tells you what you didn't do just before it ends. Sierra used it in Larry 5 before, except that it didn't really matter there. I found out I missed quite a lot of interesting content in Dragon Fire. For example, there are three women you can marry (not all of them at the same time, of course), although my protagonist couldn't charm even one when I played the game. This adds a lot to the replay value, which is anyway quite high, since you can play the game with four different character classes.
Dragon Fire is undoubtedly more inclined towards role-playing than any of its predecessors. The game's manual even calls it an "action RPG" straight away, probably in an attempt to attract the nascent Diablo fandom. The role-playing in the game follows the same light skill-based system that was implemented in all earlier Quest for Glory titles, and brings nothing really new in this aspect, with the exception of the rather controversial decision to lower your skills if you don't practice them regularly. Personally, I liked this fairly realistic touch - after all, you don't expect to keep being in shape if you stop going to the gym. You also need to keep your character well-rested and not forget to feed him. I actually started envying the protagonist when I found out he could get some cheap gyros whenever he wanted to.
There is now a much larger choice of weapons and armor, and much more combat, which is also quite a bit more challenging than in any of the previous games. The combat system underwent the most noticeable change. There are no separate battle screens any more: combat takes place in the same area as exploration, which makes it much more fluent, realistic, and fulfilling. Often you will have to fight several enemies at the same time - something that never occurred in the series before. Certain places, such as, for example, the way through Hades, are so heavily populated by enemies that the gameplay there turns into a genuine dungeon hack with an almost Diablo-like intensity. You'll find yourself whacking skeletons and thinking when to use a healing potion or which sword might be the optimal choice against that particular kind of undead.
The series hasn't lost its sense of humor. Like before, there are plenty of lively and amusing characters scattered around the game - check out, for example, the innkeeper Ann or the merchant Wolfie, from whom I also borrowed the one-liner to this review - which, frankly, doesn't sound that funny when written and not spoken with the proper Indian accent. There is something majestic in the Greek atmosphere of the game, which I think fit the themes very well - although the longing Eastern European melancholy of the fourth game will always remain my favorite. The music, in particular, is excellent in this installment - and the visuals, while not perfect, do convey the sunny splendor and the proud spark of Ellada.
The BadThe action RPG aspect may have alienated a few fans. Quest for Glory was never really about combat, but this last installment focuses on hostile encounters quite a bit more. It is particularly obvious during the final phase, which leads to a marginally disappointing, predictable battle instead of offering adventure-oriented challenge in the spirit of the previous titles.
The interactivity is slightly reduced. Mind you, it's nothing compared to what happened to King's Quest VII and the FMV adventures Sierra started releasing shortly afterwards; but I missed the variety of icons available in the earlier games. Also, the text feedback seems somehow less elaborate than before.
The voice acting is somewhat disappointing, particularly compared to the stellar performances in the preceding installment. And the visuals can be described as a mixed bag. The backgrounds are attractive, but there is something lifeless about the characters. I think close-ups of the characters' faces would have brought the game closer to the charming atmosphere of the hand-painted worlds of yore.