Now that I’ve savaged the lazy, junior-high ending of this game and taken some time to cool off, let’s talk about what worked:
|A female half-orc… Warlock? Hey man, whatever floats your boat.|
The game does an excellent job of stepping you through the process. The explanation for every race, class, feat, and spell is available right there, so you never feel lost and never feel like you don’t have enough information to make a decision.
I’ve been negative towards attempts to bring d20 gaming to the PC in the past, and I stand by those comments. Having said that, this is an excellent adaptation of d20 gameplay, and I don’t think it could be done much better. If you’re going to bring the tabletop rules to a computer-driven world, this is how you do it.
The game has a fairly modest system for cutomizing the look of your character, but the variety of races more than makes up for the lack of ability to really customize your appearance. It also offers a few fun surprises, like the ability to create dwarven or half-orc females, which has always been tough for me to picture. It will let you create an Elven Barbarian, or a half-Orc Wizard, if you really want to.
Once the game starts, it does an excellent job of teaching how to play as you go. At the outset, your home village is having a harvest fair with a number of different competitions. Each one teaches you the specifics of some gameplay or character class, and does so while keeping you amused with several colorful (and wonderfully voice-acted) characters around town.
|You fools! I said the game needs more Elves, not Elvis!|
I particularly liked the farmer who looked and sounded like Elvis, who tasked me with un-enchanting an enlarged pig in the fattest hog contest.
I know it seems strange to praise a game for its tutorial, but this this was particularly well done. I really enjoyed learning to play this game.
Another thing that impressed me right away was the manual. I thought these things were extinct. This one is nicely printed, and almost 200 pages long. On the downside: I’ve only used it once, and the thing I looked up was wrong. (The manual says you need a DEX of 13 for the Two-Weapn Fighting feat, but the game requires a DEX of 15. I don’t have the rulebooks handy so I don’t know if this is a misprint or a bug.)
The harvest fair is to celebrate the harvest, but it is also a time of remembrance. It is held on the anniversary of an attack long ago, in which the village was nearly wiped out. How long ago? I kept trying to figure that out. Eventually I realized the game was being coy about it on purpose. The attack happened when you were an infant, and since you can adjust your age when you create your character it isn’t something they could build into the dialog. If you play as an elf, then the attack can’t have happened less than 120 years ago, since that’s how long it takes elves to grow up. If you are human, then the attack could be as recent as 18 years ago. They do a good job of skirting around facts that the game can’t control, so much so that I didn’t even realize they were doing it.
|The high harvest fair in your hometown of West Harbor is actually pretty fun, and there are some great characters to meet. If you skip the tutorial you’ll miss out on it, though.|
The system specs and load times are out of control, but the game does look quite nice. The screenshots you see on this page aren’t really illustrative what what you’ll see in the game at the default settings, though. I had to turn the quality way down to make the game playable, and I left the settings there for these screenshots. Areas have lots of detail, and there is precious little “recycled” stuff. Each building and location is unique and interesting. That’s nice, although I would rather settle for (much) lower system requirements.
My first impression of this game was that it was going to be one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played. If it could have maintained this initial high standard, and if it had some sort of reasonable ending, it would be.
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