Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. (game software) (evaluation)
by Shay Addams
When a designer tries to graft role-playing onto adventure, the result is usually a Frankenstein monster of a game that returns to haunt the author, the publisher, and the game players of the world. Hero's Quest scored high marks as one of the few games to successfully blend the puzzle-solving aspects of an adventure with the combat and skill elements that characterize role-playing games. The sequel, which bears a different name due to a trademark conflict with a board game, is even better than the original.
Our hero has traveled from the forests of Europe to the burning sands of the Mideast for this story. In the desert city of Shapeir, things have not been shaping up according to the sultan's plan. The emir in the nearby city of Raseir has fallen victim to the evil plot of his sinister sibling. Your quest is to find the missing ruler and set things right in Raseir before the villain takes over Shapeir, too.
You may use a character from Hero's Quest or roll up a fresh one. As before, the choice is fighter, thief, or magic user--each profession possessing strengths and shortcomings in skills necessary to solve various puzzles. Some puzzles are unique to the different classes, and many problems have different solutions for each class. The fighter, for example, obtains the bellows needed to defeat the air elemental by arm-wrestling the man in the weapon shop, while the magic user casts Fetch on the bellows (at night) to get it. In most places, the magic user and thief rely more on wits; the fighter on strength.
I enjoyed battling the brigands and giant scorpions of Trial by Fire more than the villains of Hero's Quest, because the combat system has been revamped and improved. Instead of viewing a first-person picture of the foe, you watch animated figures of both characters. There are only a few combat commands, so they're easy to learn and execute. Magic is useful in combat as well as when solving puzzles.
As in Hero's Quest, your character can improve certain skills if he or she uses them successfully. Pick enough locks, and you'll find the next lock easier to pick. In a major leap forward over Hero's Quest, Trial by Fire lets your characters advance to higher classes; a fighter strives to become a paladin, for instance. This gives the quest a dual purpose: to save the land and to get your character promoted. An added feature is a different final scene for each character class, so you have more incentive to replay that character, and more fun doing so.
Trial by Fire supports everything from 16-color VGA to Hercules and sound boards that haven't even been invented yet, but it doesn't employ the "cinemagraphics" and icon interface of King's Quest V. You still type words into a parser to interact with people and things, and the graphics are cartoonish. This is appropriate, however, considering the abundance of humor here. Authors Lori and Corey Cole display a rare talent for demented puns and obscure jokes. The weapon shop, for instance, is run by a man called Issur, a play on A. E. van Vogt's classic novel, The Weapon Shops of Isher. For its playfulness and improvements over the original, Trial by Fire is highly recommended.