Realms of Arkania. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Zach Meston
Sir-Tech, best known for the antediluvian adventure epic Wizardry and its numerous sequels, has journeyed across the Atlantic to bring U.S. gamers Realms of Arkania, based on the German pencil-and-paper role-playing game Das Schwarz Auge (The Black Eye).
Realms of Arkania uses a typical find-the-magic-item story line to preface the action. The powerful Blade of Destiny has been lost; it must be retrieved by tracking down nine pieces of a map and journeying deep into Orc territory. Some of the map pieces are obtained simply by saying nice things to nonplayer characters (NPCs), but others are earned only after grueling quests.
The character creation process is where Realms of Arkania first and most strongly deviates from a typical adventure game. In addition to such traits as strength and dexterity, characters also suffer from a variety of negative attributes like necrophobia (not good to have when battling against undead creatures) and a violent temper (the root cause of many a dysfunctional adventuring party). If you don't want to bother with creating a party, you don't have to; several saved games with pregenerated parties are included.
Once the party has been created, the adventure begins in the small seaside town of Ragnar. After you've explored the town, talked to various NPCs, and equipped the party, it's time to start the quest proper. A large map of Arkania is displayed on the screen with red dots indicating each location. Traveling to an adjacent town is as simple as clicking the right mouse button and selecting your destination.
If the trip is a long one, the heroes are likely to encounter some not-so-nice creatures and enter the combat sequence. This uses a 3-D isometric perspective of the action similar to that in The Immortal, Electronic Art's aging action-adventure game. Each character in the party has a limited number of movement points to move and attack the bad guys, making battles much more a test of brainpower than a test of reflexes. The computer can also fight the battles if you're not up to the task. The more battles you win, the more experience points you receive, and the more powerful your party will become.
The graphics in Realms of Arkania vary from sequence to sequence. The town and dungeon graphics are a bit weak, the NPC and character portraits are excellent, and the animation in the battle sequence is limited (the characters and creatures are quite small) but detailed. The sound effects are also a mixed bag; they're best during the battle sequence. And the music is nice at first, but the repetition gets annoying after a while.
The first game of promised trilogy, Realms of Arkania has plenty of depth and will appeal to fans of Wizardry and Might and Magic (to which the game has more than a passing resemblance). Adventures expecting the realtime action of an adventure game such as Ultima Underworld won't be as impressed.