companies have tried to produce advanced role playing
sagas for home micros. The Ultima series constitutes
one of the success stories. In a more limited way, a
game which successfully employs a lot of role playing
features is The Temple of Apshai trilogy. SSI's
Phantasie uses a fantasy world called the Isle
of Gelnor. From an old storyteller, you hear of the
evil Black Knights and their terrible leader, the sorcerer
Nikademus. Deciding that defeating this evil force would
be a good way to earn fame and fortune, you set out
to put together a party of like-minded adventurers.
game has mixed graphic and text displays for everything.
All the options are accessible via the joystick or keyboard.
The first thing to do after the game has loaded is to
create a band of adventurers to aid you on your quest.
This entails going to the local inn -- the traditional
recruiting ground in role playing games. The game allows
the generation of practically any kind of party you
require. The first stage in this process is to decide
the race of the character to be developed. These include
Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling and Gnome. Then the class
or profession of the character can be decided. This
can be Thief, Fighter, Ranker, Monk, Priest or Wizard.
character also has a series of mental and physical characteristics,
expressed as numerical values, which affect the probability
of success by that character in various activities.
Therefore a Thief would do well to have a high dexterity
level if he or she is to be successful when picking
locks or even someone else's pocket.
each character can carry a certain number of weapons
to defend itself. These are obtained by moving the group
to armoury and highlighting the character you wish to
do the 'shopping'. Once you feel a character is well
enough equipped, you can use the 'another shopper' command
to fit out another character. There are plenty of weapons
at the armoury, including swords, flails, spears, maces
and pitchforks. Once your merry band is fully geared
you can take them back to the inn.
inn plays an important part in the game and, apart from
being a place where characters can rest, is the only
location where those characters may distribute and sell
items. The town also has a bank where you can withdraw
or deposit gold pieces -- useful, gold's heavy stuff
and not really the sort of thing that should be carried
around a rather violent land. If you want to get your
score highlighted, select the 'mystic' option and it
will be shown. Selecting mystic also gives the overall
strength of the party.
When the party is equipped and ready to go on their
travels, an option to leave the city is selected. The
screen display changes to a pictorial view of a wilderness
area. This area is several times larger than the screen
itself and a small display in the bottom right corner
of the screen reveals whereabouts in the overall world
the party is situated. There are occasional random encounters
in the wilderness, another feature lifted straight from
conventional RPGs. Some of these encounters involve
none too pleasant creatures, other times Non-player
characters may be encountered for better or worse.
moving through the countryside, a kind of sparse narration
takes place in a small window at the top of the screen.
Eventually, the party is likely to come across a dungeon
and, more often than not, will want to explore it. Entering
and leaving dungeons are the only times when the disk
needs to be changed over. Once the dungeon has been
entered, the screen becomes a solid grey area containing
a hidden map. The more the party experiment and explore,
the more of the map is revealed to the group. Again
the narration appears at the top of the map. Should
the player want to examine something they encounter,
that option is open to them -- but more often than not
it's just scenery.
is where characters' abilities really come into their
own. Thieves can help spot and diffuse traps, although
one of their best abilities in conventional role playing
is their usefulness as advanced scouts for the party.
This is not possible due to the inherent complexities
involved, but this is no great shame. If any rather
nasty creatures are encountered (and they have a tendency
to exist in the plural), the party can flee, fight,
or attempt to communicate. Normally fighting will be
the only fruitful course of action. Interestingly, each
member of the party can choose his own fighting strategy.
Combat is handled in turns during which hits inflicted
on creatures or adventurers are monitored. At the end
of each turn, either the whole party or individual members
thereof may adopt a new strategy.
only problem with this system is that it is quite possible
to continue fighting, and even be wounded, by a dead
creature. On winning a fight against a nasty, I accidentally
selected the fight option and was immediately plunged
into a battle with the corpse of a giant snake. This
did not stop the computer from killing off my party's
only magician! He was fairly useless, as I could not
get him to use spells in combat, but it's still a pretty
mean thing to do. I suppose SSI are just poor losers
. . .
the subject of dead magicians, although ZZAP, my party's
illusionist extraordinaire, had been so cruelly kilted
off, when I eventually returned to the inn to distribute
the wealth accumulated during the first adventure I
was asked how much I would like to give to him. These
are unfortunately clumsy and unwanted features of an
otherwise imaginative and highly playable game. If care
is taken, they should cause no problems, but that's
no excuse for them.
a fight, assuming the party s still in one piece, the
computer shows how many experience points have been
earned by each character as a result of his actions.
This way, when the party return to the city they may
opt to be trained. If they have earned enough experience