Phalsberg is a role-playing game in which you
create a character whose future is determined both by
your own decisions during the game and also by the character's
skills. The gameplay involves a lot of tally-hoing across
the countryside in search of treasure, monsters, and
all manner of mayhem.
most RPGs, skills are set at the beginning of the game
by a throw of dice, and Phalsberg is no exception
-- a list of skills (see below) is flashed on the screen
and you then have a chance to 'throw' for high scores
in each skill category.
SKILLS MAKE LIGHT WORK
a character's skills are incredibly important during
a game like this, it's good to see that Phalsberg
provides not only a good selection of skill ratings,
but also a means of concentrating on certain categories.
The program adds bonus points to the marks gained by
throwing the dice according to the order of selection,
with higher marks being awarded to the categories you
throw for first. What this means is that, for example,
you may wish to achieve as high a 'Strength' rating
as possible for your character and, by choosing to throw
for this category first, you stand a better chance.
you've assigned skill ratings to your character, you
give it a Name, a Race (Human, Dwarf or Elf) and, if
the character is Human, a Profession. There are four
professions (or 'Casts' as the program calls them) --
Thief, Warrior, Magician and Cleric. Each Cast requires
a particular balance of skills, so for example a character
can only become a Thief if his dexterity rating exceeds
11 points. At this point the significance of being able
to throw for extra points for a certain skill becomes
1. Constitution 15
2. Life Points 15
3. Energy (1)+(2)
4. Strength 10
5. Protection 10
6. Reflex/Dexterity 10
7. Intelligence 10
8. Beauty 5
9. Charisma (7)+(8)
10. Money 1000
11. Experience 10
and Charisma are determined by the product or sum of
the two previous skills. Each skill plays a certain
role in the game -- for example, Charisma influences
the outcome of encounters with other characters, while
Intelligence dictates how many languages you can speak
and therefore how many characters you can talk to.
points play a special role -- you can use tem to 'top
up' any other skill rating which you may consider to
be dangerously low. You accumulate more experience points
during the game as you win battles and overcome obstacles.
you've created your character, you SAVE it onto a preformatted
disc. Make sure you've got one before you start, as
the program won't let you play without one. This disc
keeps track of your character, enabling you o SAVE it
for another day -- very important in RPG's where you
may spend a lot of time and effort building up a character,
particularly its 'Experience Points'.
PLAY . . .
game loads with a pleasantly programmed rendition of
Pictures at an Exhibition. Once you've created your
character, however, the . . . er . . . well, let's face
it, the problems start.
number one is the appearance of the display. Once again,
as with Mandragore and a host of other quasi-RPG's,
we have a clumsily designed alternative character set
trying to present a series of graphic symbols that convey
location information. Well, it can be argued that we've
come to expect this sort of display -- after all, we've
seen it in some of the Ultima games, so it should be
good enough for Infogrames and good enough for us.
is, when you combine that text-based graphics screen
with an atrociously formatted text window underneath,
the display begins to look very untidy. The Wiz doesn't
like messy screens, not if he's going to have to look
at them for a long time. Today's software should be
able to do better than this.
DE PROBLEMETTES . . .
even at this point, I hear you cry, the game should
not be beyond redemption. Pretty it may not be, but
how doth it play? At this point, we encounter problemette
numero deux. This is la problemette de la traduction,
or - ahem - a slight probby about the old translation,
translation problems occur in two ways and both affect
the gameplay. First, the manual is unclear in points
and mentions commands (such as Hunt) that do not appear
in the program. Since you meet many 'Huntable' creatures,
this omission was baffling and frustrating. Also, there
are commands that differ in the manual to the way they
appear in the program -- the manual says 'Heal', the
program expects 'Treat'. You have to exercise the old
grey matter to work these things out. Secondly, the
screen display itself is not always very clear. If you
look at the screenshot, you can see that there is a
small batch of abbreviated commands (see below for further
details) starting, top right with Star. This is short
for 'Start', which the manual says means 'Leave' --
you and I would normally say 'Move'. Not very clear.
display also boasts some very awkward messages, such
as 'You Are Carrying: Any' (any what??) and often refers
to objects that simply cannot be found or examined.
'A Goblin appears before you, he is carrying a purse'
declares the program excitedly. Sweating with exhilaration,
you waggle your joystick and select 'Atta' (for Attack)
and then 'Gobl' (for Goblin). You succeed brilliantly,
the Goblin is dead, the Goblin has disappeared, and
. . . ooops . . . so has the purse. How frustrating!
however, are still little niggles, aren't they? I mean,
the game may be a bit on the annoying side, but there's
a lot to it and we should be able to put up with its
funny little habits. Unfortunately, there are worse
problems . . .
game is played using a system of menus controlled by
the joystick. Each turn you select one of six menu headings.
These are Star, Draw, Orde, Text, Ques, Powe, Auto and
Save. Star, as we've already mentioned, puts you on
the road from one place to the next. Draw gives you
a piccy; Text clears the screen and shows you the last
screenful of text messages that would otherwise have
been scrolled into oblivion outside the small response
window; Ques enables you to question other characters;
Powe tells you your status; Auto gives you piccies without
having to ask for them with Draw; Save saves. Orde is
the one to watch, however. It means 'Enter a Command'
and if you select it you receive a further sub-menu
with a list of verbs. This list, as I've mentioned,
differs slightly from the manual which can be confusing
in itself. However, the problems really begin when you
select a verb that requires an object, such as Examine.
You then get a further sub-sub-menu with a list of sub-sub-sub-menus.
Thus you might enter Exam, then select Place from the
list and from the final menu select Sanctuary, since
you have discovered a sanctuary nearby and would like
to Examine it.
this point, the proggy gets very wobbly. For the most
part, the responses to your actions are short and uninteresting.
In search of excitement, therefore, I selected Enter
whilst in a village, and then - on a whim - selected
Objects instead of Places; I then selected Berries.
The program bravely attempted to enter the Berries,
triumphantly displayed SYNTAX ERROR LINE 1234987 (or
words to that effect), and then, realising that I had
tricked it, went into a sulk that only a reset could
well. Us adventurers are positively crying out for a
good role playing game. The fact is, whatever the pundits
may say, that RPG's are not hard to program. That's
why so many apparently mediocre programmers get involved
in them and so many excellent programmers seek greater
challenges. Now if someone like Mike Singleton were
to tackle the RPG problem, I'm sure we'd see something
is superficially complex, offers a large number of well
though out features, and completely fails to implement
them satisfactorily. Infogrames say that many of the
problems I've discussed will be checked out, and it's
therefore possible tat a new version may be released.
If it is, then I'll let you know -- in the meantime,
it may be 'up my street', but I'm afraid I won't be
opening the door!