Quite a few of the games released in North America each year are actually imports from other countries. Usually the translation is smooth, and you’d never know that the game’s dialogue was originally in French or Dutch or some other language. In fact, you probably wouldn’t notice the game was an import at all unless you looked up the developer and checked where they’re headquartered. But then sometimes it’s thoroughly obvious the game didn’t originate anywhere near the United States.
One of those obvious games is Gorasul: The Legacy of the Dragon from German developer Silver Style Entertainment. Gorasul is a role-playing game, and, not surprisingly, it has a lot of dialogue. But, man, is that dialogue butchered. From what I can tell, somebody went through and very literally translated words from German to English for the North American release. Sometimes that strategy works, and sometimes the translator needs a word for “seller of goods” and comes up with “dealer” rather than “merchant.” And let’s just say that a game takes on a whole new dimension when a little girl talks about her dealer dad, or when you find a motel while exploring a fantasy world.
Gorasul also features lots of bad writing and typos in addition to its translation problems, so I’m going to make this a theme review. The theme is “How Not to Write a Role-playing Game” and to do that I’m going to list lots of quotes from the game (and its manual) and then discuss areas of the game related to the quotes. If that doesn’t make sense, just keep reading.
“Ten summers have past since the hope of the Good was extinguished....”
Gorasul takes place in a world where demons are attempting to take over. The gods of the world are having trouble keeping the demons at bay, and so they come up with a last-ditch scheme -- to resurrect a dead hero. The hero, named Roszondas, was killed 10 years earlier while fighting the demons, but he has dragon powers (from being breathed on by a dragon), and the gods hope he can lead the charge of Good versus Evil. However, as fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” well know, being brought back from the dead isn’t an easy thing, and Roszondas finds himself much weaker than before, with little control over his powers.
“Since you won’t be seeing the end of this day anyway, I can reveal my entire plan to you.”
You play Roszondas in the game, and while you don’t get to fight the demons themselves -- they’re causing problems for gods after all -- you get to take on an Evil Wizard who is helping the demons. The wizard has created a “soul net” over the islands where the game takes place, and the net prevents people from going to their Just Rewards when they die. Instead, it causes them to become zombies and skeletons and the like. The idea is that with undead wandering around and causing problems, the demons will have an easier time taking over. It also means that you, as the designated hero, have to remove the net. Of course, the job won’t be easy. You’ll have to track down four other wizards to help you out, and, naturally, you’ll have to go on numerous secondary quests along the way.
“But the clothes on your corpse are only third generation!”
Although Roszondas is called a wizard throughout his adventures (since that’s what he was before he died), you get to pick a class for him when you start out. And Gorasul gives you six classes to choose from: warrior, magician, priest, woodsman warrior, spell worker, and sword bearer. If those choices seem odd or redundant, it’s partly due to translation (a woodsman warrior is a ranger) and it’s partly because they are odd and redundant. The only real place the classes differ from each other is in how much mana it costs them to cast spells, and so, despite the six official classes, there are only two real classes: the warrior type (with double mana costs) and the magician type (with regular costs). There aren’t any restrictions in terms of equipment or available spells.
What’s more, the classes are sort of boring. There aren’t any skills, so you won’t be disarming traps or robbing shopkeepers or performing combat maneuvers, and, while there are 40+ spells, a lot of them are unnecessary or simple variations on each other. For example, there is a “Controlling the Elements” spell that doesn’t seem to do anything, and there is a “Lock Closer” spell that might be useful, if there were any locks to close. (By my count, there are only five locks in the game, and they’re all on chests that you only need to unlock.)
“Oh, my goodness. They emanate an intensive ambiance.”
Silver Style tries to make up for the classes by adding things you don’t normally see in role-playing games. You get to have a sentient weapon, and it gains experience and becomes more powerful just like you do. And you also get four dragon skills, including the ability to breathe fire. The dragons skills work well, I think, and they help to differentiate Gorasul from everything else in the genre, but the sentient weapon backfires. Mostly all it does is offer not-so-helpful advice and issue lame (and oft-repeated) battle cries when you start combat, and it ends up being more annoying than anything else.
“A message of the utmost, highest urgency has to reach the dwarf people!”
As for gameplay, Gorasul tries to fit in somewhere between the action style of the Diablo games and the more traditional style of the Baldur’s Gate games. And so you get fast-paced combat mixed in with lots of quests. Luckily, the quests are reasonably nice. Silver Style did a good job of balancing the objectives between killing things, finding things and talking to people, and they also did a good job of using the quests to push the game along. Plus, the game even allows you to set the mode you want to play in, and so you can skip a lot of quest-like activities if you want to, and focus on combat instead (or vice versa).
“Enemies are slamming from the rear!”
Combat, though, has some problems. Gorasul wants to be a little like Diablo, and so the action is fast and furious, but then it also allows you to have up to four characters in your party, meaning there are up to four times as many things for you to do. Games can pull off that sort of fast-paced coordination -- look at the real-time strategy genre, for example -- but in Gorasul it’s a mess. The problem is that you can only control one character at a time, even if you select your entire party, and the rest are controlled by the computer. And so, for example, if you want to retreat, you have to select characters individually and tell them to retreat, and then you have to hope the computer doesn’t decide to do something else when you switch to another character. Luckily, you can set some AI parameters for the characters (which they even follow sometimes) and you can issue orders while the game is paused, but you’ll still have to grit your teeth and hope for the best most of the time.
“Yaaaaahhhhhnnnnn. What I would give for a proper nap.”
Plus, even though Gorasul only takes about 20 hours to finish, combat still manages to get a little repetitive (there aren’t that many creatures to kill), and it has some pacing problems to boot. Most noticeably, there isn’t any convenient way to heal. You can’t order your party to rest, there isn’t any life- or mana-leeching equipment, and potions are expensive. So the game tends to follow a pattern of attacking creatures and then sitting around for a few minutes while waiting for your characters to heal. I’m an advocate of reading and everything, but when reading a book becomes part of the game plan for playing a computer game (like it did for me), then the computer game has a problem.
“Hey! Dude! Don’t look at me that way!”
Surprisingly, Gorasul even has some problems with its graphics. The locations are individually crafted (like in Baldur’s Gate), and while they all look pretty good, they also all look pretty drab, and buildings and streets and characters all blend in together too much. Plus, Gorasul is far too lacking in detail. Of the characters you pick up, only Roszondas changes his appearance in the game -- and only then based on his body armor -- and most creatures look identical. For example, there is a kobold village with shopkeepers, warriors, elders, and even a king, but they all look exactly the same. And ditto for young wolves, wolves, wolf leaders, and hell hounds. I’m not sure why Gorasul needed four CDs.
“Good man, my condition does not permit me to have a conversation with you.”
It certainly wasn’t for the sound. Gorasul has some nice background music, but everything else is bad -- or nonexistent. For example, there is almost no voice acting in the game. I can understand where a developer might not include audio for every utterance spoken by the characters, but for some reason the only spoken dialogue included with Gorasul is a narrator reading the background story over the main menu, and that’s just annoying. And even the sound effects are weird. Few of them sound realistic, and the weapon-against-leather effect sounds like somebody using a nerf bat to whack somebody else over the head.
“Stop babbling such crap!”
Oddly, last week I reviewed Original War, which I thought was a good game at a budget price. Now I have Gorasul, which is just the opposite: a budget game with a good game price (well, $30). But don’t be fooled, and don’t buy Gorasul. There are many, many better ways to spend your time in the role-playing genre.