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Game Over Online ~ Rage of Mages

GameOver Game Reviews - Rage of Mages (c) Monolith, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim / Pez /

Game & Publisher Rage of Mages (c) Monolith
System Requirements P133, 32MB RAM
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published Thursday, September 3rd, 1998 at 09:48 PM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Well, well, well, did we get a surprise our way. Even though Mother Russia is in a bit of economic trouble at the moment - the software development industry doesn't seem to care much. First there was Vangers: One For The Road, and now there's Rage of the Mages. It's a very novel type of game, but then again, if there's something that the Russian folks definitely do not lack, then it's originality. This is an RPG, but with elements of RTS for combat scenes. The way the game works is you have a central town, from which all of your missions [Quests] are directed, and to which you return to hire reinforcements, sell weapons you pick up from dead foes, train your characters, and so forth. In a way, having only one town somewhat limits the extensiveness of the game, as you can't, for example, have different towns that specialize in different types of weaponry - but on the other hand, this ain't no Daggerfall, but - it was never designed to be.

You start off with one character, which is always present on your journey, and upon the death of which your Quest is always failed. You can custom-build him (or her), however, only three classes are available - a Fighter, an Archer and a Mage. That is unfortunate, as a Fighter can by no means use any magic, and a Mage can by no means carry any weaponry (magic staves notwithstanding). Also, a Mage's max lifepoints are insanely low, in my opinion, anyhow - so you'd absolutely have to keep him in the back of the line during all combats (which is, actually, somewhat hard in the first missions as you might only have two - three people in your party, so the enemy can storm the front lines easily). The Archer is a mix of the two... but still, some customization would be welcome. The first couple of missions just basically get you acquainted with the game, being relatively easy and always providing good support in terms of clubmen and archers. Later on, as you pick up more Heroes (a term describing characters that can carry inventories, cost nothing to maintain and are always present on your journey) missions grow harder, but your characters improve in strength, as well. A very neat feature I found was an option to turn on auto-healing for your characters, so say you'd have a few mages, you'd put them around your fighting heroes and they'd auto-heal them if their health would go down.

The atmosphere of the game is incredibly well-done, up to the font used, and the choice of vocabulary used. I'm not sure if the Monolith [publisher] or the original Russian developers wrote the script for the game, but whoever did it, kudos - that's good stuff. The in-game rendered scenes are skillfully done, too - and to add to the atmosphere, everything's animated - the town, albeit a still picture, had a slight bit of animation thrown in on top of that - horses look impatient, some people look like they're talking, etc. During the Quests, the terrains are also animated, with trees, grass and flowers swooshing around, critters running around, and so forth. Forests are densely populated (maybe not 'densely', but after you run into some orcs, squirrels and other annoying critters you'll think it's 'overpopulated' with them), which most of the time present no challenge, except when in large numbers. There are always hidden items in levels, so a player might choose to explore the map rather than go by the path to the ending of the level. However, those items are usually well-protected, so you shouldn't skim down on backup forces.

Which brings me to another interesting point - hired forces. In the Inn, you can hire mercenaries that for a certain fee will tag along with your team and fight on your side. I found it was a very useful feature, as usually they're good (statistically-wise, and cannon-fodder wise) and you usually make enough money in a Quest to be able to afford a small force of mercs on your side. You can also pick up miscellaneous items from slain foes, and resell them for gold pieces. Interesting is the training room - for a fee (of course) you can train a selected Hero in a certain skill, be that swords, axes, bows (for Fighters), or earth magic, fire magic, Astral magic (for Mages), among others. Slightly unfortunate is the fact that, when you gain levels, you can't attribute gained experience to a particular skill - everything is dynamically increased. However, if you use swords a lot, your sword skill will rise with more usage - which is a very cool feature. In one of the missions, you have to slay four Ogres - and that's a good place to raise your Blade skill, as they are pretty tough.

The downfalls of the game, albeit few, still are somewhat disconcerting (though I'm sure repairable with a patch or two). For one, the fighting scenes tend to be somewhat slow, and if the game is on Maximum Speed, then things REALLY get out of control, and even usually harmless creatures can do a lot of damage to your characters. Why? The way combat works is you have to point out an enemy to kill to your strike force (inappropriate name, given the medieval times of the game, but oh well). Thing is, if your game is set to maximum speed, the critters move around so fast you can't click on them, as the engine is lagged a bit - so bad things can happen. It might be better on a P2-400, but as tested, on a P200, it was somewhat of a problem. Granted, you could use the 'Swarm' mode (which basically tells your characters to run into an area and start hacking everything left and right), but I prefer meticulous sniping of some creatures with archers, etc.

Another (annoying) thing is that the so-called different resolution modes do nothing to the actual playable screen. What it does instead is run the game itself in a varied resolution, but, by holding the action screen constant, you get more real estate elsewhere on the screen, so things such as stats can be displayed all the time. It's annoying because you can't increase the size of the play screen, but, on the other hand, given that it's already a bit slow, maybe that's a good thing after all.

And last, but not least - the sound issues. The acknowledgements from the characters seem straight from a real RTS, however, I believe they have no place here. That is, the characters SHOULD say something, but a) the voices should differ for your main and hired characters and b) they should really vary the lines, and have more than one or two different ones per character. Fortunately, they only say their lines once in a while, unlike units in, say, C&C - whether that's due to a bug or a feature I'm not sure, but I'm happy with that, as you get annoyed with the acknowledgements pretty damn fast. The atmospheric sounds aren't bad, with swords clanging, enemies screaming as they die, wind swooshing, and so on.

Rage of Mages is, in resume, one of the most interesting games of the genre to hit the hard drives in quite a while, and, given adequate appreciation, can definitely become one of the better RPGs of these days. It doesn't overload the player with incredible amounts of statistics tracking, but yet manages to keep the interest in because of all the action and the unwrapping storyline. Definitely one to check out - haven't seen anything like this in a while (if ever?).


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Divider Left By: Pez Divider Right

Rage of Mages is a well thought-out game. This is a welcome addition to the ever so few Role Playing Games which are produced today. I suppose the reason so few RPG's are made is because they are so involved and require an immense amount time in the making. However, when a good RPG is released you can be assured it will be accepted with open arms.

Graphics - 16 / 20
ROM has three resolution settings which can be used to play the game. I ran the game in 640 X 480, 800 X 600, and 1024 X 768 and could tell no difference in the screen quality at all. The only way I knew that I was actually in a different mode was because the title screens and the towns were still in 640 X 480 so they were fairly small in the higher resolution modes. The landscapes used in the game seemed to be very repetitive although they were eye-pleasing, and fully detailed, with many trees/rocks and such placed about. The town was very neatly drawn with detailed attributes in all the buildings, from the Inn's Keeper to the Blacksmith. Overall the game has highly detailed graphics which makes up for the repetitiveness of scenery.

Sound - 8 / 15
Not much to say about the sound here, that being because there are very few sound effects. The sound effects did correspond quite well with the action, and added to the game when they were used although that was not very often. More sounds effects of the same quality should definitely have been added to the game, for more realistic action.

Gameplay - 26 / 30
The characters proved to be very easy to control. ROM implements a play control very similar to that of Warcraft and the like. It took no longer then ten minutes to fully figure out how to control the characters. The enemies in ROM seemed to have some variety although they all apparently attack in the same ways, and retreat in the same ways. The creators seem to have made many different enemies but given them all similar AI.

Fun Factor - 16 / 20
Rage of Mages is compelling from the very beginning. It draws you into the action. I recommend playing in no more than one hour sessions. After about an hour the game started to drag, but if I took a break for a little while it rejuvenated itself quite well, thus consuming more of my time.

Multiplayer - 4 / 5
Up to sixteen players can compete at the same time. This brings in many options of play. This sort of game doesn't require a high speed connection in order to run smoothly in multiplayer. This is very beneficial to those of us not equipped with a high speed internet connection.

Overall Impression - 7 / 10
For anyone who is into the RPG genre, I recommend picking this one up. It's well worth your time. I would also recommend Rage of Mages to anyone who finds RPG'S a mite boring, seeing as this game is not actually a full blown RPG. Rage of Mages incorporates a fighting style similar to that of Command & Conquer where you simply select the units and click on your enemy. This real time fighting is much superior to turn based fighting as in games like Final Fantasy 7.


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