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Game Over Online ~ Return to Krondor

GameOver Game Reviews - Return to Krondor (c) Sierra, Reviewed by - Rebellion

Game & Publisher Return to Krondor (c) Sierra
System Requirements P-166, 24 MB RAM, SVGA, 4X CD-ROM
Overall Rating 94%
Date Published Wednesday, December 23rd, 1998 at 10:44 AM


Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

When Return to Krondor was announced in 1996, I eagerly awaited its release. Betrayal at Krondor was one of my all-time favorite games, and Raymond Feist would soon become one of my favorite authors. Years went by and Sierra ultimately got the license to create Return to Krondor from the original developers. Sierra's abilities to design superb games have been wavering a little bit in the past year or so, but they've produced many of the stellar releases of 1998. (Half-life, Return to Krondor, Quest for Glory V, and Caesar III)

For those of you who didn't play Betrayal at Krondor (how dare you not play that classic!), the game takes place in the world of Midkemia. One year after Betrayal at Krondor, the game is centered on one of the larger and definitely most historic cities in the land, Krondor. The story centers around a mercenary pirate made virtually immortal through dark magics, who is searching for an artifact of the gods. He will stop at nothing to retrieve this item for his dark purposes. It is up to you, as the party of adventurers, to stop him. Betrayal of Krondor fans will be pleased to know that James, a.k.a. Jimmy the Hand, once again returns as a key member of your five-man party. Joining him is the new court mage Jazhara, Pug's son and guard of Krondor, William, Kendaric the senior journeyman of the Wreckers Guild, and Solon, Warrior-Priest of Ishap.

Your characters will advance their skills like a traditional style RPG. The more experience you gain, the more you can distribute points to each of your skills. The combat is very similar to BaK & BiA, but the combat boards aren't separate from the rest of the game. There is no way to escape or retreat from battles, but if you die, it lets you retry the combat. I lost a few times, but there was never a battle I couldn't win. I'd end up losing characters, but the skirmishes were far from impossible (with the exception of the one battle that you can't win). The trap and treasure system has changed since Betrayal. No more Morhedral riddle boxes (although I loved those) and the trap disarming and lock picking are both different now. When you start the game, you have two options for traps, rolling the dice and reflex. Dice is the usual chance way, based on your skill in disarming traps. Reflex is a very interesting idea since you get to control the attempt with your mouse. You also have to determine what type of equipment to use in order to disarm each trap. The game even record successful attempts to your log for each trap type so you can look up what you used last time.

The world of Midkemia has been brought back to life in Return to Krondor, the first in a series that could possibly go on to be an epic saga. Rich and vivid were the first two words that came to mind when I was able to muster words at all. The world created here not only immortalizes Feist's Krondor with stunning visuals, but also breaths life into a world that was created in imagination. I found myself just wandering around the city for quite some time when I first started playing. The attention to detail is outstanding and the environments created by RtK are occupied with depth and astonishing detail.

RtK is filled with in game movie sequences, a small amount of cutscenes, and a reasonably large world. It uses an extremely viable software engine named True3D. True3D is outstanding, easily rivaling the other option, the Direct3D engine. I played the entire game with the True3D engine and it ran quite smoothly. I would advise, since I've read a few posts on Sierra's website, that those of you who have less then P200's, will want to be playing this in Direct3D. The effects are not the best I've ever seen, but nonetheless, fire and magic are beautifully done.

Sticking true to audio that enriches the environment, RtK uses fitting CD audio. The voice acting is properly done, although I didn't care too much for the actor that did Bear's voice. The environmental sound effects made the artificial world seem very authentic. Combat sounds are probably the weakest audio in the game, but they still sounded good, there just were a limited number of sounds. Positional audio was also nicely done, although they are more for aesthetics then clues. The sound in Krondor does exactly what it's supposed to do, create a true world for the senses.

The game takes a third person view, somewhat similar to what the combat scenes looked like in the original. With this view, it means there is a lot of point and clicking. Some things I found particularly annoying were drawn from this view mode. There was one scene in the game where you would get stuck and the camera wouldn't shift to a new screen. I wasn't able to ever determine if it's a problem with the game or intentional (there's nothing important where the "glitch" happens, so that makes me think it's intentional, but the way it looks makes it look like a bug). There's no way to change movement speed and that sort of bothered me. As nice as it looks, I really don't like the time it takes to walk across one screen after I've already been there ten times. Assessing unknown inventory was another slight nuisance I experienced. It also takes too many clicks to identify items, I suggested that there should have been shortcut keys to the keyboard.

This isn't a true sequel to BaK in the sense of the style of the game. It breaks far away from the original vast world and creates more of a tight focus on one goal. There are a handful of side missions along with minor quests to fulfill tasks required for plot progression. The game is also a bit simpler then BaK was. It plays out a lot like a good book though. Even though you get to do a lot of interacting, it's still very linear. There are ten chapters to RtK. Each chapter has its own goal, some chapters are extremely short while others are quite detailed and involved with various plots. Alchemy changed in RtK as well. You need to carry around quite a bit of equipment in order to make potions. I found this sort of inconvenient since it loaded up my characters. I also didn't have a lot of use for making potions since plenty are found throughout the game. There are forty spells to master, but I found myself using a core of about five or six spells at most. RtK also doesn't let you prep your weapons for combat like BaK did. This makes using poison and other blade enhancements a little inconvenient since it takes a combat turn to apply it.

Return to Krondor was obviously made to be the first in a series of games as this is called Book One and leaves you wondering who the mage Sidi is with in a final cutscene. It definitely comes off like a book, leaving you semi-satisfied, hungrily craving the sequel. I haven't seen anything from Sierra about a sequel yet, but I am hoping to see some signs by second quarter next year. RtK should take the average gamer 25-35 hours of playtime. I'm not sure if that's quite enough to give the RPG sustaining power. You become so wrapped up in the game, that you may blow off eight hours at one time. After all, once you beat it, there's little else to do other then put it on the shelf to collect dust. I guess I'm still used to games like Might and Magic and Bard's Tale which took me weeks upon weeks (I played Bard's Tale II for two years and still have not completed it). The original BaK took a good part of my summer to finish.

I read a few message forum posts on Sierra's homepage when I experienced a problem with RtK. There have been a few minor glitches with the game, but a patch was just recently put out that fixed many of these problems. RtK apparently also had some problems with Voodoo Banshee cards that caused the game to crash (I was a victim so I had to finish the game on my TNT).

I may have beaten RtK, but I am still amazed by the gripping world it created. I've gone back to various parts in the game to find there were little things I missed. This is definitely a game well worth playing for anyone that likes a good fantasy story. It is a little too linear compared to BaK, and thus it's not quite as much of a classic as BaK was. Sierra has come through with Return to Krondor and made one of the best RPG's of the year. It's without a doubt the best interactive story of the year and will keep RPG fans engrossed until they've beaten it. Return to Krondor makes my list of top ten games for 1998.

Highs: Engrossing story, superb audio, and rich visuals.
Lows: a little too linear, minor annoyances, a tad too short and a slight bit too easy.

 

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Rating
94%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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