Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance
Wanted: One leader to rule the realms of Anuire. Travel to distant realms in search of treasure and influence. Blood-lines of some sort would be nice, but not required. Other job qualifications required: indiscriminately influencing realms through military and political force, adventuring skills, and the savvy to command strategic battles.
Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance is the most complex game I have ever played. I don't think that I can adequately cover ALL the details in Sierra's Birthright -- that would take a review the length and depth of a novella to accomplish, but what follows will give you an idea as to whether or not Birthright is the kind of game worth paying a moderate amount of money for.
Birthright has several styles of gameplay: Adventure Only, Battlefield Combat, and Strategic Conquest (full game).
The Adventure Only game selection allows the player to choose up to four characters and head out to an "adventure site" to retrieve a mystical artifact or to defeat an evil foe. Regents and lieutenants handle these duties within the game. At your disposal is a trusty overhead map and items that you may carry with you (healing items, magic items, armor, and weaponry for your character class). Birthright uses the standard AD&D convention for usage on such items. Loot, such as weapons and armor, can be picked up and sold, going into the coffers of your mighty empire -- should you survive the adventure site. You access items during combat by either by right-clicking on a character with the mouse, or hitting the inventory button at the bottom of the screen. I particularly loved having a Necklace of Fireballs handy, as it would turn even the most persistent foe into bits of blackened carbon. Adventures are seen through the eyes of the leader, with a display at the bottom of the screen showing your four characters' health and well being. My only complaint was how badly a wall texture looked if you got too close to it. Enemies, as well, tended to pixelate at a close range. Overall the adventure portion of the game kept my interest.
The Tactical Battlefield Scenarios are another portion of the game that, in my opinion, played better separately. From the menu you can add units, choose terrain, look at individual units such as the Gorgon (he is one tough hombre) or simply click on a preset battle. If you want to practice before you start polishing off the set scenarios, go right ahead. Once you have the hang of it, you'll find that it is very easy to play. The way battle field combat works is simple. Move your unit adjacent to a square of an enemy unit and engage them (sometimes they engage you, of course). If you lose 90% of the battlefield control you will lose the scenario, so be sure to learn the proper tactics for engaging enemies. Common sense will usually be your guide in a scenario -- like never putting archers on the front lines.
Though the Strategic Conquest (full game) option can be a bit hard to master, Birthright comes with several tutorial games that provide a bit of training.. Start with the first one, and when you have mastered it go to the next. Then try your hand at the full game. Like any real strategy game, Birthright- is very heavy on the details, and rules. To even attempt to cover the various rules of movement, diplomacy, occupation, etc., would be beyond the scope of this review. Here are few of the game elements to give you an idea of what _Birthright is about:
The main focus of Birthright is controlling one of 18 realms and managing the realm effectively. The goal of the game is to unite the realms, by force or alliance, and take your place as the unified leader of the realms of Anuire. But to do it you'll have to deal with the evil Gorgon and those realms that stand loyal to him. The amount of activities that a regent must handle stagger the mind! A regent must handle holdings, tax occupants of other provinces, pillage, fight, adventure, spy, engage in diplomatic actions, and the list goes on and on.
I found that, after following through the tutorials from the easiest to the most advanced, the game was a bit easier to understand. But that speaks more to my intelligence than to a problem with the game. One thing that always turns me off in these types of games is that movement of units is such a pain in the butt to figure out. As usual, it took me ten minutes of searching through the online manual to find out how it worked. Birthright is not the type of game that you can jump into and play -- at least it wasn't the kind of game I could jump into...
Sierra has billed this game as a role-playing game. The only REAL role-playing element in Birthright is the various magic powers in the game, whether based on Blood-Lines (inherited magics imbued upon one's ancestors and passed to descendants) or the regular AD&D-style magics that Wizards and Clerics possess through vigorous study. Magics can be used to affect how a rival regent views you, help destroy a castle, give your character enhancements in battle, and so on. There are a complete list of spells in the manual. The magics add a nice touch to the game.
The interface in Birthright takes some getting used to. Luckily, there is extensive help right off the main menu. If you are the type of player that doesn't read the manual or use online help, Birthright is going to be frustrating and probably unplayable. There are so many screens packed with information that it may be a bit overwhelming at first, but a diligent player will appreciate the "effect" of having total control over everything and being the all-knowing, all seeing Regent. After all, that's what Birthright is about.
The graphics depend heavily on how much memory you have in your machine. If you have less than 16 MB of RAM, set it up in DOS or Birthright will look like garbage (Birthright won't run in Windows 95 without 16 MB of RAM). The more memory you have, the better Birthright looks. A first impression of the game can be deceiving. The graphics are adequate enough in Birthright, no matter what way you are playing the game, but they certainly could have been better. For me, Birthright DID NOT look as nice as it does on the box it came in -- which was a real let-down.
The sound in Birthright was adequate. Voice actors for enemies and for the "royal" advisors are realistic and crisp. One thing about the sound that drove me nuts was the redundancy of Adventure enemies. They said two or three phrases over and over again. This did not enhance the game at all, but made it an irritation. Some added death sounds or footsteps would have been a nice fit in their place. Overall, the sound in Birthright was unremarkable.
Birthright comes with a manual that walks you through the various settings of the game, describes what each style of play entails, and gives a lengthy history of the game. It also comes with a paper map that shows the Realms of Anuire. The manual is supplemented with a very extensive online help system and several tutorial games. The manual does not cover the vast amount of details in the game, and is about 60+ pages too short.
Minimum: Win 95 or DOS; 16 MB RAM (8 for DOS); SVGA 256 Colors; 4X CD-ROM drive; SoundBlaster or compatible sound card
Premium: Pentium 100 or higher; 16 MB of RAM; Win95, 28.8 modem, etc.
The box is a tad bit misleading about system requirements. Here is what the REAL optimum configuration is: Win95, 32 MB RAM, 6X CD-ROM drive, SVGA 256 colors, SoundBlaster, 28.8 modem. In DOS you can get by with 16MB of RAM.
Reviewed On: Pentium 133, 16 MB RAM, SVGA 256 colors, 6X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster-compatible sound card, 28.8 modem, Trio 64 S3 video board with 1 MB RAM
Birthright attempts to combine 3 styles of play into a single game, and does so with limited success. If you are a fan of the pencil-and-paper Role-Playing Game (which I have not played) of the same name, you will probably find this product enjoyable. Multi-player capabilities add a nice twist to the game as well. Since the strategy market is so saturated with titles right now (and more are coming out in droves), you might want to consider something else, or wait for Birthright Deluxe to hit stores around Christmas. Birthright is an acquired taste.
Download Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP