Rage of Mages 2: Necromancer
Like its predecessor, Rage of Mages 2: Necromancer is set in a land made up of several Allods, floating islands that can only exist as long as a Great Mage remains on them. On the desert-like Allod of Yases a new evil is crawling from the depths of the earth. Necromancers have started raising an army of the undead and have begun to reveal their power as they move to subjugate the land. Wielding dark magic to command their dreadful minions, they will not stop until they control everything. The only thing standing in their way is you and any companions you gather. You must embark upon a journey to recover a lost talisman of ancient magic that will allow you to survive the coming onslaught.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Necromancer is an interesting mix of role-playing and real-time strategy and, while it doesn’t shine out as a leader in either genre, it does provide a hybrid that is fun to play. The look and feel of the game is almost identical to Rage of Mages (its predecessor), with some tweaking to the graphics, audio, and interface that are definite improvements.
The plot is basically a simple rehash of the standard "great evil threatens land, single hero saves everyone" that many fantasy games (and novels) seem to throw up too often. It’s pulled off with some flair though and ends up not becoming overly hackneyed. Unlike many RPGs, the mission structure of Rage of Mages 2 is almost completely non-linear. At any point there are several tasks you can undertake and the game’s plot changes based on which missions you choose to complete and the order in which you tackle them. With over 40 branching missions, there’s a lot of depth to explore.
The missions range from simple tasks like tracking down a villager’s kidnapped son to battling with entire villages of Orcs. Some can be tackled with a single warrior, while others will require you to build up an effective team to be successful. To find new missions to undertake you must chat with locals in town taverns -- conversations will either reveal more information about a quest you’re already on or open up new options for you to follow. The taverns are also where you will find more adventurers to join your quest. There are characters who are important to the storyline and also simple mercenaries who will just tag along for a mission or two. In general you will have to keep the important characters alive to win, while the mercenaries are more expendable.
Once you’ve started a mission the game uses a top-down view of the landscape similar to strategy games like Warcraft II and Age of Empires. There’s not a lot of interaction with the features -- character movement is effected by the different terrain you’ll run into but you can’t interact with buildings or read signs that you find. Even the people are unresponsive -- they will spout prepared speeches when you come within certain trigger distances, but you don’t have any interaction in the conversations.
Combat is well done -- you can assign hotkeys to specific characters (or groups of characters), as well as to spells and weapons, giving you good control over your units. You also have clear indicators on screen for your characters' health so you can pull them out of the fight when they get close to death. The AI in the game is also pretty good about intelligently moving your characters along the best path to the destination you’ve requested -- it takes factors like terrain and enemy units into account. One drawback is the inability to set waypoints for your units, but since you usually have less than a dozen characters it’s not too glaring an omission.
The role-playing side of the game really comes into play with the character stats. Each character has a unique set of skills and experience that affects how they can handle different challenges. As you play, characters learn and grow, becoming more powerful and more useful. Enemies often leave piles of equipment and cash behind that you can use or sell in town to improve your weapons and armor. Necromancer has hundreds of different items to play with, including armor, weapons, clothing, hats, shoes, jewelry, and spell books and scrolls. Each character can be individually outfitted using an intuitive "paper doll"-style interface.
Necromancer includes a multiplayer option, but it’s mostly a letdown. It works well, but is a simple strategy deathmatch that doesn’t offer much in the way of variety. It is well done as far as it goes, but the mix of RPG and strategy-style play just isn’t suited to engrossing multiplayer gaming.
Overall the graphics look good -- trees, buildings, and other bits of scenery are crisp and distinct. The characters and creatures move believably through the landscape, and the attack and spell animations are well done. There are cases when the characters will get lost behind trees and buildings, making it hard to track the action in some scenarios. The images in town are very nice although they are mostly static; some additional animation and interaction opportunities would have improved things.
I already commented on the lack of any real interaction with the characters in the game -- almost all the people you meet have canned lines they recite when you set off trigger events or reach specified locations. One major disappointment was that even with the rote character speeches very few of them include voice-overs. Although, with as disappointing as the little bits of speech are, this may be more of a blessing. Almost all the voice acting sounds forced and often a bit whiny. The music for the game is also not up to snuff -- it’s good enough for the first while, but repeats way too often. I ended up turning it off after playing for about a half hour.
Windows 95/98, Pentium 133 (Pentium 166 recommended), 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, & DirectX 6.0
While Rage of Mages II: Necromancer doesn’t measure up to standards set by classic RPG games like Baldur's Gate or high-end strategy hits like Age of Kings, its combination of the two genres adds up to a game that is fun to play. Fans of both types of games will find stuff they like and the plethora of missions combined with the non-linear plot makes for a challenging game that will keep you occupied for many hours.
Download Rage of Mages 2: Necromancer
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP