Realms Of Arkania: Star Trail
You know you arc getting old when the policemen start looking younger, so they say. It's worse with me. I've started drinking a cup of coffee in front of the TV while the pubs are open. I've even started listening to The Archers. And if that's not proof enough. I've just found an rpg game I actually enjoyed playing. There is no hope.
Now I talk about character generation. I tell people how all good stories are a quest really. I know the difference between the various sorts of elves, for Pete's sake. It's all the fault of Star Trail, part two of Realms Of Arkania.
Realms Of Arkania was a stunning piece of work when it appeared in September 1993. Massive and complex, it kept our then resident RPGer busy, or at least quiet, for a month. Obviously it kept its programmers quiet for a while too because the sequel, Star Trail, has just appeared. It's reassuringly like the original, but there have been some major improvements under the surface. The dialogue system is better, with a nice keyword approach. The fighting is better and so is the travelling. Oh, and with the CD version we now have characters who talk, belch and go "Uuuurgh!".
Searching for stones
So what's it all about? In the first episode - Blade Of Destiny - you had to find a magic sword that would put the Ores to flight. It wasn't that simple because the sword was in pieces and so was your map. It gave the game a certain challenge. Now in Star Trail. you are searching for the Salamander Stone. This was made to celebrate the alliance of the elves and the dwarves which defeated the Ores (this was another battle, another Ore uprising). The stones have become lost, the elves and dwarves have fallen out and...
You start in the town of Kvirasim. The game comes with a huge coloured map so you know that it's wise to stock up with food and weapons before you start your epic journey.
Proceed in the normal way of adventures by asking everyone about everything until they get fed up and tell you to buzz off. Make notes (you can do this on the map too) so you can remember the politics of this troubled realm.
Now you set off on the quest. The six members of your party have different skills and so you use these to scout for food and water or gathering herbs. Magic plays a big part in this game. There are many spells (I gave up counting at 53) and you have to learn which ones are feasible and prudent for any given situation. There are also gods - 12 major ones - and you may find yourself in one of their temples (you start off in one). Giving offerings to the god will help you. In a tight clinch you may even get a miracle.
Fighting with magic
While on your journey, you will come across various characters and scenes of trouble. Always try to get involved in a fight. You often learn most from damsels in distress. The combat screen is like the original, an isometric perspective. You can control all your warriors yourself or let the computer take con trol of all of them or all but one. In every fight you get the choice of using magic. Save the game before you decide because the magic takes some getting used to and the first encounters will be with people who are much better at it than you.
Otherwise you will come across cheerful elves, wandering hunters, unemployed astrologers and the like. When you speak to them leave the contentious subjects (Ores, elves and dwarves) until last.
One good thing about this game is that it's non-linear. If you make a mistake, you can often go back and correct it. Tasks can be done in any reasonable order.
The 3D display is very good in a sort of Ultima Underworld way and the interface is generally good. I had a few bad experiences at first, but that's because I rarely use the right mouse button. It's an RPG so it's not a quick start game. You are going to have to read the manual. Apart from anything else there are dozens of icons and they take some learning. The game will let you do all but the most stupid things (like camping in a lake), and a little "Are you sure?' dialogue box will pop up before you do anything irrevocable.
In case you haven't guessed. I really enjoyed this game. It might be a bit big and complex for rpg novices, but it is very user friendly and you can get the computer top do a lot of the work. For serious RPGers it's a must, of course. Now I must get back to my cocoa and The Archers. You know, I saw a policeman today and you would think...
Download Realms Of Arkania: Star Trail
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP