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July 7, 2012

Abandoned Places 2 - Review

I have decided to quit playing Abandoned Places 2 (AP2). The reason is the constant lack of sparetime that must be used to its fullest. I have discovered most of what AP2 has to deliver and as such I don´t think I will miss out much by stop playing it here. After all, I know that more than half the game has been finished by now. Ok, let´s go over to the review.

Gameworld & Story
The story of the game is really not important. In some way the old heroes from the past (AP1) are needed again and so they are summoned deep down a cave. The leader of the evil ones wants to take revenge for what the heroes did to the land in the last installment of the game. What is not explained in the manual or anywhere else is why I have to retrieve the artifacts like the Shield at the dwarven mines in order to complete my mission.

The gameworld is quite large, comprising of one quite large starting dungeon area and at least two other complexes on the large overland map that consists of four large areas. The gameworld is too empty though. Neither NPC:s,  treasures or other descriptions will greet you except for some random wandering monsters. The large overland map could easily be cut to half or even less because you tire of mapping this region when you actually never have any reason to. It is filled with a few towns but all of them have exactly the same stock of items.

Here and there during your travels through the dungeons you get some small descriptions. It could be tombs or rooms but you will never get a clear picture of what is happening or why and how this all fits in. I cannot give an average rating in this area.
Rating: 1.5

Economy
The game do use gold as currency and you have a few towns in which you could buy food, weapons, armours or resurrect the party. But the shops contains so rudimentary weapons that they will only be interesting for you after leaving the starting dungeons. The places you visit afterwards offers greater armours and weapons than what the shops could offer and that makes them useless. You have nothing of interest to save your gold for, except resurrection. But it takes too much time to return for such a thing that it would be easier to reload. The only good thing about the towns is their ability to resurrect a partymember or even the whole party. But after you get high enough level with your mages they will also be able to resurrect a member.

Half of all items you find in the mines or tower is valuables like rings, necklaces and gems. They take up valuable inventory space. Too bad you don´t have much use for the gold the bring in when sold. 
Rating: 2


NPC & Interactions
I haven´t met a single NPC in the game except for some atmospheric texts in which someone might say something. You never have any choice in responding or taking any actions whatsover. I have not found any places in the dungeons that allow me to try out different approaches. 
Rating: 1

Monsters & Tactics
Monsters or humanoids in the game normally attacks you when you are within 2-3 hexes away. They fight to the bitter end, always. They don´t try to surround you. The only places in which you have to fight on both sides are when they have numerical superiority. 

The variety of monsters is quite good though and they are good looking most of the time. There are both melee and range capabilities of your foes, although ranged always means my magic and not by bows or crossbows which is nonexistent in this game.

The combat mechanism in the game is very simple. You click on your weapon and have to wait a awhile until you can take another action. This depends on the type of weapon. You never see if you hit or miss your foes and don´t see any damage dealt. Hell, I don´t even know if you can hear it despite my playing this game for so long. Monsters could leave items behind them and sometimes it could be crucial quest items like keys.

The difficulty of fights was quite easy, even in the tower in which I ended. As long as you have a supply on magic points to draw from you will never be in real danger.
Rating: 2

Magic & Spells
There are three types of magical schools in the game. Whatever you choose you still seem to get the same spells at each level. It seems every spell have different spellpoint costs depending on magic school. This is a new approach but it means the only difference between the mages is that some mages could cast more offensive spells (but still the same) than others because they cost less. There are 8 spell levels and I have tried all of them up to level 6. 

Since spells are neither described in the manual or in the game it is by pure trial & error you could learn which are more effective than others. And to be honest, I have not noticed any major difference between them except that spells like disintegrate have a higher chance of success at lesser level monsters. 

Spells of the game are grouped into missile spells, attack spells, healing spells, hold spells and miscellaneous spells. The few non-combat spells of importance are Create Food, Levitate and True Seeing (reveals secret doors). Overall a pretty ok system.
Rating: 3 


Map design 
Maps differs in size but most of the time they are around 30x30 hexes. The maps of the mines are squarelike and the towers maps are more circular in design. The lack of descriptions makes it hard to understand the design behind the maps but that goes for many, many games for the time. The overland maps are really totally unneccessary for the game since they contain nothing of interest and are just perceived as vast, empty areas.

Apart from that there placement of secret doors, seas of lavas and water seems logical at times and you could almost be sure that if you cross a sea of lava and taking great damage there is a high chance something is hidden behind all this.
Rating: 2.5

Character generation and development 
Character generation consists of choosing four characters with only two classes, fighter or mage. You are allowed to distribute the attribute points. Think carefully because your characters will never increase them when gaining levels. Only a few found items could increase them magically. The difference between mages is only dependent on the spell schools you choose for them.

You get experience points for every monster killed and you will raise in levels automatically, gaining hitpoints and spellpoints in the process. I don´t know if the values are fixed or random. The game is not hard enough in making that important.

Every character has fixed slots for rings, armour, boots, helmets etc and you will eventually find items to fit into each category. The inventory system works pretty ok and you have space for a fixed amount of items.

The most fun part is for your mages to raise in levels because you immediately get access to new spells. As for your warriors, raising in levels does not feel as an accomplishment. One of the games weakest part is the lack of character development. If they would just give you one new attribute point to distribute for each level this rating would gain at least half a point.
Rating: 2


Manual 
I hadn´t access to the original pdf manual but a textfile. It spans over 9 full size pages and is easy to read and understand but not very deep. Spells are not explained and miscellaneous information about monsters or the game world is lacking. The manual is doing its job but adds nothing to the atmosphere of the game.
Rating: 2.5

Graphics, Sound and Interface
The graphics of AP2 is quite good with its 64 colors (Extra-Half-Brite mode used on the Amiga). Sprites are large and the viewing area much improved since the first Abandoned Places. Animations are as always a bit lacking but everything from food to weapons are clearly drawn and the environment with walls and their textures etc are nicely drawn. Effects from spells are mediocre at best. But the worst part of the whole game is the slow framerate. You often have to press keys twice to make something happen. 

Soundeffects are pretty weak except for the echoing of steps or the sound of fire. Sound when attacking is very weak as well as the terrible sound when you are getting hungry. There is no music whatsoever in the game and in that department Abandoned Places 1 was much better. The musical score of the game is very good though.

Interface is somewhat clumsy. For example only by right-clicking on the small bars beside each character, gives you access to the characters statistics. You cannot repeat any attacks but spells that are preselected could be cast without you having to select the spell again. You have no shortcuts on the keyboard for attacking, only for moving. 
Rating: 3.5

Gameplay 
As is usually the case, the game starts out pretty well. The lust for exploration and treasure hunting immediately takes off. Opposition is uneven. Most monsters are weak but soon you meet tougher opponents. The first problem is to find enough food to sustain your group. You have to quickly rise one or two levels with your mages in order to get the create food spell. In the beginning - with taking time to map the levels - I was about to starve to death before I got to level 2.

Maps are quite large and secret walls could be found at any place together with buttons or levers. The game starts off quite unforgiving in that respect.

Along the way you find more and more items, gems and other valuables but that is totally let down when you come to the first town and see that the supply is identical in all towns and that you cannot buy any magical items for all the money you gather. You never feel you have to gather more gold in order to buy better equipment because just a few levels into the dwarven mines you have the best weapons available that cannot be bought anywhere.

There are no NPCs in the game at all, which is a little boring. You might be spoken to at places and the few descriptive texts do add to the atmosphere. Too bad there are only a few of them scattered around the levels. I found one puzzle but other that that most obstacles are solved by pressing a button or finding a secret wall.

One of the most irritating things about the game is how it handles food and starvation. Food depletes quickly by time and fighting. And every 5 or 10 minutes there are always someone in the group who complains with lack of food. It doesn´t matter that you are level 15, you still have to create food using the petty spell from level 2 which only adds a few points into the food statistics. This thing of the game is a real pain. 

Combat is quick but soon becomes quite boring. The game are so slow in movement that hit-and-run tactics are not  possible to perform, not that they are needed anyway. But the slowness of the userinterface makes you reluctant to running around the whole level in hunt of secret walls or buttons. In this respect, Crystal Dragon is much more responsive. But as a game I would choose AP2 as the better one because it is more complete, includes economy, environmental descriptions and outdoor areas and are more varied overall. Besides, even though it is not an easy game, Crystal Dragon is the harder game in my opinion. Even then I would not have managed this far into AP2 unless I had checked for a solution a few times. But bear in mind that every level contains several difficulties that you must overcome.

This game really had potential. If the developers would work more with adding descriptions to the levels you visit, add some more background and some NPC:s, varied the towns stocks and add some more variety to the outdoor areas, this game would gain one full point in gameplay. As it is now, it is an average realtime action RPG, filled with levels that gets too repetitive over time. It is not a bad game, and I can recommend it, but only if you have the time to spare. I haven´t clocked my playing time but estimates it could be closer to 30 hours.

The graphics and sound effects are better than Abandoned Places 1 (AP1) but on the other hand AP1 succeeded in conveying a better goal and storyline. It came with a large overland map with lots of places.  In towns you could buy magical items so the economy was probably better developed as well. The few complexes I managed to visit was smaller but also perceived as less repetitive. Even tough the interface was more clutterered everything fitted the only screen. Abandoned Places felt like a more polished and complete game and Abandoned Places 2 more towards making a dungeon crawler.

This game's nearest competitor is Dungeon Master 2. It is a tough match but in the end I believe I had a greater time with AP2 after all.

My feeling of this game reminds me a little about the feeling after investing 30 hours into Wizardry VII. Too much of the same thing all the time.
Rating: 3.5


Total rating: 23.5


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4 comments:

  1. PetrusOctavianusJuly 8, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    So how does it compare to AB 1? Better or worse? Or equally mediocre?

    The AB games seem to fail in all respects compared to the much older Dungeon Master and Chaos Strikes back. And the things they add - overland and towns - are empty and ultimately pointless since there's nothing of interest to find there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I´ve added a comparison in the gameplay section. Overall I think AP1 was probably the better game despite inferior graphics.

      Delete
  2. Wow, for inferior graphics it looks great. I am so unfamiliar with this series, I need to read your earlier blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good review... about what I expected based on your observations. Looking forward to the next game.

    ReplyDelete