Currently playing: 7 mages, Drive to Moscow, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

October 31, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - Review





Game reviewed: Legend of Faerghail
Publisher: reLINE software
Designed: Electronic Design Hannover
Released: 1990
Formats: Pc, Amiga, Atari ST
Version reviewed: Amiga
Difficulty: 5/10
Est. Playing time: 35 hours


The game was designed by Olaf Barthel, a famous guy in the Amiga world. Besides developing several famous amiga programs he also participated in the development of the Amiga OS in the mid 90:s and is still very much active today.

The music composed by Andreas Starr is what distinguishes Faerghail from the ordinary RPGs of the period. The melody is perfectly matched by the atmosphere of the game and greatly enhances the immersion, even tough it is only heard at the introduction. I feel obliged to allow you to listen to the original Amiga score here: 



Gameworld & Story
The story of the adventurers being approached at the inn by a foreigner telling them that the king looks for brave adventurers, is hardly orginal even for 1990. The king tells about the evil that threatens the land with vile orcs and ogres that invade and the elves that mysteriously has turned against humans. He needs the military support of his neighbour county to repell the attacks and win time to find a solution. The task is given to you to find out what has happened to the land and who is behind it at but first you must request support from the other county.

During gameplay there are very few references to the actual story. The only thing that actually links part of the story together is scrolls you find which either contains very sparse background information about the evil Balaan and his allies or describe the particular powerful weapons that exists. There are no NPC:s to talk with and no dialogues. Still it is enough to build a game like this on the info that actually exists but keep in mind its on the same level as a ordinary Bard´s Tale adventure.

The gameworld spans two wilderness areas with some different places to visit. Each of them is really different from eachother in terms of graphics and encounters. The gameworld is not large and there is no risk you will get lost. But that is a good thing because in a game like Abandoned Places 2 the outdoor areas where large but very empty instead. Here you could quite fast travel between different locations.

Rating: 1.5
 
 
Economy
Economy in this game works pretty well in the beginning. The start of the game is the hardest part. You have to survive at least until your second level before daring venturing on any longer quest. You will have to gather as much gold as you can since raising in levels costs money you don´t simply have. You will not get much money by fighing random encounters in the wilderness. You have to enter a complex in search for chests filled with gold. After you begin to handle yourself at level 3 and upwards money becomes less of an issue and soon after that you will have as much as you need and could fill the bank. This makes the game unbalanced. The emporium in town have a lot of different weapons and armours but you cannot buy any magical equipment and all special items you find will be better than the stock items.
 
 
The problem with the game is that it resets every complex when you exit so you could return back and plunder the same gold chests again or get the special items again and again. It´s up to you to misuse this system or not but it makes the game much easier. On the other hand it prevents you from being locked out to solve the game if you by mistake drop or loose an important quest item. Anyway, the emporium is just for selling stuff and that is a pity.

There is a lot of items in the game. Many weapons and armour pieces. You won´t know their effect until you try them out. Armours is easy since you will see your defense rise when equipped but weapons damage must be closely watched in order to decide anything. As always the only good hint is to use the most expensive item all the time.
 
Rating: 2

NPC & Interactions

There are no NPC:s in the game worth mentioning and the few there are (like the elven king, sage at the oracle, temple monk etc) could not be spoken to. They just have their saying. There are also very few places in which you must interact with the environment. The few places that do require your effort are often worth it though, like using the mirrorshield or holy water to get across heat or invisible forcefields or having to remove all equipment to be able to wade through a pool. It´s mostly in the latter part of the game in which you will have the opportunity to interact with the gameworld. There are a lot of places in which you have to use found keys though.
Rating: 1.5
 
Monsters, tactics & combat system

This part is one of the stronger points of the game since it is very combat focused. There are a lot of different opponents and monsters in the game and most of them have beautifully drawn images. They also have different abilities like that they could stun, paralyze or poison you or even drain your experience. Or they could cast spells or breathe at you.
 
 
Combat is played out in rounds in which you could tactically place your party members on different rank lines against you opponents. The further away the harder to hit...or be hit. But easier to concentrate on casting spells. Tactics used in such a stationary combat is mostly utilised by selecting the correct spells or using items (potions). The monsters always appear within striking range compared to Bard´s Tale or Dragon Wars.
 
 
Combat is generally not too hard in the game. When you reach level 4 you could practically fight against any creature. The good thing is that you could partially fight creatures and when you are severily injured you could retreat from combat and still get experience from it. It is always guaranteed success to withdraw from combat. That makes the game too easy in my opinion, because you don´t have to fight any creature in the game in order to succeed actually. Well, you need some hitpoints to resist traps and the dragons breathing in the end, but that is about it. Not that it would be very fun without the combat but you don´t need to. Sometimes I fought monsters just to get rid of them harassing me in the dungeons and hinder my movement. Monsters don´t respawn as far as I can tell.
 
 
Quick combat works very well and is really quick. You don´t need to repeat your actions for every round, it remembers your last settings. Just be sure to watch out for weapons- and armour breakage. You will get indications on when something is damaged in the summary report after each round. An asterix is shown below the armour or weapon column.

For a static combat system this is one of the smoothest and best I have seen.

Rating: 3

Magic system

Magic is somewhat original since you don´t have any traditional spellpoints. Rather you have a number of castings per day and each spell also has limitations on how many times it could be cast during a day. You don´t need to memorise spells, neither do you have to type in shortcut letters for them (Thank god! I hate that system employed by Dragon Wars, Bard´s Tale, Devils Whiskey, Dungeon Master 2 etc). Every spell is shown in your spell list. Just click the corresponding number and your done.

There are a lot of spells in the game. Some says it is close to 300 but I haven´t counted. Some spells are very similar in different schools but that goes for all similar games. You have to advacne to level 7 and above to get the really good spells something which I was just precisely attaining before the end.

It is easy to regain lost castings (i.e. castings per day). You just have to rest and only one time during my countless times of resting have we been interrupted and attacked, so resting is always safe.

Rating: 3.5

Character generation & development

Character generation works very well. It is fast, you have a lot of choices and you could re-roll your attributes easily. There are the standard amounts of races but a whole lot of classes, some only available to females which also has different attibute bonuses. I enjoyed creating my group.

When leveling you need money before you could train then there is a chance you might improve one or two of your skills depending on class. It is usually attack or defense but spellcasters generally improve concentration ability. There is also a slim chance you will have one of your attributes raised. All this is totally random. Then you get a random number of additional hitpoints depending on your constitution and a fixed addition of castings per day.

For each level gained you could check if there are new spells to be learned and payed for, they will then be scribed to your spellbook. Fighter classes receives additional attacks per round now and then but you will only notice it in combat.

In summary, a very good, streamlined process but it offers nothing of uniqness about it. 

Rating: 3

Map design

Maps in the game are of traditional squares. At least 35*35 hexes. The layout is solid and generally done with thought and logic behind it. There are no random rooms and doors. Many places are described ingame and gives an even better feeling for the map layout. Large entrance halls, barracks, prisons, feeding grounds etc exists. There are some places which are much smaller though. 



The crystal ball works quite ok as an automapper and you could scroll to see the whole map but the problem is that when you leave a place the map is gone and you have to rediscover it when entering again. Therefore you generally need to draw your own maps anyway.

Rating: 3

Manual

The original manual was ringbound and very well layed out. It is pretty thick and covers easily over 50 pages. It is filled with facts but written in easy manner. Not without humor. The spell section are really well done and the descriptions enjoyable to read. This manual is one of the best I have seen for an RPG of this time. It also contaings parts of maps that are referenced during the game in scrolls and shows hidden doors and other stuff. If I don´t give this my highest rating I don´t know what will get it.

Rating: 5

Graphics, sound and Interface


The graphics in the game are very good on the Amiga version. Both the dungeons and overland maps are nice and the difference between the complex is really noticeable. Never will you only get new color settings but entire new complexes. The images of monsters also looks very nice. Many of them seems digitized from other photos. 

The sound in the game is above average and covers echoing steps, thunders, door slams and crows squeaking in the wilderness. The title music is excellent and provides a perfect mood for the game.

But this game probably sports the best and fastest interface I have yet to seen in a RPG in this genre. Every choice has a keyboard shortcut and the interface is extremely fast and responsive. Quick combats could be done and over with in 3 seconds and you still have full control during that time. Combat layout and overview is perfectly laid out and give you all information you need. You don´t need to go through each and every characters action sequentially. You see all party members at once and just select the one you wish to give an order. The default settings is attack or defend and it remembers all actions from the previous round.

Managing the inventory and trading items is also easily handles. The inventory could span several pages per character but is quick to navigate through. Sure one could wish for a larger window to get a better overview but it works very well.

There are also som ingame options that allows you to turn off graphics or sound effects, making the game even quicker. That the game is multitasking is also a nice feature even though it doesn´t have any effect of the gameplay per se.

Rating: 4

Gameplay

This game belongs to my all-time favourites and though I have seen and played through almost every level 20 years ago, I still had much play with this playthrough. It would be even better if it was my first time I believe. Now I had my old maps to help me out so the exploration feeling is not really there. 

The game are so easily played, responsive and quick due to its good interface that you will make good progress in little time. I see no reason not try this game out regardless of if you like games like Dragon Wars or Bard´s Tale. Actually I don´t see much likeness to them except for the static combat system but others like to compare them. In every respect that will make Legend of Faerghail a clear winner in my opinion.

However, there are three things I whish to point out.

Firstly, I have seen some people complaining about the frequency of random encounters. There are a lot of random encounters but not as much as in the Bard´s Tale series and - most important - they are not respawning. If you clear all monsters out from a complex you could run around freely and you even see them on the screen so they move around in realtime by their ghostly silhouette. If you don´t fight them though they could be really annoying and forcing an encounter at almost every step until you get out of their domain. That could be irritating and many times I have fought monsters just to clear my path.

Secondly, the system does not remember anything from your previous visit in a complex, so even if you have already taken all gold and magical items they will be back again if you get out and reeenter. That don´t hold for levels within a complex only for reentering from the wilderness. The only good thing about this - and I mean only - is that you will not risk getting stuck because you have dropped an quest item by mistake. But otherwhise this system opens up for misuse and cheating if you have the patience. Perhaps it is impossible to reach the higher levels with this system ? But then the developers could have implemented some respawning.

Thirdly and last, there are not a single fight in the game in which you are forced to fight if you are not prepared. You could always withdraw from combat. You might be harassed and annoyed while walking afterwards but you will survive and resting is almost always without any danger as long as you choose a guard. This makes the game too easy. Not that it is fun avoiding all the fights in the game in the first place, but it could be done. There are a few places in which you will have to fight to get a certain item but only when you  yourself are ready for it.

If I could change something I would add much higher risk of being attacked while resting because rest you will have too. That at least would force you to either use your potions (I have never used any) or be more cautious. But the combination of a complex both being reset when revisited and that you could run from every fight is not a good gaming balance. That the game is too easy combatwise is its weakest spot. If you really like a challenge and housekeeping your resources all the steps this game is not for you. This makes it very different from Wizardry VII for example.

Other than that the graphics and sound really add to the atmosphere, it is very rewarding to raise in levels and improve you characters and the environments and monster types are well varied. There are a lot of different items and you will spend good time with optimising your characters. The system is quite advanced with weapons and armours that could break during combat, while resting your watch may fall asleep and either you will be surprised by monsters or find that part of your equipment has been stolen. It is small things like this that makes Legend of Faerghail stand out from its competition.

Rating: 4
 
Recommended links:
 
  • The complete manual in textform without the maps/illustrations
  • The most comprehensive walkthrough of the game

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1.5
Economy
2
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
3
Magic system
3.5
Character generation & development
3
Map design
3
Manual
5
Graphics, Sound and Interface
4
Summary CRPG value
26.5


Gameplay
4 (26.5)

1 comment:

  1. I never even heard of this game, but I certainly liked your review and the extra links you reccomended.

    ReplyDelete