Realms of Arkania Trilogy
Blade of Destiny
The first game in the Realms of Arkania trilogy was the Blade of Destiny. It combines all the best characteristics of that times RPG’s, like an extensive story line, first person view mode, cave exploring, scenery and (of course) freedom over your own actions. This game was an immediate hit when it was first released, forcing the producers to make a new English version almost over night. (The game was originally intended only for Germany). This delayed the sequel to the game, Star Trail, for a whole year.
The game is incredibly huge for the time it was made. A lot of work was put into creating the world, including history, geography, folklore, races and NPC’s (non-player characters).
The story is epic, as all RPG’s… You play the role of six different people; all looking for adventure and fame that arrives in the city of Thorwal. After a while, you are sent to the real quest of the game: hunt for the sword of legendary warlord Hetman Hyggelik. In order to find it, you will have to travel the world in search for pieces of a map, drawn by one of Hyggelik’s warriors. This map, naturally, shows the location of the sword.
Star Trail is the second game of the series, and voted by many fans as the best of them all.
You start the game in a temple in Kvirasim dedicated to the goddess Peraine. Here you create the 6 heroes you will play in the game. You can choose to let the computer generate your party, load the sample characters, or create your own. There are a total of 12 different classes you may play, each with its own different style and magic ability. This bit of the game can be difficult for new players, who might want to let the computer take care of the birth of the heroes. (But it is recommended that you spend some time creating your folks. You will need to use almost all the skills in the game, so remember to make a squad with a wide array of skills).
When you are done in the temple, the game begins. And right off you will meet two persons who tell their tale and send you out on a hunt to find an ancient artifact: The Salamander Stone. From this point it is up to you. The game is filled with mini-quest for you to complete, and a vast map to explore. So the chance for you to get bored with this game is minimal. There is always something new to discover, even for advanced players.
The music in the game is excellent, and improves the gameplay by a great deal. Also the graphics are great for the time. Not 3D of course, but very good for the period.
Star Trail is an extremely difficult game. If you do not listen to warnings from people you meet, or travel too deep into orc-infested territory… You will either die, get captured or find a point of no return. So save often.
Shadows Over Riva
The third chapter in the Arkania series is a reminder of just how captivating an RPG can be. Though it packs its fair share of flaws and shortcomings, Shadows over Riva offers a long, challenging, compelling quest and just about all the stats, weapons, spells, and monsters that you could ever want.
Creating a party to explore the city of Riva is an amazingly intricate process. Though you can jump right in with a premade sextet of heroes, sitting down and carefully rolling up a half-dozen warriors and magic-users proves one of the highlights of the game. Statistics uncommon to other role-playing games, such as courage and intuition, are regarded with the same importance as strength and wisdom; in turn, negative statistics, ranging from acrophobia to violent temper, must be determined. As the character increases in proficiency, he will improve in a number of different abilities from swordsmanship to dancing, while at the same time conquering his debilitating traits. The character classes you choose from are also out of the ordinary and include huntresses, jesters, witches, and more.
You will encounter many interesting characters over the course of the quest. Combat plays out in a turn-based isometric perspective, which will feel comfortable for those who've played pen-and-paper RPGs using a hex map and miniatures. The battles themselves are exciting and enjoyable. And if the tactical combat isn't your thing, you can always let the computer take over for you.
Shadows over Riva looks much like its predecessor, Star Trail. The game is played in large part via a free-moving first-person perspective, which is considerably simpler to navigate with keyboard than mouse. The 3D terrain shows the vast scale of the city of Riva well. The 3-D navigation window looks attractive, with fog and flickering torch light effects as well as realistic texture maps. At times, Shadows over Riva's graphics are outstanding. The huge, animated portraits of many of the nonplayer characters you'll encounter throughout the game are fantastic. The game sports inspired sound effects, as well as a superb orchestral CD-audio score.
Do not expect to jump right into Riva unless you're familiar with the previous games, as it plays quite differently from most RPGs. Riva requires some commitment, much like all great games of its kind. Shadows over Riva pulls absolutely no punches as a role-playing game, and fans of the genre will appreciate the sheer depth of gameplay even today.