An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire

13Battlespire was the first entry in The Elder Scrolls (TES) “Legend” series – a line of PC games that would preserve the celebrated fantasy universe of Tamriel, but with a focus on more combat, smaller environments, fewer characters, and shorter gameplay. In fact, in theory, it’s perfect for novice or mainstream gamers who want a taste of what a full-fledged CRPG is like with a bit of action and adventure rolled into the mix. But it was not to be. Battlespire looks and plays pretty badly, has an outdated look due to its pixelated graphics, and is slow, choppy, and buggy.

Before elaborating on Battlespire’s significant weaknesses, let’s quickly go over some of the game’s basic features and admirable qualities. The player assumes the role of an apprentice Battlemage, put to a test in an outerworldly training citadel known as “Battlespire,” a floating fortress supported by magical anchors in the ethereal mists beyond Tamriel. You’re teleported into the ‘spire and learn that the double-crossing Jagar Tharn has struck a deal with the evil Daedra Prince, Mehrunes Dagon, to kill off or possess all new students. You must defeat his malevolent minions and destroy the Daedra Prince once and for all.

Unlike the wide variety of environments of Daggerfall, the majority of Battlespire’s levels are in dungeons. There are a few outdoor areas including castles, taverns, homes, large windmills. But before exploring the environment, you must create a character. As with Daggerfall, Battlespire features a highly customizable character creation system. Before tackling the first goal (to find and connect the magical anchors), gamers must select from an ample set of options to make their game unique: gender, race, hairstyle, facial features, and character class.

10The player interface is also very customizable, with some added novelties. The view of the Battlespire environment is from a first-person perspective. Although you can assign the keys to your liking, the best combination is using the mouse for your head movement and the four arrow keys with your left hand for navigation. During combat, you hold down the right mouse button and, depending on your weapon of choice, you can sweep across the screen using the mouse to simulate its movement (a sword can slash side-to-side, up-and-down, diagonally, or thrust forward).

The left mouse button is used as an all-purpose “action” button for selecting a character to talk to, choosing the dialog, using objects in your inventory, or picking up objects in the environment. The Enter key must be held down in order to get a cursor on the screen — this is essential in picking up important objects or selecting options on the command bar, such as the spellbook, inventory, auto-map, etc. A nice touch to Battlespire is the ability to assign any of the F1 to F8 keys as hot-keys for spells and inventory.

For the first time in a TES adventure, there is multi-player support via IPX/LAN and Internet play. Games include team versus computer, team versus team, or straight deathmatch. Any of the seven levels from the single-player game can be selected for all types of play, or you can select from the additional seven multi-player Deathmatch maps or Capture the Flag levels provided.

2_1One of the main problems with the game was its sluggish performance at the time, which were made even more obvious thanks to the lack of 3D acceleration. The game just performed horribly on most computers on anything but the lowest (320×240) resolution. The detailed 3D graphics in Battlespire look quite good from far away, with limited but reasonable character animations. Plus, the new light sourcing effects are impressive. But, up close it all turns into a pixaleted mess.

Despite the performance and graphics issues, Battlespire does have a sort of charm. It might not be to the liking to those who prefer the glorious freedom lavished upon us by Daggerfall, but for those who want their role-playing to be faster with more action, Battlespire is the way to go.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win 95

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