Halls of the Dead: Faery Tale Adventure II

0_1A return to the days of Ultima.

Halls of the Dead: Faery Tale Adventure 2 represents something of a throwback, a return to the third-person, isometric role-playing games such as Ultima. Not surprisingly, gameplay is a mixture of old and new as well. The premise of Halls of the Dead is standard – three brothers tuse a combination of weapons and magic to eliminate goblins, undead and other such evil beings. Along the way they talk with NPCs, discover clues, and move towards the endgame with the ultimate bad guy.

Working along the lines of the traditional quest game, the brothers must recover a set of tapstones, which are sucking the life out of the world. Naturally, this will culminate in a battle (this time, with the evil Sariloth, master of Order), who lurks in—where else?—the Halls of the Dead. A form of teleportation, involving the use of gates and the roads of the Overworld, makes travel between many points on the map fairly easy, and landscapes range from polar ice to barren deserts.

Nice features, like taking damage in the arctic if not wearing coats, and the fact that the character icons change to reflect which weapons (but not armor, alas) they have equipped show that some attention was given to this game. The voice acting bits for every NPC encounter, though eventually repetitious, also add to the game’s atmosphere.

3_1There are, however, more than a few low points in Faery Tale Adventure 2. The three main characters can be a handful to control. In normal movement, they all move together, loosely following the character selected as the leader, a bit like in Ultima 7. Yet this usually results in at least one brother getting stuck behind a tree, trapped in a crevice, or befuddled by a doorway. The three can be “unbanded,” and moved independently, but that takes forever, and is usually viable only for short periods.

The turn-based combat fares better, though it’s often hard to judge the distance between a brother and a monster, leading to much fruitless clicking and little effective action. Still, it works, though it would be nice if the view window was a bit bigger; it gets hard to use bows and spells at anything other than point-blank range.

This is a game that conjures up memories of RPGs gone by: wanderings through an extensive game world, conversations with numerous good and evil denizens, treasure hunts in dank caverns and murky dungeons. There are ample items, treasures, spells, and other rewards for daring deeds, and more than enough monsters and villains to keep the most heroic of heroes happy. The story, no better or worse than most RPG plots, plays out well enough, and the overall look of the game is attractive, fresh, and fairly up to date.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 4 MB RAM, 8 MB HDD, DOS

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