Return to Krondor
When Betrayal at Krondor first appeared, gamers hardly paid attention. Hoping to salvage some sales, Sierra switched from floppy disks to a CD version, and sales skyrocketed. There was talk of a sequel, but Sierra had already terminated its contract with Raymond E. Feist, the fantasy novelist behind the world of Midkemia, and heâ€™d already taken his license to other vendors. He settled for 7th Level, but then they took a nosedive. Sierra fortunately offered to buy back the license, and the result was Return to Krondor.
Return to Krondor is a vastly different game from its award-winning predecessor. The story takes place several years after the events in Betrayal. However, you still get to play some of the same characters — the lovable Squire James, for instance, is a nearly constant companion. Itâ€™s James you initially control on his errand to meet the new court mage Jazhara and lead her back to the palace as the game opens. After meeting her, the intrigue begins. Before you know it, your partyâ€™s embroiled in a plot to recover an ancient artifact of the Ishapian priesthood, and your enemies range from brigands to demons to the undead. The game unfolds over 11 chapters, the first several taking place solely in the city of Krondor. The development team worked closely with Feist to make sure that the game follows in the tradition of the Midkemia novels, and it shows throughout – the story is engrossing, and contains lots of interesting plot twists to keep players on their toes.
Rather than the first-person view of Betrayal, Return to Krondor offers a pre-rendered third-person perspectives with shifting camera angles. The camera positions are pretty poor however, and this can make things pretty disorienting, especially when trying to navigate a larger, cluttered area. Sometimes players have the option to cycle through different camera angles and choose the one they like best, but that option is usually only available during combat. The characters have tons of stats to play with, from Brawling to Shield skills, and as they gain experience, they reach new levels.
Once a new level is reached, players have 100 skill points to distribute as they wish over a variety of skills, including magic. How the points are allocated determines the growth of the character. For the most part, the system works well, although it becomes pretty obvious which areas should be boosted and which ones are a waste of points, and there isnâ€™t a whole lot of variety — youâ€™re stuck with the classes the game gives you.
Combat is turn-based, and works very well. As each character takes his or her turn, you have plenty of time to decide what your move should be. You can access your inventory, move, defend, and attack in a variety of styles. Alternately, you can chose not to attack and guard, defend, or use an inventory item instead. No matter what your choice is, though, itâ€™s simple to execute. Annoyingly, the game doesnâ€™t give you an easy way to reload a previous save game during combat if the fight isnâ€™t going your way – you have to either play the fight through to the end, or quit out to Windows.
One of the more interesting changes from Betrayal is the magic system. There are six paths of magic: Fire, Mind, Change, Storms, Life, and Divine. Each path contains ten possible spells, and your skill level in that path determines those available to your magic user. For every ten points in a given skill, you get one more spell. You can either Quick Cast a spell — cast it in one round — or you can Slow Cast it over a period of two rounds.
The Slow Cast method guarantees success, but leaves you vulnerable to attack, and if your magic user is attacked while preparing the spell, it will fizzle. The selection of spells is nicely varied, from defensive to offensive. Many players will want to focus on one or two paths, however – Fire and Storms are the most devastating. Along with the spells in the paths, you can also find scrolls that will give you access to more powerful spells that you might not ordinarily be able to cast. However, you still have to have some sort of proficiency in the class of the scroll — non-magic users canâ€™t use magical scrolls.
The game is pretty short, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on where you stand. In any case, Krondor’s odd camera angles and occasionally troublesome interface doesn’t make it the easiest RPG to get into, but it’s definitely more streamlined than its predecessor. This is a game that most role-playing casuals can pick up, and in the end it’s a decent experience.
System Requirements: Pentium 166 MHz, 24 MB RAM, 250 MB HDD, Win95