Ishar: Legend Of the Fortress

Title           Ishar: Legend Of the Fortress
Game Type       RPG
Company		Silmarils
Players         1
Compatibility   AGA
HD Installable  Yes
Submission      Cathy Macdonald Profiled Reviewer

The sequel to "Crystals Of Arborea" (see separate review) this game takes
up the story some time after Prince Jarel's death. His successors fought
among themselves for dominion of the Kingdom, renamed Kendoria.  This led
to anarchy and opened the way for evil mercenaries, such as the sorcerer
Krogh.  He grew rich and powerful and built a temple-fortress, called
"Ishar", meaning "Unknown" in Elvish.  As it turns out, Krogh is the son
of the evil Morgoth, whom Jarel destroyed in former Arborea. He seeks to
return the land to the former darkness, so he must be found and destroyed.
This is the ultimate object of the game.

Silmarils quality of graphics and gameplay - for which "Arborea" seemed a
mere taster - really began to excell in their endeavours to create a
Tolkienesque fantasy world. The landscape types comprise various
grasslands, 2 types of forest (Oak and Birchwood) shrublands and
waterways. There seems to be little, if any, topography.  It is all
impressively drawn and detailed, with a credible pseudo-3D effect. Other
places to visit are a few villages, 2 towns, a city, and 2 underground
dungeons, all with their various perils and rewards - in addition to
numerous encounters in the open. Both the graphics and sound work
extremely well in generating atmosphere - from the wind in the trees to
the insane cackles in the dungeons.  The characters are well drawn and
imaginative, but I feel their animation is somewhat "static": Really only
their weapon/spell arm(s) being fully animated - though often with the
desired effect on your wellbeing, needless to say! But that's a minor
gripe considering Silamrils' groundbreaking achievement at the time. (But,
less minor gripes later.)  The interface was actually quite clever:
despite the usual complexity of the various tasks involved in RPG-ing, it
could all be accessed from one 1 screen with 2 sets of layered panels.
However,  during fast combat, it was too easy to click the wrong icon and
suffer for the delay, as it is "real time".  Thus, the interface graphics
arrangement could have done with a little tweaking. Mostly, though, it
functioned well.

You are the Aramir. You start out alone and with limited resources near a
village in the extreme west of Kendoria. Your first encounter is with a
seemingly harmless little chap who shows you the way to the village. That
turns out to be the limit of his integrity. Thus, you are immediately
introduced to the fact that you have to be careful whom you trust! As soon
as you reach the vilage, you find trouble, but also recruits, supplies
etc. if you survive (or manage to deftly avoid) the encounter.  The game
is viewed in first-person perspective; your fellows are only visible when
you first meet them (if outside) or as faces on their control panels, as
per traditional style.  There is a map, but it`s of limited help without
showing your precise position.  You really depend on the visible landscape
and keeping your bearings. There are many people to meet, including all
of  Jarel`s fellow heroes from the "Arborea" quest. Some are more useful
than others, but there are many vital clues, items etc. and little is
entirely straightforward! One annoyance, especially for the early stages,
is the need to pay to save a game!  This is less of a bother later when
you`ve amassed some wealth and by then, you need to save frequently.
Thankfully, there is apparently unlimited save space: BUT major
instability creeps in after a bit. The only way to stop the game crashing
in the later stages was to slow down, i.e. wait (finger off the mouse
button) until the scene refresh has completed settled down before moving
on; before, I was able to zip virtually continuously through each refresh.
This is assuming a hard-drive, as I was using the A1200HD by now, with the
"AGA" version - so-called:  I actually had to use a "Killaga" script to get
the "AGA" version to run!  Bit of a programming blunder there, Silmarils!
You were doing so well, too.

So, how is it to play?  Quite a difficult game to get into at first until
you got the hang of what you can get away with and what sort of reactions
to expect. All part of the challenge in this huge, and often tough,

  Spending time wandering around sorting out recurring barbarians to build
up new recruits` (and your own) experience tends to get a bit tedious,
but is vital to survive as you get nearer your ultimate goal. The
sub-quests add to the challenge and variety, definitely not a boring
linear game.  I found that not everything has to be tackled for future
events, for example, you don`t need the Invisible Lizardman`s Fire Rings
to deal with the Fire Sorcerers - my team just beat them up and got on
with it! Obviously many things DID have mandatory, precursive tasks - you
don`t get let off that easily.  Certainly a game to get your teeth into,
whilst tearing some of your hair out - but, oddly enough, it is fun!

 Overall? Well, I don`t intend to sell it - yeah, I`d actually play it
again. Do things differently - famous last words, eh?  If you like a good,
old escapist adventure - go on! (If you get stuck, I have made a game
guide that may soon be available.

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