With the words "Crystal" and "Dragon" in the title, I'm prepared to wager this afternoon's lunch that you'll be expecting this RPG to be based on finding a small glass winged creature, probably containing stupendous powers, capable of rendering the owner ruler of the Universe. And killing lots of nasty beasts on the way. Wee-eel... yes, you do have to find said Dragon; yes, it is all-powerful; and it's true, there is some unpleasantness involved. But, the story behind the Crystal Dragon is actually pretty interesting - so please allow me to precis it for you.
The Dragon was created by an elder wizard, and put into safekeeping in a dragon's lair (but, thankfully. Dirk Daring's nowhere to be found). Years pass, and an evil would-be megalomaniac wizard catches on to the tale of the Crystal. Assembling a small army of baddies, he sets off Crystal-wards, but on finding it he's thwarted by the Dragon's minder. Some months of magical jiggery-pokery between the two powerful magicians later, the dragon finds itself at the mercy of the wiz, and gives in. But still the Crystal Dragon won't allow itself to be moved. So - and here's the interesting bit - instead of stealing it, the frustrated wizard simply builds a fortress around it, so that he has time to study its extraordinary powers.
And it's at the entrance to this fortress, where you stand at the beginning of the game. The difference between this and previous RPGs are obvious: for a start you only have two characters to control instead of the usual four. So anybody who found eight hands a bit of a handful to control (me included) will feel much more at home with Dragon. And that, in a nutshell, is it.
Many role-playing enthusiasts will no doubt disagree, but I reckon Crystal Dragon is about as close as you're going to get to a true RPG on a computer. But then, loads of people disagreed when I said that about Eye of the Beholder 2 a few years ago too. By 'true' RPG, I mean Advanced Dungeons & Dragons; one of those board game kits from Games Workshop, with names like Call of Cthulhu and stuff. Most computer RPGs don't follow this formula to the letter, simply because the power of the Amiga can be used to beef up the flow of the game, and to knock out lots of the supposedly boring bits like rolling the dice Crystal Dragon, though, accurately represents the board game style. And even though much of the leg-work of a DM is taken away by the Amiga, the feel of the board game - of sitting around a room with some friends scribbling notes, and taking turns to fire Magic Missiles at a rampaging skeleton - remains pretty prominent. One of the complaints players had about the Beholder series was they were a little easy - but not so Crystal Dragon. The difficulty curve is steep, so the first few doors you open reveal nothing more than a few sword-wielding knights; but midway through the 23 levels all Hell, quite literally, breaks loose. And that's more of a test for adventurers than ever before. Crystal Dragon isn't noticeably more technical than, say, Beholder 2, but it's a damn fine challenge - especially for those disappointed by the lack of Beholder 3. To cap a great list of features, Magnetic Fields has taken the vast range of jargon, strange names, spells and odd controls and actually made them clear and easy to use. Good lord. It's a tad expensive, but Crystal Dragon easily sets a precedent for all future Amiga RPGs.
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