You have to hand it to them: bad guys are cool. I mean, who can recruit googols of henchmen to fight for their cause even if that cause is to destroy the entire world? Well, in the old days, it was normal to make plots not that complicated. In Crystals of Arborea, the evil Morgoth showed true evil to the prospering and peaceful crystal world. The gods were furious and decided to flood the whole caboodle, except a small strip of land: Arborea, home to the sacred crystals. It is up to you and your gang to find the 4 crystals - before the evil forces do it, or the land is doomed.
To find these crystals you scout the island, for it is there that they are located. Naturally, you find more than just crystals: small cottages, enemies, towers, enemies, caves and enemies. When I say googol I mean googol.
The game consists of three interfaces: the main menu, a map and a 3D mode. In the main menu, you have an overview of the characters, and you can manage their stats, sleep and special abilities. You can also save, load or start a game, view a current description of the game and choose the mode in which you want to play. Strangely enough there is no button to quit to DOS - Silmaris probably thought you'd want to play this game forever!The 3D mode is very nice and refreshing. You view the world as if you are walking in it (quite scary to see those bloody elves and orcs approach you!). Movement is not fluent: it consists only of images reloading every time you move. Nevertheless, the effect is great and you will be playing in this mode most of the time. The map gives a good sense of orientation. You see special objects after you've found them (and their locations are fixed every time you start a new game). You can move your men to a location by clicking on a name, or 'all', and then 'to move'.
In the beginning, the interface can be quite strange, but when you get the hang of it, you will soon be an expert. In the 3D mode, just click on an arrow and you will move to that direction. More buttons are not required - but don't forget to take your men along when you play the game for the first time (to do this, go to your men until you can click on their 'heads', the small icons underneath). You can also choose to move your men individually, which is a nice feature of the game, but that makes them very vulnerable.
Battling is more like a board game. Again, practise makes perfect. You can move your men once per turn (unless you're enchanted). There are two archers; one wizard and the rest are warriors. The wizard can cast spells after one turn of concentration (i.e. skipping one turn). You can attack enemies when their icons are not shaded. Remember that the archers and wizard cannot perform a melee attack.
The first five battles are nice, however, once you realize that there are no new skills to be acquired and the enemies are swarming the place, seemingly popping out of nowhere, you become pretty bored. There is an option, flight, which enables you to leave the battlefield, but the enemies will get a free turn. Perished team mates can't be revived.
Now that we've established the fact that the graphics are nice, let's talk about the sound. Terrible. This is a major downside of the game.
After a while, when you've discovered most of the things, you just find yourself brainlessly clicking on the up arrow. The disadvantage of the freedom the game offers you is that you don't have a clear goal. I will tell you a little secret: search for the cave, this will lead you to a terrible maze but it will be worth your while.
All in all, the game gets a 3 for its innovation and graphics. After all, this is the game which would spawn the Ishar-series. The sound bumps the grade down, as well as the monotonous game play. This does not mean the game is bad, on the contrary, it can be enjoyed by many and I can assure you, and every RPG fan that saw RPG's development, the game can bring a lot of pleasant moments.
The precursor to highly successful Isharseries, Crystals of Arborea's story is Waterworld meets AD&D: as prince of Arborea, last refuge in the submerged world, embark on a quest to find 4 crystals and defeat the evil Morgoth to return peace to your kingdom. Primitive RPG engine underscores good graphics and intuitive interface. As with all Silmarils games, winning this one is next to impossible-- any crystal you fail to recover will be lost forever, prompting you to reload (on top of the frustrating combats). For those with unlimited patience only!
The game had lovely landscape and character graphics as well as intro, "event" and finale graphic sequences (for the time). The action is seen from 2 different view modes - 2D for travelling over the landscape as a team, or 3D with Jarel's point of view for exploring underground tunnels etc. Some extra inventiveness (sadly not use in the Ishare series that followed) was the ability to send each of your team mates off separately to explore other areas, deal with enemy groups, etc. This helped cover more ground, but it did leave characters vulnerable if they were alone, weak, or in limited numbers when accosted by enemies.
Crystals of Arborea is an excellent introduction to the RPG genre, even with the ridiculous number of enemies that seem to pop up everywhere. The game is also non-linear in a sense that you can finish most quests in any order. Recommended for RPG newbies.
Morgoth has taken over the world, and it is your task to defeat him. In this unique first-person view RPG, you and your six companions will have to find four crystals and place them on four towers to be able to fight Morgoth. The game is the prequel of the Ishar games, with most of the characters from your party showing up in later parts.
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