Defender of Boston is a Role Playing Game where you take on the role of a Private Investigator, located in Boston in the year 1921. Your assignment is to go to an island called Rock Island to solve a mysterious disappearance of one Fred Black and an dangerous artifact described in your assignment brief as "The Thing", which has terrible powers for any mere mortal to control. Solve the mystery and return to Boston...alive!
The game begins with character development of a numerous amount of skills where you must allocate points for those skills. There is a wide array of skills from standard issue such as Strength, Dexterity to more complex skills such as Chemistry and Ninjitsu (in Boston?).
The interface is similar to most interactive fiction with graphic games with some additional features such as character stats, a clock, and several buttons for skills and other uses. A great additional feature is using several objects and combining it into a new item. The ingredients of the object are automatically available in the skill menu, so you only have to find the appropriate ingredients during your travels.
Travelling in the open is quite a novelty, as it is real time which also applies to combat, making it quite difficult as the you have to balance movement on the map and fighting at the same time.
Tim Wisseman, and his brother Kenneth teamed up to make the game “Defender of Boston” in the early 90s. The game is a combination of mystery, science fiction, and horror, a very Lovecraftian themed game. You are sent to Rock Island by a group in Boston named “The Fanus Foundation.” The purpose of “The Foundation” is never clearly spelled out, but it seems to be a group trying to protect the city of Boston from whatever evil may come its way, hence the name “Defender of Boston.” A fellow member of the Foundation, Fred Black, mysteriously vanished after he came into possession of a strange and powerful object just referred to as “The Thing.” Black's house has been burnt down, and his wife has been murdered, Fred Black being the primary suspect. You begin to find out that not all is well on this island, you have all of these strange star-shaped symbols all over the island, the existence of a strange cult, wildlife going mad, and various different reports of UFOs. As you find out more in depth about these events, you will gain more and more points. The more you know about what is going on, the more points that will accumulate.
In this game you can assemble items, such as MacGyver, put together explosives out of household components, etc. You can also make and cook food, and assemble weapons. The game is also very open ended in its movement system, you can go any which way you want to in real time, but if you move too fast you will get fatigued and will have to rest. Also, when moving in the open, you may possibly be attacked by the agitated wild-life upset by some unknown force, or by the frog-like Deep Ones who will kill you just by targeting them. (run if you hear a weird croaking type sound). Quite a few of the houses are spread apart, so you may spend a lot of turns moving if you are encumbered with items. The game has a vast assortment of skills to choose from when you start the game, from Strength to the more unusual Ti-Chi and Ninjitsu. Some of them allowing you to see, hear, and do more in the game, while some other skills seem to have a negligible effect. This game also has an unforgiving Rogue-like saving system, where it saves your character when you quit the game, and deletes it if you die.
Pros: Open ended movement system, intriguing plot, massive map, wide assortment of characters to interview, with distinct and interesting personalities, many are eccentric, and an island with many hidden secrets and stories for you to discover.
Cons: The unforgiving rogue-like saving system, sub-par graphics (they probably limited themselves to few colors), a major saving game glitch where items vanish if you quit the game and return later (hopefully when DOSBox comes out with save state this will no longer be an issue)
While this game may have some drawbacks, the plot will draw you in, the game is almost as if you are playing an X-Files episode.
One of the most obscure shareware games ever made, Defender of Boston is a fun and surprisingly complex real-life RPG. Instead of casting you as medieval/fantasy AD&D hero, the game casts you as a private investigator trying to make a living in 1921 Boston. In the latest assignment, you must go to a strange little island known as Rock Island to solve a mysterious disappearance of one Fred Black. The goal is simple: solve the mystery, and return to Boston alive.
Similar to most other good RPGs, part of the fun in Defender of Boston lies in discovering new skills and things you can do as you play. The character creation system, while not elaborate, signals the good level of complexity in the game. When creating your character, you are given a pool of points to use for a number of traits, ranging from the typical (e.g. strength, first aid) to the esoteric (listen, ninjutsu, psychology). Every skill has an impact in the game, and similar to Wasteland and Dragon Wars, using appropriate skills at the right time (and at the right level of expertise) is key to winning the game.
You play the game from a first-person perspective similar to most adventure games, except when you are outdoors when the game shifts to a top-down view that shows your immediate surroundings and any living beings in sight (similar to a radar). Gameplay is a great blend of RPG and adventure: you need to advance your skills, and at the same time solve inventory-related puzzles. The game is a bit disorienting, but after you familiarize yourself with the commands, it is a lot of fun. Although the graphics are sub-par, the game's complexity, fun gameplay, and outstanding attention to detail (the letter describing your assignment, for example, is 5 pages long) makes Defender of Boston one of the best shareware gems you will ever find. Although released as shareware, the game is actually free in that the only thing you will get when registering (which you can no longer do) is a map of the gameworld. Overall, Defender of Boston blends RPG and adventure elements into a fun game that may be the world's only true modern detective RPG ever made. Here's hoping that a new generation of designers will pick up this concept and make more games based on this premise.
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