Al Qadim: The Genie's Curse is an action/RPG hybrid based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Arabian-styled world of the same name. As a young corsair, whose family has recently been accused of improper use of their power to control genies, players must escape the wrath of the Caliph and prove their innocence. Sailing from place to place, the young hero must battle monsters, collect wealth and magical items, and seek out the truth behind these accusations before he is put to death. Statistics take a backseat to the action, as players take full control of their characters to explore the game world and engage in battle. A long journey full of challenging puzzles awaits players as they embark upon this console-style role-playing adventure.
This is an official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd edition computer product. Here's the introductory story the game gives you...
As the youngest son of a Noble Merchant, an easy life lay before you. But the call of adventure beckoned, and so, you left your home for a life of action and danger.
Sea serpents, storms and tattered sails have all proved perilous as the years passed. You've taken ships and defeated fiends, at the side of your instructor, the Master Corsair Sinbar.
But your thoughts always return to Kara, the Caliph's beautiful daughter. It is for her you devote your skill and honors. And it will be her hand in marriage that will be your reward for attaining your goal of becoming a Corsair.
Your adventure begins now, on the hidden isle where Sinbar tests his pupils.
As the game starts, you see your character from the top-isometric viewport, and you must first prove youreself worthy by defeating all the traps placed in the testing maze. Then you will come home, awaited by your sister, and town guards, and you're ready to role your dice and step into the unknown.
The Genie's Curse is an interesting spin on the myriad of Dungeons & Dragons-based RPGs released over the years, and in many ways it's unique among them. For one thing, it's the only game to be based on the Al-Qadim campaign setting, a 2nd Edition gameworld based on Arabian mythology, especially that of A Thousand and One Nights. Endless deserts, magic carpets, exotic weapons, towers with teardrop-shaped tops and, of course, genies, are all important elements in the Al-Qadim world.
The game casts you as the youngest son of the al-Hazrad family from Sorcerer's Isle. As it opens, you are completing your training to be a Corsair, a kind of mercenary/warrior type class. After passing the final test, a maze-like area which effectively serves as the game's tutorial, you are whisked back to your home town, where you get to meet the rest of your family, and piece together some of the back story. The Al-Hazrads are a powerful noble family, who some years ago (before your birth) were given a genie by a Sha'ir. Since you weren't born at the time, you cannot control the genie, only your parents and siblings can. Your family has a rivalry with another noble family across town, the Wassabs, which has led the town's ruler to worry that your relatives may order the genie to use its powers against them, which could spell disaster for the town.
You negotiate a truce between the Al-Hazrads and the Wassabs, but it's not long before something goes wrong: The family genie is accused of attacking a Wassab, and he (the genie) claims he was acting under orders from your father. Your family is imprisoned, but you are allowed to remain free, since you couldn't control him. Your punishment is to be banished from the oasis instead. And so you begin your quest to find out what really happened, clear your family name, and quite possibly save the world for good measure.
The most noticeable thing about TGC is that it doesn't play at all like you'd expect a D&D game to. For one thing, there's next to no character customisation. You get to choose your hero's first name, but that's it; his appearance, class and statistics are all preset. This is mainly because the game is far more reminiscent of an Action RPG than your traditional D&D fare. Think Legend of Zelda or Seiken Densetsu (also known as the 'Something of Mana' series) and you should get the idea. You can control the action using either the keyboard - in which case it really does feel just like playing Secret of Mana in an emulator - or with the mouse, which is a rather strange precursor to the Aurora Engine controls. You move your cursor around the screen with the mouse, and left click to attack with your currently equipped weapon or interact with whatever is in front of you. Hold down the right mouse button and your character will walk towards the cursor; move it around and he'll follow it. Both methods of control are nice and smooth, although you'll probably end up switching between the two several times over the course of the game. Mouse control is more useful in towns, where you'll be doing lots of walking, but in dungeons and combat areas the keyboard offers more precise control.
Over the course of the game, you'll obtain lots of different weapons. Your trusty Scimitar will always be equipped, and can be powered up through the use of moonstones (which function a little like FFVII's materia). By equipping them, attacks can be made more powerful, or have other abilities added to them. You will also obtain numerous secondary weapons, such as the sling (which throws bullets that seek out enemies), which can be assigned to the space bar.
One annoying thing about The Genie's Curse is that, even when your character is walking diagonally, he can only face in four directions. Because of the way the scimitar functions - only actually hitting straight ahead - this means it's often very difficult to get into a good attacking position relative to the enemy. This in turn means that the game can be very frustrating in places. Not exactly difficult, just annoying.
If you can get used to the awkward combat, then The Genie's Curse is a highly enjoyable adventure, and an interesting chapter in the evolution of D&D adaptations.
Part of the Dungeons & Dragons games Series
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