When Darklands was released in 1992, it was a cut above the usual fare found in the fantasy role-playing genre. It was ambitious in scope and teeming with detailed role-playing goodies and yet broke the mold somewhat from earlier efforts by (gasp!) not including any lengthy dungeon crawls and focusing on religion and alchemy instead of spell casting. One of the most endearing features of the game is it's unabashed and heavily developed sense of history, borrowing liberally from fact and legend surrounding 15th century Germany, giving Darklands a solid basis of realism not usually apparent. In fact, along that theme, the characters' main quest or goal is to remain alive and grow older, more famous and richer.
The incredible attention to and level of detail in Darklands is obvious by looking at a few examples. You can raise your four characters from infancy (selecting gender, name, nickname, and childhood experience) and then guide them through 20 to 65 years of experience after choosing from any of six family backgrounds. They can choose from more than 35 possible occupations (with an option to gain a new one every five years) and increase seven basic attributes (endurance, strength, agility, perception, intelligence, charisma and divine favor) rated on a scale from 0 to 99 by earning experience points. In Darklands, there are more than 135 saints (you must discover them in their specific locales) scattered across the vast game world to pray to for aid and each one has specific and unique properties (for example, Christina the Astonishing can't be bothered unless your character has at least level 54 Virtue and praying to her on her specific day of recognition, July 24th, will reduce the "divine favor" cost; if successful, she grants increases in agility and charisma and sometimes allows translation (flying)). There are nearly 20 skills (with subsets in most) rated 0 to 99 and equipment (1-100) with varying degrees of quality. More than 30 weapons are individually rated by speed, weight, skill and strength required, damage caused and penetration factor. While traveling throughout Darklands, you'll encounter thugs, thieves, bandits, robber knights, wolves, boars, bears, spiders, lizards, werewolves, schrats, holzfrau, ogres, kobolds, dwarfs, gnomes, vulcans (fire elementals), dragons, heretics, demons, gargoyles, undead creatures, witches and hellhounds (to name a few). More than 90 cities as well as huge numbers of castles, hamlets and monasteries dot the landscape. Alchemy potions are created by mixing ingredients and applying formulas your alchemist learns as the game progresses (some can be bought but at high cost).
The point and click, drag and drop mouse interface (with keyboard equivalents) features real time based movement and battle (with a turn based option during fighting) and is controlled through use of drop down menus as is most of the game. Both arrow keys and numeric keypad can be utilized during map movement and battle. Watercolor-style background graphics are used for most static "information" screens and fighting occurs in real time animation. Some repetition in Darklands is inevitable considering the open-ended nature of goals and rewards.
Graphics: Impressive watercolor-style art and era-sensitive backdrops enhance mood and atmosphere. Tendency to use the same background art for different cities and events gets repetitive and dull. More variety would keep game fresher.
Sound: Unobtrusive music and decent sound effects.
Enjoyment: Simply being able to control a character from birth to 65 is exhilarating. Incredible amount of detail and character control provides unlimited gameplay as you find yourself immersed in your characters' struggles for survival, fortune and fame.
Replay Value: So many options and characters possible, replay value is assured. Vast game world invites follow on play.
Darklands is an epic role playing game set in medieval Germany. You can begin by either selecting a pre-made party (quickstart) or by creating your own characters. Creating your characters is quite interesting, as you begin when they're 10 and choose a career path for them. The more time you choose at a certain career path, in 5 year periods, the better your character will become, and this is all before the adventure begins.
Whilst in a city or other inhabited area, you're given choices on how to proceed, sort of like a which-way book. This is the way you'll communicate and move about within towns and castles.
Once you've left a city, you're taken to the travel screen, which is a real time map of Germany with a lone figure representing your party. Here you travel around the countryside, getting into adventures and meeting friends and enemies...
Combat (speaking of enemies) is real time, but you can pause the action to give orders, so it's sort of pseudo-turn based.
The game has an epic scope, and can go on for as long as you'd like it to. The main goal is to collect as much fame for you and your party as possible, because the more fame you have the better quests you'll receive, and the better the rewards.
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