Nahlakh is a shareware game written as RPG adventure with an emphasis on intricate tactical combat, and extensive world exploration. Control a team of 8 characters in a quest to find and destroy the demons of Omalin. The game manual boasts over 200 hours solving time, 100 spells, 300 different monsters, and a system for generating potentially millions of items by combining them with various enchantments and materials.
In the author's own words: "It's like a war game with a plot and character development. There are no "experience points" in Nahlakh... skills are learned by doing, not mystically improving out of thin air."
The game begins with a fairly involved process of setting up your party of 8 characters. For each character 50 points are given to distribute among the main attributes of strength, intelligence, dexterity, and health. Additionally, picking an icon that represents the character, this selection will affect the skills chosen; essentially the icons are character classes. Next a number of skills are randomly selected with varying levels of accomplishment described humorously with adjectives such as "lousy", "feeble", "wretched".
With your party created the game begins, and the party is transported to the world map where a group of enemies waits close by; to the north lies a town called Nedly. The world map will remind one of the early Ultima series with the player character represented by an non-animated icon.
The battle system is similar to that found within Pool of Radiance (1989); it is turn-based, each character has a limited number of steps that it takes, and then an adjacent enemy icon is targeted for attack.
The game is well documented, and pressing F1 at anytime will bring up context-sensitive help. Since the game is heavily driven by keyboard commands this is an important feature.
Tom Proudfoot's first published game, Nahlakh, is a traditional top-down role-playing game that pits your party of eight adventurers against a force of evil that is threatening the land. While the crude graphics and the really hard first fight with a tribe of kobolds may scare away a more casual player, this game is a nugget of gold for the fans of the genre.
The turn-based combat engine is quite easy to learn and among the best I have seen in role-playing games. Sporting such nice features as targeting specific body parts (the groin being my favorite), fatigue and various states of injury (bleeding, poisoned, stunned, down etc.) it makes the combats a joy to go through.
Skills and experience are both handled extremely well here. A character advances only in those skills that he uses and every character is able to learn any skill (except magic and prayer). There are some skills that are not usable in the game at all, though, but that is a minor fault.
Magic system is pretty much copied from the Ultima games, with each of the over hundred spells consisting of three magic syllables. But unlike in Ultima, you actually can experience with the spells and deduct new variants from those you already know.
The game is nicely balanced to keep you on the edge of your seat. Each time you think you have got the upper hand in combat, it's time to move on to the next dungeon where you will again be fighting for your life. But it is also really easy to get killed if you enter a place where you aren't supposed to go yet.
With the staggering amount of different magic items (14,000 different weapons for example) and nice user-friendly features (automap, healing the whole party by one command and the lack of random encounters), Nahlakh is very much recommended to all who like a good RPG.
Note: Faster computers may need a slowdown program to run the game. It works well with my 233 MHz one, but crashes on a friend's 400 MHz. Tom Proudfoot has recently released the game as freeware.
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