Akalabeth, written by Richard Garriott, also known by his alter ego Lord British, is a rudimentary yet entertaining role-playing game. The game's simplistic story, explained in the introduction segment of the menu option, serves little real purpose but does at least establish the name of the realm in which your character adventures.
The game begins with your character in a shop where he can buy any of the game's items including a rapier, axe and magic amulets. What, exactly, the stores in the game are doing selling magic amulets is up for interpretation but, regardless, they're available. The most important item for purchase, however, is food -- unquestionably the mainstay of your character's life. Every step your character takes on the over world map uses up one food unit and once it's gone, so is his life.
After initial stockpiling, the action gets underway and your character starts wandering around the landscape looking for dungeons. To illustrate the importance of food, should you forget to buy any, you'll die after taking the first step away from the shop. The dungeons, unlike the world map, are not viewed from a top-down perspective but through first-person wire frame representations.
Combat occurs frequently and is reasonably easy to master. The only input required is to choose which weapon to attack with and, in some cases, whether to throw it or wield it in melee type combat. Mysteriously, however, the shield quickly proves to be a far more reliable weapon than the rapier or the axe and, at times, does quite a lot more damage than the weapons.
As you enter more dungeons and buy more food, a process repeated throughout the game, enemies don't change much. Most dungeons seem to be two levels deep and are entirely filled with thieves and skeletons on the first level with giant rats added on the second. Compounding the frustration of the lack of enemies is the fact that Lord British, assuming you visit his castle, sends you on a quest to kill a random creature of a type you've seen previously.
This is not to say the game has no surprises, however. Upon using a magic amulet, you can be rewarded with a random ladder, either up or down (even in the second level of a dungeon) that opens up a scary, slightly more purple tinted third level. After dozens of thieves and skeletons, the sight of a new monster, such as a wire frame orc, can be downright terrifying, prompting you to scramble to safety. Combat in the game is particularly lethal as hit points heal incredibly slowly, if at all. Some treasure chests, though, seem to actually increase hit points.
There is no compelling sound in the game other than two different tones, one when you're hit and the other when hitting. On the plus side, the tones are easily distinguishable from one another and can be fair warning that you're being attacked from behind. All things considered, Akalabeth is a satisfyingly mindless dungeon romp.
Graphics: The wire frame graphics are well drawn and sufficiently clear enough for recognition purposes. There is never any question as to whether you are looking at a wall, treasure chest or skeleton.
Sound: A couple of beeps provide the full extent of the sound. As beeps go, they're not the worst you'll ever hear.
Enjoyment: There is always something to be said for mindlessly wading through creatures in a dungeon, no matter what dungeon it is or how you do the wading.
Replay Value: It's hard to draw the line between playing the game and replaying it. Gameplay is so incredibly identical from place to place there is really no way of knowing how far you've advanced.
Once, the land of Akalabeth was peaceful and quiet. But then came Mondain, an evil and ambitious man who created dungeons and populated them with foul creatures. The noble warrior British was able to drive Mondain from Akalabeth, but the monsters he brought with him remain.
As either a fighter or a mage, it is your job to explore Akalabeth, descend into the dungeons and vanquish the beasts dwelling within. On an overhead map of the land, one can find the dungeons, towns where one may buy supplies, weapons and armor, and a castle, where one will be given quests by Lord British. To fulfill such a quest, a certain type of creature must be destroyed in a dungeon.
Inside the dungeons, the view switches to a first-person perspective. Fight, explore and find treasure on your way to complete a quest. Each successive quest will require you to destroy a stronger monster, which will reside on a deeper dungeon level than the one before it.
Akalabeth is the precursor to the Ultima Series.
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