Abandoned Places could have been a great success, but the collapse of its distributor, Electronic Zoo, meant that many players never got their hands on it. Fortunately for RPG fans the sequel has been released by ICE and looks set to be the smash that its big brother never managed to be.
Originality certainly isn't this game's strong point. If you're familiar with the likes of Eye of the Beholder or Black Crypt you'll feel quite at home in its dank passageways. The gameplay is almost identical to others of this ilk. Four hundred years after the events that formed the original game, you are once again called upon to save the kingdom of Kalynthia from impending doom, by killing Pendugmalhe, the creator of the evil Bronagh.
All of the main ingredients of an RPG have been incorporated into this game. From a list of 32 heroes you select a team of four aspiring champions to battle your way through 35 levels of monsters and puzzles. Fighters, Wizards and Clerics stand ready to take up the armor and weaponry strewn throughout the game.
There are some atmospheric snatches of music, plus some interesting sound effects. However, there are one or two instances where could have done without some of them. One sound that you'll have to learn to love is the mad clip clopping of your heart. This incessant tap-dance reaches a crescendo whenever there are monsters nearby - some kind of Middle Earth radar, suppose. After a while I found it a little too intrusive and found myself reaching for the volume knob.
OUT OF CONTROL
The game has many alternative movement controls, but some of them appear to be a little on the sluggish side. Let's face it, when you have a demon treading close behind, you want to be absolutely sure that you're going to move when you press that key! Another problem with the controls is that they can be a little confusing - for example, you have to press the right mouse button to operate a hand weapon, but you need the left button for a magic spell. In the heat of battle that little touch can cost you a thick lip!
Most RPGs tend to confine themselves to dark dungeons where you can suspend your disbelief more easily. However, Abandoned Places 2 requires you to leave your dungeon and travel overland through field and forest before you once again plunge into the gloom. During your sojourn in the open air you will be molested by bears and trolls that are just as vicious as anything you will find underground, so don't think things get any easier in the sunshine.
RAISING THE STAKES
As your heroes progress, their experience points mount up until they are automatically elevated to the next rank of warrior or mage. New spells magically appear for both your wizards and your clerics, while your weapon handlers start hitting things with more effect.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the early levels of this game will break you in gently. There are a few places at the beginning of the game where you can step on an invisible pressure pad and find that you have just released an army of skeletons that position themselves between you and the exit. However, for those of you who like the easy life, this is made up for by the fact that, unlike many RPGs, disk swapping is kept to a minimum.
From the very start you know that you are in for a treat with this game. Apart from some awkward controls, everything else appears to be top-line. The half-brite graphics are first-class and the monsters have been drawn to really look three dimensional.
There are few concessions in Abandoned Places 2 - the writers have taken it for granted that you have been here before and that you're ready to plunge into the maelstrom from the moment the starting whistle is blown. Things start tough and then they get even tougher. The whole point of this game is to build on what we have seen before instead of simply playing the same old game again but with different graphics. When I found I was cursing myself for making the wrong decision during combat because of the panic, I realized that there must be some thing worth playing here.
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