Ishar Legend Of The Fortress (1992)(Silmarils) Game
Abandonware / DOS GamesGenre: ActionRole-Playing
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Game Description & Reviews:
The first game of Silmarils' Ishar trilogy has many commendable features, but also significant shortcomings, leaving the overall experience rather mixed.
The initial impression one has of Ishar is usually a very good one thanks to its graphics which were exceptional for their time, and still enjoyable today. The game's art style is quite endearing, and brings villages, cities, woods and dungeons to life in a way that immediately immerses the player. There are also different animations for attacks and spells - though more would have been desirable.
Ishar's gameplay is fundamentally that of an RPG, but with some important, distinctive, features. First and foremost, the game is played in first-person view, and in real time. Most games of this sort involve a single character - but here Ishar reveals another distinctive feature: it is a team-based RPG allowing one to recruit up to five characters for the adventure. (Unlike other RPGs, there is no character creation). How does one manage five characters in real-time combat in first person mode? Silmarils solved this problem admirably by having the function keys F2, F4, F6, etc.. serve as attack buttons for characters 1, 2, 3, etc... As for spellcasting, the game enables one to avoid having to rifle through a list of spells during combat, by having the option of writing a single spell to a scroll and having it cast by simply clicking the scroll icon. All in all, this system works and it constitutes the greatest achievement of the developers in my opinion.
This title has another special feature: alchemy. Making potions is an important part of the game: one essential quest cannot be completed without it. Various concoctions also help in other situations, for example, by recovering stamina (both physical and psychological).
Yet the game falls short in a number of areas. First of all, it limits characters to level 10 in experience, which is rather restrictive for an RPG. Second, it does not permit one to sell surplus or unnecessary items: they can only be discarded. Third, Ishar's overworld is rather sparse in terms of features: I often felt my team was roaming through the vacant landscape, encountering little more than the odd monster, (of which a greater variety would have helped). This made the game tedious - at times so much so that I was reluctant to persevere. The title also seems to have required more play-testing: in one dungeon one can get stuck, one of the quests is impossible unless one has a character slot free (so one should recruit four heroes, rather than five, initially), no mention is made of how major quests relate to the ultimate goal, and the ending lacks a message informing you of your victory.
Speaking of dungeons, there are only two in the game, (and the first is fairly small) which is simply unacceptable for an RPG, and makes it much shorter than it should have been. This is particularly unfortunate since a number of interesting monsters (dragons, gorgons, lichs, etc...) show up in the second dungeon - but only once. The material for more dungeons, and for a larger game in general, was clearly there.
All told, Ishar is mainly for RPG fans of a nostalgic bent.
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