Ever fancied a semi-realistic CRPG based set in Medieval Germany? No? You fool. You've been missing out on one of the better CRPGs ever made.
After the rather boring intro, you get to — as is the case in these games — create your characters. Boring rerolls and stat fiddling? Not in this game (well, ok, you fiddle the stats a little bit). Choose the character's name, or let the game autogenerate a nice German name for you. Set a nickname. Set gender. That sort of thing. Ok, not wowing you?
You first get to choose your background (nobility, rural, urban, etc.) which not only changes your starting attributes, but also what jobs you can have. And there are many jobs, from peddler to knight to nun. All with progression. All these jobs add a few years to the life of the character, and choosing between a young, but less skilled recruit, and an old war-scarred knight with excellent skills and starting armour, but weakened with age, is a fine balancing act.
Once you've assembled your party, you have a chat in the pub about your options (I like these guys already), and then you get thrust into the game. You start in a city, and even though navigating through a city consists of nothing but clicking lines of text, it is very well done and much more interesting than walking around cities in some games. You have many options upon starting. You can (attempt) to visit some high-ups, stalk the streets at night for lowlife thugs to dispatch, train and get meagre jobs in the tavern, set foot into the countryside, or well, whatever the hell you want. This is the guts of Darklands, doing whatever the hell you want.
Of course, with that, this means that the quests you get are quite samey, especially if you exclude the main plot that kicks in when you start investigating rumours and other one-off events. After the plot ends though, you are back to same old same old, until your guys are old codgers and you create some new people (that can keep the old party's stuff/reputation etc.).
But the freedeom and amount of choices is astounding. Since Darklands attempts to be somewhat realistic, there is no magic, but instead alchemy replaces it. You can go through the whole game without any alchemy, but it leads to fun situations, and potions can help you not just in battle but also in situations such as setting off a stink bomb to get past the city guards, burning castles down, and... well, many situations. You gain new alchemical forumlas through various means, and need various materials to concoct them.
Another way of avoiding magic is the use of saints. Your more pious characters can learn of new saints from cathedrals, who have many uses, again, in battle and out. For example, there are saints that tame wild animals. Divine favour must be used to successfully invoke the power of saints.
Or you could just use cold steel to thwart your enemies, and since potions can be difficult and expensive, it's often best to unless you're very rich or up against something tricky. Combat is quite good, but the different styles of fighting (normal, berzerk, etc.) rarely seem to affect the outcome any.
I should mention that the music is very well done and fitting, too. Darklands wants you to play it. A lot.
- Darklands (PC) (11.1 MB)