Yendorian Tales: Book 1, Chapter 2

Developer/Publisher:  SW Games
Year Released:  1996

Review by Rosemary Young (November, 1996)
yen2.jpgThis is our first review of a game that is not widely available as a commercial product, the reason being that we, or should I say I, have never been inclined to play one before. Why? Probably because it is not quite so easy to get hold of this type of game as they don't generally appear on the game shop shelves and promotion is limited. Also, I must confess, I have always been suspicious of this type of product imagining that it couldn't be much good if you don't have to fork out an arm and a leg to get hold of it. Well, this game has opened my eyes and taught me a good lesson about making uneducated assumptions.

Needless to say Yendorian Tales Book I, Chapter 2, is the latest episode in an on-going saga, and since I haven't played the previous episode there is not much I can say about the story so far. From the opening sequence I did learn that the previous episode was centred around the search for the powerful Orb of Zamora that was stolen by the evil Wizard, Paltivar. That quest deposited you in Port Hope where you begin this adventure. There is a knock at your door and it opens a crack to let in the light ... the Governor of Port Hope has requested your presence immediately.

Getting started
To get you started this game provides a ready-made team of four adventurers (two male and two female) but, I am pleased to report, there is also the option for you to create your own party. It offers a reasonable range of character classes, nine in all: three non-magic users, three cleric types and three wizard types. During the course of the game there is also the opportunity for you to craft your characters by allocating points for various character attributes such as strength, dexterity and wisdom; and for various skills from slashing and bashing to mapping and linguistics. It is important to develop characters with expertise in various areas, not only to physically overcome your foes, but also to profit from the various challenges you will face and to understand the characters you meet. You'll have trouble communicating if you can't speak the language.

So select the character generation feature, choose the gender and profession of your characters, cast the die to distribute your points, grab a few useful items, name your characters and enter the game. The Governor is right before you, his dilemma -- and your first assignment -- to rid the Blackwing Mines of whatever fiend has taken over.

The road ahead
Go for a stroll around the town and meet some of the Port Hope citizens. Take note of their advice -- you are not yet skilled enough to tackle the outside world, let alone venture into the Blackwing Mines, so do a couple of favours for your new found friends such as ridding the sewers of monsters or finding the lost orb of the fortune teller. Along the way you will earn experience points as well as a little cash -- and 'hard' cash is important if you want to train and progress to higher levels.

There are quests galore in Yendorian Tales and plenty of locations to explore which include underground dungeon environments as well as open countryside. Dotted around the place there are chests full of goodies (you'll need a key or a lock pick and the proper skills to open them without incurring damage) and there are plenty of monsters as well as non-playing characters to supply you with the necessary information to progress.

Seek advice
Talk to the historians and bards and before long you will learn about Yendorian politics and prejudices and about the long ago exodus of the Gnomes and Elves and Halflings from the City of Thaine. You will also learn about the mysterious disappearance of the chief wizard or alchemist in the various cities and finally all will be revealed but, of course, you will have to play the game yourself if you want to know the ending.

The lands of Yendorian are many and inhabited by hoards of fearsome creatures so you have a lot of fighting and a lot of travelling to do. Travelling in this game is made easy with the use of a map you find early on and, later, in each city you will find a 'key' which will allow transport back to the city gates from any point in the game. Very useful, indeed, because not all your quests are solvable in the immediate vicinity. There is also a useful 'marker' spell for easy transportation.

The Yendorian dungeons are not jam packed with levers and buttons and pits, etc. (I would have appreciated more of these features) but you do have to locate illusionary walls and negotiate around fire pits and dangerous spikes that block your path. There are also a number of passwords and keys you will have to find to enter various locations. Sometimes you'll find cryptic scrolls lying around to help you here or, perhaps, you'll be given a password in conversation. The important thing is to listen carefully and take note of what people tell you because even though they might not offer immediate help, they may be useful later.

Watch over your party
During the course of this game you will need to watch over your characters constantly and keep them healthy, well armed and well fed. There are plenty of statistics, too, for those of you who enjoy honing your characters. This aspect of the game does require some attention so that you equip the right character with the right weapon or so that you can win the various challenges, speak the right language or even read your map.

Other than this there are lots of items to collect and use or sell, and plenty of potions and magic scrolls. When you train, your magic users will automatically learn new spells and you can also add to your spell list by memorising scrolls. There is a wide variety of spells in this game, you'll never use them all unless you make a conscious effort to try each one individually.

Basic graphics
Yendorian's tales isn't the most sophisticated game graphically speaking so don't expect perfection in this department. However, they are most certainly perfectly adequate. Although the non-playing characters are not represented on screen (you only see a portrait when you enter into conversation) the various 'monsters' look good and you will certainly witness the effects of your various spells.

This game most closely resembles the Might and Magic Series for anyone who has played these games. The movement is step by step, the combat is turn based so you have plenty of time to sort out your strategy, and the interface is simple point and click. Although there are voices in the introduction, during the game all conversations are conducted in text.

Yendorian Tales is available to download as shareware if you visit the SW site. You can also buy it in two versions, one with and one without the detailed manual and walkthrough, and both are very reasonably priced. So it's not the most technically sophisticated roleplaying game around but it certainly kept me occupied and I'm in line for playing Chapter 3. There is quite a bit of hack and slash but I enjoyed the quest, and especially not having it all spelled out for me at the outset of the game, although the end was a bit disappointing. I was sure I was going to have to do something with all those spent shards I'd diligently collected -- I thought I'd found loads of hints here -- but they ended up being just dead weight. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
IBM PC or 100% compatible, VGA graphics card, 2 MB RAM, 16 MB free on the hard disk, Microsoft 100% compatible mouse, EMM386 or other EMS memory manager, MS DOS 3.30 or later. Recommended: 386/40 or faster, MSDOS 5.00 or later, Sound Blaster or 100% compatible sound card.