Betrayal in Antara

Developer/Publisher:  Sierra
Year Released:  1997

Review by Rosemary Young (August, 1997)
antara.jpgOut of the blue a terrifying flying creature attacks a ship at sea. Defenceless against the attacker the ship is doomed, but two passengers, strangers to each other, make their escape in a rowboat. The escapees, Gregor and a nobleman named William Escobar (he is a good guy), head for land with the crazed creature in close pursuit.

Aren Cordelain is fishing on the rocky shoreline. The commotion attracts his attention and he runs along the sand to find one of the rowboat's occupants mortally wounded and the other fighting for his life. Aren leaps to the rescue, but is cast aside by the creature and instantly set upon. In defence, he throws up his arms and miraculously the monster is incinerated. Whilst Aren recovers William kneels to attend to Gregor. In his last moments the injured man utters the word 'Consort' and thrusts a strange medallion into William's hand.

The survivors introduce themselves and William recognises that his rescuer has latent magical powers. In gratitude he invites Aren to his family home in Panizo and promises an introduction to the resident mage.

Here begins the story of Betrayal in Antara and your first objective is to get the adventurers to Panizo where you will begin to unravel the mystery of the medallion and, after a good deal of investigation, combat and travel, find yourself enmeshed in a tangled political web. Before you set off, however, you'll add another member to your party, Kaelyn Usher, after you aid her in a fight against some drunken revellers who are up to no good.

Return to Krondor
Betrayal in Antara is very similar in design and concept to the previous Sierra game, Betrayal at Krondor, excepting that this one doesn't have the input of Raymond Feist. Hence the story doesn't contain the familiar themes and characters that Feist fans will appreciate. The Antaran Empire (created by Peter Sarrett) is a new world to explore, however, the game engine is very similar to that used in Krondor with mouse control for interacting with the game world and supplementary keyboard control for movement. Also similar to Betrayal at Krondor there is a lot of open travel, lots of cities and villages to visit, minor quests to fulfil, and chests to open; all accomplished in the first person perspective with combat changing to a third person view. With this latest title there are improvements to the graphics, and although I have heard murmurings of discontent in this respect, I thought they were fine and did their job very well.

All dialogue and commentary in Antara is supported by text so it is perfect for anyone who relies on this feature. It is also a game for both novices and experienced roleplayers as there are three difficulty levels for the combat as well as for the complexity of game control, and these can be mixed and matched to suit all needs. In regard to the latter, you can opt for computer controlled combat, have significant locations automatically marked on the map and have spells and skills automatically organised, or you can choose to take care of all the nitty gritty yourself.

Variation on a theme
Strictly speaking, Betrayal in Antara is not a pure roleplaying game. That is, you do not create your own characters at the outset of the game, but rather you direct the story characters through their exploits. Many role playing fans will be dissatisfied with this aspect of the game but, nevertheless, it has a lot to offer.

Betrayal in Antara has an excellent mapping feature with a bank of coloured buttons you can drag onto the map to mark different locations such as shops, inns, chests, etc (if you don't choose to have this housekeeping automatically organised for you). You can also add your own notes if you like. Other features include access to a flashback menu or a library of characters listing the information they have offered relating to your quest, and an on-line manual. Though I thought that the manual could have been more comprehensive, especially for beginning players and, personally, I would have liked a few more save game slots.

Travelling around
There is a lot of hiking around to be done in this game to follow up on clues and to complete the numerous plot related quests, as well as the myriad of side quests. The overhead map holds all the answers here, but getting from point A to point B can sometimes become tedious even with the 'coach' rides that take care of the journeys for you. Movement is a little on the slow side.

As with Betrayal at Krondor there are numerous chests sprinkled about the place. Some require lock picking skills to open, whilst others pose a riddle relating to the story, so you will need to take note of conversations, or anything you have read, to gain access to these. There are also a good number of chests that are locked with a puzzle requiring the exchange of coloured beads to arrive at the correct combination of colours. I enjoyed these thoroughly. Very few of the chests are crucial to completing the game, but they do contain lots of goodies.

There are many, many side quests that are not an integral part of the story, but completing them will generally be worth your while. After completing quests some characters offer useful information, others repay your efforts with hard cash or with sundry items such as healing potions or skill enhancers. On your journey you'll need to keep your coffers topped up because there are lots of shops in which to spend your money and a fair sprinkling of 'trainers' scattered around who will improve your skills if you can pay for their services.

Managing characters
Although you don't get to design your characters for this adventure there is still some limited scope to mould them to their best advantage. In this respect each character has twelve skill categories that will increase as you gain experience. However, if you want to be sure to improve quickly in a particular area then you have the opportunity to select up to five categories for more intensive 'study'. Apart from seeking out trainers, you can also increase skill levels by diligently reading books and scrolls that you find.

The same goes for learning different spheres of magic. Once again you have the choice of concentrating on a particular sphere, but if you have opted to take control of this aspect of the game you must also remember to learn the magic spells after you have acquired the magical knowledge.

Only one character, Aren Cordelain, is a magic user in this game. William and Kaelyn are not magically endowed. There are nine chapters in all and you direct these three characters through the first three chapters before they split up temporarily. For the next few chapters you take either William and Aren or Kaelyn and her companion, Raal, through different parts of the story until they all meet up again for the final chapters.

Betrayal in Antara is an entertaining journey for anyone who likes this type of roleplaying game. It will surely please Betrayal at Krondor fans, even without Raymond Feist, although I have to say that I didn't enjoy this one quite so much. Some of the dialogue jarred a bit and, for me at least, the main story seemed to fade into the background too often, especially at the beginning of the game. This didn't happen with Krondor, but the fact that I was already familiar and, therefore, more involved with the earlier gameworld could explain this. In Antara I became preoccupied with side quests to the point that it seemed the main story started to get in the way. Personally, I would have appreciated an automatic listing of the quests I'd accepted to give the game more focus or, preferably, more quests directly related to the storyline. But, sadly, this smacks of 'linearity' and we can't have that, can we? rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
(Minimum) Windows 3.1, 486XD4/100 processor, 16MB RAM, 4X CD ROM,
20MB Hard Disk Space, SVGA, 256 colors, Windows compatible sound card with DAC (Preferred) Pentium 90 or better.