Dark Sun II: Wake of the Ravager

Developer/Publisher:  SSI
Year Released:  1994

Review by Adrian Carmody (March, 1995)
dsun2.jpgOverthrow the Overlord! Repel the Invader! Conquer the Evil One! These are the aims of the Dark Sun series of role-playing games (RPG's) from SSI. The first chapter saw you end the tyrannical rule of the sorcerer-king of Tyr. Now in this second instalment, Wake of the Ravager, you may face an even tougher task.

Pick up your characters from the first game, or create more if they've become sad statistics in the Void of Lost Players, or simply use a pre-rolled party, and ready yourself for a fight. The game allows you to choose both male and female characters of all races, apart from the insectoid Thri'kreen which are all female.

Dark Sun II is here, and you'll need to interrogate, fight and navigate your way through the gaming areas of this new chapter. For those who are new to Dark Sun, you are on the world of Athas, a land devastated forever by the ancient war between sorcerers and mages. A land of sprawling deserts, twisted magics and barbaric inhabitants, reminiscent of a post-nuclear hell, where you must fight for your lives.

Water is the most precious commodity of all, and friendship is tenuous at best. Humans and their fellow races huddle in tiny cities and towns hording the few litres of water they have, and strangers are looked on in a suspicious light.

What are heroes for?
At the end of the first Dark Sun you managed to fight your way out of the slave pits of one such city, and rescue the world from the evil machinations of Tyr's sorcerer-king. You and your party are heroes.

Enter a new and unknown threat, there are rumours of a man transformed into a dragon planning to take over the world! His second in command, the Lord Warrior, has been seen lurking in the streets of Tyr, and it is rumoured he has a large following of the less moral inhabitants of the city. Only one hope remains to prevent this evil rumour from becoming fact, The Veiled Alliance! You enter the gates of Tyr, to be greeted by an earnest young woman who begs your help, and is immediately felled by a Templar's spell! You leap into the fray ...

Dark Sun II (DSII), uses a new graphic engine to create more detailed and larger character sprites and a new, well planned, set of backgrounds including town, forest, desert, mines, volcano and more.

The DSII world comprises of a stable background, or map, on which characters and non-player characters (NPC's) move. Most of the play consists of dashing from place to place to find and talk to various characters, fighting to increase your experience and spell power, and completing quests for the four basic artefacts which you need to defeat the Lord Warrior.

The character sprites are very well drawn and the whole game takes place from one viewpoint, a top-down view or eagle eye. Fighting is carried out in the same screen, and small sub-menus pop up for conversations. The interface is mouse based, and although there are keyboard short-cuts; mouse is simply the easiest way. Spells are cast by choosing one from a selection available to your character, and fighting is turn based, not a rushed click and bash approach.

The sheer number of spells available to your preservers (magicians for good, evil mages are called defilers) clerics and psionicists is almost overwhelming. Your characters will get to cast at least 6th level spells, and to play a character party with no spell casters is probably a waste of time.

There is a plentiful supply of weapons to use, ranging from the common sword to more exotic weapons like a gythka or chat'chka. Many of the weapons you find will have added spell bonuses and some will be useable only by certain classes of characters. In addition, you will find many psionicist items but to use them you need to have a pure psionicist in your group, likewise for preserver items.

The gameplay is very enjoyable and at least it is in-genre for most of the time except for one notable slip-up. There is one "arcade" sequence where you must jump across bricks and where some bricks cause others to vanish, and so on. Oh dear, jump - die - restore, jump - die - restore. There has to be a better way to extend playing time. Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common for game producers to include these arcade sequences in non-arcade games. DSII is a long game any way and it does not need an arcade sequence with which to annoy the role playing fans.

Vanishing sound
DSII supports both music and sound effects, however, despite the music being quite well composed, and generally atmospheric, it did seem to stop completely at random intervals. At these times it was common for it not to resume until a save-game had been performed. Strange!

The sound effects were quite adequate, the swooshing of swords, the scream of offensive spells, the cries of pain and crashing of armour - all as we have come to expect. There is no digitised speech, at least not in the floppy disk version, but seriously, it's no real loss.

In common with the first episode, DSII has one of the least impressive end-game sequences I've seen in recent years, and I personally like to have a little graphic reward at the end of a quest. However, the game really does shine in the gameplay area so I can forgive the designers this time.

Well planned game
To be honest, I was very impressed with this game and those of you who enjoyed the original Dark Sun will certainly appreciate the sequel. This is a game with a lot to offer the role playing fan or anybody who wants to have a look at a good, well planned RPG. Dark Sun II has a slightly different interface to other SSI games and it is a little buggy, but is guaranteed to give you an enthralling game, and take up lots of your time. rating:  

Copyright © Adrian Carmody 1995. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
CD ROM, 386DX/40 (486DX/33 recommended) 4MB RAM (8 MB recommended), 8MB hard disk space, SVGA, mouse