Posted by: Ben | December 19, 2010

Man vs Genre: Phantasie

The Facts

Not to be confused with Phantasy Star, this is a top-down, party based RPG from SSI, dated 1985. It had two sequels, so it must have been good. Originally designed by Winston Douglas Wood, this is the Amiga version by Katalin Majsa and Zoltan Horvath.

The Cover

We’re out of the dungeons now, and looking at an orc’s eye view of an open-air battle scene straight out of Lord Of The Rings. The central character, who’s surprisingly grey-haired, bearded and shifty-eyed, is beckoning to us, asking us to come and have a go if we do indeed think we are hard enough. He’s accompanied by a bald and long-fingernailed wizard and an unidentifiable man in a hat who could be a cousin of He-Man’s man at arms, Man-At-Arms. Behind them is a creature who looks like an enormous stone obelisk with a demonic face and a tail, on top of which stands a man who is either very very tiny or intended to show that our demon-obelisk character is considerably bigger and farther away than he appears at first. So yeah, intriguing.

The Lore

Newly arrived on the island of Gelnor, an adventurer entered the remote town of Pelnor. From the deteriorating condition of the once-prosperous shops, it was clear that things were amiss – just the place where a courageous person might seek a worthy quest.

None of the other town names on the island of Gelnor are supplied, leading the casual adventurer to the horrible suspicion that they might be called Helnor, Ielnor, Jelnor etc.

Character Building

This is one of those games where chance, in the form of the roll of a dice, is king, and in order to have any chance of success you’re expected to reroll characters until their statistics meet with your satisfaction. I say to hell with that, because I haven’t played the game yet so I don’t know what their statistics are supposed to be and because rerolling characters is cheating. So let’s take whatever comes up. I gather from the manual that I’m once again expected to take a party of six. Let’s have it.

The odd thing about the Phantasie character creator is that you have to choose your character’s race, then profession, and only then does it roll the dice to tell you what they’re good at. This ought to be a recipe for hilariously incompetent characters. It also allows the use of Random creatures – things like Minotaurs and Gnolls, which are obviously going to be a lot more interesting than Dwarves and Elves, but I’d better pick a couple of those first so that I can still have a balanced party. Here we go.

Aaron Korma II, age 14, Orc Thief

Strength 7
Intelligence 3
Dexterity 7
Constitution 6
Charisma 4
Luck 10

Chastity Korma, age 13, Kobold Fighter

Strength 17
Intelligence 4
Dexterity 19
Constitution 11
Charisma 3
Luck 9

Keema Korma XII, age 13, Human Wizard

Strength 8
Intelligence 17
Dexterity 12
Constitution 8
Charisma 12
Luck 8

Solomon Korma, age 238, Elf Monk

Strength 15
Intelligence 18
Dexterity 5
Constitution 15
Charisma 14
Luck 12

Shadrach Korma III, age 45, Dwarf Priest

Strength 8
Intelligence 15
Dexterity 3
Constitution 7
Charisma 17
Luck 12

Sam Korma, age 14, Human Ranger

Strength 16
Intelligence 18
Dexterity 12
Constitution 18
Charisma 17
Luck 10

They seem like a fine bunch of individuals. Let’s send them out into the world.

The Game

This is the cute but disappointingly static town view.

This is the bland overworld view.

This is the even more bland dungeon view.

This is the combat view. Don't expect any of these characters to go anywhere, they just stand stock still and hit each other through the power of telekinesis or something.

After buying some armour and training my magic users in the use of spells, I head off into the wilderness. To the west is an inn, to the north a dungeon. I head for the dungeon. It’s not long before I fight my first battle. It’s a group of six kobolds and four orcs. The combat system is relatively straightforward. Each character can parry, attack or cast a spell. We kill a couple and they run away, which is refreshing. A short time later we unexpectedly encounter a coyote. Sadly the coyote does not surrender and we are forced to put it down.

A few moments later we stumble into a trap. Tragically, Solomon dies. Two centuries in an elvish monastery has not prepared him for this lifestyle. Before long we are set about by a large number of orcs and kobolds, and Shadrach is killed. So is Aaron. It’s at this point that we decide to flee. On the way to the exit, Sam is slain by kobolds. So is Keema. Then Chastity is killed by orcs.

Then something incredibly weird happens.

Yes, I know.

But what's this?

Oh yeah, those kobolds are going to get what's coming to them now.

Keema, Solomon and Shadrach are returned to the world as the walking dead. And promoted to Level 20. I was not expecting that. I wonder if that’s going to make us any harder to kill?

We’ll soon find out, as we’re attacked in the night by five Bantirs. They surrender as soon as we threaten them.

It transpires that being undead and at a higher level does not make you invulnerable, but spells seem to work more often and monsters seem to be more likely to run away when threatened.

Doesn’t stop Shadrach getting killed again, though, this time by more Bantirs. Or Keema, by giant ants. Solomon just makes it out of the dungeon and is then bitten to death by a viper before he even has a chance to do anything. So the demon sends the three of us back for another go round. Now I feel so invulnerable I don’t care if I die or not, which is lucky as Keema is killed by another viper almost as soon as we re-enter the first dungeon. Then my remaining party members are killed by bloody giant ants again. And sent back. Did I mention that every time this happened we lost all our gold and equipment?

Then all three are killed by the first random bunch of Orcs and Kobolds they encounter in the woods. This is becoming desperately tedious. In order to level the odds, this time the Great Demon sends back only Shadrach and Solomon. Shadrach is promptly killed by another viper. Then Solomon is killed by a group of Rangers, which at least makes a change.

The game is screaming at me “Get back to the town and create some more characters to augment your group,” and I’m screaming back at it “No! I didn’t do it for the Bard’s Tale and I’m certainly not going to do it for you.” Then it crashes in a fit of pique.

Total play time: 2 hours

Verdict

If you’re consistently outnumbered by creatures with more hit points than you, you’re going to keep dying. And frankly it was a bit frustrating anyway. Not the best.

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