Return to Krondor is the official sequel to Betrayal at Krondor, a really fun game that I enjoyed when it first came out, and then again a few months ago when I downloaded it for free from the Sierra web site.
It is worth noting that there is also an interim game put out by Sierra called Betrayal in Antara. It is not part of the official Krondor series but it is a lot of fun. And if you enjoy either of the Krondor games, you will really like it.
The story behind Return to Krondor was written by best selling author Raymond E. Feist. In my book that’s all that needs to by said, but for those of you not familiar with his work, he is the author of The Magician: Apprentice and the Magician: Master, originally one book, as well the author of the Riftwar and Serpentwar Sagas.
Betrayal at Krondor was the first computer game bases on the Riftwar Saga. I don’t like to spoil the plot so I am going to limit what I say about Return to Krondor in this area, but I do have to say that it’s as good as one of the best selling books.
The game is divided into chapters, and there is a one-page introduction at the start of each chapter that is read by Pug, a character that gaming fans will remember from Betrayal at Krondor. One nice feature is that the game saves itself at the beginning of each chapter, above and beyond allowing the player to save and quick save the game at any point other than in the middle of combat.
Return to Krondor uses a camera angle view system. It reminded me a lot of Alone in the Dark and it takes a bit of getting used to, especially in the city, which is where you start. You can be walking down a street, away from the camera, and suddenly your walking right towards the camera. For the most part I got used to this in the first chapter, but every once in a while, I would have to stop and reorient myself, even later on in the game. It is a lot easier once you get out into the countryside.
There are two keys that allow you to change the camera angle, where available, and as a hint this often reveals a chest of something that you can not otherwise see. My only problem with this is that several times, when I killed a bandit, the body would fall in such a way so that I could not see it. Thus, I could not pick up his or her stuff and sell it at the store.
On the other hand, the graphics are much better than Alone in the Dark. The detail on a character’s face, for example, is good enough that you can see movement of the lips or perhaps a flash of a tooth when someone is talking to you.
Going back to the starting city for a moment, the city is divided into sectors like the poor sector, the wealth sector, or the Sea gate and you can walk around in each sector freely or switch sectors by going into the map and clicking on a new sector.
When you journey outside the city, you see a big map and you can move to certain points on the map. You may chose to explore sectors on the map or go back to the map interface. As a little hint, I strongly recommend exploring – – you don’t always find something, but when you do, it will be worth it. This is completely different from the original game where you actually walked around the countryside and the map was only for reference. I don’t have a preference between the two, as I enjoyed playing both games, I am just noting the differences.
The interface is mostly a point and click system. There are a few keys you can use to do things such as switch the camera angle, or fast keys for casting spells or picking up items at your feet. To talk to someone, you point at them and if a pair of lips pop up you can talk to them, or when you move the cursor over a door or a desk drawer, a hand will appear if you can open it up.
There are a lot more symbols that pop up when you are in combat, but I will come to that later. To view your characters statistics, spell casting page or inventory, put the cursor over the character until an eyeball appears and the click.
The statistics page allows you to view your current skill in a variety of areas from combat to spell casting. The page also tells you your experience level and how much you need for the next level. The spell casting page tells you what spells you know from the six areas of magic. And the inventory page tells you what you are currently carrying, including armor, rings, amulets, and weapons.
The inventory page is also where you can examine and identify new items that you have picked up from chests you have opened and bandits you have killed. One nice thing that has been carried over from the original is that you have a limit on what each character can carry. This makes it much more realistic and forces you to chose exactly what you want to carry with you. Character advancement is done through an experience system. Every time you fight something, discover something or talk to the right person you gain experience. Once you have gained enough experience you go up a level and your hit points and spell points go up and you get 100 points to divide up among your attributes, skills, and spell realms. This is done on a one for one basis until you reach 50 percnet then it steps up to two, three, and four for 1. What skills you can pick from is based on your class, and no skill can be raised above 30 points at a time.
The combat system is at the basic level, unchanged from the original game, but there are a lot of nice enhancements. It is the same turn based system, where a circle appears around the character who has the initiative, but this time it’s color coded so that you can tell how many hit points the character has left.
For spell casters they have added a two-circle system so that you can see both hit points by color and spell points based the size of the inner circle. The are three sections to the combat system.
The first is initiative, the character with the best initiative has the best chance to goes first. Initiative can be raised when the character goes up a level.
The next area is actually hitting the target either with a spell or with a weapon. Weapon skills are divided into classes like blunt weapons or swords, and they can also be raised when the character goes up in level.
The last thing is defense, and this is how good your character is at not getting hit by the other guy. Once again, this score can my modified as you go up in level. You can also set your character to be more aggressive, more defensive, or a balance of the two in his or her attack style.
Return to Krondor also has a variety magic spells, potions, and items, including the ability to brew your own potions. There are six areas of magic including 4 areas for mages and two for clerics or priests.
Mages use the Fire, Mind, Storm, and Change paths as well as alchemy (the brewing of potions) while priests use the Life and Divine paths. For every 10 points the mage or priest puts into a path, he or she gains one extra spell. Each spell has a different cost in magic points, thus limiting the number of times a mage can cast without rest. Priests are governed by the same system, but they also have the ability, once they run out of magic points, to use their own life force as magic points at an increased cost.
In combat there are two types of casting, quick casting and slow casting. If you try the slow casting method, your spells will always go off, but they take a lot longer to cast. Quick casting is riskier at lower levels, since your spells don’t always work, but they go off the same round they are cast, which is often very helpful. Spell casters can also cast spells off of scrolls or from wands. There are also numerous rings, amulets, armor, and weapons in the game that have good and bad magical properties.
The final aspect of the magic system is potions, and there are a variety of potions including healing, armor repair, spell point rejuvenation and many more including poisons that you don’t want to consume– trust me on that one.
Almost everyone you fight, and in many of the chests, you will find potions. But the neatest thing is the ability to brew your own potions. You have to buy the right equipment and ingredients and then with the right recipe you can brew your own potions. Recipes can be found within the game or you can try your own experimental brews. Brewing each potion takes about four game hours. This is a very cool and nice addition to the series.
Chests are handled a lot differently then they were in Betrayal at Krondor. Many of you will remember walking around the countryside randomly finding chests with a riddle on the front that you had to solve to open the chest.
I was a little upset when I realized that Sierra did not include riddle chests in Return to Krondor, as this was one of my favorite aspects of the game. Once I recovered, I began to check out how they did handle chests, and I found a system that I had never encountered before.
Instead of a simple skill check on the part of your character, you the player are directly involved in the success or failure of opening the lock. Once you are in the chest or lock screen, you will see three sections.
The first thing you have to do is probe each section, and this is done by touching the probe tool, from your thief’s kit to each of the three spots. When you touch each one a small pendulum will appear and the objective is to click on the pendulum when it is pointing at the little zone right at the bottom.
If you are successful, that area will reveal a section of the trap. Once you have all three sections revealed you need to select the right tool for each job, either a ratchet, a cutter or a lever. The same pendulum appears and the size of the section that you can stop on the pendulum is dependent on whether you picked the best or the worst tool for the job. Once you have solved a particular type of trap, the game records the best tool choice you have made up to that point. For those players that don’t like this, Sierra has included a skill check system and you can switch between the two systems at any point during the game by opening the options menu. I like the lock system, but it’s nice to see Sierra realized that not everyone will and made changes.
Return to Krondor takes some getting used to, but I strongly recommend that you give it some time. I started playing with some preset expectations, and I was a little disappointed, especially with the chests. But once I got over it, I had a great time playing the game. The soundtrack by Voice of the Arts is really great too. The music really fits with the game.
Return to Krondor has many of the old features that made the original so popular, but much improved. I had no trouble getting into the plot, and my only real problem with the game is that the interface– and especially the camera angle system– takes a bit of time to learn. Other than that, Krondor would have gotten a perfect score. As it stands, the latest sequel in this most excellent series brings home a respectable 4 GiN Gems.