Albion - The Dark Horse of western CRPGs
Albion - a mix between Ultima and Realms of Arkania games - was released 1996 by Blue Byte GmbH.
It is a refreshing entry to the genre, mixing fantasy and science fiction elements (A bit like the movie "Avatar "). These mix leads to an interesting and powerfully written story.
You play as Tom Driscoll, a pilot from the mother ship Toronto that crashes on the planet Albion. Albion is supposed to be a barren world. Tom discovers quickly, nothing could be further from the truth: Albion is full of alien races to interact with, places to explore, rich and varied landscapes, various useful equipment and items to find. Magic and potions are available for healing and enhancement of your character's abilities.
You can build up a party with up to 5 members. Each party member has his own backpack as inventory. Each backpack is limited by the strength of the character. So you have to decide what to keep and what to sell (there are a lot of items in the game). Items can be sold in stores - the common currency is gold.
Battles are turn based, challenging long and interesting. There are a lot of options to attack and the enemies have a lot of options to attack you - be prepared. As long as one party member survives you can heal the rest of the party after battle.
In most towns and dungeons the game switches to a first person view, in outdoor areas a third person view is used. The game features auto mapping.
Interacting with the aliens is fun, you can ask everyone and your mother about many topics (listed in the dialog screen) to learn about new secrets and about new quests. The story develops through interacting with people, so you have to read and ask a lot.
The story is full of twists - but I tell you nothing here
The party members are all interesting characters, each with skills and stats that can be further developed.
Some puzzles, riddles are in the game, too.
Albion creates a fully believable alien world; you meet a lot of interesting NPCs and enemies to interact with. You find many (some unique) items to equip your characters. Character development through an interesting skill/stat/experience system is effective. Exploring the last corner of world is rewarding. There are many things, skills, spells to learn. The storyline is top notch.
Albion plays with many CRPG-elements and out comes a beautiful interesting and entertaining CRPG. I can recommend it to all Ultima, Realms of Arkania, Wizardry and Ambermoon fans. Two thumbs up!
Further details here:
Wikipedia - Albion
Characters earn experience points by defeating enemies or by solving certain puzzles. When a character has sufficient experience points they will advance in level, increasing their maximum life and spell points. They will also receive training points which can be expended at a trainer to permanently increase one or more of their skills.
Albion uses a hybrid 2D/3D graphical system to depict its environments. Most interior locations are shown using a 2D overhead view, centered on the player's party. Movement is possible using either the keyboard or the mouse, and the mouse is used to examine or manipulate objects within the reach of the party leader. A similar view is used when exploring the larger world outside the cities, but with objects and characters shown on a much smaller scale. Upon entering most dungeons, caves, and the exteriors of larger cities the game switches to a real-time first-person 3D view. As in the 2D view, players may use the mouse or keyboard to move around and the mouse is used to select objects to interact with. A 2D automap is available to assist navigation in these areas.
In both 2D and 3D areas, groups of enemies may be present. These groups are visible to the player and move in real time. Combat occurs when the party encounters one of these groups. Therefore combat can sometimes be avoided by slipping past or outrunning enemies. The combat system in Albion is turn-based and takes place on a five-by-six grid similar to a chess board, with the player's characters arranged at the bottom and their enemies at the top. At the start of each turn, the player selects an action for each character to perform: Attack, Move, Use magic, Use Item, or Flee. The order in which party members and enemies execute their actions depends on their relative speeds and is an important tactical consideration. Since attacks are targeted at a grid square rather than the character or enemy in it, attacks will miss if their intended target moves before they are made, even if that target is still within reach. The movement of the player's characters is limited to the bottom two rows, but there is also an 'Advance Party' option which moves all enemies one row towards the party.
Conversations in Albion are handled in two ways: Set Topics and Keywords. The Topics usually signify something you can specifically ask that person, for example the leader of a tribe about an object that only he knows about, or a shopkeeper to show you his or her wares. Keywords are more dynamic and may yield different results to different people. Besides being able to type them freely, you learn keywords for a particular town by speaking to people about common topics, and gradually you will learn all there is to know in the game just by speaking to people. For example, you can learn some of the native language and culture, some superfluous knowledge about who likes whom, and what kind of drink is preferable.
From The Underdogs:
Albion is a severely underrated RPG from the makers of two Thalion hits Amberstar and Ambermoon, which became instant hits on the Amiga but unknown on the PC. The game shines with a richly detailed story, a huge and well-realized gameworld, a novel use of both 2D and 3D views, and some unique puzzles that are a far cry from the normal find-a-button-to-open-door puzzles found in most RPGs. As Tom Driscoll, a pilot who crash-landed on the exotic planet of Albion, you will make many friends and foes in your quest to find the mothership Toronto. The game is truly an epic adventure that spans vast areas and cities, all of which are teeming with colorful characters who always seem to have something to say. Puzzles are adventure-game style (i.e. use items from your inventory) mixed with standard find-secret-door-and-avoid-traps puzzles. None of them is dull, however, because each building and dungeon you enter is so well detailed and differentiated from each other, that exploration is never boring. With great graphics, fun 3D combat sequences, and a truly epic and captivating plot that could make a real novel, Albion is simply a must-have for all scifi & fantasy RPG fans. Highly recommended, especially to fans of Wizardry games.