|If anyone knows how to wield a sword with "fierocity" (or, indeed, what "fierocity" means), please comment.|
Shard of Spring is a somewhat boring and trite little game that might have been good three years earlier. Although it has some interesting features, and it anticipates better games from SSI, it's primary virtue is that it's over quickly.
1. Game World. Nothing special here: an island, a Golden Age ruined by an evil sorceress, a quest for a MacGuffin. The island doesn't really have any interesting backstory or lore, just some scattered towns and dungeons. The game world does not react much to your presence. Final score: 2.
2. Character Creation and Development. A few unique elements with five playable races, including trolls, but only two character classes. No alignments, no sexes. Method of rolling attributes is challenging and unusual and the "skill" system, while a good idea, is not as good as Wizard's Crown: you can't "improve" a skill, and by the end of the game it's pretty easy to get them all, so there's no reason to have your characters specialize in just one. Leveling is satisfying and valuable. Final score: 5.
3. NPC Interaction. The game has a few NPCs, but you don't really "interact" with them so much as you step on their squares and they tell you things. You have to talk to people in bars and dungeons to get hints for the future, but otherwise no dialog, no role-playing. Final score: 1.
4. Encounters and Foes. The foes are standard fantasy fare and the game doesn't bother to describe them. Even the "monster lore" skill only tells you a few basic things about your enemies. Different monsters do have a variety of different abilities in attacks and magic, and you have to think tactically when you face them. Because the game throws a battle at you ever 33 moves (a regularity that frankly becomes annoying once you notice it), you never have to worry about running out of fights. Final score: 3.
5. Magic and Combat. Probably the best part of the game. The magic system is different and intriguing, allowing you to channel as many spell points as you want into each spell to increase its chance of success and potency. There aren't a lot of spells, but they're divided into different schools of magic that are unique to this game. Combat is very tactical, forcing you to carefully consider deployment patterns, movement distance, and enemy priority. Between the combat decisions and magic options, a lot of strategy goes into combat, and yet it's not as confounding as Wizard's Crown. It still manages to be a little boring sometimes, especially towards the end, but on the whole a strong suit of Shard of Spring. Final score: 7.
6. Equipment. A limited variety, items are not described, and the identification process (each spellcaster can only identify one item per day) is annoying. You can't sell equipment that you find. The game manual does provide tables to help you rank their relative worth. Final score: 3.
7. Economy. You get money for each battle and thanks to the high cost of healing and resurrection, you never really run out. There is otherwise not much to buy with your hard-earned cash, however. Final score: 4.
8. Quests. The main quest is banal and derivative. There are only a couple of bona fide "side quests," and neither offers much in the way of role-playing value. All quests have only one possible outcome. Final score: 2.
9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs. Bad. Monochrome and uninspired. Much better work was being done by other publishers in this era. Final score: 2.
10. Gameplay. The game is very linear and has no replay value. The level of difficulty is good, though, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Final score: 4.
Final Ranking: 33. This puts it on par with Wizard's Crown, which makes sense to me.
Matt Barton (Dungeons & Desktops, pp. 107-109) agrees with my assessment that it's "a bit crude," with primitive graphics and sound, but notes that it helped pave the way for the "Gold Box" series. If nothing else, Shard of Spring whet my appetite for Pool of Radiance. But before then, I have to get through a series of other games, starting with Starflight.