I hope you like the opening screenshot there because it's the only nice-looking one you're going to see for the duration of Phantasie III. It's from the Amiga version. I had to use it because some sort of corruption afflicted the only abandonware DOS download I could find, giving an error upon starting the game and entering towns (and doesn't display the town graphic). It still seems to save and everything else works okay. But the game is still reliant on the CGA standard and is a bare step up from monochrome.
Now, I can already hear you saying, "CRPG Addict, we warned you about this. Way back in your first posting, Gooberslot told you that you'd be missing out on the best version of many games. Just play the Amiga version for the love of god!" And I basically agree with you, except that I'm almost out of the "DOS version sucks" era, I really don't feel like learning another emulator (not to mention another OS), and if I start using other emulators now, I have no excuse for not having played Questron or, for that matter, Phantasie II.
Everything I've read about Phantasie II (by way of uncomfortable segue after not really dealing with the issue) suggests that it was so similar to the first game that SSI didn't even bother to write a separate manual. The only gameplay addition was that players could now throw rocks. The villain in that game, by the way, was again Nikademus, and it had something to do with an orb.
As the back story to the third edition opens, a nameless adventurer strides into an inn in the town of Pendragon on the continent of Scandor, where the innkeeper informs him of the menace presented by...wait for it...Nikademus. Seriously, SSI? I know it's been a while, but let me refresh your memory: the player kills Nikademus in both Phantasie and Phantasie II. Under what possible logic is he alive? He's like the Freddy Krueger of CRPGs, just showing up again, with no explanation, despite having been conquered by the hero in the last installment. Did you have trouble thinking of a name? There are lots of great villain names even among the other Pharisees alone. How about Gamaliel? Shammai? Yohanan ben Zakkai? Okay, that one doesn't work. [Much later edit: 5 years after I won the first Phantasie and 4 years after I played this game, an anonymous reader corrected a longstanding misapprehension: you don't defeat Nikademus in the first game; you defeat the Black Lord, leader of his Black Knights. Moreover, you don't fight Nikademus directly in #2, either. Thus, my gentle ribbing of SSI was unwarranted.]
Continuing with the story, the absurdly enthusiastic adventurer...
...headed off to the guild to assemble his party.
We needn't linger to long on character creation, which hasn't advanced terribly since Phantasie, which I covered last April. There are six key races (humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings), with the attribute bonuses you would expect, plus the option to choose a "random" race and get a gnoll, goblin, kobold, lizard man, minotaur, ogre, orc, pixie, sprite, or troll. These beasts excel in one statistic or another but can only be fighters or thieves and end up paying very high training costs because of racism. Non-beasts can also be monks, priests, rangers, and wizards. Ultimately, all character classes can cast some spells, but of course some are more efficient than others. Character attributes are the standard selection of Dungeons & Dragons stats, minus wisdom.
I like to experience a bit of everything, so my motley party consists of:
- Macabeu, a human monk and nominal "leader" of this revolt against Nikademus
- Ezra, an elf wizard and part-time "scribe"
- Koziba, a dwarven ranger
- Joseph, a gnomish priest from Arimathea
- Antonin, a halfling thief
- Hyrcano, a minotaur fighter
Characters start off with a randomly-assigned "social class" that indicates how much gold he or she receives from leveling. There are supposedly four levels: peasant, laborer, craftsman, and noble, but all of my characters are either peasants or laborers. It's a very working-class party.
|The game world. Your party is represented by a horse's head. I guess that's better than the alternative.|
The characters start off with decent amount of equipment, but no gold, so the only thing to do is head out the door on the adventure. The manual suggests the first place to visit is the Pendragon town archives, just south of Pendragon, so that's where I went. The dungeons work much as in the first game, which I indicated may have been the first game to slowly reveal the map as you explore.
|Joseph is having a little trouble getting around right now.|
Having explored some of the wilderness and the first dungeon, these are some "upgrades" to Phantasie III from the original version:
- All characters have bows. My ranger started with a "short bow," but everyone else has a "self bow"--I assume that means they just throw things?
- Combat is a little more complicated. It takes place on two screens--one where you line up your actions for the round, and one in which you see the actions' results. The same core actions from Phantasie are here: thrust (one solid swing), attack (two medium swings), slash (three or four light swings), lunge (attack in second rank), and cast a spell. But new abilities are the options to fire a bow (at any rank), and carefully aim an attack at a monster's vital area (that would be his head or torso, snickerers).
|He should go into theater.|
- In addition to hit point damage, both monsters and PCs can take bodily injuries, a feature that I believe first showed up in SSI's Wizard's Crown. These injuries include simple injuries, breaks, and amputations. Thus, you can have the odd sight of a character with all his hit points but missing both legs. Breaks and injuries heal through rest and spells, but amputations can only heal through high-level spells and potions.
I like the injury system because of the realism, the additional tactics it brings to combat, and the fact that seeing "orc is decapitated!" never gets old. Unfortunately, on my first trip out, Joseph the priest lost both of his legs and Hyrcano the Minotaur lost one of his legs. I don't have high enough spells to heal them, and none of the towns in the starting area sell high-enough potions. A lesser role-player might just ditch the disabled members and replace them, but I'm not as cruel as that. Thus, my first mission in the game is not to explore the first dungeon but to find a town that sells at least a Healing Potion 7 so Paul and Hyrcano can walk again.
I will be playing Phantasie III side-by-side with NetHack, so expect postings on both over the next week or so.