The CRPG Addict does not have very good hand-eye coordination. It is for this reason that I play CRPGs and not platformers. So when Zeliard started offering up series of complex jumping puzzles, I knew I was in trouble. And when I failed at the same jumping puzzle literally 47 times in a row, I knew that this was not the game for me.
It's too bad because Zeliard is a cute little game. Every level is comfortably similar. Levels feature pairs of interlocking maps. The first level had two caves: Malicia and Peligro; the third had two forests: Madera ("wood") and Riza ("crimp?"); the fourth two ice caverns: Glacial ("icy") and Escarcha ("frost"). The two maps are accessed through a series of doors. I had a hell of a time mapping these before I realized that the doors are color-coded to help you create your map. I am color blind. I can't stand games that rely on color for key elements, especially subtle variations like red and green and blue and purple, which this game uses (my wife helped me out). Seriously, would yellow, blue, white, and black have been difficult?
Anyway, each level also has doors leading to a town, with names suitable to the levels' features. The ice caverns led to a town called Helado ("ice"), for instance. In each town, NPCs give you clues as to how to beat the levels.
To get through the levels, you have to follow a deceptively linear path by going through the right doors, picking up keys, negotiating platform puzzles, and finding special items like the Hero's Crest on Level 3 and the Ruzeria Shoes on Level 4. At the end of each level is a boss beast. I fought a crab, a squid, and a chicken, and I understand the rest include a fish head and a dragon.
Each town has a slightly more powerful weapon, armor, and potion selection, and each visit to a new town rewards you with a new spell; my last was the Fuego ("fire") spell. I never got very good at casting those. I kept accidentally pounding CTRL when I went to hit ALT (the spell key), which meant that the Google Desktop search box would pop up and as I frantically tried to close it and return to the DOSBox window, the monsters would kill me. Remember: bad hand-eye coordination.
Dying causes you to resurrect with no gold (unless you deposited some in the bank) back at the first level. Fighting my way back through the first three levels was too much even for my draconian rules, and I generally reloaded when I died.
If you want a good laugh, you can watch me try and fail to get across these platforms a bunch of times before ultimately dying. Notable is how at 00:58, I manage to miss the blob with two Fuego spells and how at 1:22 and 01:40, when I'm trying to frantically jump out of the spikes, I keep swinging my sword--the "jump" and "attack" keys are nowhere near each other. But the crowning moment comes at 02:55, when having finally managed to make it across the platforms, I then still manage to just fall off. I really am this bad.
The game, coupled with a comment that PetrusOctavianus made in my review of The Bard's Tale has prompted me to think a lot about the relationship between dexterity, strategy, and probability (or luck) in computer games. RPGs almost always have a random element--that's what the polyhedron dice are for--but mostly they depend on the strategies you pursue (character development and battle tactics) to affect the probabilities in your favor. A good CRPG need not require any manual dexterity, but if it does, I guess that's what we call an "action RPG." Games that feature only manual dexterity are platformers.
I can get through most action RPGs because the dexterity part generally just involves pointing and swinging and maybe executing some kind of combo. But even if you're inept at that part, you can balance it through weapon and character improvements. If I can't seem to coordinate my attacks in Diablo II, I just need to level grind for a while and then my clumsiness is offset by greater power. But there's just no way to compensate for lack of dexterity in a jumping puzzle.
Anyway, I tried a lot more times than you saw in the video, and there were similar puzzles that kept me occupied for an hour or so prior to this. I can't imagine that they get easier as the game goes on, so I'm going to move on to the familiar comforts of The Bard's Tale III, which requires no manual dexterity at all. If you're really interested in seeing the end, a YouTube user named saberkitty119 has uploaded a full playthrough; the final two sections are here (this one includes the last combats with the dragon and Jashiin) and here (the end game text). Duke Garland saves the princess, of course, and for some reason he just saunters off into the sunset even though she clearly wants to express her gratitude in a Cinemax After Dark sort of way. And yet another game bails on the chance to feature the first CRPG romance.
Game world: Not outrageously original, but it's got a decent story (5). All character development follows the same path; you don't get to create or customize the character, there are no choices to make, and leveling basically just increases hit points and spell points (2). There are lots of NPCs who teach you about the world and your quest, but no interaction (4). Encounters and foes are of the Mario variety with no role-playing, but they do respawn so you can level-grind if you want (3). Magic and combat are action-oriented with few tactics involved even against the bosses (3). You can buy weapons, armor, and magic, and upgrading any of them is satisfying; you can find some equipment in dungeons. The descriptions that shopkeepers give of the items is a nice touch (5). The economy, based on "almas," helps you buy needed stuff, and I never hit a point where I didn't need money (5).
There is one main quest and no side quests nor any way to roleplay it (2). Graphics and sound are quite good, and the controls are fine, although I wish they'd made ESC something other than "pause"; I kept hitting it when I was trying to get out of a dialog window (5). Gameplay is very linear and non-replayable. Ultimately, I found it too difficult because of the manual dexterity issue. Younger players with better wrists might find it too easy (2).
The final score of 36 isn't too bad for a game that really isn't a CRPG. But seriously: this is the seventh game in a row whose CRPG creds are a little fishy. Time to cross into 1988 and try one that no one doubts.