|Activision's market research department: "Our studies show that RPG players really want to play pre-teen heroes with girls' haircuts, bare, hairless legs, and little furry bootees." Activision CEO: "Well, get on it, then!"|
I was looking for something different to occupy me in between Knights of Legends's interminable battles, and I found it. Prophecy is the opposite of Knights: a fast-paced action RPG with relatively rapid advancement, limited tactics, and the ability to save anywhere, any time.
The game takes place in the Gendorian empire, ruled by a tyrant named Krellane. The unnamed hero's father was part of a resistance movement called the "Jedists," but he ran afoul of Krellane's forces and was forced to flee into the forests, where he founded a hidden town called CrissCross. The hero was raised with martial and magical training, in hopes that he would one day fulfill a prophecy and destroy Krellane. Just as the game begins, Krellane's forces have found the village. The hero awakens to the shrieks of his fellow townsfolk being butchered in the night and soon discovers he is the last survivor.
Left unmentioned anywhere in the game's documentation is who or what "Trinadon" is. The only time the word appears in the manual is in the name of a monster, a "Gendor of Trinadon."
You get no choices during character creation. After the splash screen, the game displays your characteristics, and you're launched into the middle of your village, weaponless, to meet the attacking hordes. There's only one attack option (employed with the SPACE bar), but as with all action RPGs, maneuvering is half the battle. Quick use of the number pad can help you outflank the opponent, dodge his attacks, and attack him from behind.
|Taking on a goblin near the opening screen.|
The game invites comparison with Origin's Times of Lore from the same year, but there are a lot of differences that ultimately make Prophecy much more fun. Prophecy has, in my opinion, better graphics and sound. Where Lore only allowed east/west and north/south movement, Prophecy uses all the keys on the number pad. Prophecy has a much greater selection of weapons and armor. Lore's enemies continually respawned and attacked in hordes, but Prophecy's respawn slowly and unpredictably, and generally attack one-by-one or in small groups. In Lore, there was barely any reason to fight, since you didn't gain experience levels, but in Prophecy you have lots of reasons to grind. Lore had more NPCs to talk with, and it used the Origin-patented keyword system for engaging in dialogue, but Prophecy takes pains to give more descriptions in the world itself, as you transition from screen to screen and walk up to various objects and signs. These add a lot of flavor to the game.
|Note the detailed descriptions and attractive graphics.|
Perhaps most important, while Lore was continuously-scrolling, Prophecy is organized into discrete screens, with much less freedom of movement among them. You can't just stake out in a random direction; strategically placed trees and rocks funnel you along a relatively linear path in wilderness areas, and walls constrain movement in dungeons and castles (though I allow that the game may open up later). Enemies don't follow from screen to screen, meaning that fleeing and waiting for hit points to regenerate is a viable strategy, especially since enemies don't regenerate during the same time. Modern players can speed up regeneration by jacking the DOSBox CPU speed. but rather than do that, I've been using this waiting time to write my postings and play Knights of Legend in another window.
So far, I've found the game fast-paced and addictive, with an intriguing story developing. The only thing I absolutely don't like is the action-oriented combat, in which you have to dance around trying to get on the same plane as your opponent. The difference between swings that connect and those that miss might only be a few pixels, and plenty of times I've been in situations in which my enemy could hit me and I couldn't hit him. (This has happened the other way around, though, too.)
|Action combat in Prophecy is about getting into the right position.|
Slaying foes rewards you with gold and experience. After 1,000 experience points, you move from Level 0 to Level 1, after which the number of experience points needed to move from level to level increases by 3,000 for each level (it takes 4,000 to go from 1 to 2) before maxing at 32,000 per level. There appears to be no maximum level.
There are 31 spells in the game, with effects including damage to one creature ("Fireball"; "Harm"), damage to multiple creatures ("Air Wall"; "Rock Wall"), buffing your statistics ("Battle Fury"; "Hit Point Hype"), reducing enemy statistics ("Weakness"; "Slow"), healing ("Heal"; "Cure Disease"), and incapacitating or turning enemies ("Enrage"; "Amnesia"; "Fear"). They cost anywhere between 2 and 12 spell points to cast, and all are immediately available at the beginning of the game, although you can only have 10 in "memory" at any given time (each keyed to a function key). To "memorize" a spell, you open your spell list and type the spell's "code word" into the appropriate slot. For instance, "heal" is "Harlok" and "harm" is "BaeHarlok." The neat thing is that while typing in the code word, you can add one of four prefixes to the spell's name to increase its power (and, thus, its spell point cost) by various magnitudes. So while "Millmeta" (blade missile) normally does 1-10 points of damage and costs 3 spell points, "Parmillmeta" does 2-20 points and costs 6 spell points, and "Sunmillmeta" does 16-80 points of damage and costs 24 spell points. This system allows even base spells to continue increasing in power as character levels increase.
|Adding to my list of memorized spells.|
After starting the game, I explored the devastated town and found no one alive, nor any equipment or treasure left.
|That's an abrupt transition to the final sentence.|
The path forced me to go south and defeat a sentry guarding a bridge. My unarmed attacks were nearly useless against him, but some "magic arrow" spells took care of him. Beyond him, in front of a church, was the "boss" of the opening area: a fighter named "Guthgore," who was well-armored but fell fairly quickly to my magic missiles.
In the church, I found three priests who survived the massacre and hailed me as the prophesied one. They told me to pray in the alcoves nearby. In one, I was given a quest to find the "goblin crown of mind absorption" and return it to the church; in the other, I found a teleporter that whisked me to the goblin capital city of Gobar.
Gobar was full of monsters and treasure chests, and before long I had a long list of different weapons, helms, armors, and magic items.
I died a few times and discovered that the chests didn't hold the same items as before; treasure is randomized in the game. The equipment interface in the game is fairly intuitive: you scroll to the item and choose to equip it in your right hand or left hand, as armor, as gauntlets, or on your head.
|Moebius taught me that a "YinYang Symbol" is properly called a "Taijitu."|
Some of the monsters were willing to talk to me (there are no dialogue options; you just read what they say); a few suggested they were part of the Jedist resistance. It's nice to play a game in which not all "monsters" are immediately chaotic evil.
I defeated some jail guardians and talked to the prisoners, several of whom--despite looking like monsters--were clearly good guys. One of them told me to listen carefully to what a Jedist says, "for the answers to your questions are likely to be spoken, hidden deep within the pattern of his response." The next mentioned that "The Answer Lies In Someone's Mental Astral Needs," which clearly spells TALISMAN, although it didn't seem to have any applicability to this area.
Most of the enemies in the city and palace gave me little trouble, with the exception of a wicked-looking monster guarding some treasure (the game bafflingly calls it a "kobold") and the goblin king himself, both of whom had several hundred hit points. My fortunes improved significantly when I found a "wraith dagger" in one of the chests; fighting with it transfers hit points from my enemy to me. With it, I was able to stand face-to-face with the kobold and strike fast enough to replenish my hit points even as he wailed on me.
But the goblin king was capable of devastating physical attacks that I couldn't keep up with using the dagger. I had to resort to hit and run tactics to defeat him.
|Note that I'm facing three enemies here, and there are three sets of enemy hit points in the bottom right.|
In a treasure chest with his chamber was the crown, and his bedroom, aside from additional treasure, held a letter that he had been writing to Krellane, warning the emperor of the danger of the Jedist cause.
|Hmmm...the "Jedists" oppose the "Emperor." I can't imagine where they got this idea.|
After I reached the exit with the crown, I received a message telling me to return it to its "rightful owners."
Soon I was teleported to the city of Nermon and immediately beset by guards. I killed them and knocked off for the evening.
|I just noticed from this screenshot that I got diseased somewhere. I guess I'd better cure that.|
Some other notes:
- There doesn't seem to be a way to drop equipment. I've got a lot of armor I don't think I'll ever use. I hope there's a way to sell it later.
- On the other hand, I have no idea what to do with all the gold I've been amassing--more than 10,000 so far. No place to spend it has yet emerged.
|There'd better be a store at some point.|
- The game may scale the difficulty of encounters based on the PC level. I noticed that as I increased levels, tough monsters started appearing on screens on which there had been peons before.
- Enemies can damage each other by accident, especially if they're firing missile weapons or spells. You still get the experience if they do.
- There are a lot of magic items--potions, rings, necklaces, wands, bowls--that seem to duplicate the game's spells. You have to figure out what they do through trial and error, which is dangerous because some of the items damage you.
- The game brings up a copy protection screen in between each teleportation; to pass, you have to identify a creature from its silhouette in the pages of the manual.
- Although the main screen gives the copyright date as 1988, the manual is copyrighted 1989, and almost every online source uses the latter date. My general policy is to regard the title screen as canon, which means I'm playing this a year late.
- The date isn't the only thing hard to nail down: the publisher wasn't even consistent on the title. The game box, disk images, and manual all refer to the game simply as Prophecy; it's only in the game itself that we get The Fall of Trinadon subtitle, accompanied by a I after the main title, as if the developers were planning a series of games. Meanwhile, all of the inventory, spell, and status screens in the game have the subtitle without the Roman numeral; this is the way the game is almost always represented online.
All told, Prophecy is a satisfying action RPG that provides a nice contrast to the plodding pace of Knights of Legend. It surprises me that I've never heard of it before. I look forward to playing a bit of it in between Knights battles.