Thursday, June 24, 2021

Game 416: Perihelion

 
If "perihelion" is meant literally, things are about to get better for this planet.
       
Perihelion
Hungary
Morbid Visions (developer); Psygnosis (publisher)
Released in 1993 for Amiga
Date Started: 20 June 2021
     
Perihelion certainly makes a good first impression. I haven't quite decided if it's a New Thing or the Same Thing with a New Skin, but either way, it starts strong. It's creepy, bizarre, and atmospheric, and it kicks off with one of the best cinematics we've seen in CRPG history so far.
   
The setting is, I guess, fantasy cyberpunk. That is, a cyberpunk aesthetic but in a fantasy world rather than the future of our world. The backstory is confusing as hell, but in a good way--one that begins with questions and blanks that you trust you'll fill in as the story goes along. (Think Might and Magic, but if the author took his own game seriously.) As best as I can tell, it takes place in a land called Perihelion, ruled by an emperor named Rex Helion the 27th. It is a post-apocalyptic empire on a sunburned world, ravaged by wars involving "Bionecrons" and genetically engineered creatures. "Gods" are visible pools of energy with mysterious goals.
  
Not only is the writing good, but the audio that accompanies it is absolutely bone-chilling.
        
As the game begins, an initiate at the Psyonic Training Institute has had a vision (the "prophecy" of the game's supposed subtitle) of a malevolent extra-planar being called the Unborn, "an intelligent manifestation of the Entropy," forcing its way into the world. A version of the prophecy is read in a chilling voice in the game's opening cinematic, which you must watch. The Psyonic Council informs Rex Helion, who takes it seriously enough to greenlight Project Awakening--the growth of six genetically engineered super-soldiers who can protect the world from external threats ("six souls to defy a god"). The opening cinematic seems to relay the perspective of an agent of Emperor Helion, some time later, after the demon's invasion has begun. Alien creatures are tearing their way in from another dimension, solar flares are scorching the world, and people are experiencing "horrible genetical distortions." The agent travels to the Sandstorm Citadel to complete the Awakening.
     
A "messenger's log" appears one line at a time over beautiful graphics.
         
The story thus segues to character creation. Other than humans, races are original to the game. Bionecrons are a god-created race that fuses humans with "organic metal," giving the metallic skin, rapid healing, and psychic powers. Cyberns are humans implanted with cybernetic technology. Symbions are half-human, half-Bionecron, with prophetic powers. Khymeras are genetically engineered human hybrids with insect, reptile, or feline stock, all with (supposedly) superior senses and reflexes. For Cyberns, Symbions, and Khymeras, you can specify the percentage of human vs. animal DNA.
     
Classes are partly limited by race, although as usual, humans can be anything. Available classes are knight, mercenary, assassin, mediator, psionic, and anchorite. I'm guessing that they basically correspond with paladin, fighter, thief, bard, mage, cleric of a typical fantasy game. 
 
The agent arrives at the Citadel.
       
That brings us to the first issue. The manual is awful. It walks you through the game's screens but tells you nothing about its classes and attributes, and it's very thin on races and alignments. Normally in such situations, I wouldn't eschew a little online help, but I couldn't find anything for this game (aside from a commenter's recent warning that I needed at least one knight, mercenary, or assassin, and one or more characters with strength, dexterity, and intelligence above 85).
   
You can re-roll the game's attributes as long as you want. There are six physical attributes and five mental attributes, all on a scale of 1 to 100, but affected by race. I spent a little time recording minimum and maximum roles for attributes for each race. (Class doesn't seem to matter.) When I recorded enough values, it seemed that the minimum value always ended on a 1 (e.g., 21, 31, 41) and the maximum value always ended on a 0 (e.g., 80, 90, 100), so I assumed that was always the case. The results are a little confusing, as Bionecrons (who are supposed to nave natural psionic abilities) are almost universally highest in physical attributes while humans are almost universally highest in mental ones. That makes the other races of questionable utility. However, it's a bit more complicated because you can adjust the percentages of the hybrid races, and I only recorded the values for a 50/50 mix. There are also secondary (derived) attributes like physical and ranged attack and defense, plus resistances like radiation, electricity, and mental influences. It was a lot to take in, and character creation took me hours.
     
My table of attribute minimums and maximums, and available classes by race.
     
In addition to race, class, and attributes, you choose alignment on a 9-point scale from "extremely positive" to "extremely negative." According to the manual, your alignment determines what god you worship, although sometimes you have to choose explicitly from names like "ChromePanther," "WhisperDance," "Neon," and "Toxic Waste." There are some alignment restrictions that make sense (e.g., assassins can only be "neutral" or below) and some that don't (e.g., anchorites can only be neutral and worship "Lavender"). You also choose character portraits from a limited selection based on race. Despite a lot of choices otherwise, you can't choose sex. All characters appear to be male.
     
Creating my human psionic.
        
I figured I'd try one of each class and almost one of each race for my first party and came up with this:
     
  • Castellar, a Bionecron knight, extremely positive worshipper of ChromePanther
  • Jokerman, a Cybern mercenary (60% cybernetic), moderately positive worshipper of no one
  • Constantine, a Symbion assassin (65% Bionecronomic), moderately negative worshipper of no one
  • Skeena, a reptile Khymera mediator (65% human), obviously positive worshipper of Morphium
  • Aldhabi, a human psionic, extremely negative worshipper of no one
  • Yu Mincho, a feline Khymera anchorite (50%), neutral worshipper of Lavender
    
Gameplay commences so fast after character creation that I missed some of the message, but it went something like this:
    
After leaving the citadel, the party sets forth across the map. The wind brings noises of alarm signals and explosions from the distance. You suddenly realize that the Citadel is dying in the ruthless grip of that mysterious, dissolving power which is now obviously sensing you and will spare no effort to pursue you, until the end. But presently, you're alone with a SandGlider unit in the middle of the desert, totally puzzled and not knowing where to turn. Maybe the only useable information you have is that last file entry on your NetStation.
    
The overworld map is presented in an oblique view. Movement across it is odd. You can't just go in any direction. Instead, you move in fixed distance intervals across fixed paths. Starting at the Citadel, for instance, hitting "west" moves me along a western track immediately to the city of MidLight. From MidLight, hitting "west" moves you northwest towards a forest; hitting "north" moves you northeast towards a lake. The point is you're moving between fixed waystations rather than free roaming. As you reach each location, you can hit the question mark icon to learn its name, the arrow to approach it, and the third icon to cancel your approach. There's not much else to do on the screen. The spinning globe doesn't seem to be interactive. 
        
You can only move across the map from one fixed waystation to another. I've annotated them with white dots. If you reach the edge of the map, it scrolls to a new screen.
       
I moved the party to the city of MidLight and got another long message as I approached:
   
After a short but tiring climb in the rust-colored sand, you finally reach the top of a small dune. As you let your eyes adjust to the eerie sunlight, a majestic sight appears in front of you and immediately takes your breath away: You are facing the ancient city of MidLight, a memento of the vanished past in this decaying, damned present. In a strange mood, you decide to advance towards the once-so-powerful metropolis, which is nowadays only a haunted shade of itself. The pollution, the crime, and the Bionecron Wars have taken their toll.
      
I don't care for the game's way of delivering messages with scrolling text across the bottom of the screen. It makes it difficult to read and even more difficult to capture. Sometimes I don't even notice it's happening until halfway through the message.
     
Approaching MidLight.
       
Transitioning to an area changes the interface. You have six options in a panel in the lower left, including psi-powers (spells), inventory, combat, NetStation, and navigation. The default screen is the same as the character creation screen; I guess you can create and replace party members from anywhere. The controls in the inventory section are a little wonky, and I'm going to have to refer to the manual again before I talk about it. Everyone came with some default stuff, so that's good enough for now.
      
The character in the inventory portrait really hams it up.
      
The oddest and most original contribution to this game is the NetStation, where you can type a variety of commands, including TALK to communicate with NPCs, ANALYZE to get statistics on whatever inventory item is in the "up in the air" slot, READ messages and files, and even LOGIN to networks and UPLOAD and DOWNLOAD things. Each command other than HELP has a cost associated with it, which discourages experimentation. A little disk drive icon with blinking lights runs in the bottom left corner as you enter commands.
      
Getting help on NetStation commands.
        
The characters start with a message on their personal NetStations called "farewell." It's from the agent of Emperor Helion's who woke them up, I guess:
     
This is the last message I can transmit to you. Remember, you're the only men who cannot be harmed by the Unborn directly, but it surely will try to find the way to eliminate you. Now you must go to MidLight. An encrypted NetCode to the Emperor is waiting for you there. You must discover it at any cost. Be quick, forget your doubts and gather all the information you can about that NetCode. My fate calls me now. Signed, Commander Ptahh, Sandstorm Citadel.
        
I'm cleaning up the English in transcribing these messages. The text is full of spelling mistakes, punctuation mistakes, and odd syntax and word choices. I assume they’re unintentional, but I have to say that they enhance the weird atmosphere of the game.

Moving through the city is done in first-person view, with hauntingly desolate graphics. Usually, turning to the side shows you a fence or wall, but occasionally you find a door. After a bit of exploration, I found an empty store in which the word "NETWORK" flashed a few times, indicating I could log in from my personal NetStation to whatever this world's version of the Internet is. (I'm basically burglarizing houses for Wi-Fi.) To log in, you have to enter a "NetCode," which I'm guessing is like a server address or something. I still needed to find the one that the message told me about, but the manual had given me a hint to another: "Norman Bates was one."
    
Moving along the city streets. The text provides a succinct description of the cyberpunk genre.
     
Sure enough, I entered PSYCHO and found myself on a network with four files: council.results, priority reports, report1, and report2. The first two wouldn't let me read them, saying only "unauthorized user." "report1" was from a Dr. Inuhealn, and it talked about a "MindCryption" that he had performed on a young patient at the order of the government. He noted that it could be decoded with "that unique necklace of imperial confidants." I assume "of" means "worn by" in this context. "report2" is from a Dr. Shamar, and it confirms some of the information in the backstory: the world is seeing a huge increase in mental disorders and DNA corruptions. I logged out, having spent 590 of my original 5,000 credits.
    
      
As we left the NetStation, the owner of the building appeared. We got another long, scrolling message indicating that we recognized from his lifeless stare that he was a veteran of the Bionecron Wars (we still don't know what this was). He had a tattoo indicating that he'd gone through a "mental modification process" that sounds like it might be the "MindCryption" of report1.
   
I switched back to the NetStation and tried TALK. I found his statement contradictory at first:
      
You're absolutely not willing to talk to anyone . . . but you'll help.
        
Despite running a "shop," he didn't seem to sell anything. I'm not sure if this game offers traditional buying and selling as such. The manual doesn't mention it. Characters have "credits," but that might just be for network stuff.

At the end of another street, we met a homeless woman with her baby, but she wouldn't have anything to do with us. I don't know if it matters which character is active during these conversations. There's no "charisma" statistic or anything like that that suggests it would have anything to do with success in NPC interactions. The woman said, "By Lavender's name, I ask you to leave me alone," so I had my Lavender worshipper try to talk, but it didn't work.
    
This is a really depressing setting.
     
The city ended up being a small 18 x 18 with worm tunnels. I got a lot of atmospheric messages as the party moved around ("the howl of a lonely dog echoes through the walls around you"; "you see military units marching through evacuated quarters"). On the east side of town, a series of messages seemed to be building to something: "From nearby streets, you can hear the shouts of a considerable crowd," and then, "You see a gathering group of some strange, suspicious-looking people." But I couldn't seem to do anything in this area, and the corridor ended in a "door with a sophisticated security system." 
     
My map of the city.
    
You've seen the effective visuals so far. I should also mention the incredibly atmospheric music, which straddles the line between "music" and "background sound effects." It's sparse, weird, and effective, but also a bit too brief and repetitive. For instance, the exploration theme in citadel is only six measures, five notes, and about 18 seconds long. But it has some whirring and hooting mixed in that give it a creepy vibe. I'd still probably turn it off if I could, but the game doesn't give that option. The other sound effects are sparse but generally well-done, with beeps and buzzes as you access various buttons and a constant mechanical hum in the background.
   
I took one last scan through the documentation before I left the city and realized I'd missed another dialogue option: ASK. This allows you to enter keywords. I still couldn't get anything out of the mother with the baby. The Bionecron was gone from the first shop I explored, but I found an old Cybern in the second shop. In response to NETCODE, he didn't know the code for the imperial network, but he gave me two others: INDIGO and GLOBAL. INDIGO turned out to be the Institute of Sciences; GLOBAL was just "Global NetStation." Between them:

  • A "genetic report" from a Professor Dyorall marvels at the Unborn's ability to mess with the DNA of intelligent life forms.
  • Magister Gemma from the Mediator Council reports that it's been harder to establish contact with the gods, especially the "low-reactivity" ones like Morphium or the Toxic Waste. 
  • Adeptus Praesepe of the Psionic Institute reports that they've had to cancel training because the amount of mental energy needed to perform common spells is killing the recruits.
  • A "citymap" uploaded by Prince Alphard, Regent of MidLight, confirmed my map of the city.
        
I don't know why it's stretched so much north and south. The city is a square.
     
  • Prince Alphard issued an EMERGENCY STATE alert for MidLight, imposing martial law.
  • Lieutenant Zhook reports two storm-trooper units were destroyed 70 miles out of MidLight.
    
As before, there were several files I couldn't read because I was an "unauthorized user." But looking over my notes and inventory, I realized that we're all "imperial confidants" who are wearing the necklace described in the report. I spent ages lurking around that first shop trying to get the Bionecron to reappear, but I had no luck. I don't know what triggers their appearance or disappearance.
   
While I couldn't find the shopkeeper to use the necklace, it did oddly work on the baby. Apparently, someone had implanted some information in his brain. When I used the necklace, the game said that the baby looked at us and communicated ASYLUM, then fell asleep. I assume this is the name of the imperial network. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to log on to it, because both shops (the only places with Wi-Fi) were "brutally looted and closed" after this encounter. I decided to try one more time at the locked shop, and this time something happened as I approached.
      
I stumbled into a street riot led by followers of an extremely negative god. I tried to talk to them, but they insisted on fighting. Battle commenced.
     
One of my characters takes aim at a marauder.
   
I hadn't really known what to expect from combat, since the manual doesn't have any screen shots. I had frankly expected something derived from the Interplay line, as the exploration in the game had reminded me of The Bard's Tale or Antares. Instead, I found my characters on a top-down tactical map. Combat is turn-based, with characters choosing ranged or melee attacks or defenses, spells, and other actions. I haven't even begun to look at spells yet.
     
Even the "full party death" screen is pretty cool.
    
There were about 10 marauders with guns and 3 priests with spells, and they just massacred us. I think I only killed two of them. So we'll close it here and pick it up next time with a more thorough analysis of combat and magic. It's a weird, fun, eerie game so far, and for the first time in a long time, I feel quite out of my element. If anyone reading has experience with the game, I'm happy to take tips or comments on anything I've already messed up.
     
Subtitle or section title?
      
A quick note on the title: Most sites call the game Perihelion: The Prophecy. The subtitle does not appear on the box or manual. The closest is a tagline on the box that asks, "Will the prophecy be fulfilled?" I think the idea that The Prophecy is the subtitle comes from a screen that appears after the title screen. It does indeed say "The Prophecy." However, I interpret it as the title of the cinematic that follows, not as the subtitle for the title on the previous screen, if that makes sense.
  
Time so far: 5 hours
   

68 comments:

  1. So much of the description here seems hauntingly familiar. It seems like it is drawing inspiration from a lot of existing works, but remixing them in a wholly original way.

    Strange that it is so obscure, though the lack of a DOS port at this late date may play a part in that.


    The complaint about the music - that it fits well but is simply too short a loop - is likely a first from you, which is a point in the developer's favor.

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    1. Yeah... The somewhat grimdark setting, A race called (Bio)Necrons clad in "living Metal", the birth of a cosmic entity causing a cataclysm, an emperor of spacefaring humans with godlike quality, and "entropy" often being used as a synonym for Chaos... I get acute Warhammer 40k vibes from some of these descriptions, with a bit of Cyberpunk 2020 tossed into the mix. I wouldn't say the developers cloned the setting or outright stole ideas, but it feels like they were intimately familiar (or at least aware of) certain tabletop RPG trends present at the time. It certainly feels something like an interesting remix of these works at the very least.

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    2. I was thinking of the AD&D Dark Sun setting myself, with some Shadowrun mixed in.

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    3. I got a Dune and 40k vibe out of it

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    4. Necrons didn´t appear in 40k before December 1997, in White Dwarf 216. So this game may in fact have been one source of inspiration for Games Workshop´s Necrons, among Cylons, Terminators etc.

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    5. It helps that the music is non-melodic. It's a rare game soundtrack (at least through this era) that enhances what's on the screen without competing with it. Maybe my opinions about game music will change as the soundtracks themselves grow in complexity and better learn to "read the room" instead of just offering the same looping melodies.

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    6. Necron as a fantasy term predates both this game and 40k. That being said I'm getting strong Warhammer and Mutant Chronicles vibes from this game (both settings owe a lot to Dune).

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    7. Dune is certainly an inspiration, but art and background reminds me of Heavy Metal / Metal Hurlant, with a strong dose of John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. I'll be watching this one with interest.

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  2. "There were about 10 marauders with guns and 3 priests with spells, and they just massacred us."

    Don't worry, the first fight is so hard that it was even considered some kind of copy-protection :-)

    I finished the game almost seven years ago so I have to use my notes on oldgames :-)

    https://www.oldgames.sk/en/game/perihelion/comments/

    In this fight the winning tactics was to stuck enemies behind the corner and wait (enemies were totally clueless and either stopped walking or walked one square in some direction and one square back). During waiting characters got better according to their actual actions in the combat (STR when melee, PER when shooting, STA according to rounds passed and CON when casting).

    Try not to reach STR 3000 though. The value then overflows and given character is so weak that is unable to carry the important object later on.

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    1. Yes, the training system can be exploited and 7-year old me had great fun walking back and forth and boosting speed up to 10000 or so. But I'd consider this cheating, the battle can be won without such exploits. You should invest in spells, though.

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    2. I remember using the same tactics when I played the game years ago (exploiting the poor AI to train my characters to high stat levels), although I'd consider that borderline cheating.

      In a way the first combat *is* a kind of copy-protection, in the sense that it is way easier to win with the right spells and (as befits the game's overall style) the spell system is rather weird, definitely hard to make sense of without the manual. Of course I played a pirated copy of the game back in the 90s, but you could find the spell list in game magazines along with walkthroughs.

      I don't want to spoil too much, for now I'll just write that the game is definitely very unique in style, one of the most memorable games of my childhood :).

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    3. I'll second everything written here. The first combat is quite possibly the hardest of the entire game. It's a testament to the determination of youth - and the atmosphere of the game which was unheard of - that I kept retrying it over and over again. I, too, didn't have the manual as it was a copied game (although this one I'd have loved to buy if it had been possible to find it anywhere).

      Spells is the key to this combat and I think I tried every combination of classes and spells trying to come up with a winning combination with no manual to rely on.

      That said I found melee to be surprisingly effective when backed up by the right spells.

      And it's entirely doable without cheesing the stat progression which imho would destroy the entire game. It gets too easy as it is later on with a strong party even with no cheese.

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    4. Well, I feel a bit better, thanks. It's taken me a lot of tries, but I think a combination of spells and pathfinding tricks is going to get me there.

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  3. I can still remember the screenshots from the magazines I read in 1993. Very spectacular back then, and still memorable now. Still, I never ended up playing the game. You have to do it for me, I guess. The reviews, IIRC, were solid, not as good as the graphics. Let's see where it doesn't quite work.

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    1. It's too easy and it's too short. And the story - while amazing in parts - suffers from the bad translation even as the atmosphere gains from it :)

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    2. I haven't played it either because there's no DOS version and Amiga emulation was always a little daunting. But I recently found a convenient installer on archive.org that installs the game along with an emulator, and can then be started right from the Windows start menu. I might play that one alongside the Addict!

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  4. Well this is a fascinating find, with very intriguing art! Looking forward to what the rest of the game is like.

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  5. This games gives the same vibes as Reunion. A space strategy game, also from Hungary, but from entirely different developers. Reunion had great art style, electronic music, and a must-see intro.
    Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOuhoS9udH0
    The gameplay itself was good enough. But the manual was lacking, just like in Perihelion's case. The worst thing is that the game was riddled with bugs. It can be won, but it is a luck-based mission, so to say. All this turned a promising game into a beautiful oddity much more enjoyable to look at then to play.

    I fear that Perihelion might turn out to be the same.

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    1. I remember playing Reunion as well and being stunned by some of the graphics (e.g., when landing on a desert planet). And yes, the gameplay was buggy, for example it was possible to get stuck in a dead-man-walking scenario without the game giving you any hints on what you did wrong.

      Somehow quite a few of Amiga games I remember were like that - beautiful graphics and sound, general "cool factor" and at the same time less than polished gameplay... Ishar 1 and 2 are a good example, I'm pretty sure Chet will have the same complaints when he gets to Ishar 2.

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    2. Sylmaris is the master on this, not only the Ishar games but also both their actions and strategy games like metal mutant, targhan, windmaster or transactica.
      Btw targhan is a playable character in Ishar 1

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    3. By windmaster you probably mean Storm Master.

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    4. Ishar 2 still has less walking dead scenarios than EoB2

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    5. IIRC Perihelion does not suffer from randomness. And I don't recall game breaking bugs either. It does suffer from the translation.

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    6. @Kasper: there is no "translation" as there was never any non-English original; suffers from more like non-native level proficiency of developers.

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  6. BTW, the game was made by three high school students. That may explain a lot of "over the top" quality of the game's writing.

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    1. Damn, this was made by high school kids? Was every other Amiga game made by kindergartners or something?

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  7. I went back through my copies of The One Amiga to see if they had any tips, and indeed they did, in the July 1994 issue. It doesn't look like there are any spoilers, it seems to mostly be stuff you'd expect to find in the manual. There are scans of the pages here:

    http://amr.abime.net/review_38096

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  8. The Amiga was kind of a "cult" computer here in Hungary.
    Due to trade restrictions, Commodore computers came in quite late, but they also became hugely successful (despite still being expensive for a local wallet).
    The c64 had a really long lifespan here (the adventure/rpg/buggy mess of a game, "Newcomer" came out in 1994!), and when the amiga followed, it was considered to be the "big kid's plaything". It was quite popular with university students and such, though it was expensive, and it also came a little too late.
    Of course, IMB compatible PCs quickly took over, so everything Commodore went out of fashion by 95 (there was also a weird business deal with Enterprise computers, which is a whole different can of worms).

    Anyway, artist and lead dev Tóth Edvárd uploaded a a "ready to go" package of the game to his site in 2008 (haven't try this one, but it probably works).
    https://edvardtoth.com/games/perihelion/

    I've never beaten this game (as only one friend of mine had an Amiga and we only had so much time to play it), but I recall a the battles taking a really long time (unless you get slaughtered, that is). This, and another aspect reminds me somewhat of the Arcania titles: "lifted" npc and monster portraits. Maybe the originals come from books and magazines that were popular mostly here and nowhere else, as I didn't see anyone else pointing this out.

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    1. Toth also mentions the primary influences on the game, a painting by John Harris and technical death metal. This actually makes a lot of sense, since a lot of death metal was moving onto weird horrifying stuff like that at the time. If not lyrically, then on their cover art. Nocturnus, the group he mentions sings about up a lot of stuff that sounds like it was inspirational for this.

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    2. "Tóth Edvárd" is a pretty "metal" name.

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    3. John Harris as an influence makes sense, although I wouldn't have been surprised to hear Brom or Giger, either.

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    4. Not just in Hungary; the home computer scene was strong in the UK too up until probably around 1994-5. Consoles (aside from maybe the Mega Drive) didn't make a huge splash here until the PlayStation, and PCs only started to become a contender once they started to outperform the likes of the Amiga.

      Home computers like the Spectrum and C64 dominated, and then some people upgraded to the Amiga and (to a lesser extent) the Atari ST. The C64 was still relevant up until 1993 or so in the UK, which is only two years away from the launch of the PS1!

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    5. While the Edvard Toth spreadsheet is quite handy, it refers to the Runes by number instead of by symbol. To make it more understandable at a glance, I've updated the spreadsheet with a Perihelion Runes Font. That Perihelion Runes font can be downloaded here:
      https://fontstruct.com/fontstructions/show/1965097/perihelion-1

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  9. A visually stunning game with a strong and unique vision, methinks. Looking forward to further entries, hope you get some fun out of this one...

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  10. "The character in the inventory portrait really hams it up."

    So this angry-looking bad-ass metalhead is "Castellar, a Bionecron knight, extremely positive worshipper of ChromePanther"
    If “extremely positive” people look like that, I wonder about the appearance and attitude of “extremely negative” characters in the game world? Sure, I know that this is a generic portrait in the inventory screen. However, you, and the religion in the game, have made my day. I am trying to imagine what you are supposed to do as an extremely negative worshipper of “Toxic Waste”? Throwing away old batteries instead of recycling them?

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    1. Going to the toilet without flushing.

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    2. Always chooses fast food when it's his turn to cook dinner.

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  11. It is an oddly remarkable experience to be constantly told about riots, crowd marauding the streets etc. and at the same time seeing only empty, bleak corridors.

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  12. That character portrait of the human psionic is so Amiga it hurts. He looks like he should be strapping on a helmet and playing Speedball 2. The scrolling text looks like it's from Gods. I'll bet dimes to dollars this game has a bitchin' soundtrack. Aww, it doesn't. All the signs were there.

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    1. It has amazingly atmospheric ambient sounds though.

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    2. The artist must have been very fond of Speedball 2's character portraits by artist Dan Malone:

      https://www.mobygames.com/game/amiga/speedball-2-brutal-deluxe/screenshots/gameShotId,117249/

      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/9f/6d/9b/9f6d9b92da827a045d4b4508803aeaa6.jpg

      Well, there's no better source for inspiration in my book, Malone is my favourite pixel artist. And just now I've remembered for the first time in years that I used to draw my own Speedball star player portraits on 8x8 cm notepad paper when I was a teen.

      Regrettably there are very few screenshots online that have the original Amiga monitor's scanlined look, which is the medium the graphics were made for. There are some in this art book:

      https://readonlymemory.vg/shop/book/the-bitmap-brothers-universe/

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  13. I can totally see some of the artworks airbrushed on a truck

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  14. Tried it and found it totally impenetrable.

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  15. Extremely atmospheric game, but unbalance matches atmosphere: AFTER the first combat you are unlikely to face any similar challenge since, as already commented, the experience system turns your characters into demigods. Still worth the ride, tho, IMO. Nevertheless, a few spoiler-free hints I can remember (played it on Amiga 20+ years ago) :

    . Spells must be prepared in advance, the (iffy) manual explains it. Their actual effects can be read directly in-game with the "analyze spell" option available from PSI Powers menu. Spells help a lot and you definitely want some for the first combat. I suggest Uranium Warp, Life-Force Drain and Black Frost. On Edvard Toth´s site, already posted, you can find a spreadsheet with stat requirements for each spell.
    . Besides spells, whenever possible, go for melee weapons - they got extremely high multipliers.
    . Death is permanent ... if one of your chars die, I strongly suggest reloading right away.
    . You can download text documents you find on networks. At least a few of them contain information you'll need later, but those should be obvious (I had no alt+tab to notepad back when I played it. Heh).


    P.S. - first comment here, glad if this can help at all: 45yr gamer, discovered your blog a few months ago and been binging since then. Love your writing!

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    1. Oh I remember Uranium Warp now. That spell carried me early on. Quickly you get extremely powerful. Didn't know about the melee multipliers but I do recall my melee dudes ripping enemies to shreds.

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    2. I'd advise against Lifeforce Drain or Temporal Leprosy, very unbalanced spells that make combats too easy.

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    3. I hope Chet will try out Temporal Leprosy though - I am intrigued to know what it does!

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    4. The spell names are more interesting than their effects. It just decreases the vitality (hit points) of enemies.

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    5. "Lifeforce Drain" seems to do the same thing, but it has more methods of targeting and it can be used by different classes.

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    6. Thanks for the tips, DarkMage. I'll try to figure things out myself before using the sheet, but it's nice to know it's there.

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  16. The graphics of this game are stunning. The post-cyberpunk vibe (apocalypsepunk?) comes through clearly. Bionecrons seem to be lifted wholesale from Warhammer 40,000, but no matter. It also reminds me of the setting for Numenera, though that came out much later.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. The game is older than Necrons in 40K so any lifting would have had to be the other direction.

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    3. But Chaos Androids, The precursor to Necrons, are older than this. Honestly probably just two companies with similar influences.

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    4. Parallel evolution of ideas *is* fairly common. To be fair, though, it's more fun to speculate about direct influences.

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  17. I hope this game lives up to its strong beginning. I might check this one out myself.

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  18. This game is a good example of the difference between "graphics" and "art". None of what the intro movie does is terribly taxing on an Amiga - the "graphics" are unremarkable in that section - but it looks so damn good because of the art of the images it uses.

    A lot of games in this era have impressive "graphics" (utilisation of hardware and software) but they haven't aged well because they don't have much art to display using their graphics.

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    1. What I really love about the art is how it uses a very limited color palette to great effect. There's only different shades of silver, orange and black. That's it. And it looks absolutely gorgeous.

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    2. That's a good point--a distinction I probably don't make enough.

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    3. The art style is very peculiar considering also the context of the graphics "sensibilities" of those years. Most the contemporary games, in particular the Amiga ones, show rainbows of colours with no ryme nor reasons, probably due to the fact that it was a technical challenge and the goal was to put as many colours as possible in the same screen. In this context, the choice to use only two colours for the whole game, is indeed very brave.

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    4. The main (boring?) reason for Amiga games showing off their graphics is because the Amigas had custom graphics chips which allowed much more impressive imagery than available on PCs of the time. It was the main selling point ("16.8 million colours" was something you'd see a lot), and rather than being a technical challenge, was more the opposite!

      Of course, what sometimes happened is that developers would forget to put a decent game behind the graphics, so there are a fair few "bimbo" games on the Amiga.

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    5. stepped pyramidsJune 27, 2021 at 6:36 PM

      I'm not normally a fan of that kind of super busy Euro/Amiga game aesthetic, and there are places here that could probably use a bit more restraint (do we really need a yelling guy in the inventory screen?), but overall this game does really have a great look to it. Even the digitized photos are well-integrated, in an era where really awful edited photos were a common aesthetic flaw in even high-budget games.

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  19. Perihelion is my favorite rpg ever, I can still recite the prophecy 30 years afterwards.
    It's not expansive, as it's linear and balanced to be strict: if you grind you can easily break your characters or become too powerful; the values for skills are coded in just 2 hexadecimal bytes, so if you go past 255 in any value the result could be -20.000 (or whatever) in a skill.
    And the interface is a bit clunky. But the rest is magic.

    Non-content hint: as soon as you start the game, click on the eye of the eagle bas-relief in the interface, for an additional text.

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  20. Wow, this looks really cool. Thanks for bringing this to light!

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  21. Psygnosis was quite (in)famous for doing games with really great graphic and sound, but really dumb gameplay. (There were exceptions, of course.) This game sound incredibly interesting, and I hope it doesn't turn out to be the typical Psygnosis game.

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    1. stepped pyramidsJune 27, 2021 at 6:29 PM

      Psygnosis published a lot of first games by tiny developers, which explains that -- it's easy to get a talented artist and a couple of programmers together with exactly no game design experience between them. The main criteria of Psygnosis (and really a lot of the Amiga game market) seemed to be "how much does this game remind the player how smart they were for buying an Amiga?" And then the same year Perihelion came out they got bought by Sony and ended up doing the same thing for the PlayStation.

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  22. I've been recording and burning video game OSTs (original soundtracks) to CD. Video game music makes for good listening while driving. I'll put this one on my list next to accompany Slipstream, Descent, Quake 2, Action Squad: Door Kickers, Satellite Reign, Fear Effect Sedna and Neon Chrome.

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  23. Did you name your party after fonts?

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