Currently playing: Icewind Dale 2, Demonicum

January 10, 2017

Antharion - Review



Game reviewed: Antharion
Version: 1.1.9
Created by: Orphic Software
Released: 2015
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 6/10
Price$14.99

Antharion is a quite a large game if you count the vast landscape and continent and all the time you have to spend travelleling between its regions. For a long time I had no clue how far I had come into the mainquest and after tiring of the weak rewards for sidequests I pushed the mainquest forward.

The game does not become any better than what you experience during the first 10 hours. Everything just repeat itself. New cities with new fetch quests of these pelts, or these silver bars or these...whatever. New shops with items you can hardly afford or if you can you don´t meet the level requirements. Dungeons, caves and wells that look the same all over without specific information about them or any sense of logical layout. Just endless paths and corridors through the occasional rooms filled with enemies to kill. Your only reward is the occasional chests or doors that needs to be picked and you anticipation of high rewards being concealed. But that is almost never the case. All your good equipment come from the shops and very rarely from adventuring.

The reward for doing sidequests is ridiculously low. An experience award in the size of one of your endless random encounters and occasionally an item with very low level requirements (meaning of less use). Too bad because this could have been done so much better.








Gameworld & Story

The story is very thin and it could take many hours before you continue the mainquest with just a few more sentences of text.

Ok, spoilers ahead......

First you need to return a Codex to a strange man in the beginning. When you have done that you should seek out a woman far away in a wood and she says you must gather three fragments located on very far away places in the world. One in the ice region, one in the desert and one in the woodlands. These fragments are part of a weapon that is needed to defeat the evil which is believed have come back to this world.

When I found the fragments I returned to the woman who said they must be forged into a weapon but to get access to the forge I would need the support of the council in the region. It is ruled by four persons and I was told to speak to one particular person of them. In the capital I couldn´t just enter the council building. I needed a pass. To obtain that I hade to do a favour from the citys administrator by clearing out the sewers below. Then I looked up the councilman and he told me he suspected the three other councilmen to be corrupt and wanted me to kill them so he could be the temporary ruler and allow me access to the forge. Without much other alternatives I had to trust him and killed the other three and was then told how to get to the Scornia mines in the northwest to forge the sword. This was probably the largest dungeon so far in the game but in the end I managed to defeat all demonic evils there and forge the sword I needed. When I returned with the sword I was told where the evil lurks. Then it was just a matter of finding his lair and kill him. Well that was the short story. In reality it was the toughest battle in the game and it took me at least 6-7 tries before I succeded. I won´t tell you what happens next but I did complete the game.

The gameworld itself is quite large with thousands of screens, with perhaps a half dozen cities and hidden dungeons and caves all over the place. You have a map of the continent at the start but you will only see cities marked when you discover them. Unfortunately you cannot make any notes on it which is very bad because there are a lot of dungeons or interesting places which I would like to return to when I get a little stronger but which I probably will have forgot where they are located.

Unfortunately the gameworld with its dungeons and caves feels empty and the layout is very random. There is no texts or events that occurs anywhere just a bunch of places to discover, explore and fight your way through and hopefully you will get some more gold, loot to sell or occasionally some good items. The feeling of repetiveness is there all the time. 

Efforts to bring the gameworld more to life was better in Eschalon or the Avadon games. Still I leave it 2 points for being an open world which you have to discover.

Rating: 2

Economy

The economy in the game works best in the first half of the game. Gold is constantly scarce. Items are expensive unless you spend all your skill points into bartering which I did not. One of the most rewarding things in any game is to equip your party, sell loot and prioritize which party member will be upgraded.

There are quite many different kinds of armours, weapons and items and many of them have magical properties. The major problem I have is that they have level requirments which means that even if you had managed to get a lot of gold in low level you will never be able to buy anything really worthwhile for it and hence never get the feel of improving the party. In best case you just manage to barely stay alive with the tougher opponents you meet across the continent.

Also, even when I have around 4.000 gold at level 15 there is no really valuable item I can find to equip my party with that feels worth it. For example, armour in the game is a value which you don´t have summarized on each party member and you don´t really know how it affects damage reduction, Does it decrease the damage you receive or decrease enemys hit chance ? In combat it seems every partymember receives the same amount of damage even though there is much difference in armour rating for my warriors compared to my mages.

But as said, this is something I have come to understand after 20 hours of playing. In the beginning these shortcomings with level requirments, lack of good items etc are not obvious and in general the balance is quite good because you would still need valuable gold to buy food and/or potions.

Rating: 3

NPC and Interactions

The interactions you could make in the game is very limited. Opening doors, searching crates,  barrels and similar containers and pulling levers. Well, you could also buy a boat and travel along the coastline but there are no other interactions. No puzzles, no preaussure plates and no traps.

Regarding NPC:s the system is extremely simple. Most NPC are quite boring and have nothing of interest to say. At least nothing that have any effect on the world whatsoever. Their only use is to get sidequests and those who are merchants or trainers.

You almost never have any dialogue options to choose from that will alter the outcome in anyway.

Rating: 1.5

Monsters, tactics and combat system

The quantity and variety of monsters in the game is not astounding but there are several dozen different denizens you will meet. From bandits and orcs to the fourlegged rats, frogs, wolves and bears. Then there are the exotic ones like eyestalks, beholder like creatures,  hellhounds, flesh eaters and skeletons. Some of them attack you with ranged weapons and some use magic against you. It seems they have access to the most basic spells like healing, firebolts, confusion, poison and mass damage effects.

There is no A.I whatsoever in the game. The monsters run around randomly with the only exception that they try to close in on you as fast as possible (At least the melee fighters) but it happens they get stuck in the terrain across a small pond for example and they have no idea how to get around it. So unless you have a lot of ranged party members you will have to close in yourself. Your opponents attack randomly, They don´t collaborate to take down one party member. They don´t hit the weak one first and so on. That´s too bad.

The difficulty comes from their sheer number, high hitpoints and an endless pool of mana.

Combat in itself is turn-based with a number of action points dependent on your dexterity. The tactics you  need to employ to win is to protect your healer so he/she can heal your wounded front fighters and also to take out mages first because they are very powerful. But other than that there is not so much tactics employed from standard CRPG games.

The A.I simplicity and lack of more complex combat mechanisms give this a below average rating.

Rating: 2

Magic System

Magic works pretty well. You have three different schools with less than 10 spells in each. I would have liked more to choose from. Since the game lacks any sort of manual it is impossible to know if different monster have different resistances against fire or ice for example. Each spell requires mana which is only recovered naturally by sleeping. Sleeping requires food which you most of the time find in the wilderness but not enough that you can afford to sleep between every fight. Often I only sleep one hour to minimise my consumption of food. It was of that reason I converted my black magic mage to a 2H-swordsman after 15 hours to conserve my mana for the really tough fights.

Spells can only be learned by buying spell books but requires a certain amount of skill level to use. There are no scrolls in the game so other party members will never be able to cast any spells.

Rating: 2.5

Character generation and development

Character generation is satisfying. You get points to spend on your attributes and skills. The only problem is that the lack of manual means you have no idea if there are any thresholds for the skills or if everything is increased gradually. For example. On the forums I came to the conclusion that the different lock difficulties in the game (easy, medium, hard, very hard) requires certain levels in the lock pick skill before actually giving any benefit. For example a hard lock requires at least 40 in lock pick skill. Otherwise you would always have 1% chance of success.

Apart from that you have to guess what skills and attributes you need with the help of the tooltip you get. When you level up you immediately are given 5 points to spend on attributes and 5 skill points. This is the most satisfying part of the game. Unfortunately you very seldom notice the effect of spending these points even if you put everything into one attribute or skill.

What you also could rejoice when levelling is the fact that you can use better items - that is, if you can afford them. Gold will always be a scarce commodity.

Rating: 3

Map design

All underground places like dungeons, wells and caves have irregular layouts and sizes which is very good. You have no idea how large they are since invisible borders does not exist and you cannot scroll your automap. The overland map is pretty good as well.

Rating: 3

Manual

Non-existent!

Graphics, Sound and Interface

Before I bought this game I really disliked the graphics. It felt so cartoonish. Then after playing for a few hours I forgot all about it. It is very clean and obvious what things are even tough it is simplistic. There are not many animations but it could rain and there are day and night cycles. The only effect I have noticed is that the shops are closed at night. 

The interface is somewhat cumbersome. It took me some time to get used to that you cannot use any shortcuts to go to the different characters. You click on their portraits directly or use the tab key. You could use items as shortcuts though. Overall I think the interface works pretty ok.

Sound and music in the game is taking the back seat. I never notice anything out of the ordinary. Some sword slashes and clings during combat, some rain sounds or environmental sounds but no speech or anything. There are som music played in the background but it is so anonymous so it never gives any impression. Not even the title music.

Rating: 2

Gameplay

I liked this game from the beginning. Half way through I begun to feel the repetiveness of everything since I was never rewarded enough for exploring or for doing quests. Also nothing unexpected ever occurred or something that is not obvious in the game in the first hours of gameplay. In short. No surprises at all. Still to explore the world and develop your party works well and was the motivating factor.

I have heard people complain that this game is too hard. That you will die at the hands of rats in the beginning etc. Yes combat is very hard in the beginning. You must choose your fights. There are no random encounters. All encounters are fixed and you are not forced upon them to fight. You could always leave them for later when you feel stronger. There is also no respawning in the game. I have no problem with these but I have seen many people complaining over it. Probably because they eliminated the grinding.

When you loot items and return to sell them for some gold you have this exciting feeling to prioritize what to buy for your group. Who will get a better weapon ? Or should you spend gold on better armour ? Perhaps your mage needs another spell to learn ? Or you need all money to buy food or healing potions ? The decision is yours as always.

The game reminds me of Eschalon with the difference that this is party based. It also reminds me a littel about the Avadon games but those are much more elaborate in story and quests. I bought this game on sale and do recommend it even though that it feels somewhat incomplete and empty. If they would make the game smalla but fill it with mory quality locations with texts and descriptions it would have become much better.

Rating 3.5

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2
Magic system
2.5
Character generation & development
3
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
2
Summary CRPG value
19


Gameplay
3.5




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