Release Date: October 2006
Platform: PC, Xbox
Note: Originally published 19 October 2006
This unique game takes me back to when graphic animated adventures were very popular. The graphics remind me of those graphics and the pixel hunts of those games. This is a good thing; since many people, including me, loved and still love animated graphic adventures.
The interface is what makes the game so much like these animated graphic adventures. When the avatar starts out, she is on a side scrolling sort of map and you move from the tent to the right where you meet up with one of her adventuring team. The scene scrolls right further to reveal the leader of your team and the first battle.
The protagonist can move anywhere in the three dimensional scene with cursor keys controlling movement. The mouse is only used in battle and when items in the environment are located by moving next to them with the cursor keys.
The mouse is an alternative to the enter key when an action in the environment is required. When you curse over to the exact spot where a screen pops up or a very small, even miniscule, icon appears next to the item, the mouse or enter key activates the item so that the protagonist can interact with it.
The protagonist is our heroine, Agavean, who is part of a small adventuring group. In the beginning cinematic the adventuring group finds a large chest of gold coins reminiscent of the chest of gold coins from the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The adventurers drink, dance and celebrate because they have finally found some worthwhile treasure. After the revelry the adventurers fall asleep except for two members of the group who steal off with the chest of coins and a jeweled pendant that Agavean is wearing around her neck.
Your mission, should you accept it, is to help Agavean find the thieves who stole the chest of gold coins and the magic pendant. Agavean will have to kill legions of challenging enemies. There are several squeeze points in the game and the most annoying is the healing of Agavean which is with potions, spells, sleeping in a permanent tent or inn or sleeping in an inventory based tent. Various shops sell the small one-use temporary tents for gold and the potions of different strengths for gold which is hard bought during successful combats.
The combat system is Japanese arena-style turn-based combat, which resembles the combat in some of the early role playing games like Pool of Radiance by Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI). Turns are determined by timed sliders which expire based upon the agility of the characters. Enemy and friendly characters alike are allowed to quaff potions, choose melee or ranged attack styles, and throw spells.
When the heroine or all the enemies die the battle is over. The game is over if Agavean dies. When all the enemies die, Agavean and her traveling companions can go up in level if enough experience is accumulated over enough battles. After the level up sequence with the distribution of points into the five main attributes of strength, agility, endurance, intelligence, and perception, there is a looting screen where the items gained in battle are looted using either selection of the items by mouse and cursor or a loot all button.
The five main attributes determine other secondary attributes of attack, defense and hit points. The higher the main attributes, the higher the secondary attributes. Character level is determined by the experience gained in completing quests and successful combat. Money or gold is the last statistic that the game keeps track of. The game is therefore a level based role playing game (RPG) with elements of a skill based system.
The combat skills are based upon the type of weapon used dagger, light sword, heavy sword, axe, hammer, and staff. There are also magical skills of offensive or attack spells, defense spells, and supportive spells like healing. Exploration of the game environment reveals trainers who can for a price train Agavean in these skills. Combat skills are in the form of types of attacks which have a speed that the attack is executed, potential damage relating to the type of attack and other features that must be considered when selecting them in battle.
Exploration will reveal the locations of taverns, shops, magic shops, and blacksmith shops, who will offer Agavean items for sale and a venue for her to sell her items and gain gold. As usual, there is a vast disparity between the purchase and selling price for an item so you have to be careful not to accidentally buy an item and cost yourself money. Many games, such as World of Warcraft by Blizzard, have a short time where you can buy back items from the vendor for the price you sold it to the vendor to ameliorate the damaging effects of making vendor errors.
Inventory holds the items you gained from combat or quests. The inventory is quite large, perhaps infinite, and is scrollable to reach those off the screen items. Runes, weapons, armor, one-time use potions, one-time use spell scrolls, and magic spell recipies that add to your spell book and other items are held in storage until they are used or sold. Items stack intelligently saving inventory space and playing time.
Runes form part of the magic system. Agavean constructs spells from runes or finds and scribes recipies into her magic book. Runes are consumed in constructing spells from the recipies scribed in your spell book. The rune spell construction system is unforgiving, if you make a mistake and use the wrong rune all the runes you have used disappear and you have no spell. It is hard to imagine why game designers add these punitive features to a game which is supposed to be fun to play. Punishing the game player only leads to dissatisfaction and frustration which eventually convinces the game player that your game is not fun to play.
The core of Neverend is the exploration, interaction with non-player characters (NPC), and the acquisition of quests that are completed for rewards of experience, items, and money. A quest log keeps track of the quest, but does not keep track of the hints given to the antagonist at the time the quest is added to the log. The game player will need to take paper notes of the hints given at the time the quest is obtained. Some quests lead to other quests, the so called chain quests, while other quests are stand alone. The quest system is quite satisfactory and was a lot of fun. The quest system could have been better designed by putting the hints with the quests in the quest log. A very nice feature of the log is that quests completed are tracked in the log along with quests in progress. This is useful if you play the game through twice or with different characters so that the player does not get confused about fished quests and quests yet to come. There are well over one hundred quests.
The interaction with NPCs is a ton of fun. The interaction is menu driven where you select different conversation options from a list of possible responses. The game has voice actors reading the conversations and adding to the game ambiance. The voice acting was quite good.
When Agavaen leaves the first side scrolling map, the game transitions to an top-down overhead display of the local map area. A more detailed map is activated with the M-key which shows the entire map of the game. Certain towns and features are shown on the larger map so that the player can get the lay of the land and relate his location to locations on the close up top down map.
Encounters are random and the monsters appear to increase in difficulty in relation to the player level. The increase in monster difficulty seems to be proportional to the level and skills of the player, so that the game does not become unplayable as your player increases in level as some of these types of games do.
In summary, I really liked this game. The game reminded me of a graphic animated adventure, had arena-style, turn-based combat, and an interesting exploration system. The quality of the graphics, animation and voice acting were good to excellent. The music and sound effects were also better than average. I have to give the game a grade of A-. I enjoyed it. This game may not be your cup of tea, however, since different people like different things.
Final Grade: A-
Windows® 98 / ME / 2000 / XP
Processor 800 MHz (or better)
256 MB RAM
32MB Graphic card with 3D acceleration
min. 2 GB free disk space
16-bit Direct X compatible sound card