Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance
AD&D Games have been around for quite a long time. TSR decided to take the longstanding AD&D license away from SSI and farm it around to other development houses. Sierra was selected to convert TSR's very popular paper and pencil Birthright into a computer game
The game is very ambitious and appealing to anyone who loves the Birthright paper and pencil game. This is a combination of fantasy role-playing adventure and turn-based strategy or war game.
The game can be played as war game only or as adventure game only or a combination of both. Different options are available if you play the game in different difficulty modes or novice, advanced, and expert game.
The addition of an evil antagonist, gives a nice touch to the normally even handed multiplayer games in this category of war game. While you are battling with some people who can become allies according to alliance and others who will never be allies but always enemies, the multitude of combattants, 34 of them, also have to watch out for the Gorgon and his three allies. The Gorgon can form an alliance with one of your opposing teams and later absorb this entire team into his empire, making the game even more interesting.
The Gorgon also has the ability to summon skeletal armies which take no money to maintain, a tremendous advantage over the other races of humans, elves, dwarves, half-elves, goblins, gnolls, and giants.
As provinces are developed, roads, castles, strongholds, churches, magical sources, and guilds can be built, making your realm stronger and more profitable. After the structures are built, they can be developed by spending a game turn and gold. The process of development is a tedious and long process that can take as many as 50 game turns to fully develop a single province.
Another aspect of the game are the many (Ed: over 200) objects of power that can be found in the adventure portions of the game. There are about 50 dungeons, castles and other locations that can be explored, and looted just like the various locations of a role-playing adventure game. I found these small mini adventures very satisfying.
When you end a turn with your armies in the same province with the armies of either chaos or another house that you are not allied with a tactical battle begins. You can choose quick battle under the command of one of your lieutenants or to command the battle yourself. If you command the battle yourself, you will be presented with a battlefield, like a chessboard of three rows and five columns. Mounted warriors can move two spaces while those on foot only one.
The toughest fighters are the skeletons, after that dwarf infantry seems quite tough, along with knights who have the advantage of swift movement. The application of magic or the addition of a lieutenant or character that you can take on an adventure, helps the game immensely. Priests and Magicians can weild magic in these battles turning the tide for the most over matched group. Ranged weapons such as bows can hurt your troops as much as the enemy so you must maneuver quickly to bring the arrows to bear before close melee is started.
The plot is a rather simple adaptation of the standard Castles plot of conquer or cajole enough of the land to be made the overall ruler and kill the evil monster. In this case the monster or wizard that you must kill is the Gorgon, referred to in the game's sub-title: The Gorgon's Alliance.
There is an additional plot developed in the game's printed manual, which does not seem to relate directly to the game, so I will not elaborate on that here.
The graphics are limited to 256-colors and while being rich with details like stained glass, rich colorful tapestries, and varied wall treatments, the graphics remain flat and somewhat uninteresting when compared to many of the other real-time three dimensional games like Quake and Outlaws.
AnimationThe animation of the characters in battle occurs within the three dimensional world. The mode changes though along with the perspective, which pulls back to one of a half-dozen floating camera angles, that you can control to get a better vista. While in battle you cannot pick up objects, but you can access them and throw spells.
Voice ActorsThe voice that is used is more like small clips except for the several full motion video animated sequences where the Gorgon announces the escalation of the war. The voices are very nice and do the job.
Music ScoreMusic is only used in the beginning and end of the game.
Sound EffectsThe sound effects work well but do not stand out from those in other games.
UtilitiesUnfortunately, the majority of the manual is of the on-line type, that is accessed with the F1 key. With extensive passages missing from the short 48-page printed manual that comes in the box. The execution of the on-line manual still leaves many things unstated, and you may need to use your copy of the paper and pencil birthright game to glean such facts as the experience needed to get to the next level, which is not in either the on-line or paper manuals that come with the game.
Multi-player FeaturesTwo players by null or phone modem. Two to eight players by LAN or Internet. Full game is the same whether played in multiplayer or single player mode.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
BugsIf it wasn't for the bugs and the constant lock ups and memory reading errors, this would be one of my most favorite games. Unfortunately, even after trying all the suggestions that the Sierra Technical Support could dish out, my machine continued to bomb out in the middle of adventures and detailed tactical battles.
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