For what seems like all summer long the big boys have kept well clear of adventures, so it was with interest that I loaded up Karyssia from Incentive. The packaging is rather plain, but this Medallion Adventure, written using Incentive's own Graphic Adventure Creator (GAC) is graphically quite attractive.
Superficially it'll be the crisp 3-D pictures which attract the adventurer, but Karyssia has many highly sophisticated features such as speech, magic, cabalism (spoken magic), combat with a huge variety of weapons, and a full story - all will help its successful launch into the adventurer's imagination.
The Isle Of Senduarin was once a very pleasant land with famous diamond mines. Under the wise rule of the 'smiling monarch' King Merenon I, the wealth from the precious stones was spread throughout his peoples.
Prophets, however, predicted doom in the form of the king's first-born, and when the princess Karyssia was born the prophets, convinced of their infallibility, made an abortive attempt on her life.
Later, two more daughters - Anassia and Sarassia - were born to the king.
On his death Karyssia became queen and proved a wise ruler. But there were rumours of the diamond mines running down, and the people of Senduarin became aware of their real plight. The money to transform Senduarin into a self-sufficient agricultural state was to be found in Karyssia's vast wealth, but for a while the island had to rely on its near neighbours, Arduarin and Tresduarin, for food.
Karyssia's generosity with her fortune made her ever more popular, but the truth was that the prophets had been right all along - only Karyssia and her sisters knew that the diamonds had NOT run out.
Meanwhile on Arduarin, the largest of the three islands, there was turmoil. Three fighters had cut down the king and assumed control. They were extremely unpopular, so Karyssia seized her chance and offered the fighters a large sum to leave their island. This they gladly accepted and Karyssia took over the throne of Arduarin with its people's approval.
Soon Karyssia and her sisters controlled all three islands, using aggression and tyranny to retain power. Karyssia set up a huge army to control the disgruntled peoples and herself became skilled in swordplay. She appointed 12 bodyguards and a court wizard, the evil Sindowa, to protect her. Her summary justice emanated from the Royal Castle in the north of Arduarin, set high in the Altivian Mountains near Stillwater Lake. This lake, set in a high plateau, is said to hold strange powers...
The rightful heir to the throne of Arduarin, Loranin, has asked you to kill Karyssia. This will involve a long journey to the Royal Castle. You begin the adventure in the Sword & Bucket Inn in Mottinan, the southernmost town of Tresduarin. You should endeavour to travel across this island, pass through Senduarin and go on to the far north, to the Ativian Mountains and Karyssia.
Your first rendezvous is with Loranin in a cove, and so you quickly sup up and take your leave of the innkeeper of the Sword & Bucket.
How you react to the characters you meet in the game will depend upon how they present themselves, but just in case they want to get aggressive you have the option to attack them. This can be risky, though - you can't retreat from a battle once your opponent is engaged.
Naturally enough, the victor is usually the more able of the fighters, determined by comparing skill and stamina ratings. (Your own status can be monitored with STATUS.)
There are two types of weapon: hand-to-hand weapons and projectiles. Hand-to-hand weapons increase your ability in combat but projectiles don't, and employing them effectively may require some skill. The hand-to-hand weapons include doubleswords, a longsword, a scimitar, a mace (a spiked ball chained to a stick - gruesome!), a staff (which can block swords and maces), a morningstar (another spiked-ball-on-stick job), a club and a whip (easy to carry but ineffective against armour).
The list of projectiles is just as long, and some are equally as nasty - such as the javelin, which is described as heavier and more penetrating than the spear, and the flyingstar, a star-edged disc with fingerholes. Used only by the best fighters, the flyingstar is deadly when tipped with poison.
In the world of magic there are three levels: lower plane, higher plane and executive plane (it's exclusive plane actually, but I couldn't resist the joke). Lower planes are widely available, higher-plane spells are expensive and used by rich fighters, and exclusive planes are useful only to wizards.
Lower-plane spells are chosen from quite a long list: Stamina, Skill, Fire, Ice, Illusion, Friendship, Curse, Bless, Blindness, Remove, Growth, Invisibility, Fear, Levitation. Probably the most interesting of the higher-plane spells is the Dispel Magic Spell, which wipes out lower-plane magic.
To cast a spell, CAST (type) SPELL ON (object), as in CAST CURSE SPELL ON INNKEEPER, or simply CAST CURSE where the object is obvious.
That curious word 'cabalism' here refers to spoken magic. It usually involves an amulet and is cast on an object. If you know a cabalistic spell, and you are in possession of the amulet, then you can use it by saying the spell to the object, as in DIAMOND (SPELL). This formal follows that of all speech in Karyssia, as in FLORASSIA HELLO, or INNKEEPER GIVE ME A DRINK.
The Ultimate-style 3-D graphics are the first thing you notice in Karyssia: you see the picture by looking down obliquely through the two nearest walls, which are presented as see-through. The doors in these walls are marked only by their ghostly frames. Along with the very smart redesigned character set, these pictures, though sparse and often repeating items of furniture, give the game an attractive appearance.
As for gameplay, there are no mid-compass directions like NE, SE and so on, which are often missing from GAL games. There are one or two places where you might be puzzled as to why you can't pick up an item - the acorn at the tree, for example, or the 25 gold pieces - but this is because you already possess such items as soon as you meet them.
Another problem: there might be a little warning tucked away in the instructions, but I found out the hard way that L, intended by me to mean LOOK, sent the program into LOAD mode. You can quickly get out of the situation by BREAKing, but for a moment the program has you hopping mad...
Karyssia is a fine adventure with many admirable features. The pretty 3-D graphics are thin on the ground, and the location descriptions aren't the most evocative I've read, but the plot, which unwinds along three separately-loading parts, holds the attention marvellously.
DIFFICULTY: not difficult
GRAPHICS: few, but very pretty
PRESENTATION: good, clean
INPUT FACILITY: basically verb, noun
RESPONSE: reasonably fast
In a 3-D world of war and complex magic, the tale of Karyssia unfolds.