RUNESTONE appeared in the middle of last year and was then a Games Workshop production. It was the first text adventure to combine landscaping graphics with full text input.
It also offered the chance to play three characters, Elf, Wizard and Warrior in their fight against the swarming ore-hordes of Kordomir the Dark One. The setting was a Midnightish world of battles and quests, a place where other subsidiary characters could be persuaded to join you in your fight against evil and the dark forces.
Firebird has now snapped the game up, revamped the graphics, smoothed off some of the edges and speeded the proceedings by rewriting some of the slower bits of the program. They've also put it in a striking package with parchment-style maps, fancy instructions and an outer box with lots of hunky heroes and red edging to catch your eye on the shelf - marketing psychology is a wondrous thing.
The scenario and game-play is essentially the same but the overall effect is of a considerable improvement in playability, thanks to the increased speed of the responses and the simple change of colour of the text areas. It's now comfortably dark, instead of the earlier glaring white, and that helps to keep your attention on the game rather than on the pain in your eyeballs.
The graphics have more colour than before and the character you are currently playing is shown as a head to the right of the landscape. These changes are not significant in themselves but do make the game seem more polished than the first release.
The world of Belorn is a complicated place with systems of exchange, combat, magic and thievery. The text interpreter is very competent, so you can attempt most things even if you only get a response like "Morval scratches his head and wonders what to do next".
You can follow the quests, travel or go on orc-bashing safaris if you're in a macho frame of mind.
The new, improved Runestone is now in very good shape, looking and playing a whole lot smoother than before. What's more, it's being sold at the same price as the first version. To my mind that means it deserves an uprating on its previous four stars.