Prepare yourself to enter Darklands - the first realistic fantasy role-playing game. Leading a band of four adventurers across the sinister landscape of 15th Century Germany, you’ll face the Middle Ages as people believed it to be: land filled with mythical beasts, religious power-mongers, and bloodthirsty robber-knights!
Watch savage battles unfold before your eyes! Travel hundreds of miles by land and sea from Frisian Coast to Bohemia, from the alps to Prussia, visiting over ninety cities along the way.
Your quest for fame and fortune can take you through raucous city streets and dark mine shafts, or from a robber knight’s tower to the terrifying Witches' Sabbath! Get ready for the astonishing wonders of a realistic fantasy adventure in the mysterious Darklands!
Minimum system requirements: Windows XP or Windows Vista, 1.8 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended), 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended), 2GB HDD, Mouse, Keyboard.
Minimum system requirements (Mac): OS X 10.6.8 or later. Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz+ Memory: 1GB of RAM Graphics: 64MB of video memory, Recommended two-button mouse, or Apple mouse with Secondary Button / Secondary Click enabled.
Posted on 2011-10-16 04:19:40 by Mothstatic:
This review is written through the lens not of someone who played Darklands back when it first came out and has loved it ever since, but indeed by a player who only first learned about it from GOG and has spent a very modest amount of time (roughly three hours so far) with it. Hopefully this will serve as an objective look at a game that deserves to be played, and will help decideread more anyone else who, like me, had never heard of it before.
It always surprises and pleases me when a game pops up on GOG which I've never heard of, but which is right up my alley in all the right ways. Darklands is such a game; as a long-time fan of both CRPGs, pen-and-paper roleplaying games, and any game or story with a dark or unique setting, I was more than willing to drop six bucks to try something new. While the modest-sized installer package was downloading, I also downloaded the included manual (as usual a superb quality PDF scan of the original) to take a look and see what I was in for. Within moments it was clear that I was in for something unique.
Unlike most fantasy CRPGs of the era, Darklands does not take place in some grandiloquently named fantasy continent, but rather in the 15th century of the Germany of our very own Earth. It's a dark and mystical Germany filled with magical beasts and heretical witches and alchemical magic, but it is Germany nonetheless. It is immediately apparent from both the manual and gameplay that great pains were taken to root the world of Darklands in history; the currency is a bafflingly archaic system of pfenniges and groschen and florins, and time is kept in three hour increments according to the prayer routines of the then-prolific churches and monasteries. The game is also sprinkled with German terms, for which a lexicon is included at the end of the manual. These touches, among many others, immediately help to set Darklands apart from other games.
But I've dwelled on setting enough; let's get down to brass tacks. In traditional RPG fashion, you will begin your adventure by creating a party of four adventurers (unless you use the quick-start pregenerated characters, but... come on now). To my surprise and delight, I found that generating characters was not based on choosing a class and rolling a row of attribute scores, but rather by choosing your character's upbringing and history. You start with how they were raised (nobility, urban aristocracy, rural commoner, etcetera) and move on to choosing their careers. Career choices start at age fifteen, consume five years of your character's pre-adventure lifetime, and determine what skills they were exposed to and which can be improved with allotted experience points. You can stop after one career choice or continue on for more and more five-year increments, starting the character late in their life with considerably more experience and equipment, but also that much closer to retirement age (which, apparently, can be reached through the course of gameplay).
So you've fleshed out your four adventurers and are ready to begin. You start your adventure for glory and virtue with a text-based backstory scene in a tavern of a randomly selected German city in which your characters swear fealty to one another. It's a nice little moment that gives the party a sense of humanity and kinship, and serves as as good a starting point as any. From here, gameplay seems to take place mostly in three different forms; text-based encounters, the world map, and combat encounters.
The text-based encounters are perhaps my favorite part about the game. Whenever something happens that isn't combat, you are presented with a screen full of writing lain over a beautiful pixel-watercolor scene and a number of options that take into account your many options and the capabilities of your characters. These encounters are what, to me, make the game feel most like a true role-playing game; they're more detailed and encompassing than a simple dialogue tree, and immediately bring to mind an actual tabletop RPG, or one of those old 'Lone Wolf' choose your own adventure books. Success or failure is usually determined by the skill of your characters (the game will automatically choose whoever is best suited for whichever option you select to take charge; brute character prying open the bars, charming rogue smooth-talking the guards, and such like), and there is the option to hold the Shift key while mousing over an option to get a vague idea of your chances of success or failure in times of doubt. Without these encounters, the game would not be nearly the stand-out experience it is in my mind.
Combat will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Baldur's Gate or any similar CRPG; your characters act in real-time on an isometric battlefield, and you can hit the Space bar at any time to pause the battle and issue orders. It's worth noting that I've never been a fan of this system and have always preferred turn-based, if only because I'm terrible at BG-style combat. However, the game does a great job of giving you many tactical options, and is paced well enough that you'll seldom get lost in the fray. Your beloved characters are also fairly autonomous, and can usually be trusted to act intelligently (or at least not self-destructively) when they've carried out your orders and are left to their own devices.
You may be wondering about the magic and fantasy elements of this deeply historical game; fear not, adventurer, for they are most certainly present, but not in the usual way. Magic is wielded by your characters in one of two ways; the brewing of alchemical potions, or prayer by the religiously inclined to the holy Saints (of which there are many). If you're hoping to sling fireballs helter-skelter and flash-fry kobolds with arcs of chain lightning, Darklands will disappoint you. Magic of either flavor is a slow, deliberate, and often expensive process. The saints and alchemical formulae must be studied or purchased throughout the world, and in the case of alchemy, potions must be produced with all of their various ingredients, which can become exorbitantly expensive. I have had little experience with either system myself thus far, but in theory, I love them both. They are nothing if not true to the theme that Darklands works so hard to establish, and they serve to enhance the game rather than dominate it.
It must be said that this game is not for the faint of heart. Like many other older CRPGs, it will take a time commitment to learn this game, its language and its movements and its ins-and-outs. Healing your characters takes a long time, there are a good many terms to be learned, and money is not at all easy to come by, at least not in the early game. If you're like me, you might have to work to let yourself become engrossed by it. However, once it has you, Darklands leaves its mark and becomes a constant source of enjoyment, excitement and surprise. Dark, unique, realistic and rewarding, Darklands is an excellent and impressive game, and any CRPG fan will find their six dollars more than well spent.
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Posted on 2011-10-13 07:23:01 by ThorChild:
I came to this game pretty late(around 2001) and had an older PC at the time to run old games.
The detail is quite incredible in this game, even if the graphics look pretty blocky they won't stop you trying to get into the mind set of a 15th Century medieval person!
That level of realism and detail makes it a hard unforgiving game, especially to a new gamer wanting to rush outread more into the game world to explore(such as i was once!). You will die, many times, without the right preperation. To that end i found this site really useful in helping me understand the finer details of staying alive:
Other than that i'll say with the right investment of time trying to understand the game world and game systems, Darklands is probably one of the most deep and rewarding crpg's ever made.
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Posted on 2011-10-13 09:26:47 by n8mahr:
...promised us Microprose around 1992 - and they delivered !
What a game this is!
It believably blends the "real world" with a world, where monsters, demons and saints do really exist.
There is actually a (rather small) background story - it is embedded loosely in (german) medieval lore - the devil himself is about to enter the world of the living, the wild hunt isread more on the prowl and you are the only ones to fight against a dark future.
At your 4 person parties disposal is a very wide variety of weapons like swords, pickaxes, (cross)bows, and even very early versions of black powder rifles; alchemy plays a big role, since you can cook and brew your own acid-bombs, tar-traps, firebottles.. even the Saints are there to be called upon and help you.
It offers kind of a "sandbox" gameplay, where you could explore the dungeons, kill evil knights, slay wyrms, burn witches and punish dark priests everywhere when YOU want it.
The world around you acts in "real time", some evil events plague a region just for some time and are gone when it takes you too long to arrive.
Even your party members age over time!!! If you hire an older character, she/ he will most likely have better combat values than a younger one, but after reaching a certain age, those values will decline rapidly.
So if you take your time to do many sidequests, explore most of the world of medieval germany, you will most likely have to replace your older party members by younger ones - which is a nice way to let the players know that the programmers do not like overpowered mega-characters ;)
The graphics have aged, yes. The map on which you travel around by clicking around the landscape wasn´t a beauty even then ;)
The real time battles are scarcely animated, but functional. You can pause at any time, select the weapons, fighting style (!) and enemies by clicking on them, explosions, gas or tar fields are animated and shown on the battlefield. So, I would say, very good for a game that is not a RTS game at it´s core.
But the hand-painted (!) watercolor-background pictures are still a sight to look at !
Allthough the sidequests are getting from mid-to endgame a bit repetitive, the game offers many (and for a game from that time unrivalled!) options of what to do next.
I own both the 3,5" and 5,1/4" versions of this game and I am still in awe because of the work of detail that went in creating the manual, the map and - THE GAME itself!
Play it, if you can spare a few hours just to get "into" a game. You will be rewarded!
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