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Ahriman's Prophecy





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Ahriman's Prophecy

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Developer: Amaranth Games
Publisher: Amaranth Games
Genre: RPG > General
Released: Mar 07, 2004
Players: 1

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Bring on the Dragons

Ah, Dragon Warrior.

I still remember the day that a friend invited me over to play it on his Super Nintendo system. I had dabbled in Western role-playing games (rpg's) like Bard's Tale or Ultima, and I'd even played a bit of Dungeon & Dragons. None of that prepared me for what the Japanese had done to the genre. Here was a game that presented blocky yet colourful sprite graphics, catchy MIDI tunes, cute monsters that smiled as you hit them, hidden rooms, and silly quests like finding a magical fairy flute to put a golem to sleep. Dragon Warrior should not have worked, but somehow these elements came together to make for a surprising amount of mindless enjoyment. After an hour, I was hooked.

For years, only console owners could play Japanese-style rpg's. Now PC users can join in the fun with Ahriman's Prophecy, a game that successfully recreates the feel of those early classics from Japan.

The Story

Ahriman's Prophecy is the first game from Amaranth Games. It acts as a prequel to their wildly-successful Aveyond and Aveyond 2, introducing the world and many of the recurring characters and themes.

You play as 13-year-old Talia Maurva, who leaves her small village to find her calling in life but instead witnesses a dark ritual that calls evil into the world. Ahriman's Prophecy follows her adventures as she learns magic and, like every other rpg hero ever created, gathers a group of friends to combat the growing threat.

What follows is a wild romp that will have you forging through swamps, caves, frozen northlands and deserts to meet an array of kings and queens, witches, dragons, and talking sheep. Fans of the later games will enjoy seeing the first appearance of the annoying mini-dwarfs who'll bite your knees, animal shape-shifters, and fairy-tale village, though the game is welcoming to new players, too.

There's just enough tongue-in-cheek humour and to keep everything moving along. And the pacing is brilliant: there's always an interesting area to explore or nagging quest to polish off. While Ahriman's Prophecy adds little that is new to the rpg genre, it's a pleasing mix of familiar elements.

Battles and Balance

While the overall experience is entertaining, there are a number of irritating problems here, too. Unlike most Japanese rpg's, the battles in Ahriman's Prophecy are real-time. You strike at enemies by walking next to them and pressing 'enter' as they move around the map. The battle system keeps you paying attention, but casting magic or using items wastes time, so every fight devolves into walking up to a monster and tapping 'enter' to hit the enemy as quickly and as often as possible.

Then there's the fact that, with every new area, the enemies become much harder, making frequent deaths a matter of course. As a result, a lot of your time will be spent clearing the same areas over and over again of weaklings to hope that the next level or equipment upgrade will make future fights manageable.

There is not much role-playing in Ahrman's Prophecy. None of your decisions have a lasting impact on the world, and though there is some choice in the order that you do the quests later in the game, there's little sense that you are forging a unique path. However, there are multiple endings that depend on in-game romances to make the game worth replaying at least once.

Japanese rpg's have never been famous for their logic, and Ahriman's Prophecy relishes in their unique brand of loopiness. How did bees become strong enough to kill you, and why do they carry around bread or gold pieces? Why must you travel across the world completing quests to gain a shovel? Why are dwarves willing to sell their grandmothers for stinky cheese? If this type of silliness bothers you, you may want to give the game a pass. But if all this sounds fun in a strange way, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Summary

If you feel any nostalgia for the early Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior games, you need to download Ahriman's Prophecy. There is nothing to frighten newcomers to the genre, so new players can leap right in and discover what they've been missing.

Graphics:
The low-resolution sprite graphics do a good job of recreating the feel of the old console rpg's. The menus, meanwhile, consist of simple boxes and some hard-to-read icons, and they require a few more key presses than they should.

Sound:
The sounds do a fine job of setting the scene: meadows echo with bird-calls or rushing water, and each clang of your sword is captured nicely. The music (medieval-fantasy tracks) helps to distinguish each area and is quite pleasant.

Gameplay:
As I've written, the battle system forces the player to attack with brute force without bothering with strategy, and the jumps in difficulty are frustrating. That said, the large number of optional side quests, puzzles and mini-games, and pacing make up for these flaws.

The game supports keyboard control and PC-compatible gamepads. Unlike Aveyond 2, mouse control is not supported.

Concept:
Ahriman's Prophecy helps fill a relative void in PC gaming: an easy-to-play rpg that values fun over dark themes or immersive world-creation. That said, there's nothing here that seasoned rpg players haven't seen before.

Value:
Amaranth Games has kept the game free as a way to hook people on their vision of the rpg genre. It's hard to beat that.

Overall:
Weighing in at 30+ hours of gameplay for a net price of 'free,' how can you go wrong?
 



By: Edward Zuk
Posted: Saturday April 12, 2008
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