As the latest Advanced Dungeons&Dragons computer adventure, Hillsfar is a dramatic departure from typical adventure games. While all the standard elements have been included—hit points, dragons, mazes, and monsters—this time they've been crafted into a highly entertaining, action-oriented fantasy that could open up the roleplaying genre to whole new legions of orc-slaying followers.
Instead of assembling a party of adventurers whose unique skills must be perfectly complementary to ensure advancement, you begin your Hillsfar quest by creating a single character. This involves selecting the character's race (dwarf, elf, human, gnome), gender, class (cleric, fighter, magic-user, thief, or a combination), and alignment (good, neutral, or evil). When you've finished, the computer assigns random values for your adventurer's strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and charisma. Finally, you name your character and set out for Hillsfar.
Instead of being plopped down in the middle of a monster-infested countryside, you're given a horse and are put on the road to the city of Hillsfar. You must guide the horse down the obstacle-strewn road using your joystick to speed up, slow down, duck under low-flying birds, and jump over obstacles like puddles and tree stumps. Mistime your jumps once too often and you'll find yourself walking to town. The animation and joystick response in this sequence are first-rate.
Hillsfar offers entertainment and challenge for adventurers of many kinds.
Once you reach Hillsfar, an onscreen map provides a bird's-eye view of the entire town while a first-person perspective is shown in a smaller window. Your character is represented on the map by an arrow that can be moved around the city using your joystick. As you play, your adventurer's status and inventory are listed beside the map, along with the time of day. Time is important because many of the city's buildings are open only during specific hours. Even when they're locked tight, however, there are many ways for the skillful adventurer to get in.
Besides using brute force, special knock rings, and magic, you can hire nonplayer characters who have the ability to pick locks. When picking a lock, you're shown a set of ten picks and a closeup of the tumblers within the lock. You must select the picks in the correct order to get the tumblers to drop within the time limit. Fail, and you could set off a dangerous trap or simply be denied entry.
Once inside, you'll find that most building interiors in Hillsfar are similar. The mazes are big, colorful, and loaded with chests containing gold and other goodies. You don't have to spend hours carefully mapping the maze and battling monsters. Instead, you run around scooping up as much booty as you can before the guards show up. Outrun them until you find the exit stairs and you're home free. The guards do occasionally catch you, but in most cases they'll simply take back what you tried to steal and toss you out on your ear. If they're in a bad mood, however, you may end up fighting for your life at the arena.
If you've grown accustomed to fighting your battles by repeatedly pressing A to attack your enemies with a battle axe or C to cast your favorite deadly spells, you're in for a big surprise when you reach the arena. Armed only with a staff, you'll fight a realtime battle by attacking and blocking against a single, fully-animated opponent. At last, you can have a fair fight without worrying about some level 5 magician on the opposite side of the battlefield frying your favorite adventurer with a Column of Fire spell.
Another interesting location in Hillsfar is Tanna's Target Range. Here, you can practice or compete for cash prizes by shooting at both stationary and moving targets with your choice of a sling, dagger, darts, or a bow and arrow. Besides shooting at the three targets that Tanna has set up, you might also consider aiming for the rats that scurry among the haystacks, the birds that occasionally fly past, or even the lone spectator who watches the competition. You may be surprised by the results. Again, the graphics and animation during this game-within-a-game arc-terrific.
While Hillsfar isn't the first role-playing game to include graphics animation or arcade-style sequences, it does a much better job of integrating these high-quality sequences into the story than many others do.
IBM and compatibles—$49.95
675 Almanor Ave,
Sunnyvale, CA 94088-2901