Those who like to feel the wind in their hair and the weight of a trusty sword by their sides will find Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus, moderately addictive. It is definitely an addictive game requiring skill at arms and the ability to solve a number of puzzles. It is the third in the series of Phantasie games. The other two are not at the moment available for the Amiga and were in any case nowhere near so well presented. Both were good games but a little slow to play compared with Phantasie III.
In each the evil Nikademus is encroaching on the lands of the good and your team of adventurers has to thwart his plans. This could well be the last of the series, as the final battle is with Nikademus himself and I think he is truly dead if you win though.
Your team consists of six characters, and your first task is to create and name them. There is a choice of race: Human, dwarven, elve, gnome, halfling or a random creature chosen from the list of ogre, minotaur, lizard man, pixie, sprite, troll, gnoll, orc, goblin or kobold. You may then select their class; Fighter, thief, priest, ranger, monk or wizard. Random creatures may only be thieves or fighters.
Having made your choices, the character's statistics will be shown in full. These are generated randomly and occupy the entire screen, giving you information on everything from social class and home country to figures for their adventuring abilities - fighting, swimming, thieving - and basic characteristics: Strength, intelligence, dexterity, constitution, charisma and luck.
It is these latter six statistics that you should concentrate on, as many of the others may be modified as the character gains experience. You may accept and name the character and or reject and "roll the dice again".
Higher values - up to 20 in some cases - produce a more powerful character. Reading the instructions will tell you that both race and class have modifying effects on these figures. Further reading will reveal that the values for strength and dexterity affect which weapons, shield and armour may be used. The higher the values, the more effective the weapon.
There is a large range of weapons and armour to be found and it is worth having one or two characters capable of using the ultimate equipment should you be lucky enough to find it.
The make-up of your party is very important: you must have one or two tough fighters for the front line, a priest is vital to tend to their wounds, a ranger can fight and use a number of useful spells, wizards give you magical offensive ability and thieves and monks have their uses too.
You may create a number of characters and then choose the six you think are the best to make up your team. Characters may be created, renamed, dropped or added to the team whenever you visit a town.
When in town, you may visit the bank, guild, armoury, inn or the mystic, who gives you can idea of your party's score but very little else. A visit to the inn is vital, as resting will replenish lost hit points and cure minor wounds.
The guild offers training in adventuring abilities and will determine their experience level. The higher the level, the greater the hit points and the greater the range of spells that may be learned. There are 56 different spells and priests and wizards have the greatest access to them, but even then will have to get to pretty high levels to learn the most potent ones.
You start in the town of Pendragon and initially will not have much money and only pretty poor weapons and armour. "View character", to check what they have got and then visit the armoury to see if you can improve their chances a little. For sale are scrolls which give you more knowledge of what is happening, but I would concentrate on the armour at this stage, as you can afford little.
It can be very, very dangerous to wander far from town; initially do not go more than a few steps away from safety. As soon you have beaten a few monsters return to the inn and rest. Then save the game position. If the worst happens, and it will sooner or later, you can always load back that last save.
There are several options to choose from when encountering other creatures, ranging from dashing straight into battle to offering friendly greetings. You may also beg for mercy or try to run away. If there are a lot of potential enemies and if they are not of a hostile nature - read the instructions - greetings may be the order of the day.
Having chosen to fight, you must decide the tactics for each member of your team. Depending upon their level and class, they may thrust, attack or slash, lunge, use a bow, cast a spell or parry. You may move them forwards or backwards a pace or two, well armoured fighters to the front, weak wizards to the rear.
Several rounds of melee fighting will probably be needed to determine the outcome. Offensive spells can be very useful, especially on tough opponents, but spell points are used up each time. If you are deep in a dungeon, try to leave yourself with a few points in hand for emergencies on the way out. A Sleep spell can put some creatures to shut eye, giving you a chance to either hammer the daylights out of them or run away.
Another useful spell is Awaken - especially if your party is asleep when attacked. Spell points are regained on a visit to an inn. There are also healing and magic potions that give you those few extra points, making the difference between life and death.
Each successful battle will give you experience points and possibly some gold - perhaps even a useful weapon or valuable treasure. Your priest will need to gain several levels before he can cast a healing spell that will replace a missing limb. So take care and be patient and meticulous in these brief early forays into the great wide yonder.
Just south of Pendragon are the town archives. These and many other special locations are classed as dungeons. Unlike the open country where you can plainly see where you are going, dungeons have to be explored a step at a time.
Prepare to meet locked doors and secret passages, traps and all manner of special locations, some good, some bad. These special places offer you the chance of great gains in experience and wealth, let alone all sorts of excellent weaponry. They also house some of the meanest monsters around.
Exploring the town archives, you will meet the old sage Filmon. He will give you your first quest, and having succeeded in it, will tell you what to do next. Each task will be more difficult than the last and will take you into more inhospitable dungeons.
The graphics are good, especially some of the larger monsters, but the limited sound effects can be a little wearing. Everything can be controlled using the mouse, and the speed of combat rounds can be speeded up once you have learnt to recognise brief captions that appear during battle.
Phantasie III from SSI, distributed by US Gold, is one of the classic active adventures and is to be recommended to those who like this genre. If taken steadily at the start it is easier than many others and would make a good initiation for the newcomer to this type of adventure.