MACHINE REQ - 486/50 ( 486/66 Recommended )

MEM REQ - 8 MB ( I had to cut Smartdrv Cache down to get enought )


RATING - Frustration !!

Thunderscape is a frustrating game. The biggest frustration however was that the game has so much potential. Its as if the programmers went out of their way to ruin it. The game is a case of what could have been. Thunderscape was not obviously bug tested to the end. Its a stable game in that there are no crashes, but there are numerous game play bugs. Seeing SSI did not seem to test the end product, I have listed at the end of this document some of the comments I would have made if I was a beta tester. ( See Beta Test ).

Thunderscape is the first game from SSI to be set in their Role Play land of Aden. The Northlands are under attack from the Darkfall of Nocturnals, led by the evil Anthrax. The shields that have kept the nocturnals from the northlands have been brought down. There are two sets of shields, one set in Vanguard Keep, the other in the Radiant Citadel. Your task is simple restore the shields and kill the bad guys.

Thunderscape is a multiplayer RPG. You get to create four characters at the beginning of the game. The other two spots can be filled by characters you meet. Character generation can be quick or detailed. I took detailed as you get to allocate all the skill points yourself. Thunderscape is one of the new wave of games that has tended to break away from the rigid RPG rules. Your magic users can wear armour and hack it out with axes. Your warriors can learn any magic. This on the surface sounds great, but defeats the point of having a well balanced team. What ends up happening is your magic users will be shafted out to make way for the strong fighter characters you meet along the way. The game thus becomes a hack and slash affair.

Movement is free and fairly smooth, except it seems where its most important, such as the dreaded arcade jumping sequences. The main problem I found was over running the platforms. ( Why do game producers persist in these arcade sequences, the uproar over Ultima VIII abviously fell on deaf ears in the programming world ).. Combat is turn based ( Yeah !!! ), and there is a lot of it. Thunderscape employs infinate monster generation on certain levels. There is one level ( near where you meet Tophet ) where it can take 10-15 mins to hack through Zombie after Zombie, just to advance several paces and check out a room or corner, when you exit the room the Zombies are back again in full force. Combat difficulty can be toggled between Easy and Hard at any stage. I started Easy as it was frustrating trying to fight monsters and missing all the time. Towards the end I switched to Harder combat. The interface for combat is great, its a pity its rather wasted on Thunderscape. Graphics are mixed. At times they remind me of Arena, Elder Scrolls, at other times like Underworld II, but overall not up to the standard of either of these two. The graphics are dark, gloomy and pixelise badly when close up. The monster graphics are especially dreadful, possibly the worse I have seen in the last three years. The biggest booby prize however goes to the automap, it is simply disgusting. Yet you have to use it. It is one of the factors that makes this game drag out so long. The map fills in areas were you have never been. In the attempt to make it 3D they have made instead a map that hides passages. Non player interaction is sparse, most are characters who will want to join your party. Music is great for the stereo in the lounge room, but as a game soundtrack it is not my cup of tea. I quickly killed it. Sound affects are below todays standards, grunts, groans and moans. Speech is under utilised, none of your generated characters ever mutters a word and the NPC's have mere sentences. All of the signs, books and scrolls are silent.

Thunderscape is a big game, after restoring the shield in Vanguard Keep you are only about 15% through the game. Unfortunately too many levels are made up of nothing more than blind passages and empty rooms. It really begins to drag. Things improve again at the sewer level of the Radiant Citadel. There is a sharp increase in the puzzle difficulty and my interest in the game increased again. In terms of difficulty Thunderscape is moderately hard, nothing like Crusaders or Star Trail, but much harder than Anvil of Dawn and the Ravenlofts. Some posts in the CRPG newsgroup have suggested Thunderscape is a beginners game. Unfortunately there is a macho thing with younger players that no game can be classified as tough.


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