Programmer(s): Louismarie and Andre Rocques, Michel Pernot (Graphic Artist), Jean-Christophe Charter
Release: Late April 1991
There is one sort of person who is likely to get very excited about this indeed – the die-hard Lords of Midnight fan. Hey guys, this one is aimed directly at you, being nothing less (or more) than a French interpretation of Mike Singleton’s 8-bit classic. Younger players may find it easier to liken it to Midwinter, but without the solid 3D graphics, futuristic scenario and certainly without the depth. They might also find themselves wondering what all the fuss was about.
So yes, it is a sort of strategy role-playing adventure, with you leading a team of six characters (a mix of warriors, wizards and rangers, of which you would be wise to take two of each) around a mysterious island in a mix of so-called 3D and overhead view map modes. The search is on for four crystals which have to be recovered and restored to their rightful places in towers dotted around the island – both crystals and towers are placed randomly each new game, so if you are so taken with Arborea that you would like to play it again and again it will be a different experience each time.
Most of your time is spent searching of course – not just for the crystals and the towers, but for various magical abilities (like healing potions, the ability to teleport and so on) which have to be found or earned (often by entering the house of a local warrior or wizard and answering a simple question) to give you any chance of completing the game. It is not all walking about though (but there is a lot of it – the French programmers claim there are 16,000 different locations in the game!) as every so often things are broken up by the odd scrap with groups or baddies you will encounter. And I do mean ‘odd’ too – these are strange, grid-based strategic affairs, not unlike chess. This certainly is not a game you could accuse of being packed with gratuitous violent action.
And there we have it really. Crystals of Arborea can certainly be quite pretty (especially at night) if not outstandingly so, but while it has a lot of screens it does not seem to be blessed with a great deal of variety. Add to that a distinctly slug-like pace and rules that seem to have been picked at random (you can only enter a wizard’s house when you have another wizard with you – why?) and it all seems rather pointless. I found it one big snooze.
Amiga Power, Issue 1, May 1991, p.86