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Knights of the Crystallion logo  CU Superstar

US Gold
Price: £29.99

T Knights of the Crystallion his game is different, to say the least. It is a ‘Culture Simulator’ the PR people claim. Well I am not sure about that, but what I do know is that it is one of the most impressively designed Amiga games I have seen.

The opening sequence details the death millions of years ago of a gigantic creature, the Orodrid. Now, four thousand years in the future, its bones have been hollowed out to form a gigantic city, which is controlled by several large families. As the head of one of these families it is your ultimate goal to find a Crystallion egg and then hatch it out. This can only be completed by successfully managing your family, and overcoming several difficult tasks that lie in your way. The Crystallion egg is contained within the bottom of the Tsimit, the skull of the Orodrid. Inside the lower half of the skull is a maze of twisting passages, home to some rather vicious creatures, and resting place of the Mystical crystals. These crystals can be used to charge up your armour, and when you have collected enough allow you to pass onto the next level.

It is only now that things really start to get confused. You need to develop your telepathy with the Crystallion egg. To do this you need to become proficient in the use of Deketa cards. Self dealing, these cards contain mysterious swirling patterns and constantly reshuffle themselves as you try to match the pairs. An old and simple game, but with these cards difficult. Mastering their puzzles gives you the power to teleport out of the Tsimit with any Crystals you have found.

On the later levels of the Tsimit you have to beat the computer at Bosu, which is a strange game involving marbles, a wooden board and lots of planning. The objective is to capture as many intersections on the board as possible – it is a game within a game. Failing to beat the computer means you get sent back to the beginning. However you do get three attempts, and there is a tutor mode.

Knights of the Crystallion Another of the tasks is the Proda. In this you need to place pairs of crystals in the Proda room, which causes them to produce light beams. These beams need to connect with the manic Cripids (tube-like creatures), who amplify the beams so they recharge your suit of armour.
But the most complex part of the game is the marketplace, or Haresh. Here you set the family budgets, buy food, cloths, books and other materials essential for the family’s survival. You must also set a price on your family’s produce, being careful not to undercut or overcharge other families. If you feel really daring, money can be invested in expeditions to find other communities. Success in this means new trade routes and a cash bonus for the family.

From time to time you need to donate money to the Tsimit. If you do not give enough cash you will be banned from entry. Not a wise move considering most of the game centres around that location. Inside the Tsimit the passages twist in every direction, with some of the screens in almost complete darkness. Apart from your protective suit you are also armed with deadly plasma bolts. Providing you have been successful in the Deketa the Crystallion appears from time to time showing you which path to take.

I do not think a game has made such an impression on me before. The graphics and the ideas behind them are really amazing. A combination of digitised backdrops, and carefully hi-res pictures have to be seen moving to be appreciated. Musically KOTC is something else. Programmer Bill Williams (ex-Cinemaware) has done nothing short of creating a new music style that is so weird, distinctive and well-produced that the game seems to draw most of its feel from it. It is good in fact that US Gold have included it on an audio cassette in the packaging.

Knights Of The Crystallion is an experience in itself. A not to be missed game which was designed just for the Amiga, and gives more than a whiff of what the machine is truly capable of.

Bill Williams, KOTC’s programmer, used to be the main sound man at Cinemawre, where he was responsible for such gems as Rocket Ranger and Lords Of The Rising Gun until the programming equivalent of the writers blocks et in. That lasted until he came across the inventive sci fi novel ‘Always Coming Home’ by Ursual K Le Guin, concerning the growth of civilisation which gave him the idea to design a culture simulator, a unique game that requires the player to identify with the cultural ideas in a game.
“I wanted to create a science fiction world with its own music, own poetry and own culture. This is, of course, a tall order for a computer game. It is a long journey to a true culture simulation, Knights Of The Crystallion is, I hope, a few baby steps in the right direction”.

Mark Patterson

CU Amiga, March 1990, p.p.34-36


Knights of the Crystallion logo

US Gold, Amiga £29.99
Knights of the Crystallion Many eons ago the most massive creature that ever lived roamed the oceans, swallowing whales in a single gulp. But one day its immense hunger led it up a river, to become beached and slowly die. The elements soon rotted away its flesh, leaving bones massive enough to enclose a city. In time a tribe of humans found the bones and slowly went about creating that city.

The most important part of the skeleton is its skull, set aside for the priests who call themselves the Keepers of Tsimit. One of their many secrets is the knowledge that the brain had not rotted but fossilised instead, forming pulsing crystals. When combined they can produce dangerous beams of light. Some of the more powerful crystals can even create life, such as Crystallions. These crystal horses have incredible beauty and intelligence. They are companions for life, and only those who have bonded with one can sit at the city council.

To find your crystallion you must first find the well-hidden crystals. The quest begins with the Orodrid City screen, a menu page with the icon-options rotating over the city scene. You must prove your worth at all the various subgames:
TSIMIT: This is the most important part of the game, since it's here that the crystals are found. The Tsimit has four 'veils', or sections, each of which is completed by finding the door to the next. The Tsimit is a flick-screen maze, packed with monsters, and is shown at an angle from above. Control is via the mouse; move a cursor to the point where you want to move to or fire at, depending which mouse button you press. Protection is provided by a Crystallion Suit with three charges (or lives) - lose them all and it's game over.
BOSU: Once you've found the Tsimit exit door, you're challenged to a game of Bosu, a boardgame which you must win to get onto the next section. You have six stones to place on five rings split by eight rays. While difficult to describe in less than a couple of pages, it's fun to play and has two-player, difficulty and tutor options.
PRODA: Should you lose a lot of charges/lives in the Tsimit you can use your crystals to earn more in this subgame. Three cylindrical 'prods' rotate at the centre of a 3-D room. Using the mouse you can place crystals in special formations to collect bolts of energy. But watch out for the alien birds which try to steal the crystals.
DEKETA: Some cards are dealt; face up at first with numbers from 1 to 8, then quickly flipped over. You must then click on two cards of the same value, using memory, 'ESP', and observation (as the numbers can occasionally be seen). Winning can give you special powers useful in the Tsimit.
HARESH: This is the trading part of the game; fail to earn enough to support your family and it's game over. Make lots of profits and donations to the Tsimit priests might be useful. There are seven trading families, each involved in three trades ranging from meat and diary products to books and songs. You must set the prices for your three types of goods, bearing in mind the quality and competitor prices. You can also invest in opening markets in the wider world and make donations to families in trouble.

Zzap! Issue 60, April 1990, p.p.74-75

Phil King I think I know why this has such a bizarre scenario: it was the only thing which could possibly link together such diverse subgames. And, imaginative as it is, it still fails to really make the vastly different sections gel into one complete game. Nevertheless I was impressed by the very classy presentation with every-changing, atmospheric music. 'Carling Black Label'-sounding sampled speech, and plenty of pretty pictures to ogle (although these do suffer in definition due to use of the HAM mode). All the subgames are fairly playable - I particularly enjoyed thrashing Robin at the Bosu boardgame, even though I hadn't a clue what I was doing! Overall, Knights has plenty of originality, variety, and a big challenge, although it isn't quite the mega-game it could have been.

Scorelord So what, exactly, is a 'culture simulator'? It turns out to be a collection of oddball subgames surrounded by a better-than-average scenario. Presentation is indeed very weird, and (especially on the trading subgame) there's a good sense of an alien civilisation. As for playability, all the subgames are quite enjoyable with some excellent graphics and sonics which are obviously designed for the Amiga, not the ST. The most important game is Tsimit, an arcade maze game which, on the higher levels, improves graphically while using lifts to make virtually every screen a puzzle to be mapped. If you like the sound of this, the other game provide some attractive variety. But if you hate mazes and maps, Knights could be very frustrating. Still, a very interesting game which solidly establishes US Gold as an innovative 16-bit producer.

6 4
No plans for a C64 version.

Great intro, poetical protection system, save option, and interlevel HAM pictures.
Full use is made of the Amiga's palette, with plenty of atmospheric HAM pictures, to produce a very weird and intriguing graphic style.
Atmospheric music which varies constantly. Effective occasional use of digitised speech.
Difficult to get into and far from easy, but you can practise some of the subgames.
Tsimit provides a big challenge, while keeping up with the other subgames provides variety.
An intriguing and innovative game which cartographers will love.