GARY Gygax adds a few more gold pieces to his secret hoard by allowing the D&D name to be used on Hillsfar, a new role-playing game from SSI. To what extent this partnership goes is uncertain, but seemingly only to the level of having Advanced Dungeons & Dragons scrawled all over the place - on the box, on the loading screen, on the hint booklet... er not that I needed to read it of course.
Before you go anywhere in Hillsfar you must select a character. This may be of the roll-your-own variety or from the obligatory selections of ones-made-earlier. If you bought Pool of Radiance or Curse of the Azure Bonds, then you can import your character from there, tax free.
Loading in characters - hah! That is a different experience. If there is one thing more annoying then 17 levels of requesters asking you if you are really absolutely sure, certain and positive that you want to overwrite the character in memory, then it is the total lack of any sort of warning whatsoever. Anyway, then you ride into the much fabled metropolis of Hillsfar. Well, maybe they did not have much to fable about in those days. Travelling the highway is itself an adventure. Watch out for all the obstructions in the road - trees, paddles, bales of hay... Added to that, the occasional crazed lunatic takes a pot shot at you from the trees. Who said raving paranoia was a disadvantage? If you do not believe in predestiny, then you are going to be very upset by this game.
There are four character classes - fighter, thief, cleric and magic user. Each has three quests available to him, always the same and always in the same order. OF course, what you do in your time off is up to you.
You can become horrendously wealthy by offering to clean out various persons' chests while they are not about. You can also become horrendously dead 'cos if they catch you in the backstreets trying to pick door locks they are going to send you home to your mother in a cardboard box.
The city includes a cemetery, an arena, a shooting range, various pubs - you cannot get a decent pint of Guiness in any of them - and a fair sized sewer system. What you do is totally up to you.
There are other locations outside the city if you want to brave the equestrian challenge again, but they are only really worth visiting if you have to go there as part of a quest. Otherwise you may as well have robbed somewhere closer to home, since once you break in, most places are the same - a maze with chests of booty lying about.
Sounds are generally OK but can be a bit strained at times, so they fit in excellently with the gameplay. To be truthful, it is probably a very accurate simulation of life in a primitive environment, it certainly captures the timeless tedium and pointlessness of it all.
The modus operandi of thievery has just reverted from touch screens and modems in high rise offices to the more noble lock picks and large swords in dank dungeons, but the quality of life is just the same.
Some of the little sequences you stumble upon, like the arena for example, are quite entertaining and graphically effective, but there is not too much to keep the interest above critical boredom level.