Wasn't Ishar that awful film with Warren Beatty and the short guy? No indeed, that was Ishtar, and it had lots of camels in. Ishar has a noticeable lack of camels, but lots of scenery.
Remember a game called Crystals of Arborea? Probably not - it wasn't very good. Anyway, this is the sequel, and the plot is something like this: the land of Kendoria (formerly Arborea) has been plunged into darkness... evil ruler called Krogh built fortress... called Ishar... go and kill him... etc.
Thus you find yourself alone in some pleasant countryside with just a sword in hand a shady figure off in the distance. Your aim is threefold: to find some other stout adventurers, to find out what the hell you're supposed to be doing and then do it. Easy.
Ishar is pretty much a standard role-playing game. You wander around the landscape, recruiting characters (for some reason every character in the game is very partial to the phrase "Warm Tear" as a greeting or farewell), finding objects, killing monsters and getting clues. Sub-quests lead you on further to your final goal of getting into Ishar and killing Krogh before he does any more damage.
Wandering around the countryside by means of Dungeon Master-like movement arrows, you inevitably encounter other characters. These can be recruited, but only after a vote from the rest of your team (assuming you've got a team) - if they don't like the new addition, they're out. The characters have the usual attributes, like strength, spell-casting ability and experience.
But there's more to the characters than that. They each have their own psychology, so friendships may form between them. If you want to get rid of a team member, you've got two options: dismissal or murder. If the character in question is a good friend of the other team members, then they'll vote against you and you're stuck with him.
You could just do him in, but then if one of the other characters is the dead one's friend, he may very well attack the murderer. It's a delicate business and some parts of the quest depend on this interaction.
Most of Kendoria is countryside, but there are towns here and there. Wherever you are you usually find some odd but interesting-looking places to visit, which may be private houses, inns, training grounds or shops. The latter are useful for stocking up on spell ingredients such as Gargoyle Claw. These ingredients are mixed in certain doses and arrangements to form a spell, though the magically-capable character has to learn the spell by training before he/she can use it. Spells range from the crap, like Sleep, to the frankly godlike, like Resurrection or Repulse (sends opponents to Hell).
Happiness is a long hike
Ishar! (Bless you). The sum of Ishar's parts is definitely more than its whole. While no aspect of the game is really more than just above average, they blend in a very pleasing way to make up a wholly enjoyable game.
Anyone who's dabbled in the murky RPG waters before should feel very comfortable with the decidedly non-radical control systems used. This can only be a good thing - instead of struggling with the icons you're struggling with the puzzles and monsters.
The graphics really are quite gorgeous, and they look better and better as you continue playing. Apparently there are 20,000 locations and 160,000 views. While we're on the statistics, there are also 30 characters, 150 enemies and 40 possible spells. While all this hugeness adds to the game it does mean you spend large amounts of time trekking round the Kendorian countryside. Still, at least the graphics are worth looking at, and there are some pleasant samples to be heard.
Apart from the unnecessarily inflated price, Ishar is a solid little game with lots to offer. Kendoria needs you. Go on, help them out - they'll love you forever. Warm tear!