Well, well, this is a bit of a dark horse. To my eternal shame, I expected it to be a run-of-the-mill insipid piece of dross. In fact, Legend turns out to be a very respectable RPG that includes many carefully planned features, quite a large chunk of common sense, novel characteristics and a few new glossy bits.
Arriving on three disks, complete with a manual that includes 95 English pages, the plot of Legend has you as the warrior to free the poor elves who are under the cosh from the forces of evil. It seems that the normally peaceful elves have turned violent. Find out what has happened.
Firstly, a few figures. The world, set within a medieval atmosphere, is split into two by a mountain range. You wander around it using a first-person perspective. There are eight dungeon sectors, each with at least four levels (each level containing 1200+ rooms).
Character creation is enlightening in that female characters are recognized as standalone figures. Female clerics have higher wisdom than males. Also, although males have higher points (via strength), females have a higher constitution.
Character design lies within that common sense I mentioned. Born intelligence, for example, cannot be changed. Good point this, and a very obvious one ignored by many other companies. Magic is handled well in so much that you have a daily quota of hit points - reflecting oncoming weariness, no doubt.
Character races restrict their respective careers. Dwarves, for example, hate magic. Also, characters have distinctive skill (e.g. elves make good archers) as well as different alignments (good, bad, lawful etc.). The manual is very well written, displaying a nice vein of humor and descriptive character summaries. Barbarians, for example, 'detest all kinds of magic and other "funny things"'. Which successfully conveys their simple way of life, their ignorance and distrust of magic and other 'non-physical' aspects of life.
Some of the more novel aspects of Legend are the Careers including the Blacksmith (a 'walking workshop'), Illusionist, Monk and Healer (female-only, incidentally), as well as one or two interesting skill abilities such as picking pockets, negotiating and stalking.
One of the best features in the game is the wide range of languages available: there are eight in all ranging from Animal to Orc. Those proficient in a certain language can obtain information, trade, prevent conflict or encourage a monster to change sides and fight for your party! Training in towns increases language proficiency although training in anything is a hit and miss affair, depending on other factors such as the level of concentration (another nice addition) your character has.
The novel features continue in the dungeons where, if a character fails to pick a lock, another character can break the door with physical force but, and here's the good bit, is liable to injury. Which makes sense. As does the fact that weapons and armour can be damaged in combat - although the blacksmith can repair them. During dungeon combat you can 'lure' monsters away from you if you wish to retreat, by leaving bait.
Combat introduces a three-line attack. The further forward the character is, the more damage it does but the more prone to attack it is too. The rear line is handy for spell-casters to concentrate on offensive/defensive spells. A small overhead view of the combat is shown. Users with expanded machines will see a mini animated sequence of each individual character skirmish. The good aspect of encounters is that you can back away from all of them. Handy because they appear frequently.
Presentation is excellent. The graphics are good but it is the way they are implemented, along with the spot sound effects, that makes the difference. Walk through a forest and hear a crow cawing and the crunch of your feet through the undergrowth. Walk in a dark castle and hear the rain pouring down, your echoing footsteps upon the damp, wooden floor and see the room light up momentarily during lightning bursts. Great stuff.
Legend Of Faerghail is a cracking RPG that, while not having the true role-playing finesse of the later Ultimas (i.e. minimal combat, lots of interaction), introduces a few tricks of its own that even they do not include. Well presented, atmospheric and intelligently designed, Legend is an essential purchase for all RPGers.