Stony faced adventuring

Rings of Medusa logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

EVERYBODY has an off day. You know the sort of thing - wake up in the morning and there is no milk for your shreddies, cannot get to work because the trains are screwed up. But all this is as nothing to the problems facing Prince Cirion. His father bought it, so has the best magician in the kingdom. What is left of it, that is, because the rest has been overrun with demons, robbers, orcs, editors and other lower forms of life. Things are looking quite bad.

Commander in Chief of the invading chaotic forces is Medusa. I do not think she is any relation to the Prime absed 3D modelling package, but she seems to be just as temperamental. The only hopy of defeating her is to find the five rings, The Rings of Medusa no less, and gather what the blurb describes as a "relatively huge" army, before putting her to the sword.

This is not quite so easy as popping into the first jewellers you come across. The rings could be anywhere in the kingdom and the kingdom is no longer a place you want to wander about unless you are being followed by a few thousand highly trained soldiers in your employ.

Now in order to get a decent army you need a large amount of money. I do not know what you reckon, but I do not think even the TSB would be prepared to lend you several million on the strength that you may or may not win back your kingdom. The local banks will be prepared to lend you a few grand to get started.

From here you can take up a number of careers to increase cash flow. In fact, the first thing I did when the bank gave me a loan was to go straight to the park, sign up 50 men, outfit them and then go back to the bank and rob it.

There are a number of slightly more honourable professions you might take up. Trading with ships or weapons, searching for and mining raw materials or gambling in the casions, as well as outright banditry.

Actualy, it all begins to remind me of Elite. I mean, obviously it is set in a different period and all that, but the basic components are the same.

All the options are icon driven. These are not the sort of icons that seem to represent anything but the sort of indistinct things that hang around on the bottom of the screen, and have you looking them up in the manual every time you want to use them.

The rest of the graphics are impressive. Very impressive even. I particularly like the scenes where you are laying siege to a caslte and you get a panoramic view of your men running up and down, as well as cavalry charges and airstrikes from dragons.

There is a fair amount of strategy to the battles, it may not be simply a case of outnumbering the enemy.

Battles at sea are a bit of a let down though - it all boils down to how fast you can load a cannon.

Individual army units are made up of humans, trolls, giants and other mythical life forms. Each will detract or contribute to the unit's overall strength, intelligence and other fighting characteristics. The right troops have to be found for the right job.

The music is OK but not exactly atmospheric and get get to be a bit painful after a while.

In the value stakes there is an awful lot to it, remaining interesting and playable right up to the end.

A worthy attempt to combine true strategy with adventure through perhaps the need for financial acumen and military skill deny the pure adventurer much scope for success.

Rings of Medusa logo

Medusa, die sagenhafte Dame mit dem Schlangenhaupt, war von so schrecklicher Gestalt, dass bereits ihr bloßer Anblick genügte, um den Betrachter zu töten. Das kann man von Starbytes neuem Strategiegame nun wirklich nicht behaupten...

Der erste Eindruck erinnert irgendwie an "Defender of the Crown", gewürzt mit einer kräftigen Prise Handels- und Wirtschaftssimulation. Doch schon auf den zweiten Blick wird deutlich, dass hier mehr geboten wird als nur eine Neuauflage von Altbekanntem.

In der Rolle des jungen Königssohnes Cirion muss der Spieler sein Land von der Bedrohung durch die dämonhafte Medusa retten. Fünf magische Ringe und ein großes Kriegsheer sind alles, was er dazu braucht - aber woher nehmen und nicht mal stehlen können? Und genau da beginnt es schwierig, aber eben auch hochinteressant zu werden: Die Ringe sind natürlich weit in der ganzen Gegend verstreut; um ihre genaue Lage ausfindig zu machen, helfen List und Tücke allein nicht immer weiter, die Überzeugungskraft einer schlagkräftigen Armee ist manchmal der einzig erfolgversprechende Weg zu den benötigten Informationen.

Nur, eine solche Armee will erst einmal (richtig!) zusammengestellt sein, und für die Bezahlung der Söldner benötigt man (viel!) Geld. Das bekommt man wiederum durch gewinnbringendes Handeltreiben oder Black Jack spielen im örtlichen Casino, oder durch Schürfen nach Rohstoffen, oder... Ihr seht schon, Rings of Medusa ist kein Spiel für einen Nachmittag, die Komplexität der Handlung und die zahlreichen Kleinigkeiten, die es zu beachten gilt, bringen einen wochenlang zum Schwitzen!

Optisch gehört das Game zum schönsten, was bisher bei Strategiespielen geboten wurde; ein Extralob muss man den Programmierern für die Landschaftsgrafik zollen! Sie ist nicht nur hübsch anzusehen, sondern lässt auch gut die einzelnen Geländeformationen erkennen - sehr nützlich, wenn man eine ganze Armee darüber führen muss! Statt Fließ-Scrolling wird am Bildschirmrand komplett umgeschaltet, was aber nicht weiter störend wirkt. Gesteuert wird durch Mausklick auf eine Befehlsleiste am unteren Screen-rand, die wahrhaft genügend Funktionen aufweist (Angriff, Rückzug, Ja, Nein, Suchen, Speichern, Laden etc).

Noch ein bißchen Technik: Ein Zweitlaufwerk wird nicht unterstützt; auf der Datendisk lassen sich beliebig viele Spielstände speichern (echt notwendig!), Kopierschutz gibt es keinen, dafür eine Textabfrage. Unser Testmuster wies einige Merkwürdigkeiten auf, so feuerten z.B. bei Seeschlachten gegnerische Schiffe munter weiter, obwohl sie eigentlich längst versenkt waren, und auch Freund Guru hielt gelegentlich eine Meditationsübung ab. Die Bugs sollen aber in der endgültigen (und nochmals überarbeiteten) Verkaufsversion nicht mehr enthalten sein.

Fazit: Wenn Rings of Medusa auch nicht in absolut jeder Hinsicht perfekt ist, so ist es trotzdem ein unbedingtes Muss für alle Strategie-Begeisterten! (wh)

Rings of Medusa logo

Price: £19.95

Just a glance trough the heavy-handed text which accompanies Starbyte's latest RPG leads us to believe that R.O.M. is quite a meaty piece of software. Indeed, the quest itself is attractive. You, as Crown Prince of some unknown land, have to deal with one of the greatest adversaries of Greek mythology, the Medusa herself. For the sake of the story, Medusa has control over a 'hell-army' who aim to take over this, a green and pleasant land and you have to deal with her once and for all.

The game is viewed on three levels. The first, and most common, is an overhead view of a part of the land, with you as a small sprite. Using the mouse, you move this sprite around the map, guiding yourself toward towns where you can make money by trading goods, buy soldiers, weapons and transport, and of course search for the five rings. The towns are represented by a map, with buildings highlighted and named. By clicking on these buildings you can enter them.

The third level is the fighting screen, not completely dissimilar to Joan of Arc in that both armies are viewed as small clusters of dots, with a group of icons to control the movement of your attacking forces.

The game itself is controlled by a series of icons at the bottom of the screen that really provide nothing but the most basic functions - simple object and monetary manipulation, some communication interaction (a YES and a NO button for answering questions) and disk commands. It is this simplicity which really put me off the game to start with. Simple controls are fine if put to such good effect as, say, Times of Lore. Unfortunately, the controls are only set for the most basic functions, and this makes the gameplay primitive.

And it is really this complete lack of ingenuity which has spoiled R.O.M. for me. What could have been a highly enjoyable and involving RPG has turned to be nothing more than a superficial trading game with some strategy elements. Yes, the graphics are very nice, but that will never be the saving grace of any RPG. If there is one thing products of this genre cannot afford to be, it is superficial.

Rings of Medusa logo

Starbyte, Amiga £29.99

Snakes alive! If it isn't that old boa bonce, Medusa ravaging the kingdom of Morenor. She's must be hissterical if she thinks Crown Prince Cition is gonna stand for that load of adders: just 'cause her horde of demons and dragons have overthrown the land and left him a pauper doesn't mean he's finished. All he has to do is make enough money to build a massive army then find magic rings so he can summon Medusa and challenge her to a final, bloody battle for the kingdom... It seems like a good day for Cirion to have stayed in bed.

Alone on the plains of Morenor, with only a thousand monetary units for company, the task ahead seems awesome. But a crown prince has gotta do what a crown price has gotta do, and standing around sulking doesn't win kingdoms (...).

Towns are scattered throughout Morenor (some more friendly than others) and it is in them that most money-making tasks are performed in an effort to win back your kingdom. A visit to the bank should get you started, as arranging a loan is a doddle - although you do have to pay it back within three months or people in the area will cease trading with you.

Also in the towns are temples, stables, parks, pubs, jewelers, castles and so on. And once you've secured a loan you could do worse than visit the local stable and buy a couple of wagons (complete with horses) to improve your commodity-carrying capabilities for trading between towns (Elite-style). Popping into the pub is a good pastime if you feel lucky (well do ya punk?) 'cause there is always a game similar to Blackjack available and you may just come out with a profit (but I wouldn't bet on it).

If you've any money left from your town wanderings you might take a walk to the park to hire a soldier or two (try doing that in this country) to help protect you from attack by villains and thieves outside the town gates.

Travelling from town to town gives you an idea of market prices in each (the greater the distance between towns the greater the price difference of certain commodities). Also, some towns specialise in particular products, making them a snip for the travelling trader to buy and creating bigger profits when he sells them elsewhere.

Trading isn't the only way to make money: should you find ore on your over-land travels you can set up a mine (if you can afford the necessary equipment) and sell the excavated minerals. You can also look for treasure (again requiring expensive equipment) or, should you have a strong army, attack other armies and nick their booty.

Wanderings aren't restricted to land however, and, when you can buy ships to travel to the many islands surrounding Moremor, perhaps indulging a little piracy along the way.

Among all this mining, fighting and trading are the aforementioned five magic rings. Each one enhances your powers in a certain way, and when all five are in your possession you can summon Medusa and hopefully kick her out of Morenor.

All functions in Rings of Medusa (recruiting and arming soldiers and sailors, fighting, buying and selling, mining for ore, and protecting recaptured towns) are detailed and require some strategic thought. Visual displays are neat, using nicely-drawn graphics and smooth (if limited) animation.

Actions are controlled using icons at the base of the screen, some of which are only available during suitable situations - there would be no point in being able to open a mine when at sea, for example.

Music plays continuously until you switch it off, of course; which may be sooner than the composer might like. Oddly, there are no sound effects featured.

Professionally produced, the only real negative aspect of Rings of Medusa is lastability: it's not exactly exciting to play and isn't suitable for long sessions. But if you tackle it in short bursts - taking it off the shelf every now and then to give it another go (it features a save game option) - your pointer shouldn't click on the Quit icon through boredom and you'll get more pleasure out of your battle with Medusa.