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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: February 1, 1999
Any good role playing adventurer knows to be careful when following a giant — a little carelessness and you might fall into his footsteps and not be able to get out. For the past several years famous author Raymond E. Feist and his ever-changing band of marauding developers have been trying to do just that. Their journey has been a tumultuous one, with both development and publishing responsibilities changing more than once along the way. The follow-up to the critically acclaimed 1994 classic Betrayal at Krondor has turned into an adventure in and of itself. And theirs is not the only one; in 1996 Sierra attempted to capitalize on the legacy without Feist in the solid but uneventful Betrayal at Antara. For Feist and company, their Return to Krondor is a respectable one, but unfortunately not quite worthy of the name.
When we last left Krondor the Rift War had finally ended, and although Gorath had died, Arutha, Pug and the rest of the cast were finally able to live in peace. The story in Return unfortunately takes little more than name from its predecessor, and while long time readers of Feist’s work will still feel a sense of comfort with the game’s material, the amount of prose and story presented is substantially less than what was offered in Betrayal. Things get underway in a riveting opening cinematic, which introduces the main subject matter as well as the central villain, an oversized pirate affectionately named Bear. Bear is after an ancient artifact called the Tear of the Gods, which until now had been kept safe by the followers of Ishap. The game begins in the city of Krondor, with the player taking control of a reformed Jimmy the Hand (now called James); he’s to meet the newly appointed court mage, the first Keshan appointed to such a post, and escort her to the palace.
Those not familiar with the first game or Feist’s work should be aware that there is no character creation system, and unlike most RPGs there is not a main player character that you control. Instead, throughout the journey you’ll have five characters that you will control, with as many as four people in the party at one time. James the reformed thief and Jazhara the court mage will accompany you the whole way, so I guess they could be considered the main player characters. Everyone will already have histories, abilities, and experiences before you meet them. In order for your characters to progress in skill and ability you’ll need to learn a unique skill and stats model, that aside from some serious interface flaws, does get the job done.
Like Betrayal, everything is broken up into chapters, but don’t fooled by the fact that there are eleven of them: the whole experience won’t take much more than half as long as the original did. In fact, veterans of the first game should prepare themselves for a substantial amount of changes. For starters, in what I guess is an attempt to capitalize on recent gaming trends, the main game viewpoint has been switched from first- to third-person perspective. It almost looks like the designers attempted to incorporate the perspective used in Betrayal’s combat system, which was fantastic, into Return. Now, I’m not one who believes any one perspective is the best, and I have enjoyed a fair number of third-person games, but not in this one. A common problem among third-person games is the plethora of poorly implemented camera systems, and unfortunately Return to Krondor suffers from some of the most common of these ailments; characters often appear through walls and above/below walkways, and the perspective is often placed in positions that make combat frustratingly difficult.
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