Andy's Battlspire Review
- Before I begin, I want the record to strike that I thoroughly enjoy this game and it was well worth the money I spent on it. Why else would I have clocked in about 20 or so hours already? Keep that in mind when you read this Email. (Also note that this is not mentioned for the sake of all, but for the sake of a few that only see the negative in any collection of words. There is an appropriate section titled "good stuff". I just hope these folks take note of it as well.)
 Bad Stuff
- Say what you will about Battlespire's overall stance in the market, but IMHO it's a "tweener" meant to appease us TES fans until TES3, as well as an attempt to grab some interest from the action enthusiasts. I can live with this, and because of it, my hopes aren't extremely high. However, with this p.o.v. there should be a few things that one should expect. I was disappointed in a few instances:
- No 3D video support? Ugh! I can't believe that drastically inferior products like Shadow Warrior, Blood, Postal, Unreal, etc, all get 3D support, but not BS. To boot, most of those games support a cross section of 3D boards, not just 3Dfx. Quite frankly, what is Beth thinking?
- No joystick support? Ugh^10!!! This is inexcuseable. Even DF had it! Hell, even Space invaders had it. Pardon the obvious pun, but this is BS. My SpaceOrb supports drivers for the above mentioned games. Hmm... a mere coincidence? My weapon of choice certainly is NOT a mouse.
- From the looks of it, Mplayer is the only way we'll be able to take chunks out of each other. Again, why? The action genre has been enjoying TCP/IP peer-to-peer for some time now. Why are we denied? Is this marketing strategy on the part of Beth and Mplayer? You MS-bashing, conglomerate haters should hear me loud and clear on this one.
- Installation was not easy. The game ran hideously slow on my computer on first run in Win95. I dropped to DOS to run it there and still no luck. After much playing and tweaking of my autoexec, config, and pif file, cache options under 95, continual rebooting, crashing, and game lock-ups, and trying to run under both 95 and DOS w/o luck, I was about to give up until I got feedback from Beth or you guyz. I mean, in order to play on Mplayer, I'm assuming that 95 is a necessity unless I go with Kali which is an additional purchase (correct me if I'm wrong). To make a long story short, I found out what the problem was. I was missing smartdrv in my autoexec. D'oh! But still, 95's cache should have handled the slack, right? Nope, not in my case. Adding smartdrv (thus forcing 95 into "compatibility mode" -- suck'ola) cleaned up this problem. Low rez is no problem on my P133 w/ 72MB EDO RAM and hi rez is tolerable but still muddy. The game didn't run significantly different under 95 as opposed to pure DOS, which doesn't suck. Needless to say, start firing out those tips for optimizing startup files for BS! ;o)
- Interface lacking in a few areas:
- Instead of pummelling an "action key" like in DF, you can just center an object and click on it, like a chest for example, which brings up your inventory screen and the contents of the box alongside it. NPC dialog is very similar. This is very nice, but the flipside is that there's no similar, quick way of getting out of these screens. You have to drag the mouse all the way down to the lower right to click on "exit". No big deal, but do it a bajillion times and it becomes frustrating.
- Game companies are too afraid to give the user control control over opening sequences, death sequences, etc. Either that or they want to force us to watch these things over and over because they've worked so long and hard on them! In either event, it would be nice to shut that stuff off. Also, upon death, it would be nice to be presented with a restore game screen instead of a load/new screen. After all, you're going to restore a game 99.99% of the time, not start fresh.
- One of these days, one of these days, games will have a stanard hotkey for "quicksaves" as in U8. Press of a button, saved, back to play. Same thing with restore too. Instead, BS forces us to hit esc, move mouse, click on "save", wait for screen transition, click on savegame box, type new save game name or hit enter, wait for screen transition, click exit, THEN back to play. Which do you suppose would have been easier and more efficient? ...after 100 times? ...after 1000? Let's face it, we're gonna be doing this quite a bit and the easier to do it the better, I say.
- Hand-to-hand fanatics will be disappointed in the degradation of graphics for their preferred weapons. The roundhouse kicks and uppercuts from DF are all replaced by a single stroke punch. I must say it looks pretty silly. The graphics for the bow also pale in comparison to DF. For what it's worth, the bow looks like it was drawn in 3D, thus may have been enhanced via patch if they had included it.
- Many of the sound effects are taken straight from DF. Even the "meow-RUUU!" in the background when things are quiet. This is a new game, there should be new stuff. The FF series traditionally uses the same music, but always records another score. Is this a corner that was cut, possibly?
In looking back on this, I must say that these complaints are very minimal. Installation woes and tweaking comes with every game, thus expected. No game will have the "perfect" interface either. The huge letdown lies in the lack of support for hardware, ie: controllers and 3D boards. Very disappointing.
 Good Stuff
- The character sheet is phenominal!
- You can choose from sets of eyes, mouths, and hairstyles to make a near unique face. Remember how we were yakking about the ability to compose a face generated from various eyes, eyebrows, lips, and such waaay back? Obviously they listened! (or have a few of those psychic city guards on the payroll).
- The portrait is well defined, as are the items that you can equip. I'm blown away by the quality, in fact. Quite a quantum leap ahead of what we've grown accustomed to seeing in DF. One caveat: You can't tell what the item you're equipping looks like UNTIL you equip it. So much for "window shopping" like we did in DF.
- The game actually encourages NPC dialog and definitely adds a decent touch of realism. Granted, they say pretty much the same things before long, but it sure does help to displace the feeling of Pacman from daggerfall (read: mowing through seas of tightlipped enemimes). I also think it's funny, looking back to when people thought I was crazy for saying that Beth should use voice-overs and that reading is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Guess what's in BS, and what's not (unless you turn on subtitles)? ;o)
- The game is very much like the perfect hybrid of Duke3D (read: 2.5D) and Ultima Underworld 1 with the DF character engine thrown in for good measure. By the way, this doesn't suck! I loved those games and to have them all in the same pot makes for a delicious dish. Even the automap is like UU, except you can't write notes on it.
- From what I've seen so far, the game is balanced incredibly well. There's no way to create a godlike being straight away like in DF. Advantages are more costly when you're choosing something more powerful, which means you're making quite a sacrifice in choosing stuff. I can't wait to see the combo's people cook up.
 Mysterious Stuff
- When I installed the product, the game created a subdirectory called PICS. Hunh! I wonder what that's for? (chuckle) Needless to say, \ doesn't work. I've tried everything I could think of w/o success, even alt ctrl combinations (BTW, DON'T hit Alt-0... it dumps you to the DOS prompt!). Anyone have the answer? I saw a rad fight between a Vermai and a Dremora and didn't have any film! :o(
- Check this out, taken from STATS.TXT:
LEVEL 1 STATISTICS
ITEM COUNTS (free/monster/total)
Dagger : 3/1/4 Short Sword : 2/2/4 Long Sword : 5/2/7 Claymore : 3/1/4 War Axe : 2/2/4 Mace : 5/4/9
What's this stuff all about? I think it's how many you can find on a given level, the number on monsters and the number found in boxes, on floor, etc. Can you edit these numbers safely, thus making the game harder, easier, etc? Also note that I'm still on level 1 and that's all that's in the TXT file. I suppose that if they are editable, the game doesn't allow you to modify any levels except for the one you're on.
Check this out, taken from STATSC.TXT:
LEVEL 1 COMBAT STATISTICS ( 7782.029312 )
User damage taken from spells/# of saves : 0 / 0 Monster damage taken from spells/# of saves : 0 / 0 Actual damage taken by user : 0 Actual damage taken by Monster : 0 Spells fired by user : 0 Spells fired by Monster : 0 User fails/crits/specs : 0 / 0 / 0
There was also another file that kept track of how many hits each monster scored on my character too, as well as how many I scored on all of them. What's this stuff for? Just to keep a log of what happened?
All in all, I'm very pleased with this product. The shortcomings are nothing to keep me from recommending it to anyone. I can't help but feel that my system isn't set up properly and the manual was of zero help in that area (it didn't even list examples). I'm also very dismayed at that lack of hardware support, critical necessities in the action genre, of which this game is trying to romance. However, those items are the only Big No No's that Beth made, IMO. The other things I list are mere picayune preferences. If you're here, then you dig TES. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy.