Difficult to master
Washed up on a beach after a shipwreck, the hero finds himself immediately drawn into a tale of goblin invasions, noblemen squabbling over a woman, and a missing fisherman. As he sets out to put things right, our protagonist accumulates a band of companions to help him out. These include a guardsman worried about his lady friend, a dwarf, and an elf who, true to fantasy cliches, bicker continually.
Era of Magic is a turn-based RPG with a lot of promise. Unfortunately it is nowhere near finished and has a lot of issues because of that. The somewhat low rating of 2.8 reflects the unfinished status of the game and not the amount of fun you can have playing it. It really does have the potential to be a terrific game, and what little of it there is, is a lot of fun to play.
You will find that moving around the world is easy and intuitive. Just click on your destination, and scroll the view with the cursor keys if you find yourself near the edge of the screen. You can interact with things, such as treasure chests and other characters, by clicking on them. The graphics are not spectacular, but they do the job. You'll rarely be confused or distracted by them, and there are some nice animations for the spells and the moving waves on the beach. The music is also adequate, adding atmosphere to the game without being distracting, but there aren't any sound effects for fighting or spells.
Soon after the game starts, you'll find yourself attacked by a couple of giant crabs on the beach, and it's the combat system that really makes this game. Although a little confusing and difficult to master at first, it is as good a system as I have seen in an RPG. You first position your party where you would like them to be when the battle starts, and then start the battle mode by clicking the little sword icon. For party members with melee weapons, you just click on the enemy you'd like to attack and the square you want to attack from, and the character will move there and attack. Alternatively, you can choose not to attack and just move, which lets you travel further. The move-and-attack feature lets you outposition your enemies and brings tactics into the game in a way that's uncommon for RPGs. Characters with ranged attacks have it even easier; just point and click on the enemy you want to shoot an arrow at.
Magic is also done very well in Era of Magic. Your character has a selection of nine spells, each of which are actually useful. Many RPG games have a huge selection of spells, of which you'd only use a handful regularly, but in Era of Magic, they are well balanced, and each spell has a use. Your own character is the only one who can use magic, so even though he's OK with a sword, you'll want to support your warriors with spells a lot of the time.
Characters have five statistics which influence their maximum hit points, how many spells they can cast and their chances of evading enemy blows, hitting enemies and how much damage they do. As your characters gain experience by killing enemies and completing quests, they will raise levels and gain stat points, which can be used to increase a stat and skill points, which are used to upgrade the effectiveness of your spells. If your characters are injured, they will become less effective. For instance, if you are an 8th level character and have lost half your health, you will do everything as poorly as a 4th level character. The same goes for enemies too. This fact makes battles even more tactically interesting. Do you swing your sword at one enemy and kill him, or do you use an area-attack spell to wound several at once and make them less dangerous? Or should you heal your warrior to restore his abilities?
Now for the bad part. Era of Magic is nothing like a completed game. There isn't a functioning save game feature yet, at least as far as I've been able to discover, and the help file is only marginally helpful. Most of the features of the game you will have to discover through trial and error- mostly error. And by the time you do master Era of Magic you'll have fought your way through all the complicated bits of the game. Later areas have all the terrain and stuff in place, but no enemies or other characters. Perhaps it's best to regard this game as a demo teaser for a full version that will probably never be released, because it seems that creator of Era of Magic, James Lohr, has stopped working on it. That is a shame, because the game has some very nice aspects that could set it apart from other RPGs and make it a classic.
Review by: Nexus
Safe for ages: 13+
(available on developer\'s website)