Many years ago when I was just a medium sized youth I discovered the Fighting Fantasy books by Livingstone and Jackson. Inside these novels you didn’t just read a fantastical story, but you helped the outcome by choosing paths for either the hero, or yourself to follow. For example, if you wanted to drink the red potion, turn to page 23. If you want to drink the blue potion, turn to page 82. Either way you’re going to die. Many moons later I’ve been asked to review a game that’s been described as an interactive novel… and nostalgia fills my mind with these books.
The Narborion Saga puts you into the shoes of a young protagonist going to journey into the world, slaying beasts and helping those who most need it. Instead of animated FMV sequences however you are presented with a few paragrahs to read and then settle on a choice at the end or go to another location to explore. There are many images scattered upon the pages that help to immerse you, but at times I felt like my own imagination would do a better job. The art itself is nice, but I would have thought something more stylized for a game like this may have drawn more appeal from a wider audience.
Character creation has always been a key component of any type of roleplaying game and there are many choices here. Weapons, equipment and armour are all here as well as some potions and feats. You also get to choose an avatar that will represent you on maps or on battle grids. It does feel like a little more variety would be useful and the price on some items means you are severely limited but after playing for a short while you do obtain a few extra useful bits and pieces.
After a fight with three other squires (in which my rotund derriere was severely handed to me) I met with a Princess who said I did well. There was then some paragraphs giving me some history of a deity who had been banished and that the Princess would quest me to go take care of it, and speak nothing to anyone. Looks like I’m solo! The story elements seem ok, and the grammar for the novel itself for the most part was fairly well produced with only a few minor mistakes. A little more depth here would have been nice as apparently the character has history with the Princess but not much was made of it. The main story itself however was interesting and speaking to some of the NPCS felt like there was a lot more I could also do either alongside the main quest or later on in the game.
After playing the first combat I did feel limited as to what could be done, and another character, whether from a PC or NPC might have helped mix things up a little, instead of trying to move out of range from all attacks but it not working. It felt like a basic system in which dice are rolled giving you results against your opponents defense. Whoever has the high result gets the attack or defend, with modifiers for weapons or armour given. While it wasn’t bad, some added detail would have been nice to just make it feel like its you there in the combat. Aiming for certain limbs to try and look for weaknesses, bonuses to dice rolls etc would have provided more depth and tactical options to make the combats more exciting.
The map screen allows you to travel between cities fairly unobstructed, although the need to settle down and camp is very important as you can lose your effectiveness in fights. Getting inside the various cities provide you with more conversations between characters, guards, tavern users and even tarot readers. Its nice to see a variety in people you meet and I can only imagine there are more further into the game. As I progressed I found myself exploring a forest, finding a ruined Elven village and being able to crack open an anagram to find a useful item. The puzzles add a nice touch and are a reminder to games back from the Spectrum and Commodore age where puzzles would need to be solved instead of needing quick reflexes to dodge enemy blows.
The Narborion Saga then is a fascinating game that has some great ideas and will certainly play the nostalgia chords on many a veteran gamers instrument. However there is the issue that it feels like the game needs to have a few more elements and a more involved combat system to provide some depth and inspiration to keep playing. Another problem I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had a lack of direction, being able to aimlessly wander the map with a simple keynote in the corner of the screen to keep mind of objectives would have been useful. Theres potential here for a very interesting game and I hope the developers continue to advance this meshing of Fighting Fantasy books and videogames. More style and atmospheric music could help too, but for a game like this the story and gameplay need to be the most important features. My ten year old self would enjoy this game, but I’m left wanting more depth from the experience now.
Story – 7/10
Visuals – 5/10
Sound – 4/10
Gameplay – 5/10
Game Design/Innovation – 6/10
OVERALL – 5.4/10 – BARGAIN BIN
Reviewed by Kevin Rowland.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Narborion Saga on Steam however this does not in anyway affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)