JPWPI 2010-02 A Farewell to Dragons

Developer: Arise/KranX Productions
Publisher: 1C Company
Platform: PC
Price: $29.99 on Steam (as of 2010-02-01 – as of 2018, not available any longer)

Steam Links Removed – Game No Longer Available

A Farewell to Dragons is an Action/RPG that hearkens to the days of Baldur’s Gate and Dungeon Seige. An Eastern-European-developed game based on the works of fairly famous (in Russia, anyway) authors Sergey Lukyanenko and Nikolay Perumov. The focus of the story is on Victor, a man who is brought into a fantastic place called the Middle World, where he will find his destiny.

Upon loading up the game, I immediately have the introduction inflicted on me. It’s essentially a Flash/slideshow animation, telling us of this guy called Victor (a doctor, surprisingly) who finds an injured teenage girl on his doorstep. He takes her in, treats her wound, and somehow gets dragged out of his house by said girl the next morning, and dropped in the Middle World. I didn’t follow it exactly (not that there was a lot of detail), I was too busy trying to fight the nausea induced by the blatant purple prose and horrible narrative voice acting.

Let it be said now, Victor looks like a douchebag.

After that, I decided to try the game tutorial, wherein they teach me the controls. Let me sum them up with three words: Bloody. Hindering. Awkward. To start, the camera controls are in some parts far too sensitive, and in other far to sluggish. Of particular annoyance: To turn the camera, you have to click the middle button and drag, but if the pointer hits the screen edge the camera not only rotates, it also pans! Gah. Other choices seemed odd to me, but they worked, once I got my mind wrapped around them. Still awkward.

Actually, now that I consider it, there’s a lot reminiscent of other games here. The combat mechanics reminds me of Dungeon Siege with a bit of Baldur’s Gate’s pause-order-unpause mechanic. The intra-party bickering and recruitment also reminds me of Baldur’s Gate. The setting – arcano-steampunk, I think it’s called – with magic and fantasy critters alongside guns, Victorian-era science, and trains, reminds me of Arcanum. The character advancement, with carloads of skills, and perks every few levels is a pastiche of Diablo 2/Titan’s Quest and Fallout. The barrel/box smashing is very D2/TQ, and the graphics would fit right in with Dungeon Seige 2.

Looking at that paragraph, it really seems like they picked bits from some really awesome games, huh? Must be a good sign, huh?

Yeah, read on, before you get that idea.

So, we’re in this Middle World, and the girl, who at some point we find out is called Telle, tells us we have to get to an inn. Victor demands an explanation, and is basically told to bugger off, and says the first of some truly asinine lines in is game, and I quote: “There’s no arguing with a woman.” Seriously? Are you kidding me?

I said that a lot playing this game.

So, I spent some time killing the random boars and wolves in this starter area, and managed to almost die taking on a wolf pack leader. After getting bored of that, I carried on towards the in, and ran into bandits. We beat the stuffing out of them, and…apparently I know magic phrases that allow me to turn the last bandit into a liegeman instead of killing him, and send him off to tell other about us.

Yeah, foreshadowing.

Interesting side tidbit – it appears that you can place the camera over any part of the area, it’s not tethered to the hero or any member of your group, whom you can send all over the zone. Nifty.

Into the next area, with the massively original name of… wait for it… Hillandia. Seriously? Are you kidding me? Hillandia? What do they call the plains area, Meadowia?

Anyway, we continue onto the village, and run into a lumberjack who wants help getting his axe. I’m nice, so why not? We go on to his cabin, and I note that holy crud, Telle’s magic (which I set her to use automatically) is far more effective than I am with a sword. I stop to start leveling up, and decide I’m going to go with a little bit of a tech focus. There appears to be some nifty tricks there. Besides, I’m an engineer in real life, and I gots to represent.

Okay, I won’t talk like that again.

I enter the village, and hear about this mysterious fire. I take note of it here, but it never came up again. I wonder if I missed something. Wandering the city, a random elf (yes, there’s elves and dwarves) asks me to help him find a book. Eh, sure.

I’ll stop here to talk about the quest system. You can collect them like you would in most CRPGs, and in your log you select a primary quest. At that point, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some on-screen (in your minimap) indication of where to go. You might not, and might have to go to your area map, or even just search manually (often happens when I’m trying to turn in a quest).

I go on to the inn, thinking I’ll deal with the sidequest later. Reaching the inn, I get a tutorial message about leveling up. That’s nice, except I’m freaking level four now, stupid game. So, we talk to this girl running the inn called Rada, who tells us that her clan, the Wolves (good guys) took over the area after the Ravens (bad guys) were asked to leave due to their use of dark magic. Well, with that, we go to sleep, and lo and behold Telle pulls a runner on us, with instructions to go take a ride on the train. How nice.

Queue an attack on the inn! We assist, and surprise surprise, it’s the Ravens. Rada asks for help to prevent an attack on the Wolves’ camp (apparently this was a clue towards it), and again, I’m nice, so sure! And she runs off.

People do that a lot in this game, it seems.

Shortly thereafter, the bandit I spared earlier show up and wants to join my party – welcome aboard, Outskirter. Seriously? That’s his name? Are you kidding me? Ugh, whatever, he brings along his sons, who will wander this zone with us. Woo, firepower! We’ll talk about Outskirter’s skills (and others) a bit later.

We do that sidequest about a book, and run over to the Wolf Camp to find out some info. While there, we fight off the attack, and am struck by how pathetic these Ravens are. We get a named amulet for our help, that supposely marks Victor as a friend of the Wolves, and can call on them for help. Neat. I talk to the leader of the Wolves, and he gives me the book. I also get a quest to go after some bandits, who are supposedly holed up back in the area I started the game in. I head back to the area to fight them and…

Oh my word. Undead in this game is badass. Level 40! Yow! Run away!

So, carefully avoiding the undead, I make my way over to the bandit camp and…whoa, they’re all a level or two above me (5 and 6). Crap. A ludicrously difficult battle later, which eats almost all my healing items, I emerge victorious! I loot their camp, finding a zombie head in a bag, which I grab for kicks. I run back to the Wolf Camp, and get my reward (some equipment) and notice Rada handing around. I talk to her…and she joins! Slick.

I return to town, sell my junk, and go to the train station, where we run into a Water Wizard called Gotor. Who, along with some lackeys and a Water Elemental (which looks like a big snakey lizard thing) wants us dead for some reason, which apparently we should know about, but don’t.

On the advice of our friends, we flee to the train, and escape to a place called…Meadows.

Meadows. I can’t believe I practically called that.

So Gotor followed, with his Water Elemental and a couple lackeys, but Telle’s back! Yay! We manage to kill him off, and apparently Victor now has Water Magic! We stop to demand more info from Telle, and she admits she’s making things up as she goes along, sort of.

You see, it seems we have a destiny. And Telle is trying to guide us along it, but she can’t actually tell us what to do, oh no, it has to be our choice!

Y’know, this nonsense got tired in the books I read as a kid, I didn’t need it here, thanks. Bah.

Since Telle is back, let’s look at our party’s skills.

Victor currently has 3 skill paths. The first is his combat skill options, which he shares with Outskirter (it’s Outtie’s only skill field). It starts with weapon proficiencies, and as you gain character levels (and drop points in skill levels) more advanced special abilties show up. His second is technological, which gives him the ability to use technological weapons, steampunk-based armor, and various chemistry-based tricks. Finally, we just opened his third, elemental magic, of which only the water magic spells are open.

Outskirter, as noted above, only has the combat skill set.

Telle has the combat set and a special-to-her set called Unknown magic. You advance down it much like you do the combat set, with advanced spells opening up as you gain character levels and proficiencies with lower spells.

Finally, Rada, being a Wolf Warrior, has a set unique to her people. It’s sort of like the combat set, but with less variety in weapon skills and a load of special abilities to replace them.

It was at this point, running a short quest in Meadows to figure out some electrical knowledge – which would have been finished in five seconds if they had just used North American terminology instead of translated Russian terms – that I ran into my first bug. My character got stuck in the geometry, and the only way to get him out was to reload.

Searching the 1C Publishing site, I discover a host of other bugs, including these:

You can’t finish the game – if you approach the end boss, crash.
(Edit: Can be mitigated, but reverts the end game to Russian.)

You know that Wolf Amulet I got? If I actually try to use it (or any other one I get), it crashes.

I played the game for another few hours before rage-quitting after I lost a bunch of work in another stuck-in-scenery bug, which is where our story ends, my friends.

In conclusion, while A Farewell to Dragons has a lot going for it, it has a lot of major faults, and I’m not talking about the bugs. The interface is awkward at the best of times, the translation and voice talent is amateurish and lackluster, and the plot, while it attempts to be deep and engaging, takes a long time to get going beyond the juvenile. It could’ve been a retro-styled gem, but the poor production values really hurt it. You often spend a lot of time tediously running across mostly empty area maps (that all look similar) to get anywhere, having to wrangle your party members because their pathfinding is awful.

Still, it has a lot of potential to keep you absorbed. There’s a LOT of gameplay here, and I can tell you from my standpoint, if they ever fix the bugs I’ll play it.

1) The JPublic Fun Rating: A rating of how much fun I had. Consider it equivalent to your standard game score. 2.5 out of 5

2) The JPublic Irritation Rating: A measure of how much I wanted to throw the game out the window at my most frustrated. Not really an issue until you get to the above 4.0 rating, but a warning. 4 out of 5

3) The JPublic Value Point: A level at which I’d say it’s a must buy, because at that price it’s a great investment. $7.50
(2018 Edit: $7.50?!  Man, I was generous.  I’d say $0.75, now, assuming you could even buy it.)