Kisai's Review of Aethra's Chronicles
Your father is the Royal Bodyguard for the King of Celystra. The king's newborn infant has been kidnapped and your father has been imprisoned for negligence. The Royal Vizer has been fired and quickly replaced with a mystery man. Smells fishy? Mix it with rumors of a demon cult trying to bring about the end of the world and you have the beginning of Aethra's Chronicles.
Aethra's Chronicles is played in two modes. For normal exploration of towns and dungeons, you are treated to a bird's eye view. This viewpoint works well in dungeon exploration, but doesn't perform well in towns where you are treated to the roofs of anonymous buildings that you blindly feel up against to find out what's inside. The party possesses a very limited ranged "Look" command, which lets you examine chests, traps, and search for secret doors, or you can hope that your Perception skill will let you detect such things passively.
Combat is held in a side view tactical combat, remniscient of the old SSI Dungeons & Dragons series, with two glaring flaws. One character can freely through another character except at a tiny line near their feet. Also, there is no penalty for withdrawing from a melee. Both of these flaws add up to it being impossible to hold a defensive battle line. Enemies can run full tilt right through your fighters to whomp on your mages. So you're pretty confined to offensive tactics.
The party has a respectable inventory, about 20 items per character. There are plenty of magic items and spells to keep your adventure interesting. but its a little annoying trying to sell found items by transferring them to the character with the best Trading skill.
You get to create a level three character and two level two characters to start your quest with. There is a plethora of classes to chose from: four types of fighters, three types of rouges, four specialists of magic users and one lonely type of cleric. Your class determines the major skills that you can develop, but you have some leeway if you'd like to develop in a different direction, such as if you would like your mage to also pick locks. You also get to choose a Tolkienesque race, which modifies the skill bonuses that you receive from your attributes. Best of all, you get to reroll your attributes until you are satisfied.
You have three slots left open to recruit NPCs with. Most can be hired out of guilds, and will charge according to their level and possess no equipment. Some will approach you and work for free that possess their own magic items (which they won't let you strip from them). Some will be lent to the party for a quest. There's also a darn useful summoning spell which lets you clone a character, equipment and all, but unable to use magic or carry items.
The game circles around a plot to sacrifice yon kidnapped prince for the incursion of the demon prince TONEATH into your world, thus incurring an invasion that would be impossible to win for humanity. Even though you're told this plot point by your father five minutes into the game, you'll spend a lot of time verifing it with a Book of Prophecies and looking for weapons to fight the invulnerable demons.
Enemies often outnumber the party, and if they acted with any sense of tactics, the game would be much harder. They seem to pick a PC at random and attack him, then inexplicably change their minds.
If you play a paladin or ashikagi, keep in mind that there isn't a training guildhall for these classes in the starting town.
Having a high agility for your mage is essential for having high movement points so she can avoid getting blitzed.
Two NPCs are lent to you by the dwarves and the elves for a specific quest. Make sure they aren't holding anything particularly valuable when its time for them to return.
Thieves are ridiculously adept at slaughtering scads of low-armored enemies with their Deadly Strike ability. There is a thief that will ask to join your party who possesses 25 movement points (most characters will have 4-12) can strike 7 times. If any of those strikes are successful Deadly Strikes, she can continue her movement and get another 7 strikes. I've wiped out parties of 12 enemies with her in one turn.