Betrayal at Krondor has been out for a couple of years now. The story is loosely based on Raymond Fiest's novels, all the towns you are used to reading about, La Mut, Darkmoor, Krondor, they are all here. Many of the characters also come straight from his novels. The game is divided into 12 chapters, each with its own story and quest to complete. Your first mission for example is to escort a prisoner, Gorath, to Krondor, but all is not that easy. Enemies and thieves will ambush you along the way. There are also sub-quests to perform. In the first chapter, one of the sub-quests involves ridding the Dwarven mines of a monster. These quests are worth completing, especially early in the game as they provide you with cash, weapons, food and other loot. You will also gain valuable experience points.
In each chapter the characters you control vary from one to three in number and characters often interchange. You have no control over recruiting or creating characters. Equiping characters is easy, in fact one of the great features of BAK is that you can quite easilly pick the game up without ever reading the manual.
Graphics do show their age somewhat now, the main view is a 3D first person perspective. When changing to combat or disarming traps the perspective changes so that you can view all your party. The combat system is a sheer pleasure to use and allows you to strategically control each player. The action is turned based, when it is a characters turn the squares that that character can move to will be coloured green. The AI of the computer foes is quite good, they will for example persue your magic user weaknesses, one of which is that you cannot cast certain spells whilst being on a square adjacent to an enemy. I really enjoyed the combat, Star Trail uses a similar set-up but isn't as polished at BAK.
Critisms, yes I have a couple ( but they are far outweighted by the good points ). Firstly like Arena Elder Scrolls, BAK also is a huge role playing land, yet there is little reward for exploring off the beaten track. The occasional chest perhaps, but little else. Secondly the time it takes to install. The program uncompresses and builds several large resource files, this is fine as I like programs to contain a few a files as possible, however building these files takes ages.
Overall BAK is one of the best CRPG I have played. The story is engrossing and the combat is probably the best implemented of any CRPG. It is a pity that the hassles and problems with getting a sequel out have occurred.
A couple of tips.
If you run short on food, which will probably happen when visiting Elvandor, you can use the freeze spell on an enemy and rest your characters one by one, just keep freezing the enemy each time it wakes.
BAK also has an auto combat mode. Overall its pretty weak and isn't worth using, except for one reason. Occasionally later in the game you will come up against foes that you will find hard to defeat, some spells will be inaffective and weapons almost useless. If you get to this situation, save the game, turn on auto combat and carefully watch what spells the computer selects. The computer will select the most affective spells for that creature. Just reload and manually play out the battle.
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