ALBION Blue Byte Software

Simply put Albion is the most refreshing role play game I have played in long, long while. The big US software companies fail to see what the role play public wants, trotting out instead real time, single player products hoping to convert the hungry hordes of juvenile Quake and Doom fans. But a small German firm does know ! Albion combines traditional role play elements such as turn based combat with a unique and original storyline. It amazes me that a firm probably not even having one tenth of the budget for Daggerfall or Stonekeep can produce a vastly superior game.

Albion's story is great. You start on a spaceship leaving to explore a planet, a planet believed to be rich in valuable minerals. Your landing pod crash lands on the planet and you quickly realise that the planet is not uninhabited. But does that stop a greedy earth-based resource company. The intended actions by the company is pretty much similar to the logging companies in the Amazon. After being befriended by the native sentients you have to try to get back to your spaceship, plus play a little ' Emerald Forest" type stuff.

Graphics are good, not cutting edge, but colourful and interesting. There are two main views, a 3D type movement similar to Daggerfall, this is used in towns and inside caves and dungeons. The other is a top down perspective not dissimilar to Ultima VIII, this is used inside buildings and exploring the countryside.

Combat is turned based. Upon encountering monsters the screen toggles between two views, a move setup screen which features a check board upon which you plan who does what ( fight, run, move, etc ) and a front on facing monsters view during which the planned combat moves are played out. Combat is very tough initially, but gets better once you add some sentient magic users to you party. Magic is very important and is sensibly done, for some such as the cat like aliens, magic needs a supply of certain seeds, for others such as druids, magic drains your points. Puzzles are not too hard, I would rate it in the easier 50% of games I have played.

Music is very good, but the digital sound affects are disappointing.

Albion above all is story, story, story !!! please send more.