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08 February 2015 @ 06:47 pm
Aethra Chronicles!  
The Aethra Chronicles is on Archive.org!

The Aethra Chronicles has the distinction of being one of two shareware games I ever mail-ordered the full version for. Or, more accurately, asked my father to mail order the full version for, the other being the excellent Castle of the Winds, an early graphical roguelike which is sadly a Windows 3.1 game and thus not likely to be included in archive.org's collection. It also doesn't run on 64-bit systems, so I installed Windows XP emulation entirely so I could play it, but that's a story for another post once I beat it and post a review.

It's also the second game that I've assembled a soundtrack for myself, the first being the top-down space shooter Solar Winds I: the Escape, and the only one where I manually recorded the audio from the game and assembled the mp3s by hand. Which admittedly wasn’t hard, because there’s only a handful of songs and most of them are 15-20 second long loops, but still.

Anyway, The Aethra Chronicles has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only CRPG in existence to be based on Rolemaster. And similar to Rolemaster, it's extremely obtuse without pouring through the game's documentation, which of course I didn't get until I sent away for the full version after I had done everything possible in the shareware version. After doing that, learned that I should have maxed my main character's Wisdom instead of his Intelligence, since he was a Ranger and of course Rangers get their magic from Wisdom. Oops. No wonder he barely had enough spell points to turn into a bear.

Most of the Rolemaster heritage didn't matter, because as an early CRPG non-combat interaction was basically non-existent and there wasn't anything really approaching the Movement & Maneuver Tables. There definitely were critical hits, though, even though they were rolled behind the screen and most of the Rolemaster's color and flying limbs were lost. One of the skills you could put points was called Deadly Strike, and as near as I can tell it it gave you a massive boost on the critical hit severity. Later in the game, you get a chance to hire a thief named Chrissta, and the best course of action is to do that, max her Deadly Strike every level, use a wizard to cast Summon Shadow Guardian to duplicate her, and have two permanent cuisinarts murdering their way through everything. That could reasonably be considered to be breaking the game, but it's how I beat it so I have a soft spot for it regardless of its cheesiness.

Image found on the internet so I didn't have to run though character generation to get a good picture. You can tell I didn't take it because the main character isn't an elf.

There were some elements of the story that showed up in my imagination for a long while afterward, like the demon-slaying Grey Swords or the Oracle whose powers come from actually being from another dimension and wanting to get home. The game is also somewhat of a white whale for me, because while I did finish the game and beat all the bosses, including the optional Kahzreen Vader, I didn't beat him "legitimately," which is to say that I didn't solve the puzzle required to get to him, I just cast Pass Through Stone and walked through the wall to the room where he was hiding and fought him that way. I've been tempted to play again to see what I was missing the first time, since I've checked walkthroughs now that the internet is a thing and as near as I can tell I was doing everything right, but it has been twenty years.

I actually think that at least half of the interest I have in running a game of Rolemaster comes from this game, the other half being from Middle Earth Roleplaying. If you like old CRPGS, it's a great game.
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Current Music: Aethra Chronicles - Intro