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Classics: Albion Superb and highly innovative RPG for its time

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DEVELOPER: Blue Byte Studio GmbH
PUBLISHER: Blue Byte Studio GmbH

Screenshots (courtesy of mobygames.com):

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From Blue Byte Software (acquired by UBI Soft in February, 2001), producers of such titles as Archimedean Dynasty and Settlers, and designers of AmberStar, comes one of the most underrated CRPG gems in history. Some have loved it, some still hate it. A traditional RPG formula transplanted into ingeniously crafted world of imagination, but not lacking the realism of the true science-fiction. A compilation of most brilliant ideas, forms and solutions of it's times rather than great leap in itself - a negative feature many will point out. But a unique compilation is that...

Not so long ago, in the year 2227, humanity devised the faster-than-light travel mechanism. The discovery made quite a stir in our overpopulated Solar System, taken as a possible solution to the raw materials shortages. However initial enthusiasm was soon gone, as it became clear that the FTL drive cannot be used near any larger source of gravity, meaning anywhere inside a solar system. This effectively meant that an FTL ship that would extract and transport raw materials from across the vast space would still have to use conventional propulsion to enter or leave the vicinity of any planets. The costs to build, fuel and crew such a ship demanded the colossal size of the ship and that it would be send only to the planets containing the highest value and amount of raw materials it offered. Only the richest, multi-national corporations could afford such investments but eventually several groups of AI-controlled survey probes were sent out and the production of the colossal ships was started.

Years passed as Mother Earth seemed to be slowly sinking into a catatonic state. The great FTL ships were ready but the corporations' greedy executives were still not able to designate the ships' destinations.

It was in 2229 when one of the probes, property of DDT corporation, stumbled upon a great discovery - a mid-sized planet almost completely filled with raw materials just waiting to be taken. It was like nothing ever seen before. First scans revealed that it is an uninhabited planet with desert-type surface covered with thick layer of clouds. Humanity again fell in euphoria and the FTL ship, Toronto - property of DDT, was sent.

After the journey and arrival at the "Nugget", as the planet was called, it was again confirmed by the ship's great AI that the planet is uninhabited and that a scouting party should be organised. And so two men were chosen: a DDT employee, a young but able pilot that would steer the small scouting craft onto the planet's surface, and an Earth's government representative that would monitor all of DDT actions on the site.

Your name is Tom Driscoll and you are that pilot. It is the mission day, you have been preparing to for the last few weeks. You are about to wake up from a sleep. Wake up, just to hear the bad news...

This is where the fun starts. What can be seen first are the beautiful graphics and a perfectly crafted sound illustration. It soon becomes clear that the Nugget is far from being uninhabited. We are welcomed with unusually colourful and extremely detailed environments and sound so realistic that you will often catch yourself stopping your character beside a stream just to hear the water flowing by. You animate him from a top down perspective or, when he enters a maze, a city street, or a fight, it turns into a basic sprite-based 3D first person perspective. Though both quite different theoretically, here they nicely replace each other in different parts of the game.

As in any good RPG the mechanics of the game are quite advanced and detailed. What's obvious, the game world is absolutely huge. Huge and diverse. Although you will have to make several great journeys, there will be no time when you get bored. Of course you won't have to travel alone. You can gather a party and the world of Albion is full of interesting people. Each with his own life, story, needs and goals, strengths and weaknesses. Each of the characters you can enlist into your team will have a long list of attributes he can advance in while he gains experience or is trained appropriately. You can further customise your squad by equipping it with hundreds of different items, from guns and swords, through armour and shields, to forks, knifes and ceramic plates - just whatever your characters can find, steal, barter for, or devise themselves. And you will need those, as most of the planet is inhabited, if not with sentient species then with some kind of flora and fauna, quite much of it rather aggressive. In your long journeys you will meet many friends but even more enemies. Although it is possible to avoid fights, which is sometimes necessary if you care for your life, most of the time you will ruch into action in a true experience-gathering character. The battles are played on a small squared board and are dealt with in turns.

As it is a S-F game after all, developers wanted to introduce as much realism as possible. They did it quite nicely minimising the "fantasy" elements to the absolute minimum while making some quite interesting additions. The existence of in-game time and day-night cycle influencing the lives of Nugget's inhabitants, for example. This counts in all the natural consequences, on of them being that certain meetings or other phenomena (may) occur only at some exact times. Another feature are the psychological states of your characters. They can be tired, dizzy, unusually happy, and whatever else you can think of. They also have to sleep at regular intervals. There are more details that make the whole image even more fun: if you will fund your characters a peaceful night in a tavern's cosy bed, they will regenerate more health points then when sleeping on a cold ground somewhere in dark woods. Kind of obvious, huh? But when did you see that the last time? Another neat idea is that although you can take or steal most of the things that are not nailed to the ground, the majority of them will be of little value to shopkeepers or to the crew themselves. And it does matter what you carry as, being mainly an RPG game, the engine does recognise weight attributes so you can get your team overburdened really quickly. Of course you also have to account for shopkeeper's limited storage space.

Unfortunately among all those bells and whistles there are several little bugs that spoil some of the fun. Most of them are a result of rather poor design ideas rather than programming glitches. To name a few: the ability to ask any character in the game a question about anything, when you can even write the word yourself. Although such a move adds additional level of depth to the gameplay, as you will never find some information if you don't ask about a specific subject yourself, the problem with this approach is that you will soon find out that majority of minor characters say exactly the same thing about most of the subjects. Only those playing major roles in the plot have a large set of lines specifically designed for them. This quickly spoils the warm feeling of diversity when you get seeing a bunch of people living our their lives at almost any in-game location, which was supposed to create an effect of a living world. Quite a nice try for a 1996-production, however a bug when a local historian, asked about history of the city he lives in, sends you to... himself, already became famous.

Also, travels take you take you so far through the various lands of the Nugget that one has to question the sense of visiting certain in-game locations. Of course, exploration is always welcome in a quest to understand the world you have found yourself in, however no advancement in plot gives little reward and one easily gets the feeling of time lost while the atmosphere of large and live world goes out the window.

Another thing is that the game was originally made in German. And it can be seen in the way it was translated. Although a huge amount of text is shown throughout the game, there cannot be any excuse for many lines to sound unusually stiff or unnatural, with a few shorter ones making no sense at all.

However all those little problems quickly dissapear when exposed to the ingenious plot itself. An epic S-F story crafted in one hundred fifty thousand words with many sub-plots and all the tiny details an adventure lover always asks for...

A must. For everyone.


  • great story
  • original but comfortable interface
  • neat graphics
  • lots of weapons and other items
  • big, diverse and very rich in-game world

  • few plain bad design choices
  • translation bugs
  • a world unnecessarily big in several places

Summarizing: Because the game is a very good and unique compilation of some great elements. However few bad ideas are thrown in as well.

Edited by xerxes (see edit history)

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