Oh those wacky, wacky evil wizards!
Considering all of the recent games featuring full 3D, amply textured, mip mapped, Gourand-shaded graphics, it's nice to see a game that looks good without all of those fancy buzzwords. In Silver, Infogrames has come out with a game that does almost everything right without relying on brand new technology.
The plot goes like this: An evil wizard named Silver has taken over the land of Jarrah. One day, his son Fuge is ordered to round up all the ladies of the land so that Silver may find a wife. And whaddaya know, your wife is among those he kidnaps. After a brief chase, you join up with a rebel band and vow vengeance on Fuge, Silver, and his annoying little minions.
For anyone who has played any of the famous Alone in the Dark games, the graphics may be sort of familiar - the standard 3D polygonal characters on rendered 2D backdrops. However, don't think for a second that this means that the graphics are bad. The backgrounds are, in a word, beautiful, and in two words, really cool. Everything is realistically and smoothly rendered, with the occasional interesting animation (the rain in the city of Rain is astonishingly picturesque). But the best thing about it is how well the characters are rendered within the world. When the characters move around, it actually looks like they're in the picture, not pasted above everything else.
The interface is definitely a change from other action/RPGs. First off, the menu system is done with a series of rings, somewhat similar to the rings from Secret of Mana. It's fairly easy to move through item/weapon/food quickly. This ring system makes for an almost invisible interface. The only things on the screen other than your characters are their health, magic, and defense meters. Thus, you can spend your time looking at the cool scenery without having your view blocked by lots of annoying info bars.
But you're not going to spend the whole game staring, are you? You want some action! Well, the battle system is the most original one I have seen in a while. Besides just clicking on an enemy to attack them, you can also go into a sort of "battle mode" by pressing Control on your keyboard. While in this mode, you can thrust, sideswipe, back swing, dodge, and parry, all with just a click of the mouse. This may sound like a gimmick, but it does add lots of strategy to a battle. A thrust takes longer and attacks only one enemy, but is very powerful, while the sideswipe can take out lots of enemies around you. Very cool!
The sound is great. This is the first PC action/RPG I've played where I've actually liked the background music, which is normally some mish-mash of random styles. But the music in this game is very atmospheric and well done.
Another notable bit is the voice acting. Most of the time, if the voice acting doesn't completely suck, it just acts as a way of getting the story across. But the voices in Silver were very appropriate, with some of them absolutely hilarious. I caught myself laughing out loud at some of the better-delivered lines.
But unfortunately, we must now come to the bad things. Hardcore RPG fans will probably not like this game as much as other games. First, there is no experience system. You can only gain levels when you beat a boss. Second, the story is pretty cliché, with a get-the-eight-magic-orbs-before-the-bad-guys-do storyline.
Also, I have a few pet peeves. It's often hard to find out where to leave the screen. Many of the scenes take up more than one screen, and hence allow you to scroll around. The problem is that you can't always tell whether a scene is scrollable or not. I remember trying to go up some steps without avail, while all I had to do was scroll up and click on the top of a cliff. Some of the battle screens are not in a good position, and you aren't able to see exactly what you're doing.
They could have made the AI for your compatriots better as well. When you have other party members, battles can become really crowded, and you find yourself switching between characters without ever realizing it. It's really annoying when you're trying to use a sword, and then suddenly realize you're using a character with an arrow. It's true that your party members try to attack different monsters than the one you're fighting, but more often that not they get in the way or have to be rescued.
Overall, this is a fun, high-quality game. If you're entranced by wonderful sound, graphics, and interface, you can probably overlook the handful of flaws in Silver and give it a shot.