Anthony's Film Review
Betrayal at Krondor
(Video Game, 1993)
Overall design is admirable, but the challenge and gameplay may be tedious for the novice gamer...
Betrayal at Krondor, developed by Dynamix, is hailed as a notable computer fantasy role-playing game. I can understand the praise that RPG fans may have for this game and I won't argue with that. I say this because I'm part of the minority. I did not enjoy the game as much as I would have liked. I wanted to, and I tried. It's not the worst game I've ever played, but there are enough things that make the game very enjoyable for experienced RPG players but a daunting challenge for more novice gamers of the genre, like yours truly.
The game has the elements of a standard RPG: exploring a landscape, meeting characters, visiting towns and cities, buying and selling goods, managing health and resources for survival, engaging in combat with increasingly tougher enemies, finding better weapons and armor, learning magical spells, improving in one's skills and attributes, and dealing with situations that advance the plot. The fun of any RPG is the sense of accomplishment when triumphing over a series of challenges. For me, Betrayal at Krondor was a struggle that was stripped of enjoyment because of the difficulty level. Even on a default medium-level difficulty setting, the game was very hard.
The game interface involves a first-person perspective. You control not one character, but a party of two or three. Unlike other RPGs, you don't pick which character you play as. The game assigns the specific characters depending on where in the story you're at, which is nine chapters in all. The characters include the warrior Locklear, the boy magician Owyn, the moredhel (dark elf) Gorath, the thief-turned-squire James, the magician Patrus, and the magician Pug. So as you move across the land, part of a world called Midkemia, you are seeing the landscape of grass, trees, hills, and water through the party's eyes. I'm surprised that for a game released in 1993, the graphics looked more primitive, as if the game was made in 1990. I expected better graphics. I also expected more animation with cutscenes and things happening during the game. Instead, there is windows of text telling what is going on, as if you're reading a book. For me, reading text in games is fine as long as it's not excessive, which I thought was the case with Betrayal at Krondor.
And each chapter in the game takes quite a long time to complete. Each one involves one goal, but the actual path you take to get there is long and one you figure out on your own. I don't mind games that let you explore, but there should still be cues that will help you know where to go or what to do next. Betrayal at Krondor unfortunately expects you to explore every single square inch, nook, and cranny to find the necessary items to advance the plot. And there is so much movement from one place to another, even back and forth between places that are far away. It's easy to lose patience with the game.
The game is based on the world created by fantasy novelist Raymond E. Feist. The story in the game is an original entry featuring characters and settings already featured in earlier Feist novels, but Feist would later write a novel out of the game's story. I do think it's an interesting move on the part of the game designers. It is rather exciting to have a new game that brings to life a literary fictional world. Though I'm not familiar with the works of Feist, I enjoy the story elements that appear in the game, including Nighthawk assassins, a magical Rift between two worlds, and ongoing warfare in Midkemia.
Just to balance out my criticisms, I want to mention what I do like about Betrayal at Krondor. I do like the story to some degree. I like the idea of Gorath the moredhel risking his life to warn Prince Arutha about an impending attack by the moredhel. I like the twists that occur along the way and the premise behind the final chapter. I also love the soundtrack. The music beautifully captures the ambience of various spots on the map, like Krondor, Malac's Cross, and Sarth, not to mention the excitement of combat. Other than that, I admire the intricate detail that went into everything else.
So the main reason I'm giving the game a lower rating than expected is because of how tedious the game is. There's a mix of good and bad with the latter outweighing the former. Again, I respect any opinion from devoted fans of the game. I can understand why it's hailed as a classic. If you are an experienced RPG player, Betrayal at Krondor may deliver everything you want. For the rest, give it a try, but don't be surprised if it's too challenging. At least know that you're not alone.
For more information about Betrayal at Krondor, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.
In addition, check out my review of Return to Krondor.