Albion (video game)
|Developer(s)||Blue Byte Software|
|Publisher(s)||Blue Byte Software|
Albion is a single player role-playing video game developed and published by Blue Byte Software for MS-DOS in 1995. It was originally released in German, then translated to English for international release. The game features a science fiction setting that incorporates traditional fantasy elements, such as magic.
In the year 2230, the gigantic, interstellar space ship Toronto emerges from hyperspace at the edge of a distant planetary system. The ship's owners, the multinational DDT corporation, believe that there are rich deposits of raw materials on one of the planets in the system, and the Toronto is to mine the whole planet's resources at once. The player is cast in the role of Tom Driscoll, the pilot of the exploration shuttle sent to verify the status of the planet. His shuttle malfunctions, forcing him to make a crash landing. Tom discovers that the data that described the planet as a desert world was false. Albion is a world teeming with life, secrets, surprises, and magic. It is up to him to alert the crew of the Toronto to the true situation to save Albion and its inhabitants.
Albion is a role-playing video game and features a number of gameplay elements typical of that genre. The player controls a party of up to six characters, each with their own skills and abilities. With these characters they may explore the game world, fight enemies, and engage in conversation or trade. Characters earn experience points by defeating enemies or by solving certain puzzles. When a character has sufficient experience points they will advance in level, increasing their maximum life and spell points. They will also receive training points which can be expended at a trainer to permanently increase one or more of their skills.
Albion uses a hybrid 2D/3D graphical system to depict its environments. Most interior locations are shown using a 2D overhead view, centered on the player's party. Movement is possible using either the keyboard or the mouse, and the mouse is used to examine or manipulate objects within the reach of the party leader. A similar view is used when exploring the larger world outside the cities, but with objects and characters shown on a much smaller scale. Upon entering most dungeons, caves, and the exteriors of larger cities the game switches to a real-time first-person 3D view. As in the 2D view, players may use the mouse or keyboard to move around and the mouse is used to select objects to interact with. A 2D automap is available to assist navigation in these areas.
In both 2D and 3D areas, groups of enemies may be present. These groups are visible to the player and move in real time. Combat occurs when the party encounters one of these groups. Therefore combat can sometimes be avoided by slipping past or outrunning enemies. The combat system in Albion is turn-based and takes place on a five-by-six grid similar to a chess board, with the player's characters arranged at the bottom and their enemies at the top. At the start of each turn, the player selects an action for each character to perform: Attack, Move, Use magic, Use Item, or Flee. The order in which party members and enemies execute their actions depends on their relative speeds and is an important tactical consideration. Since attacks are targeted at a grid square rather than the character or enemy in it, attacks will miss if their intended target moves before they are made, even if that target is still within reach. The movement of the player's characters is limited to the bottom two rows, but there is also an 'Advance Party' option which moves all enemies one row towards the party.
Conversations in Albion are handled in two ways: Set Topics and Keywords. The Topics usually signify something you can specifically ask that person, for example the leader of a tribe about an object that only he knows about, or a shopkeeper to show you his or her wares. Keywords are more dynamic and may yield different results to different people. Besides being able to type them freely, you learn keywords for a particular town by speaking to people about common topics, and gradually you will learn all there is to know in the game just by speaking to people. For example, you can learn some of the native language and culture, some superfluous knowledge about who likes whom, and what kind of drink is preferable.
Species and characters
There are nine playable characters in Albion, all but two of whom must join your party at some point as the plot progresses. In spite of the game giving the initial impression that Albion is a planet of the Iskai, most of these characters are human. A further division exists between Terran humans and Albion's Celtic humans.
These are humans originally from Earth who travelled to Albion aboard the Toronto. Terran humans have no magical ability whatsoever, speak primarily 'Terran' and have a somewhat extensive knowledge of technology. There are three Terran human characters available to the player in Albion: Tom Driscoll, Rainer Hofstedt, and Joe Bernard.
Tom is the game's main protagonist, a shuttle pilot who soon after the game's beginning finds himself stranded on a planet that against all expectations is teeming with life. Much of the game's plot revolves around Tom's attempts to locate the landing site of the Toronto. Tom remains in the party at all times; even if he is separated from everyone else, it is him the player will continue to follow. He has no particular special abilities, aside from the ability to use most human-made equipment in the game, whether it be made by Albion's Celts or by Terrans, but he has and develops a decent overall combat skill. He receives an implanted magic stone during the course of the game that he can use in battle to shoot small fireballs.
One of two government officials originally supervising the Toronto, and the only one following the mysterious death of Inspector Beagle, Rainer is a physicist and xenobiologist with an ecological bent. He accompanies Tom on his exploration flight to Albion and is stranded along with him. He reacts to the Iskai and Albion's ecology in general with the wonder of a scientist who not only finds himself with a whole new world to study, but also finds some of his old beliefs and attitudes shaken. Rainer is the most intelligent playable character in the game, often offering insightful and even valuable comments, and has good lock-picking skills, but is also the weakest fighter.
Joe is a technician aboard the Toronto and a good friend of Tom. Though he can be met early in the game, he only becomes a playable character after the rediscovery of the Toronto. His strengths mainly reflect his profession; he can offer invaluable advice during adventures that take place within the Toronto, at one point helping the party avoid some of the hardest battles in the game, but his combat ability is essentially limited to his ability to use superior Terran weapons, such as firearms.
These humans come from Albion itself (though their mythology speaks of travelling there from Earth, apparently magically) and are quite different from the humans seen at the start of the game. Unlike Terran Humans, Celtic Humans may have some magical ability. They speak Celtic, and some Iskai. There are four Celtic Humans who can join the player's party: Mellthas, Siobhan, Khunag, and Harriet.
Mellthas is a young druid living on the traditionally Celtic island of Gratogel. He is a deaf-mute but communicates via written notes and lip-reading. He first joins the party to help them find his missing foster father, but soon falls in love with Sira after discovering that he has the more or less unheard-of ability to communicate with her by touching her Trii. Mellthas has a relatively short list of learnable spells, most of which are moderately powerful combat spells. They notably include the Banish Demon spells, which when successful will destroy demons at once.
Siobhan is a human warrior from Beloveno, a large city on Maini. She will join the group if asked to, but has no bearing on the plot and is purely optional. Once in Beloveno, the player essentially has the choice between recruiting Siobhan or Khunag. Siobhan is the strongest of all the characters and the only one capable of using the most powerful non-magical (and non-Terran) human weapons.
A former high-ranking member of a militant Druidic sect, the Kenget Kamulos, Khunag is a dark, brooding wizard (an Oqulo Kamulos) currently living in Beloveno. He has been exiled from Khamulon, the city of the Kenget, but will join the party either when they need a guide to said city late in the game, or at any earlier point after he is first encountered. He is physically weak but has the most powerful array of combat-related spells in the game. Almost all of his spells concentrate on dealing damage. Khunag comes across as somewhat amoral but not entirely disloyal.
Harriet is a young member of the Dji Cantos, or Enlightened Ones, dispatched to help Tom's party in their quest. She does this mainly by allowing them to travel instantly from one landmass to another with the help of a magic item she carries. She has the fewest spells of all the characters with magical ability, consisting mainly of the most effective healing spells in the game but also including the most difficult and powerful combat spell available, which if successful destroys every opponent instantly.
The Iskai are an intelligent species native to Albion. They somewhat resemble humanoid felines in appearance and are tall and slender. Though Rainer identifies them as mammals, they have a number of physiological characteristics that differ noticeably from all Earth species of mammals, such as an empathic/telepathic forehead organ called a Trii and bony "claws" between their toes rather than at the end of them. They have their own culture and history, which is quite rich and is explored within the early part of the game. Iskai have two forms of magic, organized into guilds: the Dji-Fadh (Architecture and Building), and Dji-Kas (Nature Controlling). There are two Iskai characters who can join the player's party: Drirr and Sira.
A blond Iskai, Drirr is a warrior and a member of the Stiriik, a group of Iskai responsible for law enforcement in Jirinaar. As the Stiriik responsible for human affairs, he initially joins Tom and Rainer to assist them in solving a murder in which they are implicated. He is very fast and unusually strong for an Iskai, and arguably the best fighter in the game, though limited to using Iskai weapons and armour. He is shown as somewhat curious and impulsive, once to the point of it being detrimental to the party.
A young, red-headed Iskai, Sira is the daughter of Akiir, the head of the Dji-Fadh guild. Against her father's wishes, she has chosen to study the rival Dji-Kas branch of magic. After an unpleasant incident related to this old tension, she chooses to travel with Tom's party to get away from it all for the time being. Sira has the most varied list of spells of any character in the game, including some that freeze enemies immobile, thus potentially temporarily removing dangerous opponents from the battle, making them some of the most effective spells in the game. Sira appears to have a kind, caring and thoughtful personality. Early on, she develops a special bond with Mellthas.
The accessible parts of the world of Albion consist of three islands and two continents, plus the spaceship Toronto which to begin with is not on the planet. Each of these areas contains numerous sub-areas such as towns and dungeons.
Nakiridaani is an island inhabited by the Iskai. They don't have much dealings with human beings living elsewhere and regard visiting humans as oddities. The island consists mainly of untamed jungle, but it does contain Jirinaar, the greatest city of the Iskai.
The city of the Iskai has been constructed by the means of the Dji-Fadh (Former) school of magic; most of its features have been created by manipulating vegetable mass into growing into predetermined shapes. These include the thick walls that encompass the city. At the centre of the city lies the large building of the council that governs the place. This council is led by the Sebainah; the current one is called Janiis. Other buildings in the city include the houses of the guilds (the Dji-Fadh and Dji-Kas, or the Formers and the Magicians), as well as of the clans, and a few shops and a tavern.
- The jungle
The jungles around Jirinaar are full of exotic Albionian life, from strange tree-like plants and Triifalai bushes to predatorous animals. Some of the local animals are completely harmless, but beasts called krondirs, skrinns and warniaks make travel dangerous. Krondirs and warniaks are also hunted in turn by the Iskai for their valuable body parts. Also found are swarms of little, stinging insects that can prove a nuisance. The vegetation itself is often dense enough to present an obstacle.
- The old Former building
The only Iskai structure on the island outside of Jirinaar, the old guildhouse of the Dji-Fadh has become a deserted and shunned place, inhabited by krondirs and worse. It's also rumoured to be haunted.
The island of the Celts. Humans there seem to have remained very close to their (Terran?) Celtic roots, and live in three small villages of round huts, each ruled by a tribal king or queen. They also have with them some other Earth organisms, such as pigs and a sacred oak tree. The climate seems to be more temperate than on Nakiridaani. Gratogel is divided by a mountain range, access through which can only be gained through a narrow, bandit-haunted pass. The inhabitants of Gratogel also tend to keep to themselves, and they rarely even see any Iskai.
Klouta is the name of a fishing village on the west coast of Gratogel, and also of the nearby river, which flows northwards from the mountains. Passage overseas can be obtained from the village.
Vanello is another village, to the east of Klouta and near the druid school Arjano. It boasts a good shop selling a number of magic items as well as a blacksmith.
The third village on Gratogel is situated on the south of the mountain range, unlike the other two. It is known for its orchards, and indeed food can be bought there extremely cheaply.
Arjano is the school of the druids. It is situated to the north of Vanello, and is mostly underground. Access can be gained through a small hut on the surface. There is also a sacred grove consisting of a single oak nearby.
A majority of Arjano's underground complex is in fact unused. Levels below the first are known as Drinno, and stand as a testament to the "civil war" of the druids in the past, when the group to be known as the Kenget Kamulos separated from the rest. Drinno is now filled with traps, beasts and demons left behind after the war.
Called Trenkiriidan by the Iskai, Maini is a "large land mass" to the north-east of Nakiridaani. It's treated as a continent, although it can be explored in its entirety and is strictly speaking only a few times larger than the islands. It does contain more points of interest than any other area, including two villages and two cities. Maini is inhabited by both Iskai and humans, but the latter predominate. Similarly to Gratogel, it is bisected by a mountain range, and this one can also only be got past at one point, this time by climbing over it. This Mountain Pass has fallen into disuse, however, suggesting that some of the settlements are in relative isolation from one another.
A large human harbour city on the south-eastern shores of Maini, surrounded by stone walls from all direction except from the sea. The humans here are Mahinos, more civilized descendants of the Celts. A very few Iskai also live among them. The city offers all services that the party might need. It is ruled by a small council. The inhabitants of Beloveno are aware of the villages Kounos and Srimalinar to the north, but people seldom travel all the way there these days.
A small Celtic village in the style of Gratogel, situated along the Mountain Pass right on the highest peaks of the mountains. Ruled by a druid called Kontos.
This small Iskai town lies near the northern shores of the continent, on the other side of the Mountain Pass from Beloveno. It's almost identical to Jirinaar on a smaller scale. There is also a shrine to the Iskai Goddess nearby.
Khamulon is the extensive underground city of the Kenget Kamulos, who started out as a sect of rogue druids but eventually left Arjano and Gratogel to form their own city. The Kenget are dedicated to the worship of their war-god Kamulos, and their entire society reflects this. Warriors are respected above all, and those who can fight with magic (the Oqulo Kamulos) are ranked higher than those who need the use of weapons (the Kledo Kamulos). The leader of the Kenget is the Cuain, who acts as the earthly Avatar of Kamulos.
Khamulon can be accessed through a cave to the north-east of Maini, but the Kenget will not let anyone in without sufficient reason.
- The Mountain Pass
There is only one way across the great mountain range, and that way is by using the large "climbing plants" that grow or have been grown across the sheer cliff faces in several places. The roads leading to this Mountain Pass have long since fallen into disuse and been neglegted, but the way is still relatively easy to find.
- The kritah caves
Under and within the mountains, near the Mountain Pass, can be found a confusing labyrinth of interlinking caves on several levels. Explorers are advised to be careful about entering these caves, but they do contain some riches to be found. They are, however, populated by kritahs. These small animals are regarded as only a nuisance by the Mahinos and are quick to flee if they don't have overwhelming numbers on their side, but in the caves they get aggressive and can be quite dangerous, especially as they tend to attack in groups.
The Dji Cantos Island of Peace
This beautiful, secret island is the home of the Enlightened Ones, also known as the Dji Cantos. They are a secretive sect consisting of both humans and Iskai that holds knowledge unknown to most of the residents of Albion. They have on the island a single large building surrounded by gardens and nature. In the gardens can be found patches of plants that increase your main character's stats if you stand on them for a while. After some time these patches recover but only for so many times.
The land of the Umajo
The seemingly largest continent on Albion consists mainly of barren desert, but it is also home to the Umajo, technologically (relatively) advanced descendants of the Celts, known for their metalwork. The Umajo live in a single city at the coast, surrounded by endless desert.
The city of the Metal Makers, or the Umajo. It lies on the shores of the sea, but it's still so dry there that water is valuable. The Umajo here sell the best of all sorts of artificial goods, including exceptionally powerful non-magical weapons.
- The desert
The deserts surrounding Umajo-Kenta are the single largest terrain feature anywhere in the game. They cannot be exhaustively explored, and even what the player can access seems larger than all of Maini. The heat in the desert is so intensive that to survive there for long without getting dangerously exhausted, people need to use a special liquid called porenoil that can be obtained from Umajo-Kenta. Another hazard are the sand divers, strange animals shaped like some kind of insect larvae, which emerge from the sand and attack by throwing rocks. It's also quite possible and potentially dangerous to simply get lost.
The desert contains mainly sand, but at places it is also littered with strange rock formations. A secret way between these leads to an underground passage that can be used to reach yet another large area of desert.
- The prison
The Umajo have built their prison far in the desert, though they recommend it as a place for visitors to see for some reason. A guard goes there regularly every day and can act as a guide.
The game begins on the Terran spaceship Toronto, which is heading towards Albion. The player can explore quite a large part of the ship at once, but other parts will only become accessible later.