Ancients I: Death Watch
for PC

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Company: Farrware
Year: 1993
Genre: RPG
Theme: Sword & Sorcery
Language: English
Licence: Shareware
Views: 41516
Review by NetDanzr (2006-05-13)

It is very rare to find a shareware first-person roleplaying game. Ancients I: Death Watch is just that. Clearly copied from Bard's Tale with a few minor improvements and a much weaker story, Ancients is a second-tier game at best, but still interesting and entertaining enough to keep you playing for a few days. The game is designed in first person, where a group of four adventurers explores a city and various dungeons that are accessible from the houses. Featuring graphics comparable with the first Bard's Tale, mapping the city is quite difficult, and it does not get much better in the dungeons.

Ancients I improves upon Bard's Tale in two aspects. The first is the existence of a casino, which adds a whole new dimension of fun to the game. While the games are wholly dependent on luck, once you have enough money you can spend it here. The second improvement is the combat screen. Unlike the text mode in Bard's Tale, Ancients switches into a combat screen where all your characters and enemies are displayed with relative positions. You will see who is in the front and who behind, and you will be able to attack by a simple mouse click. This makes the combat much more accurate and thus easier.

On the other side, there are several major drawbacks in the game. Probably the biggest one is the lack of any serious thought given by the developers to a coherent story. As much as I tried, I could never find what was the ultimate purpose of the game. Second, the graphics are a little worse than I would expect from a 1993 game. They are on par with Might and Magic I, which was released six years earlier. While character avatars came much later, even there all characters and monsters look highly unrealistic. Finally, the game has some serious balancing issues. While devilishly hard at the beginning, once you work up your characters, it becomes boring.

The major historical significance of the game lies in its programmer, Mark Lewis Baldwin, who later created classics like Empire and Empire II. Other than that, this is a relatively forgettable title, which is barely average even among its shareware peers.

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