Battlespire: An Elder Scrolls Legend Review

After the impressive successes of the two previous titles in Bethesda Softwork’s highly acclaimed RPG series set in the epic world of Tamriel (The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall), the failure of Battlespire to build upon that success is baffling and disappointing. Battlespire is the beginning of a new Legend series that was touted to draw upon and enhance the world of Tamriel by focusing on better graphics, shorter gameplay and a distinct endgame purpose, unlike the earlier open-ended sagas. Many of the things which made the previous titles unique and enjoyable are still here: a fully customizable character generation feature, the choice of a full screen first person perspective or one with an unobtrusive command bar, hack and slash combat mode using mouse movement to direct your weapon and control of inventory and magic spells through the use of hotkeys (F1 thru F8). The environment is mostly indoors with the occasional excursion outside but you’ll spend most of your time trolling through dungeons doing battle with the evil minions who have taken control of the training facility, Battlespire.

The game’s manual is informative regarding setting up and creating your character’s race, class, skills, attributes and appearance. It provides adequate data in terms of spells, weapons, equipment, magic items and character advantages and disadvantages. But the designers of Battlespire have gone out of their way to insure no information was provided on exactly “how” to go about your quest. The floating citadel of Battlespire is supported by magical anchors over which you must learn control and the use of the Daedric alphabet-based ward sigils (though defined in the manual) is left to you to figure out. But the biggest drawback to Battlespire is to be found in the uninspired and sluggish performance of the game itself. Not only did Bethesda renege on its promises of 3Dfx support (with references in the manual which don’t apply to the finished product) but the Xngine™ engine with newly added SVGA graphics (even with graphics set at low-res, with an option for hi-res) is choppy, at times slow and frustrating (especially in battle mode) and reintroduces the player to old problems such as characters getting stuck and even creatures walking through walls and objects on occasion.

Even with these considerable shortcomings,Battlespire will keep the intrepid RPGer occupied for a while. The premise of the storyline is good and it does perpetuate the Tamriel experience. With the introduction of multiplayer options over the internet, Battlespire does offer something the earlier TES titles didn’t: the ability to take your character ‘on the road’ and bash heads with others of like ilk with many options: team versus computer, team versus team, deathmatch or Capture the Flag. The setup over the ‘net is quite easy and you can quickly get immersed in multiplayer mayhem. All in all, Battlespire falls short of what it could have been mainly because of outdated development techniques but the basis for a grand series remains.

Graphics

Very disappointing. No 3Dfx support as originally advertised. Choppy, slow moving interface at times. High level of pixelation on “up close” scenes (although adequate on views from a distance).

Sound

Some very good voice acting and fairly extensive conversation gambits create viable atmosphere. The conversations with NPC’s is actually one of the highlights of the game. At times character movements slow down (or stop) when music is accessed off the CD-ROM.

Enjoyment

The concept of tighter gameplay, better graphics and multiplayer possibilities is great; however, execution of those worthy goals fall short. Overcoming the shortcomings of the game (inexplicably Bethesda didn’t even make use of DirectX5.0 or Windows 95) detract from being able to fully enjoy this one.

Replay Value

The only replay value associated with Battlespire would stem from multiplayer internet mode. The game itself, once completed, would not leave much to redo.

Documentation

Fairly informative manual but leaves player faced with learning a great deal about the Battlespire world by trial and error. Good marks for details regarding “things” in the game; just not too helpful on the “how”.

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