Two of the best shareware RPGs being sold today, Excelsior Phase One and Excelsior Phase Two are flashbacks to the RPGs in mid-1980s - the good old days when creativity and gameplay were much more important than the bells and whistles. Anyone who has played Ultima IV or similar games will be familiar with Excelsior Phase One's game screen: with the world in one window, a status screen in another, and a command screen in the last. Excelsior Phase Two improves upon the original with better VGA graphics (isometric view reminiscent of Ultima VI, hundreds more NPCs to talk to, and a more intricate plot. |
Your goal is in Excelsior Phase One is to discover the source of evil in the land of Lysandia and extinguish it. Excelsior Phase Two takes place in Errondor, where you continue in the role of a Fixer, a minor demi-deity under the employ of the Grand Council of World Watchers. Your task here is to investigate the mysterious disappearane of a Fixer who was sent to resolve a minor mix-up in the type of wine to be served at a banquet - a banquet where a peace treaty between two warring nations is to be signed.
Exploring the world, chatting with various characters, and using your head are all mandatory for successful completion of both games. The storylines are high-quality, well-written, and interesting with many twists and turns along the way. The range of commands is quite extensive, but nothing that will take Ultima fans by surprise. Talking to people tends to either elicit a response or not; there are rarely instances where saying the right thing is necessary. Fighting depends more on luck and statistics rather than strategy. This is perhaps the weakest aspect of the games: it is difficult to survive early in the game unless you happen to choose your initial attributes to favor strength and dexterity. This prevents flexibility in choosing initial attributes. Clerics will find it difficult to survive the early fights, so if you want a challenge, you know what class to choose.
Both Excelsior games are extremely refreshing RPGs especially in the days of high-budget-but-hollow-gameplay action games thinly disguised as RPGs. The interface and graphics are simple, yet the games themselves fascinating. Nostalgic gamers are encouraged to download the shareware version of games and evaluate them (you have 10 days to play the full games). The games, in my humble opinion, are well worth the price. You may very well be surprised at how the designers manage to capture not only the look, but more importantly the heart of what makes early Ultima games so addictive. Two thumbs up, way up.Reviewed by: Underdogs