by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Left out in the dark?
Have you noticed that lately we seem to be in some sort of a RPG drought again? Apart from Dungeon Siege II and online RPG's, I haven't seen much to get excited about this year. More and more developers are adding RPG elements to other genres but the results are a mixed bag. It seems to me that the concept of character growth is still very much alive but the hardcore RPG fans are left out in the dark. If you are part of that group, you may find that the light at the end of the tunnel is still very far away. If you're willing to take one step down however, next year might bring some surprises.
One such surprises may come from Italian based P.M. Studios. Recently released in Italy, their new Action RPG called Etrom: The Astral Essence, should be available in Europe and North America in the first half of 2006.
A dark future indeed
The game will feature a futuristic version of Earth in a parallel dimension and one of its strongest features is its richly detailed story. The background part of that story paints a picture that few would like to think about living in; A dark planet covered with deserts where countries have deteriorated in huge city states that are governed by nazi-like dictatorships. Societies have come to a standstill and people are lost the nothingness of mediocrity. The distance between rich and poor is bigger than ever and extreme shortages have forced a stop on population growth. Trust is in as short supply as happiness and the secret police is working overtime keeping strict control.
Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy yet? Me too! Sounds like a great environment for an epic RPG game. The background of the game world sounds intriguing enough but there's more. What if we throw in a handful of science, a whiff of the occult, a lick of religion and a dash of magic? Sounds like the makings of richly detailed game world that will have you enthralled for weeks if not months. Let?s have a closer look shall we?
Your character, Etrom, isn't quite sure of who -or what- he is anymore. You see, something happened some time ago that left something lingering in his heart. The object, later dubbed The Astral Essence, changed his life completely. His former life as a soldier is over and he finds himself redefining who he is and who he wants to be. This struggle keeps him constantly second guessing his thoughts and actions.
During his soul-searching endeavours, Etrom will evolve into whatever you want him to. The game sports a RPG system that lets you make numerous decisions on how to develop your character. On one hand, there's an attribute system which sports twelve attributes with mystical sounding names like Sacred Axe Power and Astral Energy but also more mundane like Ranged Damage and Life Points. Some attributes will influence your combat skills while others will enhance your magical prowess. Although Etrom starts as a soldier, it's up to you whether you want to develop your fighting skills or pour earned experience into your spellcasting ability.
Besides a plethora of weapons ranging from your trusty Astral Axe to machine guns and sniper rifles, you will also be able to fight your enemies in the backseat of huge mechanical warriors. These mechs are tailored to be lethal in combat and can give you a real edge. But there's more that gives you an edge. Your character can transform your character into something different altogether. It remains unspecified what each transformation brings but with names like Abyss Knight, Inner Demon, Dragon Guardian and Legio Infenalis, the expectations for some real fireworks are high. Items can further enhance your character but those enhancements, of course, will disappear when you equip new items.
Spending time investigating Etrom, I often felt the game touches on the setting of Wizardry 8. That's a big compliment as far as I'm concerned. Obviously it is too early to say anything solid until the game comes out, but it definitely looks promising and I for one, am up for a good hack&slash game in a fresh setting.