Centauri Alliance was an keyboard-controlled RPG written in 1990 by Michael Cranford, who also wrote the Bard's Tale series. Cranford actually switched from Electronic Arts to Broderbund before writing this game. Cranford seems to have cleaned up a lot of details that were slightly annoying(i.e. your "experience points" are how much you have left until you can improve a skill) which are listed in cool stuff below, but the game doesn't have quite as much soul as Bard's Tale II and III. Quite. Story: Basically, there's been a historic cross-galactic peace treaty in 2267(it's 2314 now), but there have been threats for its disruption and rumors of treason within the upper ranks of galactic government, known as the Council. Your job is to recover parts of the Fist, a powerful weapon that helped forge the peace treaty, and find the source of treason. The five fingers and the palm have been scattered all over the galaxy. Cool stuff: Thorough job of "converting" traditional RPG stuff to the future. Spell points become PSI(psionics), which opponents can reduce by psychic attacks, and there are various different types of spells. Temples become hi-tech healing facilities for psionics and bodily healing, and gold becomes credit. Characters have more of a range of skills to choose from dependent on their race, so you can choose skills. There are various weapon skills(sidearm/guns, throwing, and melee) and technical skills(hardware, bio(healing) and ancient) and even metamorphosis. When you gain a level, the experience you need for the next level depends on which skill you chose to improve--the higher its number, the more experience you need for a level. It presents a nice dilemma so absent in early role-playing games(i.e. just get a bunch of levels, with one character of each class, and everything else will follow). It's a bit unrealistic that your best strategy may be to use broadswords to trash opponents that shoot guns, but it's amusing. And it means you don't have to buy ammunition. Although it is neat to see the different power packs for the differently named guns. The "dungeons" are plausible and even entertaining(there's a "throwback" dungeon with lots of medieval-style monsters, complete with Magic Mouths, which would just fit so well in Bard's Tale), and the puzzles are fun. Yes, some are a little easier than Bard's Tale and some seem unfairly tough. But there's lots of originality. Neat, original names. Races include Manstrak, Donsai, Praktor, Human, and Arcturan. The player profiles are like Bard's Tale, and the pictures are neat. The planet names are neat, too, like Veladron II, Omicron VII, Kevner's World, and Keppa Var(which the pamphlet mentions the Council has barred you from). You can buy non-player characters(robots) at a shop. Although they don't obey you, they are loads of fun and have neat pictures in their profiles. Movement is keyboard, like the Bard's Tale, although you have an automapper feature(along with futuristic pentagonal doorways). You can switch to the automapper(aerial) view and still walk around, although it gets cleared when you move from one planet to another or to a dungeon. There are also "action clips" during critical parts of your adventure. The text scrolling in a side box adds to it. "You meet Evil Guy X. (one of your players, picked at random) socks X in the jaw before he can run away. X starts to deny but breaks down in tears and confesses a huge part of the plot against the Council." The video sequence then continues to re-play. Good for a few laughs on the limited graphics. Irritating stuff: space shuttle transport between planets goes through a graphics routine that's tiring before the first time through. It's not so bad on an emulator off a 300 MHz processor, fortunately. Combat is awkward, too. At first it's neat to do combat on various forms of a hexagonal grid, but after a while it gets old using the arrows to shuffle between up to twenty hexagons, so building up your characters is time consuming. Although combat on hexagons is a very cool idea. The game itself came in a neat hexagonal box. Only mentioned as irritating because I threw it out. Reviewer's Score: 8 / 10
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