Review by Desert Gunstar

Reviewed: 01/30/04

An old-school pseudo-3D RPG, and not a bad one at that.

The Ancients series (only 2 games, actually) was a rather obscure one developed by company Farr-Ware, and published by Epic Megagames. Deathwatch is the first one of these games, which was also the shareware try-before-you-buy game. Because this was supposed to be a teaser game which would supposedly lead you to purchasing the next one, Deathwatch's game life falls short. The story is severely lacking, and the graphics are rather run-down. However, while you're exploring through the 6-odd 20*20 dungeon floors, the journey can be enjoyable, indeed.

Where did that blasted map and compass go...?
If you haven't played these types of games before, don't sweat. Basically, it's just like any console-style RPG game with the small difference of navigating in 3d. You create a party of 4 adventurers, equip them, and head off to the sewers. There are no NPCs in the game, with the exception of shops. Instead, when you walk into a certain area in the game, you may trigger an event, ranging from a few descriptive lines of text to a battle.

Sorry, but the fairy is in another castle!
For a fantasy RPG, the story is hollow, but feasible enough to work. When you were young, you liked exploring. One day, you were drawn to a valley with a fairy. Then after, you grew up and left town, then came back later to find that the people of Lockhaven feared for their lives. You, being this great adventurer, set off to find the evil within. An inadequate plot, but at least your hometown didn't burn down...

If adventurers hate any colour, it has to be grey.
The graphics look dreary and the colours are bland and dark. I suppose that is how the atmosphere of a sewer is like, and you spend the majority of the game inside a dungeon. But even so, the environment is just so uninspired and...bleh. The player and enemy portraits are drawn nicely, but the sprite graphics merely get the job done. There is no animation whatsoever either, unless you count the scrolling of the Farr-Ware logo and the in-game text. No sound, too.

Swords, Magic, Dungeons...it's been done.
So, it's like a console-style RPG with first-person navigation...how bad can it be? Not as bad as you think, for the most part.

The heart of Deathwatch is in the combat and exploration. Since you're navigating a 3d maze with no map, you will get lost. You do have a compass, though...and what can you do with your compass? Make your own maps! While slogging your way down the sewers, you will encounter a few puzzles along the way, but there is a disappointing amount of content.

Combat is turn-based and are random as you move through the game. The battles may seem unique and engrossing at first, but once you're knee deep in the dead, it all boils down to console-RPG type play. You are able to place 2 people in the frontlines and 2 in the back. Not surprisingly, the frontliners are the ones who attack with melee weapons, and the ones in the back use ranged ones or cast spells.

Casting spells in Deathwatch is a necessity. As an offensive tactic, there are group and all-target spells to use on the monsters, and they are able to cause the most damage in the game as well. Basically, there are spells that increase the combat skills of a character, boost defense, heal the party and attack the enemy. This makes a spell-caster a flexible class indeed. Unfortunately, this 'flexibility' creates an imbalance between spell-casters and warriors. Spell-casters are simply better, especially toward the end where warriors miss nearly 100% of the time.

Higher level spells are attained by reaching higher levels. Be forewarned, though: the later spells are merely stronger forms of earlier spells, with the exception of a few. Also, some names of the spells can throw you off. A mage's Energy Drain spell for instance gives the party an agility boost. Huh?

A light adventure, but fun nonetheless.
I like this game, I really do. But, if you take a real hard look at it, it's just a stripped down RPG. Oddly enough, it's fun to explore the deep dark (and get lost), and it's fun to mash monsters, grab some loot, and power up. If you can look past all the bugs and design flaws of Deathwatch and just want to jump into some old-fashioned venturing, this game does just that...but nothing more.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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