Darklands - Retrospective Review @ RPG Codex
Roxor from RPG Codex has written a retrospective review on Darklands, a game released by Micropose in 1992. Roxor mentions that:
[....] there was also one RPG that I believe was truly ahead of its time, and was never quite matched in some respects. It's also quite heavily overlooked nowadays, which in my opinion is downright scandalous. Considering that Josh Sawyer seems to be all the rage on the Codex these days and this game is one of his favourites, I decided that it was time to write a few words about it. The game in question was released by Microprose and its name is Darklands.
A quote then, on character creation:
Each character can choose from a variety of backgrounds, from noble heir to rural commoner, which will influence their statistics in various ways. A nobleman will start with an edge in reading and writing, while a city trader will have higher streetwise. The background also determines the occupations available to your character during childhood, which, again, switches the numbers around in skills. A freshly-created adventurer is 20 years old, but you can choose to draw out his career over more years, each extension giving more skill points, and aging the character by 5 years.
A quote, then, on the travel system:
When travelling from city to city, your party gets placed on an overland map of medieval Germany. Travel speed is dependent on a few factors, such as whether your party has horses (and how high their quality is) and the type of terrain you are moving through. Roads are the fastest form of travel, but obviously they don't lead everywhere, and sometimes you will need to make a detour through forests, swamps, etc, which all slow your party down. There are also some impassable objects like deep waters and mountains, unless you pray to a saint for miraculous guidance (everyone can be Jesus and walk on water! Thanks, Saint Florian). The map also changes along with the seasons, and it is not uncommon to run into a particularly nasty blizzard when travelling in winter.
Apparently Darklands were the first game to introduce realtime with pause during combat, namely:
an Innovative Real-Time With PauseTM system. During battle, you can control each of your dudes separately, pause the action with the spacebar and issue orders. Your characters have a pretty good array of combat stances that influence theirstats - parrying will do less damage but significantly up the defence, seeking vulnerable places in an enemy's defence will increase armour penetration, but decrease attack speed, etc.
Microprose gave us an absolute classic that should be checked out by every self-respecting RPG enthusiast out there, especially those who favour simulation above all else. It also makes an excellent treat for those who have a big love for history. Not to mention that the game is simply a gift that keeps on giving because just about everything in it is procedurally generated, so no two playthroughs are the same, and you're bound to stumble upon something new each time you press "create a new world".
Source: RPG Codex