Palm III / IIIc / IIIe / IIIx / IIIxe / V / Vx / VII, IBM WorkPad series, Handspring Visor, or other Palm OS-compatible device; OS 3.x; B&W Version uses 710K, Color version uses 1690K
Are you ready for an engrossing tale? SkeNext has one to tell you, and it involves their Role Playing Game, Ancient Red.
“There is a marvelous and mysterious continent named Basylonia, surrounded by seas. Its natural environment is so beautiful that it’s called ‘the Utopia for gods’. The royal family, governing the country based on good law, has been trusted and respected by its people and subjects. Unfortunately, the last king, Belshazar, began to drive the country into tragedy when he married an outsider woman, who turns out to be a devil. She gave birth to a mummy-like baby, who had no blood. Belshazar, enchanted by the songs sung by Tarlan, who was a wily politician controlled by the Devil, named his newly born son ‘Moloch’. He began to kill his people and feed his people’s blood to his son.”
Ooooo – spooky. That’s the way the Ancient Red story begins in the manual. If you enjoy fantasy and other worlds obviously not your own, then this is a game you may have to try. But be forewarned: this is not a simple little mindless game that you can play as you are wasting time on the phone. You need to actually think in order to get anywhere with this RPG. I also suggest that you take a moment and read the manual. Then I suggest you get some reading spectacles. This game is very detailed, very colorful, and very hard to play with such a small screen.
To give you a little bit of background, I was informed that Ancient Red is very similar to the game Diablo. I have to admit, I have never even played Diablo, so I had no idea what was in store for me when I downloaded the 1690K(!!) color version of Ancient Red. What I found was a beautiful (256 colors), finely crafted, and impossible to play game. I have spent countless hours trying to learn a game that is so complex that I fear I will never see the end of it, much less get out of the first village. Obviously, this review will be written with your understanding that I am not a regular RPG player. So bear with me, while I share my experience. If you are a regular RPG player, you may completely disagree with everything I have to say – and that is completely fine with me.
The mission: You are the hero. Your mission is simple – you will not know why, but you are going to waste the next couple hours wandering around, talking to villagers and trading your gold for worthless weapons, that you aren’t going to be able to kill anything with, anyway. Honestly, I really wasn’t able to figure out if the mission was to kill the Devil-Baby Moloch, or to find the ancient prophecy scroll of Ueuekoyotl’s that the manual talks about.
Your first step as you enter Ancient Red is to create your new character. You can use the little keyboard to enter your name; instead of the generic “HERO” name they have given you. You can even add little “iron-crosses” and “good luck swastikas” (Remember that in ancient times, the swastika was actually a good-luck symbol, before Hitler stole it. There’s your mini history lesson for the day) I assume that this is so villagers later in the game can address you by name. (Not that I ever got far enough into the game to experience this.) By “rolling the dice” you give your namable effigy different levels of skill, dexterity, money, etc. Is it only me, or does it seem that the higher the “intelligence” you achieve in a roll, the less money your character has? Just wondering…
Once you’ve established who you are, you are then ready to enter the most confusing custom generated mess – oops, I mean village, on the continent of Basylonia. Seriously
though, the village is new every time you start the game over. The dialogue also changes, and your options are a bit different.
You will have to maneuver around your Palm screen by following your stylus. This is a little tricky at first, but you will soon get used to it. What you will tire of is having to click on items and people many times, before your tapping is acknowledged. There is also the issue of how your little man will “keep on truckin'”, even after you’ve determined with your stylus where he needs to stop. That is a bit frustrating. After a while, it gets really O-L-D.
You should stop and try to talk to the locals, they can sometimes help you either find what you are looking for, or humble you by letting you know just how unwelcome you are. Sometimes the locals just want to chitchat. Half the time, they will say something that gets your hopes up, like, “Hey, are you hungry? Come over here and let me share some dinner with you.” But guess what? You aren’t going to be able to figure out how to do it! – so it’s like a great big tease.
Did you read the screen above? Honest to God, lady – who cares if you are knitting a cap for your spoiled rotten granddaughter. Just tell me how to kill the blasted monsters on the other side of the water!!
It is very important that you load up on provisions while in the village. You are about to embark on a L-O-N-G journey (assuming you don’t get killed, anyway), and there will be all kinds of monsters and hairy situations that you will soon encounter. You will need everything from weapons, to magic spells, to plenty of food. Not that it will do you any good in the long run, anyway, if you are as sorry of a player as I am. There are several screens to show you what your status is.
I firmly suggest that you get yourself over to the Blacksmith’s shop. This is where you will find out that the gold you have is inadequate to buy any kind of impressive weaponry. Sure, you can trade whatever weapon you happen to have on you, and pay the difference in your precious gold, but if you plan on stocking up on food or magic spells – you had best just stick with your cheesy little brass dagger.
Trust me on this one: you really do want to read the manual, if you want to know what any of this means. Oh, you’ll still have plenty of questions after reading the manual, you’ll just feel like you should half understand the answers after you’ve done it) Obviously the food items are pretty straightforward. However, each weapon and magic potion has a little story that goes along with it, so you might as well figure out what it is that you need, that you can’t afford anyway, and that you would die while using if you were able to create a miracle in order to buy it.
You can linger in the village for a spell: you can stay a night at the inn; complete a task at the “Guild” and possibly improve your character traits based on your job performance (if you can even figure out how to perform the job); or you can look at the local scenery.
Don’t take too long though, for the clock is ticking, in the form of your food supply depleting…. and the last thing you want to do is even think about leaving the village without enough food. Even if you run out of food, you’re not going to die right away – oh no. You will basically be wandering around starving, while your HP, or Physical Strength runs out.
Once you feel you are in a position to leave, assuming you were able to gather some food & what not, you must cross a body of water that surrounds the entire village. That in itself is not too hard to do. But getting past the wolves, giant beetles, bats, and assorted other scary monsters you will quickly encounter…may prove to be your undoing. Trying to figure out which button to push as you are descended upon and quickly killed, is not much fun, and very frustrating. You can tap on a button, and get no response at all. The wolves aren’t going hear your screams of “Time Out!!” “Enough!!”, and “Crap! I Quit!!” Oh, and that blue blob that just bit at your ankles? That’s one of those giant beetles that I mentioned earlier. Once you are actually able to see it, you’re pretty much already dead.
Oooops, back to the drawing board! If you possess the time and/or stamina.
Well, here are my thoughts on Ancient Red: If you enjoy an impossibly hard Role Playing Game in your free time, then prepare to spend allot of your free time on this one. As you can see, it is a complicated and frustrating game that will keep you occupied for weeks, if you have nothing better to do. I on the other hand am going to accept defeat on this one, and tell you that not only did I not understand it; I don’t even know if I want to.
An interesting thing to note: there seems to be some type of conflict between Ancient Red & Zap 2000. Zap 2000 worked fine until I loaded Ancient Red. Afterwards, it was gibberish. Once I deleted Ancient Red (with relief!), Zap 2000 worked again. Go figure…
Now, I understand that allot of you RPG’ers are getting primed up to “blast me” for my criticisms of this game. Just remember this – It’s not my type of game, and there are others like me out there. They need to know what this game is like, too before they bother clearing the memory on their unit – much less shelling out the $30. Just think, if you are able to master this game, then I have given you something to feel smugly superior about. Enjoy!!
From Julie: I just wanted to give everyone my
quick thoughts on this game. When I first saw it, I thought Wow, I have to play
this game. After I got it, I found that it was quite tedious and wasn’t much
fun. The game looks really good, but the interface and playability just
aren’t there for me. I like RPG games and unlike Judie, I’ve had experience
playing several on the Palm OS platform. I think the main things that keep me
from liking Ancient Red are that the screens are too hard to see. There is just
too much detail to see what you need to see. Sometimes you actually lose your
character because it gets hidden behind a tree or a building. The interface and
navigation methods are also somewhat hard to use. I would like to be able to use
the hardware buttons to move my character around on the screen. I also found
that the game is just too hard to play. There are always too many monsters that
gang up on you at one time. It’s almost impossible to survive an attack. The
attacks also happen too quickly to react. The attacks don’t appear to be turned
based. I think it’s just a free for all hackem / slashem fest. It would be nice
if you could see how many hit points that a monster has so you know if you have
a chance to kill him. There also really needs to be a difficulty setting for the
game. I think this game could be great if some of these issues were taken into
Over 20,000 different screens (!!)
Color version uses 1690K (Yikes!)
Black & White version uses 710K
Difficult! Frustrating! Hard to see! Hard to act! Hard!! Hard!!! Did I say H-A-R-D!!!!!!???
Not for the faint-hearted, slightly blind, or short of time.