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Silver

As mankind emerges into the new millennium, unnecessary complexity and superficial detail seem to be the order of the day. We surround ourselves with electronic devices that we don't need, luxuries that we can't afford, and responsibilities that we don't want. As computer gaming traditionally evolves alongside the society that feeds it, it too has taken to be filled with heightened complexity. While this occasionally nurtures the industry and helps it to grow as a whole, it also has been used by the less ambitious to satisfy deadlines or to ride the coattails of a burgeoning niche. With this in mind, it is satisfying to find a title such as Silver that professes to carry itself with alternating detail and simplicity.

Set in the classic fantasy era of swords and sorcery, Infogrames' offering is a re-telling of the ancient tale of an evil and oppressive emperor called Silver, who quite naturally has plans to control the world. However, in a mysterious step, he orders his captains to travel the land of Jarrah to capture all women of marrying age. This grievous offense does not go unnoticed by the love-struck male citizens of the land, least of all on the small island of Verdante. The majority of the enraged men form a motley group to chase after the captured women and to combat the evil that is Silver. A man by the name of David, however, unaware of the group, decides to track down and recover his fiancée Jennifer without any extraneous help. After being taught a quick lesson in combat by his beloved Granddad, he sets off with his elder in tow to see to it that justice is met. It is not long before David learns the true nature of Silver's scheme, as well as the means to his undoing. In order to acquire sufficient power to defeat his dangerously potent enemy, David must collect eight magical orbs that have been scattered across the land and lost through the ages. In typical RPG form, Silver requires the orbs for his own purposes, and thus sends his vast army to put a stop to David's righteous quest.

Whether he's fighting back invaders in the tempestuous coastal town of Rain or attempting to close a portal to the underworld while fending off hordes of murderous imps, David's journey exposes him to a myriad of locales and personalities. In what would seem to be a nod to its Japanimation influences, towns and people are attributed simplistic yet appropriate names. For example, the aforementioned town of Rain is at all times subjected to rain storms, the city of Winter is a constant maelstrom of ice and cold, and your old grandfather is simply called Granddad. Despite the basic appellations of its inhabitants, the world of Jarrah is a diverse, sprawling environment, complete with a broad range of voice-acted characters with which David can talk and even adventure with if they are so inclined. On his path of vengeance and retribution, David will have the opportunity to sign up Sekune, a sharp-tongued archer, Vivienne, a capable and fiery warrior, Jug, an axe-wielding mammoth of a man, and Cagen, a martial arts-oriented monk, among others. Each of these brings their own set of specialized skills and abilities to the table, which can be used to a certain degree for strategic planning. At one moment, David may require the services of a long-range defender such as Sekune, while at others a close-up powerhouse like Jug might be of better use. Any character may use any weapon available to the group, although the disparity in their skills will visibly affect their ability to inflict any degree of noticeable damage with a weapon that does not complement their abilities.

While he will eventually require the skills of others to survive, David's own skills are sufficiently diverse that he can hold his own against the throngs of Silver's minions. A game that seems to pride itself on its supposed simplicity of use must keep the basic elements as bare as possible, and the character statistics comply to this mindset. Each individual, controllable personality is graced with the classic RPG stats of wisdom, strength, constitution, and so on. There is, however, no experience system, and characters only raise in level after defeating a particularly tricky boss monster in combat. Even though each character within the party at the time of the creature's defeat receives a boon to their vital statistics, the player cannot decide where to allot the extra points. Rather, the points' distribution are pre-determined by the character's specialty, and so Jug, being a staunch warrior, will receive a bonus to his strength upon going up a level. This system renders statistical management as simple as possible, although it comes across as an over-simplification.

The inventory system is worth mentioning, as it is somewhat unique. I say somewhat in that fans of Planescape: Torment will feel that it is familiar. All menus and lists that might be familiar to fans of the genre are gone, replaced with an inventory wheel of sorts. Navigating through this maze of options will also land you the world map, through which you can easily point-"n"-click your way to any location that you've already visited in your travels. Additionally, each and every character function is available through this wheel, including equipping weapons and armor, magic wands, spells and so on. Just a few simple clicks, and in no time your characters are fed, equipped and ready to go. The problem is that calling up the inventory wheel does not pause the game, which in turn encourages a fevered rush to access your weaponry in the heat of battle. While this might perhaps seem like perfectly natural battlefield behavior, more often than not your character ends up wielding a completely different weapon than the one you had intended, exponentially increasing your chances of ending up as a greasy spot on a demon's rug.

Rarely within the confines of a fantasy game will one find combat to be a simple extension of movement, but this is indeed the case for Silver. Movement also is a standard point-"n"-click affair, and battling the enemy is not too much more complicated than that. To perform combat maneuvers, one need only hit CTRL while clicking on the enemy. Mildly complex moves may be executed by CTRL-left clicking while either jerking the mouse forward to lunge, left or right to slash, and backwards to spin in the opposite direction. A small degree of defense is available as well, for CTRL-right clicking will ready the character's shield if he is equipped with one, and cause him to jump back if he's not. These simple controls are useful at first, but rapidly become repetitive and somewhat taxing on the wrist as wave after countless wave of enemies assault you throughout the game.

Considering the astounding number of enemies that cross your path and the frequency with which you must dispatch them, a lack of variety in these encounters would definitely prove to be a major stumbling block in one's enjoyment of the game. Fortunately, the assortment of villains is sufficiently varied to sidestep this potential problem. Because the journey through Silver takes David across all manner of terrain and locales, he's constantly coming across new and interesting creatures to impale and mutilate. Fighting your way through the forest will expose you to a race of bizarre plant creatures and tree golems, while travelling through the snowy hills of Winter will force you to do battle with snow wolves and ice creatures. At the end of every plot turning can be found a boss creature that is considerably more difficult to dispatch than the average grunt, as is necessary for the "find the X number of items" type of plot. These bosses are generally grandiose, ranging from an Aqua Dragon, to a beefed-up Fire Sprite, to even a Demon. Due to their usually considerable size, they tend to be far more detailed and easier on the eyes than the average monster.

Graphically, Silver is strikingly similar to Final Fantasy 7. Characters are made up of polygons and traipse across hand-painted landscapes. Magical and combat stylings are accomplished with various particle effects, and many of the characters wield outlandishly large weaponry. The noticeable difference, however, is that unlike FF7, the effects are constantly flashing themselves in your face. Almost every new moment that passes brings with it another spark of clashing swords, another spell effect such as a fireball or lightning bolt, and even the spray of blood gushing from the newly hewn wound of a meddlesome imp. As fair as the graphics occasionally are, however, they pale in comparison to the splendor of the meticulously painted and animated backdrops.

For a game that professes to be an adventure-RPG, Silver has a dishearteningly low level of both. Its total lack of real conversation, side quests or any kind of meaningful interaction with its world detracts from its ability to make the player care about the nefarious happenings that plague the heroes' lives. As an added fault, immersion is substituted with wave after endless wave of creatures. Combine this with its quirky combat system, and Silver becomes nothing more than a repetitive action title with scant RPG elements. And, really, how many times have we seen that?

 

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