Developed by the S.S.I. Special Projects Group, Thunderscape is the first RPG adventure to take place in the new World of Aden. Players will discover an intriguing and vast world that suddenly plunged into darkness. The time of the Darkfall, as the people of Aden called it, brought to life hordes of nocturnals, nightmarish creatures that haunt the psyche of people. In your journey through the World of Aden, you will encounter nocturnals of all shapes and sizes scouring the land and the sky.
Thunderscape's story begins when the magical shield at Skellon's Pass is destroyed by an army of nocturnals. As this barrier was protecting the Northlands from the nocturnals's invasion, their only hope now lies in the hands of a group of knights from the Radiant Order. They must go to the Skellon's Pass and restore the shield before it is too late.
This brief historical background will be explained to you in a 3D animated introduction. I was somehow disappointed by its quality because at a time when most introductions are presented nearly in full screen, a small window with average quality graphics appears outdated. Fortunately, this criticism is only limited to the introduction and not to the game itself.
As with most other RPG games, you will have the choice to create your party or to use a default one that includes four characters: a fighter, healer, wizard and a thief. The process to create your party is really easy and has a very nice looking interface. When choosing your character, you are given two possibilities: Quick or Detailed. The first option will let you pick the race, gender, archetype and face while the second option will give you more freedom with weapons and skills by eliminating archetype restrictions. There are many faces you can choose from and the excellent graphics explicitly represent each of the eight different species. The same hard work has gone into the graphics for the weapons and armor which you will equip your party with. Another feature I really appreciated is the character's mannequin that represents their body. You may place weapons, armor, special items such as rings, amulets, etc... upon the different parts of the body.
You have a maximum of four characters in your party. However, if you meet NPC's (Non-Player Characters) you will be able to add them if they wish to join you. Just be certain that the character's intentions are good, because you might experience what people feel when they are deadly attacked in the back!
Once you have set up your party, you can start a new game. There is always the possibility to load a previous game if you have played before. Regarding saved games, you can only save four different positions which I think is not enough, but each position comes with a snapshot of the place where you were when you saved the game. It is helpful as an image is worth more than a thousand words, but still four slots are not enough for a game that includes twenty levels!
Thunderscape is a first person perspective game with an intuitive interface. You move your party by right-clicking your mouse, the mouse pointer will change into an arrow, and indicating the direction you wish to go. The basic movements will let you rotate to the left and right, move forward and back. You can also side left or right and move forward while turning right or left. These movements can be executed with the mouse and the keyboard, but I prefer using the mouse. Whenever you need to cross a gap or climb stairs, you will have to jump. Once more, either the keyboard or the mouse will do the job. Finally, there is an icon on the screen that lets you crouch so that you can explore tunnels and small passages.
While you explore the surrounding environment, you can find objects on the ground. If you are close enough and pass the pointer over an object, you will see a grabbing hand. Click on the mouse and drag the object over a character to insert it in their inventory. It seems there are no weight limitations for how much characters can carry. They have four pouches that hold up to eight objects, which by a simple calculation allows you to carry 32 items. When you run out of space for an object you can drop those you won't use.
Combat has never been so easy in a RPG game. You can cast a spell, use range weapons or engage in a melee combat. The first two options let you attack enemies while they are not in close range. If you are too close or attacked by creatures, the combat menu will appear automatically. In this menu, you will have different choices for your characters. If you choose to attack, you have eight different ways to do so such as standard and berserck attacks, attack for vitals, shield bash, etc. With experience, you will learn which are the best choices among them all. If you choose to defend yourself instead (if you have a character with low strength for example), you can select one of the three defensive attacks or even flee to run away. In the combat menu, you will also be able to use other options such as stealth, ranged weapons and cast spells, but I won't go into detail here. All the necessary information can be found in the manual. More unusual is the Last Order icon that repeats the last orders given to your characters in the previous round which prevents you from going through the options menu over and over.
Evrey time your characters fights, they gain experience which allows them to go on to the next experience level and to increase their skills. You can select which skill you want to develop, and therefore with this system, you can have a powerful fighter who is at the same time, a wizard or a healer.
Thunderscape's graphics are not among the best in the first person perspective games, but are good enough to give you an idea of the environment where you are. In the first level, you will see a river, a bridge, cliffs and caverns, and all these elements have realistic textures. The other levels will walk you through sewers, Dwarf mines, a Dwarf city, the Radiant castle, etc. The game, as mentioned above, contains 20 huge levels in which you will probably lose yourself more than once. I found the automap to be the worst thing in the game because it is impossible to use. The isometric view for the map is not the best choice in my opinion, especially when you explore tunnels spreading on several layers.
If you like RPG games with turn based combats, Doom like action and a long playing time, Thunderscape might be a good choice for your Christams wish list. I appreciate it, and even though I only spent about 10 hours playing, I'm still far from finishing the game. This game will give you a run for your money.