Finally, here's my review for part 2 of the Friedrich saga. *slight spoilers ahead*
This time, the crew of Martens enters the VR room revealed at the end of "Friedrich's Quest“. Friedrich, the programmer (and hero of part 1), makes a bet with his teammates: He bets that they can't beat the virtual scenario he has created for them within three days. In this scenario, the party must investigate the temple of an evil cult and rescue the brainwashed cult members.
The stakes are unusually low for a fantasy game – the loser has to wash the dishes for a week – but the stakes are high if you don't like washing dishes.
The setting, graphics and sound of this game are exceptional – one of the most unique experiences that you can have with FRUA / DC at the moment, even more detailed than the predecessor. The environments and character portraits (and voices!) are lovingly crafted. You can explore a forest, a village and several stories of a massive castle.
And what can I say about the comic intro? It's fantastic, and sets up the characters and the game world in a fresh and exciting way. Are there more of these stories?
I only wish it would be possible in DC to skip the intro - it's slightly annoying that you have to click through all the screens each time you start the game.
The game adds several inoovations to GoldBox-gameplay. The characters have special abilities, selectable through the character screen, and they can also talk to each other via the "talk"-option, with amusing results.
The thing that still doesn't appeal to me is the combat system, which has been somewhat improved for the worse in FR.
Both "Friedrich's Quest" and "Friedrich's Revenge" don't use the tactical combat screen. Instead, we get a combat system that's more similar to the "Bard's Tale" games, but without a clear indication of who hit who by how many hitpoints.
In "Friedrich's Quest", the combat often lasted for several rounds, each round announcing if the enemy or the player had landed a hit. In "Revenge", the combats generally last only a single round, and the winner is announced immediately. The calculations, however, remain secret, so that the reason behind the outcome is somewhat intransparent. Moreover, if one party member dies, the game ends immediately. But since tactical combat isn't possible, the player can't take an injured character out of the line of fire, unlike FRUA, where you can try to hide wounded PCs behind the next wall or make an attempt to flee.
This makes it necessary to heal the characters after each combat, because even when the party is victorious, characters will still lose hitpoints, and that means certain death in the next combat.
Since there is no cleric in the party, and resting will soon trigger the time limit (more on that below), you will be constantly searching for healing potions - which can also bring you into conflict with the time limit, as does the fact that you will have to go back to the village several times to train the party (not training will make winning the fights on the upper stories of the castle impossible).
In the game's defense, I must admit that I made several mistakes on my first go-round: I forgot to ready my starting equipment (which FRUA does automatically when the game starts). As a result, the fights became much, much harder to win.
I turned on the search mode (old FRUA habit) - bad idea: Each step in search mode takes ten minutes, the time limit will strike much sooner.
And I rushed through the game, out of fear of the time limit - but without discovering the secrets and healing potions, and without going back to the village to train, you cannot win.
On my second attempt, I decided to explore the whole game world, collect all the treasure, train and heal my party, etc.
The exploration went well at first. The castle (sorry, temple) is really huge, and there is a lot of stuff to discover here.
In the end, I still came into conflict with the time limit, despite skipping almost the entire second floor of the castle. But more strategic rationing of my time resources was hardly possible, because the game doesn't provide any indication of where you need to go in the castle, so you'll basically have to explore everything (this isn't necessarily a bad thing - there is just so much to see here that I wished the game was longer, so I would have the opportunity to see all the rooms).
I must admit that I cheated a little (with Dinonykos' blessing) to circumvent the time limit, so I wouldn't have to start all over again for the third time.
Overall, I spent a lot of time with this game, and it was worth every second. If you have even a marginal interest in DC, you have
to play this. It shows off the amazing possibilities of DC while at the same time telling a good story set in a unique game world.
I'm looking forward to "Helmetlands", and I'm somewhat excited to hear that the game will incorporate the option for tactical combat - this could make the Friedrich experience perfect.