Author Topic: REVIEW: Blood and Tears (by James Rand)  (Read 612 times)

Offline ProphetSword

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REVIEW: Blood and Tears (by James Rand)
« on: January 22, 2009, 01:16:09 PM »
Blood and Tears
by James Rand

Mycroft Rating: 9.5

Reviewed by Vorg Ghaaroth Mordeth

Latest design by James Rand, Blood and Tears, is easily THE most gloomy, depressive and spiritually influential FRUA module I ever played (well, I haven't looked at When a Child Cries yet..). While it is not a Halloween contest entry, it could certainly find it's place there, perhaps on very top. Being a fan of grim, 'disturbing' settings and non-conventional storylines and ways to tell them, I couldn't miss this mod ever since I heard of it (James offered me to playtest it, but unfortunately i had no internet access in those days).

Design is intensely hacked, and all hacks rigidly serve only purpose - atmosphere. It is created from the very beginning by brilliant, extremely gloomy midi tune (which could surely use a hacked title sequence to match, but unfortunately, title isn't hacked..). Frameset is the same, but much darkened to almost pitch black, with eerie bloodred font (original and weird, yet unlike it happens far too often, easy to read). Such background overture of despair remains at all times, tainting even rare more optimistic parts of story with a shadow of future losses.

Main character of the story, prince Alucard, is one of the rare cases when PC is truly much worse than enemies he fights against. Ill-tempered and almost maniacally violent, he is accused in murder of his father the king (which, i think, wasn't even proven as false anywhere in game or documentation). Trialed and locked in dungeon, he is obsessed with one desire - revenge to his hated younger brother and nobles who conspired to put him on throne instead of Alucard (and i wouldn't blame them for that! :). And he receives such chance. As the story unfolds, Alucard gains support from elder, darker powers and walks his path of revenge, gradually losing anything human left in him. He has his unjust revenge, but in process destroys everything he loved.

The design seems strongly inspired by Michael Moorcock's Elric series - from magic to eerie, mystical places of the world (such as shifting Shadow Tower) to melancholic, gloomy sense of doom to the plot itself - a dethroned prince out to avenge his brother who usurped his throne and his beloved...except that sides are somewhat turned upside down. Being a huge fan of Elric myself, I appreciated it very much, especially liking to encounter similar grim mysticism in games i play and novels i read. With that all, ending of game isn't any bit surprising, yet touching and sad nonetheless (no, I won't reveal anything else).

My biggest gripe with the design was, guess, combat again :) While it never becomes a goal of gameplay (furthermore, characters don't even get experience pts and treasure from battles!), it happens way too often - perhaps way too often exactly for this case where combats serve no other purpose except hindering Alucard's advance. Without spells of kill-lots-of-people kind, random encounters with guards and such in earlier stages of game were quite tedious, even though blademaster Alucard could sweep through ranks of enemies like a maelstrom. Many set encounters were extremely difficult, like at the gates between real and reflected Shadow Towers. The scene of siege of Domen probably could be shorter, some finishing combats couldn't solve anything for the defeated defenders..

Besides few spelling errors, i only noticed two bugs, both minor. Wallset, used in Domen sewers, had blank bright-red square for farthest (3 steps) texture; and shadeland wilderness combat art, which seemed messed (separated trunks and roots of trees, empty, but impassable cells..).

I would give it a rating of 9.5 out of 10.

« Last Edit: January 29, 2009, 06:15:02 PM by Olivier Leroux »

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Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Blood and Tears (by James Rand)
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2009, 05:54:21 AM »
Blood And Tears
by James Rand

Reviewed by Rami Sihvo

    Rating: 8.25 (out of 10)

    My first impression of this design was promising. The opening, court, and jail scenes were well written. The mood was good and the music was awful in a positive sense. ;) The main character, Alucard, brought Howard's Conan and Kull heroes to my mind. Some people might not like to play a fighter who has a wisdom of five, but I liked both him and the way James dealt with his hatred.

    This design portrays interesting views of different types of evil, and I don't know which of them was the most evil. I don't count the evil god because it seemed to be such a stereotypical form of vileness. The siege situations were also interesting.

    The hacks were okay, and there were some new inventions. There was much violence, but I think that to make a game that tells about evil you have to give some examples. Of course, there are other kind of evil than killing innocent people without remorse, but this is one of the easiest to show in a game. There are not many designs, which have depth to the main characters. In this game, Alucard was portrayed well enough, and I wish all the characters were portrayed that well.

    Still, James' way of telling the story was unique and almost as good as Harri Polsa's. Although you should remember that I am an H.P. fan. ;) /