| The Fifth Disciple
Review by Jen
The Fifth Disciple is an odd blend of adventure and simplified
RPG-style turn-based combat, with some platform-style side-scrolling
movement (there are no arcade-type play sequences, though). I
played it together with a group of women on our forum.
You are a young man named Engeor; after a lengthy intro, you
find yourself in a prison camp not because you committed any crime
but because you attended a wizardry university that fell victim
to a magic-fearing new ruler's pogrom. Your first job is to escape,
and ultimately you are to learn what happened and why and figure
out how to stop the inexorable doom that is about to befall the
About half of The Fifth Disciple is the typical third-person
inventory puzzle style of adventure game. On top of the usual
inventory system common to these games, Engeor also learns magic
spells and has a whole separate inventory of those; the list numbers
25 and the spells light up as they become available to use. The
spells each have five levels. Every time Engeor gains another
level, he earns five "lessons," which are like skill
points, to be distributed among his various spells to increase
their strength. When using a spell, holding down the mouse button
"charges" them from the minimum strength of one dot
up to the maximum you have designated for that particular spell.
The spells sometimes can be used like ordinary items in the course
of the adventure parts of the game. Mostly, though, they are for
use in the combat sequences, which comprise the other half of
the game. Engeor employs only magic in the fights; he has
both offensive and defensive spells to use against a single or
multiple enemies. Battles are like those in turn-based console
RPGs a la Final Fantasy, except there is no random element
and they are grossly simplified (although not necessarily easy).
Every battle location is either marked by an emblem on an overview
map or by a specimen of the actual enemy you will face, every
spell cast by Engeor always causes the same amount of damage to
each particular type of enemy, and there are only about five or
six different kinds of foes throughout the entire game. There
is no haste required in combat; winning is a matter of formulating
the right sequence of spells to cast and on whom.
Not only do you gain experience points and levels the usual way,
by winning battles, but also by successfully completing puzzles
in the adventure portions, sometimes even by simply picking up
items. Higher experience levels give Engeor more mana and health
from which to draw. In addition, every five levels he gets another
action per combat turn, e.g., at level 10 he has three actions,
the initial one plus two gained by experience advancement. Possible
actions are magic attacks, potion-drinking, or moving; moving
does not cost any mana or count as one of your actions but you
are limited as to where you can go (indicated onscreen by big
gray arrows) and you can only move once per turn. Mana and health
are automatically refilled after every battle, and there are a
couple of opportunities to obtain refill potions. It is possible
to beat every enemy without resorting to the potions, but they
are nice to have for those times when you don't feel like dying
and reloading to refine your mana-usage strategy for success.
You will die, and frequently, in both the adventure and the RPG
parts, but you can save anywhere, even in midbattle. Theoretically,
there are unlimited saves; however, one of my playing companions
reported problems when she had more than 99 save files.
The Fifth Disciple was developed by the Czech company
Napoleon Games; the game's original Czech name is, best as I can
tell, Brány Skeldalu 2: Pátý uèedník.
It is actually a sequel to an earlier game called, surprisingly
enough, Brány Skeldalu. A cursory bit of 'net surfing indicates
that not only was the first game never released in English, it
also had a totally different play style involving a party of six.
Whatever the case, The Fifth Disciple stands well enough
on its own, although here I must admit I never had much of an
idea of what the story was; I think this situation would not have
been improved, however, by dint of having played the original.
Graphics are hand-drawn with care; the backgrounds are unfailingly
nice but the human characters all have extraordinarily flat heads,
especially in the cutscenes. At first, to me, the art appeared
rather primitive, but after a while I grew to really like the
look of it.
The music is worth mentioning hereit is very nice! Hats
off to the composer, David Hájek. As well, the English-version
voice acting is surprisingly well done, especially considering
the game was developed in another language.
Gameplay is fun fun fun, with the two caveats that there is too
much too-tiresome combat near the end of the game and there are
two or three unfair puzzles in the adventuring part, unfair meaning
nigh unbeatable by anyone at all without outside help. Look for
a walkthrough by kwbridge, another of my playing partners, to
be posted somewhere sometime soon. She had been in contact with
one of the developers, who was kind enough to help our group get
past these points.
Outside of those few frustrations, I think I can speak for all
of us who played when I say The Fifth Disciple is a fine
ol' gaming good time. A big part of the fun for me, though, was
playing the game with these three other women. I can't quantify
and separate the fun of the group play from the fun of the game
itself, so I guess in closing I'll say this: I had a great time
but your mileage may vary. The Fifth Disciple has a high
cheese factor that is offset by its skillful and unique genre-blending.
Release Date: Q2 2004
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 350 MHz
64 MB RAM
30 MB free hard drive space
Windows 95 or later
DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
DirectX 8.1 compatible graphics card
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