Review - Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager (DOS, 1994)

Another day, another RPG. It's kind of alarming how fast software publishers can churn out games of this type. Especially SSI, who, at last count, had something in the neighborhood of a million role playing games on the market and has just released one more. The incredible thing, though, is that, for the most part, SSI's games are all good. Back in the Gold Box era, they could just plug some new graphics and new maps into that engine and release a new title daily...at least, that's what it seemed like. Nowadays, several of their titles still resemble each other, but they differ enough to warrant buying and playing them all. The newest example of their craftsmanship is Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager, which isn't all that new, but certainly is enjoyable.

Dark Sun is one of the newer accessory worlds for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game system, and Ravager is its second PC incarnation. The world of Athas is a barren, desolate world, overrun by scavenging beasts and controlled by masters of the powers of the mind. These powers are called psionics, and the beings who use them are psionicists. In Ravager, your party can (and should) consist of one or more of these psionicists, and they prove to be extremely handy when fighting others of their kind. First things first, though. This game puts you in control of a party of up to four medium-level AD&D characters whose job is to rid the world of Athas from the evil beings that threaten to take it over. Did you get all that? It doesn't matter. If one out of a hundred computer RPG players rated the plot as the most important aspect of the game, I'd be so surprised that I'd have to lie down.

What do you DO in Ravager? Well, like I said before, this is not a new concept. You walk around, do the occasional errand in exchange for information or a mission, and most importantly, you make things bleed. A lot. Preferably enough that they die. Let's face it...a computer role-playing game that stresses free exploration over killing and pillaging just hasn't been created yet. Why would it? We don't want life simulators...we want to play make-believe and control big, strong imaginary creatures that can shoot death rays out of their fingers. That's what's fun. Ravager lets you do this in a big way. Unlike its predecessor, Shattered Lands, Ravager starts your party at a high enough level that they can do some serious harm right from the get-go. Shortly after starting the game, your party will join the Veiled Alliance, a secret underground society of freedom fighters. Seeing that your party is a pretty bitchin' group of people, they ask you to do a good amount of their dirty work for them. As if you didn't already know, this "dirty work" involves a lot of gushing reddish fluid and several loud guttural screams. Sorry, Mortal Kombat fans...you don't actually SEE the blood. (You do, however, hear the screams. Nice touch.)

For variety, SSI has imbued Ravager with an almost-obscene amount of creatures and magical spells. Between clerics, preservers, and psionicists, there's more spells here than I've ever seen in any other RPG. Surprisingly few of them are offensive spells, but there's enough to sufficiently empower a magic-user in combat. SSI has also made an effort to prolong your party's lifespan by providing several opportunities to heal throughout the game. Whether it be in a hotel room, a healer's quarters, or even in the dungeons of a pyramid, you'll find campfire icons that your party can rest at to regain hit points and re-memorize spells. A smart player should be able to live a long time. Even so, SAVE SAVE SAVE. I shouldn't even have to tell you that. You're obviously an intelligent being...you bought IE.

In short, Wake of the Ravager is one of those games that, if you buy it, will attach itself to you and force you to solve it before you commit yourself to any other complex tasks. It's very addictive and just plain fun. Be forewarned, though, that it doesn't showcase any new technology and doesn't feature any first-person shooting sequences. If you can handle this, then by all means pick up a copy. If you only play revolutionary games, keep waiting.