ALBION / Blue Byte / PC

The makers of Albion might want to consult with a lawyer to see if they have a case for copyright infringement on James Cameron's new animated opus Avatar. I haven't seen the movie, but based on some extended trailer I saw while watching football, the fundamental plot structure looks pretty similar - humans go to some alien world to mine it for resources, they find an alien race already occupying it and decide to subjugate them with their superior technology. In this case it's felinoid furries instead of blue alien things, but there you go.

The game is a pretty straightforward RPG, somewhat similar in interface to the later Ultima games, but a lot more simplistic as far as character stats and interaction with the game world goes. Obviously it takes place in Earth's future, and you play primarily as a dood named Tom Driscoll who is an ace pilot and surveyor of sorts for the Earth empire. The furry planet is initially reported to be a huge desert void of life, but upon getting up close to it Tom's ship malfunctions and crash-lands, and after landing they actually find it to be a lush jungle with a very developed civilization. Of naked furries.

The mouse interface annoys me a bit - to interact with stuff, you have to be close to it and use the right mouse button to bring up a separate cursor (left-clicking just makes you look at stuff.) No problem really, except that if you accidentally left-click on the default option in the right-click menu, it switches screens to the save-load screen. Couldn't that have been positioned better? And while it's nice that you can pick up tons of useless items in Ultima style, do I really need a detailed class breakdown on who can use an empty jar or a wash cloth? (ProTip: Pretty much anybody.)

There's an overworld of sorts on the jungle planet, where you basically just zoom out to a more distant view, and there are beasties visibly roaming about on the map that you can engage for the usual EXP and golds. Combat has a rather unique view - a first-person perspective where the enemy basically rushes up and starts pwning your face, but commands are actually issued in a fairly standard style, and players are arranged on a grid that allows you to wall off weaker characters with magic or ranged attacks and etc. It actually kind of reminded me of Knights of Xentar of all things, just with a first-person view instead of side-view. Not the greatest combat system to emulate tbqh.

When you get into dungeons, the game takes a turn for the odd with a first-person style reminiscent of DOOM but with lower detail and darker, more murky environs. Fortunately, there's a pretty good auto-map to get you through these sequences, otherwise they'd be pure pain of similar-looking twisty hallways over and over and over again (there are some pretty massive dungeons here.)

The game has its interesting qualities for sure - the story is a touch better than the usual JRPG fare and there's some really nice art in the first-person cut scenes that are interspersed throughout the game. I found the dialogue kind of weak, though (the game was originally written in German and it was translated, not badly in as much as I can tell, but it still just seems weirdly verbose and like conversations are unnatural.) Trudging around in the regular view and talking to people was kind of a slog, combat was just "meh", and I really didn't care for the dungeons and found them largely tedious. And then there's the furry thing. I mean, when you make the story about humans switching sides from their own race to fight for a bunch of naked anthropomorphic cats, you have to wonder if this isn't one of those "coded message" games circulating furry propaganda (there's a lot of them in gaming circles, just look on GameFAQs RPG message boards if you don't believe me.) I mean, why do the cats need to be naked? C'mon man!

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Gameplay Video

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