This is an article I've been wanting to type up for a while now, because it's about a game that I can say was easily one of the best games I have ever played. Or at the very least it's one of the few games I have thoroughly enjoyed playing thru more than once or twice, of course this could just be childhood nostalgia talking if I hadn't played it again somewhat recently.


I guess it would help if I made some justification for this opinion other than the tidbit above and the picture of whoever that is supposed to be on the box art (seriously... I don't think anyone like that is actually in the game; in fact I'm pretty sure that box art is the same one being used more modernly for a character named Rickus that I've read a republished book on recently.).

Shattered Lands and then later Wake of the Ravager introduce us to the game world known as 'Dark Sun'. This world isn't what you would expect if you've played pretty much any other DnD game I've ever had the fun of coming across (and I'm pretty sure I've played most of them to some capacity or another...). This is a world where in a desperate attempt to simply survive the humanoid (and humanoid insect species) have developed Psionic powers simply to remain competitive with the predators of the wasteland they live in, the land is almost entirely a parched desert (aside from an oasis and lava field, the game is entirely desert the world on the other hand does have a forest or two).

In game the psionics feature of the game world is expressed in two ways. First each an every character that you create is allowed to pick up a single Psionic ability and grants the owner enough power points to utilize that skill at least once. The second approach allows you to pickup a generic 'psionicist' class, that while not as fleshed out in 2nd Edition Revised and Expanded as it is in say, 3.0-3.5/pathfinder still has an impressive array of skills that progress over time. This single feature brings the number of magical or super natural ability types up to 3 distinct sets of powers. This is a huge leap over other games of this genre that at times struggled to separate out the types of magic at all.

To allow further customization of your parties characters the game enabled the (completely broken) multi classing rules available under the 2.0 RnE rule system. So as long as you didn't play a 'gladiator' (the closest thing that Darksun had to a paladin in rule requirements and the like) you could combine up to three character classes to form a slow progressing but generally gestalt in latter life character.

Shattered Lands also presented an interesting actions and consequences system, while it didn't implicitly implement a reputation system it did make your actions in the individual towns matter rather significantly. The game culminates in a multi wave battle between your party and piles of fairly dangerous magic casting enemies. If you've played your cards right in the towns around the world you'll have allies from the respective towns available to help you out when the time comes. Alternatively if your a mass murdering psycho, you'll have tons of money and crappy equipment but no allies.

Aside from these interesting functional features of the game it was also far less linear than other DND games of the era, Menzoberanzan or Stone Prophet for example. Other than escaping the arena and the sewers in the beginning of the game, you can technically do everything else in the game in almost any order you choose, even modern games struggle with this particular feature. This non linearity also makes it so that you can miss huge portions of the game and still be able to finish it (thou it would be incredibly difficult to do so), adding to the overall replayability of the game.

The long and short of the game is that it was fairly fantastic. The base game was simple enough for a kid to figure out, given a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of DnD. That being said there were a number of puzzles, areas and features that required a more in depth level of thinking that keeps the replay ability up. The one major bonus was also it's major failing, in that the use of a party made it so that there was no reason to play another class the next time thru, as you could hit all the classes in one go.

Brass Tacks:
The unfortunate thing is that this game doesn't fit into the format that most RPG games are going these days, where most don't even let you create your main character this game allowed you to craft an entire party. The fact that it even uses a party is considered fairly evil in current gaming standards. This introduces some problems with any enthusiasts ambitious enough to make a port of the game into something like Oblivion or Never Winter Nights 2. While Oblivion had a companion actor and NWN2 has a party that you can exert moderate control over, neither provides the level of detailed control that being able to treat your party as your player character grants. It's a pity that this style of game play seems to have faded after Baulders Gate, Torment and the Icewind Dale series ran their respective courses as it provided a much different gameplay style involving some of the best elements of playing an RPG and an RTS in one game.