Hard to Be a God: Patience Required
In the role-playing game Hard to Be a God, your character is an intelligence agent in a medieval society on an unnamed planet. Unknowingly, you work for explorers from a technologically advanced Earth.
The game is based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The brothers may be better known in Russia, but they aren't strangers to computer gaming: Their 1972 book "Roadside Picnic" was the basis for last year's Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl game.
The book focuses on the initial friendship between Earth and the unnamed planet's kingdom of Arkanar before war left the latter nearly ruined. The game is set two years after the end of the book. Reading the novel could make the first few hours of gameplay easier, but if you're patient, you eventually can figure out who's who and what their motivations are.
The game is played in a top-down view, very much like the Neverwinter Nights role-playing fantasy series, but the graphics in Hard to Be a God are more storybook-like.
Combat seems simple at first, but once your character advances and you learn special moves, the game offers more tactical choices. You can even fight on horseback, charging along and banging bandits on the head like a medieval lord.
A few interesting elements add to the mostly hack-and-slash gameplay. You are a master of disguise, and by equipping your character with "role" items (such as boots, pants, shirt, armor, cloak or hat), you can change the way people react to you. Dress like a bandit and you can stroll through brigands' camps; dressing like a don will force most city guards to treat you with respect.
-- John Breeden II
Hard to Be a God Teen; Windows Vista/XP ($30) Ascaron Hard to Be a God Teen; Windows Vista/XP ($30) Ascaron