When Infogrames started talking about Silver, three words dug into console and PC RPG fans' consciousness: Final Fantasy killer. The game, according to the publisher, was supposed to reinvent the role-playing wheel. With the PC game enjoying months of shelf life at this point, we've learned from our sister site, GameSpot.com, that Silver on the PC certainly wasn't a Final Fantasy killer but that it did, in fact, retool some of the genre's conventions and deliver an interesting challenge and experience. Now the built-for-PC game port to the Sega Dreamcast is not far away from being released.
In the game, you play as David, a knight and hero who must free all the ladies of Jarrah from the throes of imprisonment at the hand of Silver, a sorcerer. And naturally, as all plots need benefit from a twist, David's own love is in Silver's hands too, so getting her back (along with the others) is your motivation. But defeating Silver won't be a one-man battle, as you'll have to recruit members for your mission, and build magic and sword-battle skills among the group.
As David, you'll have to master fire, earth, time, light, acid, ice, lightning, and healing by collecting magic orbs that serve as conduits for these summons, with each orb offering three progressive degrees of power. You can expect to interact with dozens of characters to varying levels of communication, and the world you'll traverse is apparently enormous, encompassing hundreds of areas such as Haven, Deadgate, Winter, Rain, Gno, Verdante, Spires, and Metalon. Haven is as it sounds: a peaceful place where Silver and his minions can't get to you. Deadgate is sort of like a hell-type place. Unresolved souls go there to spend "eternity," and there are skulls and scary things everywhere. Winter is a region overseen by Silver's stepdaughter. The area is filled with caves and ice. Rain is a rainy environment with a geographical caste system, which includes sewers, an upper Rain region, and a lower territory. Gno is where you'll find the main library and resources. Verdante is tranquil and filled with natural bliss. The Spires are underwater, but they used to be part of an enormous cathedral, and Metalon is where you'll find Silver's palace.
These features, however, don't set Silver apart from the gaggle of RPGs out there. Compared with the PC version, Silver is different in that you won't experience the typical myriad random encounters with enemies. Instead, in most cases, once you battle an enemy, chances are you won't encounter him, her, or it again. This is because you're "locked into" an area until you beat the final monster and are allowed to escape. This also affects the stats function common in most RPGs. Unlike in many RPGs, in Silver you won't be able to keep going back to the same old enemies to fight again and again to accumulate experience points before you move on to somebody tougher. In fact, you won't have experience points at all in the game. You'll have other stats, such as magic, health, and so on, but you'll improve as a character by beating bosses and progressing through the story and its plot points.
Back to tradition, in addition to David, you'll control a group of up to three companion characters from a list of several. Sekune is a female archer who's extremely loyal and somewhat mysterious. Vivienne is also female and is known for her "wild spirit" and strength. Cagen is a male martial-arts master who's well adjusted. Chiaro is a giving ally who's extremely smart and experienced in life and magic. And lastly, Jug is the strong, sensitive type.
Battle will take place in real time, with the controller dictating the movement of your character's sword - whichever one he's using at the time. In the PC game, you'd slash at your opponent by moving the mouse in swiping motions in front of your enemy, and you'd pick up a variety of swords as you played through the game. This technique will hopefully translate well to the Dreamcast controller. You'll also manage projectiles in this same manner, by somewhat "guiding" them with the controller.
Silver for the Dreamcast is expected to ship sometime in the coming year, and it will support the VMU and Jump Pack. Ben Stahl's Gameplay Impressions:
I can see myself really enjoying Silver. It's fast-paced, it has beautiful graphics, and it really immerses you in the middle of the plot with excellent voice-acting and an interesting story.
I really like the combat system. You run around using the analog stick, and you have a varied number of attacks based on what direction and button combo you use. But the best part is it's fast. The action never stops in combat, and you really get the feeling you're in a classic hack-'n'-slash game. Little damage indicators tell you how well you're attacking, and when you defeat enemies they crumble or explode in a very convincing fashion.
While I didn't progress that far into the storyline, it's obvious that Spiral House has placed an emphasis on story. By two hours into the game you'll have uncovered at least two running subplots and will even have seen the death of a mentor. The entire story is conveyed in-game using some of the best voice-acting I've ever heard.
I've been told that the story on the PC version of Silver gets a little bland after you have played through the first few hours, but I haven't experienced it firsthand. So far, Silver has whetted my appetite for more hack-'n'-slash action.