Icarus: Sanctuary of the Gods

An old school RPG that could make veteran gamers weep for the days of the Commodore.

Every now and then a low-budget game comes through that while lacking in special-effects polish or marketing glitz still wins us over just though its sheer depth of play. Icarus: Sanctuary of the Gods, a new strategy/RPG from a small developer called KRGsoft is definitely NOT one of those games. Self-touted as a game that Diablo fans will love, Icarus is instead an exercise in linear storytelling, interminable combats, and irritating themes. The most entertainment most Diablo fans will actually get out of this game is in finding and laughing at the title’s countless grammatical errors.

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One of the first things you’ll notice about Icarus is that, for most of the game, you won’t really have all that much control over what’s going on. As the story begins you’ll watch screen after screen of different characters speaking s-l-o-w-l-y, and while you can hit the escape key to skip the dialogue altogether, there’s no option that allows you to speed up the characters’ speech. Once you get into the game, you’ll realize that you might as well skip the dialogue bits because there’s nothing you can do to affect the decisions your characters make anyway. Think it’s a bad idea to try and escape from the king’s prison? Too bad! All you can do is sit back and watch in horror as your characters make more and more stupid decisions and recruit more friends to help them make ‘em. The only time you’ll have control of your characters is in combat and in towns.

Wandering around towns is kind of quaint in a hey-let’s-dig-out-the-Commodore-64 kind of way and many old-school RPG fans will probably feel a tug at their heartstrings as they buy new weapons, sell old weapons, and grill the townspeople for info. Unfortunately, the townspeople talk so damn slowly that you’ll probably give up on chatting with them after your first encounter. It’s not like you can put any info you get from them to use anyway. These village encounters are also the only time this title ever bears even the slightest resemblance to Diablo, and this mostly because the developers of the game obviously ‘borrowed’ rather heavily from that game’s interface. Each town contains a couple of shop and an inn in which players can rest up, as well as one house that will act as a plot device. There’s not much gaming to be had here folks, it’s all just walk, buy, and chat. Let’s move on to combat.

Icarus’ combat system is actually not as bad as the rest of the game might lead you to believe. You take control of how ever many characters you have at that point in time and take on whatever foe the story is throwing at you in a turn-based squad level combat reminiscent of Sega’s Shining Force series. Each round you can move your character and then choose to attack (if you’re within range of your target) with either a hand-to-hand attack, a special attack (if you’re a fighter), or a magic spell (if you’re a mage). Once all of your characters have had a shot, the enemy goes through the same thing, and combat is resolved. If you choose not to attack on any given round, your character can rest and recover hit points. Although I must admit I found fighting fairly enjoyable at first, as the game progressed and the fights became a little more evenly matched, the game showed its true colors and became nearly unplayable. The main problem is this – like your characters, the enemy can heal simply by choosing not to fight in any given round. What this means in the higher level battles is that, even after killing everyone else on the screen, your entire team will have to spend hours running around a battlefield trying to finish off the boss as he avoids you and continues to heal himself. As the bosses get more resistant to your attacks, this can become even more frustrating – imagine how long it takes to finish off an enemy’s last 60 hit points when each turn your team dishes out 24 points of damage and your foe heals up 23 of them. If you’re anything like me, your instinct will be to cut off your computer and look for something interesting to do after the second time this happens.

Icarus could have been a pretty cool game if a little more effort had been taken in spell-checking the dialogue boxes, balancing the gameplay, and seeking to give the story at least the impression that it was interactive in some way. As it stands, this title may provide a good diversion for fans of really old console RPGs, but will almost certainly irritate and alienate almost everyone else.

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