Realms of Arkania: Star Trail, a remake of the classic 1994 PC RPG sequel, came out on Steam Early Access November 11, 2016. It marks Crafty Studios' second foray into The Dark Eye pen-and-paper game world, their first being the remake of Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny. While that game was initially met with critical reviews due to it's large amount of bugs, consistent updates ultimately made the game a faithful and pleasing 3D remake of the old-school pixel-art original.
This time around, Crafty Studios intends to get a better footing with fans by putting the game out in the early stages of development in order to factor in fan response throughout the dev process. The game–as it stands now–is in very early stages (pre-Alpha), and is playable only partially of the way into several quests, though the isometric turn-based combat and town/world movement systems are functional.
With this in mind, Crafty Studios has seen to it that Early Access purchasers also get a Steam copy of the original RoA: Star Trail to sweeten the deal, so buying the package it's a good way to encourage a solid remake of a cult favorite.
In the first game of the trilogy, the player's band of heroes prevents the beastly orcs from conquering the region of Thorwal. Thinking that would be the end of things was a mistake, however. Star Trail picks up directly after the first game, when the orcs have begun attacking the weaker surrounding regions in powerful numbers, harming both Elvish and Dwarven communities. It's your group's task to bring these two former enemies together against a common threat, and you'll need to find the symbolic Salamander Stone in order to extinguish their hostilities. You'll also want to find the mythic weapon Star Trail, and lay waste to your foes in god-like fashion!
The gameplay of the original Realms of Arkania II: Star Trail is a combination of first-person exploration and dungeon crawling, with isometric turn-based strategic combat. The remake holds true to that system, and already shows solid tactics and smooth movement. Spells and melee combat are already functional, though the animations and graphical touches present in the Blade of Destiny remake are noticeably rougher for Star Trail at this early access stage. There are also numerous aspects of the game–such as character creation, voiced interactions, polished UI, and complete-able quests–that have yet to be implemented.
The complex and deeply strategic RPG rulesets (a combination of The Dark Eye versions 3 and 4) are in place, but don't expect tutorials–Crafty Studios promises a true-to-the-original experience, which means old school difficulty. It also means you'd be wise to read the manual, which hopefully will be uploaded to Steam as the Early Access build gets closer to Alpha.
That said, the finished Blade of Destiny remake indicates that the same level of faithful recreation will be present in Star Trail. This would be a real treat, as the second game in the series features improved world travel with scripted text-based events to break up the town-wandering, and diagonal attacks during battle.
graphics & Sound
This is very Early Access, though basic character model animations are present in both battle and NPC interactions. While there isn't yet any voice work, the subtitles present provide the same excellent writing of the original game, which is witty and world-building. The light blooming that helped the first game's remake appear smoother than it's character models actually were is not yet present, so there is a fairly block-y look to everyone.
The sound is also a sparse affair, though there is some music that sounds suitably epic and promising.
If you played and loved the Realms of Arkania series back in the day, you may well want to support this up and coming remake of the second adventure. Likewise, if you're a Dark Eye fan, and want to revel in it's historic PC entries, this Early Access title (paired with the original) might be a solid investment, given Crafty Studios' past dedication to improving their releases.
What's more, if Realms of Arkania: Star Trail 2016 proves successful, we can hopefully expect more DLC campaigns that expand on the original material and story. Crafty Studios did this with their Blade of Destiny release, much of which was free and added many brutal hours of gameplay.
If this game sounds like something up your alley, check out the Early Access of Realms of Arkania: Star Trail. If you're not sure you want to take the plunge into something so early access, but want a well-written adventure with bountiful content and complex stat systems, then definitely check out the first remake, Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny. You'll be pleased, so long as you like your games tough as orc leather!