Highborn

By Richard Martin 14 May 2013 0

Publisher/Developer: Jet Set Games

The kingdom is being threatened. The forces of ?The Decay? have begun to extend their influence and minotaurs, skeletons and other nasty creatures are conquering whole territories.  The head of a tribe of minotaurs is so cocky that he?s even letting his kids in on the fun as if it?s ?Bring Your Baby Minotaurs to Work Day? (Like you didn?t know that!)  Who can keep the evil from spreading and who can save the kingdom from the lurking evil of ?The Decay??  How about a squeaky clean paladin named Archie who wields a sharp, shiny sword and whose teeth gleam pearly white?  Why not?

Such is the set-up of Highborn, a new PC port from Jet Set Games.  Highborn has been winning gamers over with its pleasant graphics and whimsical storyline on iOS and Android mobile platforms but Jet Set has redesigned the game to take advantage of both PC and Mac systems and has made the first chapter out of eight of this fantasy series available on Steam.

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Upon loading Highborn, the player finds himself looking at a three-quarter perspective, pleasant-looking world with nice atmospheric sounds (birds chirp, wind whistles through the pine forests) and colorful graphics.  The player controls the paladin Archie and his forces of good.  Along the way, other characters join Archie in his quests that are fully controllable.  Starting characters include Archie, of course, as well as squads of knights, archers and a very helpful monk.  As the player advances through the game?s scenarios (there are eight in the first chapter), other characters are unlocked.  Each player is rated for attack and defense as well as speed and the types of magic spells they can cast (if any).

Aside for fighting the forces of ?The Decay? in combat, their power structure can be seriously weakened by liberating houses and castles that they have hexed.  The player simply approaches a building which is red in color and then attacks the building.  This may take several times and the dark magic can actually fight back against the forces of good.  When the buildings turn blue, they have been freed from the taint of ?The Decay?.  Be warned, the big baddies can re-hex a building and disrupt all the good work Archie is performing.

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The forces of ?The Decay? (insert evil laughter here) are an eccentric mix of baddies.  In the first scenario, the players will meet Daddy Minotaur and his family, plus an army of skeletons and evil knights.  Mr. Minotaur has a great sense of humor and is a family man who is really trying to raise his kids in the classic Minotaur tradition.  He has to stop his evil diatribes against the player to tell his boys and girls to stop getting in to trouble.

The second scenario features a gorgon with a bad attitude as well as Archie?s arch-nemesis, a nasty and somewhat insecure lich.

The controls are mouse-driven and extremely intuitive.  Helpful screens give instructions and hints to guide the player through the game world.  To move, the player need only click on a unit and an overlay of possible spaces to move in to appear on the screen.  To attack, just click on the unit which is the target.  Spells are easily cast using a slight modification of the same mouse driven system.

While utilizing the traditional trappings and clichés of most adventure games (the brave heroes try and turn back a kingdom threatening evil), what raises Highborn to heights of greatness is the whimsicalness and humor of the stories.

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Highborn is similar in tone to the newer Bard?s Tale games but Highborn?s humor comes not only through the story but through its graphics, which feature stylized character creations and tons of ?nod nod, wink wink? references to other fantasy games and worlds.

The game will appeal to adults so long as they don?t take their fantasy gaming too seriously and is also appropriate for younger gamers.  In fact, Highborn would be the perfect game to give to someone as their first computer RPG strategy.

A few minor scratches tarnish Highborn?s otherwise bright and shiny armor.  At times the control system feels a bit wonky and the mouse seems to not move the screen view to the area the player wants it to be at.  Monsters can annoyingly slip past well-placed guards to attack characters in the rear of the group (which has led to more than one monk being sent to the great beyond in my games).  Also, when the characters talk to each other, the text seems to take forever to scroll through the large text balloons.

None-the-less, these minor dents do not in any way dim the luster of Archie?s suit of armor and Highborn takes its place amongst my favorite computer fantasy games.

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Review written by: Richard Martin 

 

About the Author

Richard Martin has written film and game reviews for over 20 years and has been playing war games and RPGs since the days of Ogre and Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Additionally, he writes screenplays, games and works in the legal profession.  (Don?t tell anyone but Richard prefers writing games and movies to law work any day.)

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