Low End Mac Gaming


Brian Rumsey - July 11, 2000

With this column, I am beginning a series of columns looking at specific games, both how enjoyable they are and how well they run on older computers. I will mix these columns with others dealing with more general topics. I will give brief system requirements before getting into the column during this series so that you do not end up getting excited about a game that you can not run.

Realmz requires a 68020 or newer, color, 5000 K free RAM

The game I am focusing on in this column is Realmz, a shareware role-playing game created by Fantasoft. If you read this column regularly, you may realize that Realmz is one of my favorite games. It has held my interest longer than almost any other game - I first discovered Realmz in 1995, one year after its initial release, and I still enjoy it today.

When I first discovered Realmz, its graphics were not outstanding, but they certainly were not bad. In the years since Realmz was released, there have only been relatively minor graphical changes, and its graphics are pretty primitive by today's standards. The fact that Realmz still has many fans is evidence that it has many other strengths.

The idea behind Realmz is similar to that of many adventure and role-playing games: you have a party consisting of up to six different characters, each belonging to different classes such as fighters, monks, warlocks, and bards (to name a few). Your characters initially start out very weak and gain experience, mostly through fighting, which in turn lets them to gain levels. As the members of your party gain levels, you look for harder quests to undertake. Realmz is a turn-based game, which means that nothing will happen if you leave for a few minutes or days.

One of the best things about Realmz is its expandability. The shareware version of Realmz includes one scenario. Each scenario is a different adventure - some of them build upon others, while others have nothing to do with each other. Once you register Realmz, you will be able to visit a few areas in the built-in scenario which were previously blocked off, and, more importantly, you will have access to other scenarios which are both more challenging and more focused than the built-in scenario. Some scenarios require small additional registration fees of their own. while others are free.

When starting a new scenario, its difficulty is given by a number representing the totals of the levels of your entire party. For example, a scenario of difficulty level 30 would recommend six level five adventurers, or three level 10, or one level 30, although it is usually recommended that you have six members in your party due to the different advantages which each one brings. The built-in scenario has a difficulty level of six, and some scenarios have difficulty levels of over 100.

Once you finish one scenario, you can take some or all of your adventurers with you to the next one. This is a great feature, although it is not perfect - eventually your characters will get strong enough to take the challenge out of any scenario. This can be annoying if you have built up a party that you really like, but it has become too strong to be fun.

There are many scenarios available for Realmz, and even an editor which lets you create your own. I have tried three in addition to City of Bywater, the official name of the built-in scenario. The three I have tried are Castle in the Clouds, Destroy the Necronomicon, and Hax. The first two of these are distributed by Fantasoft with Realmz. Hax is a third party scenario, available from Rainbow Dragon. Although I have not yet finished Hax, its quality seems to be right up there with the Fantasoft scenarios. I was very happy to see that there are third party scenarios which offer quality equal to that of the Fantasoft scenarios, because that means even more options for Realmz fans.

Another feature which makes Realmz stand out is its attention to detail and its descriptiveness. I particularly enjoy the colorful descriptions of some of the game's items, such as the Longsword +3: "Easily the most beautiful weapon of its kind. This blade speaks of lost battles and kingdoms won," and the common robe: "An abrasive cloth that wears on both the skin and patience."

One feature that I would like to see in Realmz is the ability to take advantage of high resolution monitors. I would also enjoy seeing a little fancier graphics, but that would slow the game down even more on older computers. Also, there is only so much that a small independent company like Fantasoft can do. I will be happy as long as they continue to maintain Realmz and make minor changes that improve game play, as they have been doing over the last several years.

Realmz runs well on a variety of older Macs. In fact, there is no PowerPC native version, so it will may slower on some older Power Macs than on Quadra level Macs. Realmz is currently at version 7.0.9, and as things have been added over the years, Realmz is seeming to run a little slower than it used to. I have found that Realmz runs well on any 68040 based computer as well as on fast 68030s. When I tested Realmz on an LC II, it ran very slowly. I would expect similar performance on a 68020.

I have also tested Realmz on a number of Power Macs. It is playable on all of them, although on slower ones you may notice some stuttering in the sound effects.

Additional requirements for Realmz include 5000 K free memory (8000 K recommended), a monitor capable of displaying 640 x 480 pixels at 256 colors, and up to 50 MB of hard drive space, depending on how many scenarios you have installed.

Another thing which I have noted about Realmz is that its controls seem to be good for PowerBook users. Having recently obtained a PowerBook, I have been experimenting with games on it. I have had varying amounts of success at game controls with the internal trackball, and Realmz seems to have fairly trackball-friendly controls.

Obviously Realmz has some good aspects, since it has stayed around this long. I would encourage any fan of adventure, role-playing, and even strategy games to take a look at it, especially since the download is free. I have recently heard it said that the upcoming game Baldur's Gate is "an oasis in the desert that is Mac role-playing games." While I do look forward to playing Baldur's Gate, Realmz is proof that there is more than one oasis in this particular desert.

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