|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Fireglow Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Fireglow Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Stranger combines genres in a way that doesn't blend entirely harmoniously. Like mountain chains created by the colliding of tectonic plates, Stranger displays its scars from the forced assimilation of the disparate genres prominently. Other games have been able to do it well, but Stranger lacks the finesse that would incorporate all gameplay elements wholeheartedly, such as the storyline, character development, control system, move list, menus, and overall direction. There is no shortage of things to do in Stranger, but the questions seem to be what are we doing and why?
Stranger combines role-playing and real-time strategy elements in an awkward fashion that never quite melds. The graphics are dated, the storyline and the menus are confusing, and the voiceacting is incredibly bad. Despite these obvious flaws, the game is not unplayable. Even the most jaded of reviewers can't help noticing some charm buried beneath this jumble of genres. It's obvious the developers meant well, but turning their vision into reality was a feat firmly out of their scope.
Cast into a strange land, and transformed into a mutated creature for simply practicing the forbidden act of magic, it becomes evident that you don't belong there in your current condition. As a result, you spend the rest of the game trying to get the hell out of there by gaining new powers and abilities to take on the dangerous monsters you will encounter. There are two other playable characters that wind up as strangers in this magical, maniacal world. These characters were also banished from their homeland for indulging in magic. Eventually these three strangers will meet up in an attempt to combine abilities. The introduction of three characters adds some diversion, but it doesn't affect the core of the gameplay. As I mentioned, distractions are plentiful in this game, which detracts from the rather unimaginative and convoluted gameplay.
A tutorial will attempt to keep you on the right path, literally. Not only will it give you pointers on how the game operates, but arrows will indicate the direction that you must follow. It saves time, which can be wasted by getting lost, but the arrows make you feel like a bit of an idiot. A quality game would include various devices such as puzzles, clues, and non-playable characters to help point the way. It's important that in games such as these we feel as though we are participants in an adventure, and that we have some form of freewill and direction over our choices. Even though the arrows are removed after a few stages, we are still forced down a very linear path which is in contrast to traditional the RPG style.
Viewed from an overhead, isometric perspective, Stranger takes on the appearance of a classic RPG, albeit an old one. You move around by pointing and clicking on your character and locations in the environment that you want to move to. When you get into range of a particular enemy, your character will begin swatting at it automatically. You'll see the same animation for this form of combat time and time again. Having such little control is not very satisfying. The battle system takes into account the strength of your characters and your weapon, and in true RTS style it will take direction from your programmed commands. The interface is not particularly easy to access due to the confusing arrangement of menus that you have to consult, but fortunately you can pause the game to issue and/or change commands. For reasons unknown, pathfinding commands are ignored like a mime performing at an outdoor café. You can assign moves to party members, but only a few will actually do what they're told.