sábado, 9 de noviembre de 2019

Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind review

2 comentarios
Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind is a videogame by A Sharp set in the fantasy world of Glorantha. It combines several genres: interactive fiction, roleplaying and strategy, and it is even classified under "Simulators" by Steam. If you are intrigued by this strange combination, keep reading this review.

>>>Lee esta reseña en español<<<

How it all started

It did not take long, after A Sharp released Six Ages' predecessor King of Dragon Pass, for fans of the game to start hypothesizing about other videogames A Sharp could perhaps make using the same format. Why not a game about the Praxian tribes? What about a game about the Ralian city-states? Or perhaps about Orlanthi during the Lunar occupation of Sartar? There were hundreds of options, and most fans would have been happy with another King of Dragon Pass only with new scenes. However, David Dunham, A Sharp's owner, delayed the creation of a sequel until he could come up with a really nifty idea.

And so it was that in October 2014, David Dunham had his epiphany. Just 15 years after the release of the first Gloranthan videogame, A Sharp finally started working on a sequel. The twist over King of Dragon Pass was that this was going to be not just one videogame, but a series! Each installment, beginning with Ride Like the Wind, is going to be set on a different age of the history of Glorantha, but following the same culture: the Hyalorings, Glorantha's first horse riding culture.

David Dunham is the lead designer, and he teamed up again with Robin D. Laws, who is responsible for all the writing. In June 2018 the game was released for iPhone and iPad, and in October 2019 for Mac and PC.

This scene by Simon Roy shows a clan of Riders launching a raid backed by powerful fire magic.

What is it about?

In Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind you guide a clan of Hyalorings who have just settled in new lands after fleeing the freezing cold in the north. The Hyalorings, also called Riders, are a semi-nomadic horse-riding and sun-worshipping human culture. They live in Glorantha, a fantasy world similar to our ancient Earth during the Bronze Age as depicted in The Iliad or The Mahabharata. The game is set during the Storm Age, a mythical period before the creation of Time, when deities sometimes walked among mortals.

In the game, you have to manage the resources of your clan, both material, such as cattle and crops, and magical, such as blessings from the gods and spirits, in order to make your clan prosper. To achieve this goal, you also need to explore the land around you, trade, make allies and fight enemies. On top of that, you also need to make wise decisions during interactive scenes, all of which will have consequences.

Finally, the game has a plot twist that will slowly emerge during play, and you need to deal with it as good as you can in order to "win the game" and play it through to the end. Since the game is set during a mythical age of Glorantha, these are the events that will become an important myth for the descendants of your clan's future generations. It is also the main difference with King of Dragon Pass, because in that game the title told you your goal (become king or queen), but in Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind you need to find it out as you play. In spite of that, whatever end you achieve in your particular game, you will have generated a cool story or "saga" of your clan you can read and even save as a text file.

The art in Six Ages is colorful, evocative and rich in detail. My favorite artists are Jan Pospisil and Simon Roy.

How to play

If you haven't played King of Dragon Pass yet, or don't know anything about Glorantha, you don't need to worry, because the game includes a scripted tutorial you can activate to teach you how to play. And for extra background information, you can read the Lore section included in the game.

You start by creating your clan's history by means of a questionnaire. This is like creating your character in a normal RPG videogame, but with the added bonus that in the process you also learn about the world's background. However, the choices are opaque, that is, you can only guess what influence they have in your clan. Most of them, however, are small bonuses to several resources you will start with. For example, if you choose Nyalda in the first question, you will start the game with a temple already built dedicated to her. If later you choose your clan to be known as good herders, that perhaps means your clan advisors may have better skills in that field or perhaps you start with a bigger amount of cattle.

For my second game, I created the Damánkali clan. This is a summary of the choices I made.

After that, the game starts. You play it in turns, divided into the 5 seasons of the year, year after year. Every season, you can perform two actions from a plethora of options. Before the beginning of each year, a screen shows up where you must assign magic ritual points to help you during the upcoming year in several areas of your choice like Fields (meaning crops), Pastures (meaning herds), Crafts (goods), Health, Harmony (your clan's mood), Diplomacy or War, among others.

The Sacred Time screen where you allocate magic points to different areas to help you along the coming year.

After that, the usual interface shows up, indicating you are in the first season of the year, marked by the Water rune: Sea Season. One of the first actions you may want to do is to consult your council of advisors. These are represented by 7 portraits of nobles of your clan who are experts in some area relating to your clan's prosperity. By clicking or tapping on each of them, you get to read their opinions. These vary according to the matter at hand, meaning the particular interface screen you are in, one for each field of action: general mood and situation of your clan, magic, exploration, relations, war and wealth. Consulting your advisors is one of the coolest most original features of Six Ages, already present in King of Dragon Pass (or KoDP from now on). During interactive scenes you can also consult your advisors. Some of it will just reveal their personality.

You can reorganize the council and choose new members. You'll want to have in it each of the most skilled people in every field by checking their stats. But here is one of the new aspects of the game. In KoDP it was easy to choose the best team. But in Six Ages, the best team is not only made up of members of different cults, but members of different families, so you often have to settle for a less than optimal configuration.

Mmm... I don't know, Doren. They helped us train her. Should we really decline their generous offer now?

Another new aspect is ventures. These are year-long activities you can undertake for the well-being of your clan. The list is so long that at first it is difficult to make a choice. For example, you can perform ceremonies to increase your magic, take better care of your cattle, create extra goods, train your warriors and many more.

Speaking about magic, Glorantha is a fantasy world, so there is plenty of it: trolls, dwarves, plant people, curses, magic items, and even crazier things. In this game it is also a world that is growing colder, so you need to build shrines and temples, and sacrifice goods and cows to obtain the blessings of the gods that will help you survive. The list of gods is as long as the ventures, but some of their blessings have a greater priority than others (see some tips further down). Apart from the gods, Riders have access to other forms of magic: spirits. Unlike gods, you don't need to sacrifice anything to spirits. You can barter or cajole natural spirits such as Raven, Fox or Salmon, in exchange for their powers. And you can go on expeditions to find more.

In my temple to Elmal, I keep active the Flaming Lance and Steadfast blessings. Osara's blessing is also useful for combats.

And then there is even a stronger magic: the Otherworld rituals. These are rituals in which you reenact the deeds of your deities, and in so doing, obtain a big blessing with big benefits for your clan. In KoDP they are called heroquests, and they work the same way. However, in Six Ages the world of the gods and the world of mortals haven't been separated yet by the boundaries set by Time and the Great Compromise as in KoDP. That means in Six Ages these magical reenactments are easier to perform successfully, provided you prepare well. They are a series of interactive scenes where you need to pick the right choices, according to the myths of your gods and goddesses. You'll want to check up the Lore section first to carefully read the details, but at times you will need to improvise. The profusion of myths is what makes Glorantha such a special setting and its deities much more than just a list of names and powers. They also provide depth to the culture you are playing, the Hyalorings, because myths tell you about their beliefs and their way of life.

My best trader Sharyu reenacts the deeds of Ekarna the goddess of Trade. The colorful art is by Michelle Lockamy.

This way of life includes raiding other clans to obtain plunder. Even if your clan is not warlike, you will need warriors and fortifications to defend your clan against the attacks of other clans and monsters. If you choose to attack, you can stage a full-scale raid or send a team of infiltrators to steal cattle. Combat is similar to KoDP in that you just choose your main goal and then your tactics until one of the sides wins. But in Six Ages you get more tactical choices during several rounds, like intimidationparleying or setting aside a reserve force, which makes it more fun and tense as you can start losing and then slowly turn the tables, for example. Moreover, at least once during my second game, a second clan got involved in an ongoing fight!

 Let's raid the Para-Un clan! They are haughty and have too many fat cows!

That being said, diplomacy is also an integral part of the game. In the Relations screen, you can send emissaries to other clans to call on favors due, to bear gifts to increase your reputation or perhaps propose an alliance. This aspect has also been improved over KoDP, since now there are 4 reactions other clans may have towards you: Like, Hate, Fear and Mock.

And that's not all. In KoDP you mostly interact with clans of your same culture (the Orlanthi). However, Six Ages is more culturally diverse, since there are two main other cultures to interact with: the Rams (Orlanthi) and the Wheels, who look more familiar, but have some different cults and traditions. The game unveils the details that make up each culture little by little, but it is interesting to see the Orlanthi from the point of view of the Riders. Why? Because they are the ancestors of the Horse Spawn you fight once and again in KoDP! In fact, the cultural points of view and biases are one of the central themes of the game (and Glorantha), and this is wonderfully portrayed through the opinions of your councilors, but mostly through the interactive scenes.

I hate the Wheel clans, but I sent the Paral-Un some gifts to see if we could at least stop attacking each other so often.

These scenes, accompanied by wonderful art, interrupt the game and poise a problem or opportunity that requires a choice between several options. Most of them have consequences, and they are not easy to predict, which represents very well how hard it is to be a ruler. Some of them will even spark new scenes later on, as the consequences develop. Fortunately, you can always consult your advisors, but that is not always enough: sometimes they don't help you much or they don't agree on what is best, so in the end it is up to you to decide who to trust. You can even disregard their advice and act on a hunch, but the tension is always there and that's great. Whatever your final choice, you get to see the direct consequences to your stats as they are shown straight away on the screen. Your clan's herds, reputation, mood, goods, population or magic can increase or decrease in this way.

Oh, no! Those damned bandits kidnapped some of the children of our clan. What would you do?

These scenes form the core of the game. You can start playing Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind for a variety of reasons. For instance, maybe you like games that are different to everything else, perhaps you find the art intriguing, you enjoy resource-managing games or you might want to know more about the world of Glorantha. But the great thing is, you will keep playing one season after another, year after year, mainly because of the story that you weave as you play. To see an example, read my first adventures while playing the game.

Mmm... Should we believe the words of this guy? Should we attack him instead? Or should we help the slaves to escape?


In Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind the same tips I included in my review of King of Dragon Pass are still valid. Follow the link to know more but it can be boiled down to: mind your cows, create as many goods as you can, and be ready to change tradition when the situation demands it. In the first years, you need to focus on obtaining the blessings that help you get more food: Busenari's and Uryarda's Milk and Pela's Bless Barley, with Inilla's Rootle optionally. Of course, in order to make sacrifices and get your shrines up you need goods, and having trading partners and blessings that help you get more goods are a must, basically Nyalda's Crafts and Ekarna's Market. If you need more tips, check out the Six Ages website and the Six Ages wiki. But that would be cheating, so I recommend trying your best before you check that out, specially the wiki. :-)

The art by Jan Pospisil is wonderfully detailed and evocative.

Summing up

If you like games that focus on telling a good story, Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind is the game for you. I have found myself completely absorbed by this game, in a way that playing 4 hours non-stop passed by in the blink of an eye. The amazing art, the myths, the difficult choices, the fact that the damned Paral-Uni raided my clan and stole 21 cows from me... all of it contributes to me wanting to keep playing one season after another. And that's the second time I started over, so you can trust the game is very replayable. For one thing, the game includes more than 400 interactive scenes, but another incentive can be to explore the huge map some more, because in only one game you won't be able to explore but a small part of it. So, to wrap up:

What I like the most

- The art. I especially liked Simon Roy's drawings.
- Interactive scenes where you are not sure which is the best option.
- Exploring a different culture, different map and different period than in King of Dragon Pass.
- The fact the writers have fleshed out the Hyaloring culture, their looks, their traditions, gods and myths. Seeing one of the human cultures of Glorantha come alive in a videogame with such rich level of detail makes you want to run a roleplaying campaign focused on them!
- Getting to know your advisors by reading their advice and seeing them grow older. I particularly enjoyed the crazy antics of my Raven shamans, which made me laugh out loud.
- The uncertainty of not really knowing what your final goal is. If you already have played through the game once, please do not spoil it for other gamers!
- The story of that final goal. I love the whole concept.
- The fact that they are already working on the next game: Lights Going Out.

What I like the least (actually just nitpicking)

- Once you have played the game through once, since you already know what the final goal is, you can make decisions towards it even before you should (although that will also have consequences!).
- The fact that there are seasons and years during the time before Time. But of course, without a pattern like that, it would have been impossible to make a videogame set in that period.
- When a noble dies just before Sacred Time, because an empty seat means less magic to spend on rituals.
- Not knowing yet how and where to find the Easter egg hidden in the game! :-)

Release trailer for the iOS version

What's next?

The next videogame in the Six Ages series is Lights Going Out. This will be set during the Great Darkness, the next mythical age before the creation of Time. But if in the Storm Age everything started to go south, in the Great Darkness you are south of south! The world will be at the brink of annihilation, so expect really bad things to happen continually: trolls everywhere, the forces of Chaos penetrate into the world and wreak havoc and gods start dying in droves. I suppose it will be like a survival horror.

Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind is just the first episode in a series of videogames.

If you manage to survive, the next installment in the series will be The World Reborn, set during the First Age, already within Time. And the next two will be set in the Second and Third Ages. It will be interesting to see how the Hyalorings change and adapt to the big events in each age.

Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind is available for iPhone and iPad at the App Store, and for Mac and PC (only for Windows 10, though) at Steam and GoG. The portable version is 11$ whereas the Mac and PC versions are 17$.

Have you played this game already? Tell me all about it in a comment! And if you haven't done it yet, you can read an interview to the lead designer. You can also read my first adventures with the game. Finally, if you are intrigued by the world of Glorantha portrayed in the game and would like to know more, you might be interested in this sourcebook. If you prefer to explore it by playing a pen-and-paper roleplaying game, check out RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

2 comentarios:

  1. Very informative review. I'll surely snag a copy for the holiday season.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Ynas! 👍
      Have fun playing with the Hyalorings, and tell me if you agree with my assessment! 😉


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