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Old August 25, 2007, 09:02   #1
Lipa
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Exclamation PORTRALIS Review

I know that TJA is already planning to write a review, but I decided to post my own as well. The more the better!

But what I'm about to write is also a kind of a summary, really. I'm sad that not many people are familiar with the variant, and I'll try to explain and list all the interesting (outstanding!) features.

IMO, this is one of the best variants out there! Go check it out!
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Old August 25, 2007, 09:03   #2
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PORTRALIS is based on New Angband (that in turn based on Pern Angband, an old variant of ToME). Portralis was born when changes to a certain New Angband version (1.7.1) were so significant and fundamental that Variaz, the creator of both, decided to rename the new version (1.8.0) and turn it into a whole new Angband variant.

Portralis offers some radical new ideas and concepts that differ much from Vanilla Angband, most of them being focused on the detailed, multi-class character development.

At birth, the player only gets to choose its character’s race. There are numerous races in Portralis, each of them offering some bonuses and penalties to various stats, resistances and skills. Everything else is initially fixed: all stats are set to 5 (plus/minus racial effects), and there is no class to begin with (the character is an Apprentice). Later, as the real game begins, the character can change to whichever of the numerous classes he wants. He can choose between basic classes (Warrior, Mage, Rogue, etc.), and (if he is skilled and experienced enough) between some advanced ones (Elemental Lord, High Mage, Shadow Stalker, etc.). Each class also offers a set of ten unique special abilities that the character can learn (more on that later).

But the character doesn’t have to stick to just one class. The most radical Portralis feature allows him to change at leisure from one class to another! This way, he can learn certain special abilities from various different classes, thus becoming a finely tuned adventurer, skillful in multiple disciplines.

As the character gains an experience level, his development is entirely up to the player. First, he is granted some stat points. These can be used to boost any of the general stats (Strength, Intelligence, etc.). Then, he gets some skill points. With these, he can advance any of the many available skills, another interesting feature in Portralis. There are general skills like Fighting, Spellcraft or Defense, making the character more able in respective disciplines, and specialized skills like Swords, Rods, or Elemental Magic, which make him more powerful. Last but not least, the character also gets one ability point for each experience level. With this point, he can learn (or advance) any of the special class abilities.

In short, the player has total and complete control over his character! He can create a very specific, very unique adventurer, exactly the way he wants. Possibilities are endless.

But the customization doesn’t end here. Another ingenious feature of the game is the incredible magic system. In Portralis, there are no spell books. Instead, there are numerous books with various magical effects (Acid, Identify, Paralyze, Reduce Level, etc.). As the character finds (or buys) such a book, he can (permanently) learn the magical effect. Then, the player can create his own custom spells! He can choose the magical effect (or even combine more of them), the type of spell (Bolt, Chain, etc.), its power and radius. This way, he can create an infinite number of unique, custom spells, combining many effects together, casting what he really wants to cast.

A few more words on the game world. Older New Angband versions (up to 1.7.1) had only one town with one very deep dungeon. There were also some quests present, and a simple story. Portralis, on the other hand, features a huge world with many towns, dungeons, quests, and an elaborate story with dialogues.

Monsters in the game are numerous, and users can create custom monsters as well. From time to time, however, a character will also have to cross swords with special “elite” and “boss” monsters, another fun feature of Portralis. These randomly generated monsters are very powerful, and they possess various special abilities (Immunity to Melee, Ability to Return Damage, etc.). Killing them is often a tough challenge, and this is why the multi-class approach to the game with special class abilities becomes almost a necessity.

Interesting items, too, can be collected in the game. First, there is ordinary equipment lying around in the dungeon. Then, there are randomly generated magical items (mostly weapons and armor), which the player can usually get after killing an elite or boss monster. These items possess many bonuses to general fighting performance (to hit, to damage, to armor class, etc.), as well as bonuses to stats, skills and resistances. Last but not least, there are also special randomly generated “tweakable” magical items. These are much rarer, but also more powerful. And most importantly, they can be tweaked! The player can (for a price) increase the already existing bonuses, or even add new abilities (Permanent Light, Regeneration, Resistances, etc.).

All in all, Portralis is extremely rich with all sorts of items, which help the player to create exactly the type of character he wants.

One last thing about death. The game offers another radical option here: the character can resurrect, though he loses all his items (except for those carefully kept at home). For some people, this may indeed sound like breaking the most fundamental rules. However, Portralis can be tough, very tough. Monsters can become quite nasty later in the game, and this is why the resurrection option was introduced in the first place. But if the player really doesn’t like it, he can as well start anew – his score (and his current “death count”) is entered in the highscore list after each death.

Since the release of New Angband version 1.7.0, New Angband has become more and more popular, and the community has started to grow. Then the game turned into Portralis, an even larger, more complex and more interesting variant. The game’s creator, Variaz, has never been so busy coding, fixing, polishing. And he still never seems to run out of ideas, possible additions and improvements for his creation. Portralis is facing a bright future indeed.

Last edited by Lipa; August 25, 2007 at 09:10.
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Old August 25, 2007, 13:07   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lipa View Post
At birth, the player only gets to choose its character’s race. There are numerous races in Portralis, each of them offering some bonuses and penalties to various stats, resistances and skills. Everything else is initially fixed: all stats are set to 5 (plus/minus racial effects), and there is no class to begin with (the character is an Apprentice). Later, as the real game begins, the character can change to whichever of the numerous classes he wants.
Now that is a great character creation process - and actually reflects what happens in the real world (of people playing games). How is someone supposed to know what class they want to play from the get go?

Can I suggest that the whole post you've just made replace the existing text at http://angband.oook.cz/variants.php?variant=portralis

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Old August 25, 2007, 14:17   #4
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Thanks for the review. I'm interested.

I see the last release was 4 months ago. Is there an SVN I can get a version with the 4 months worth of bugfixes from? Oh, and does it run on Linux (I guess the TJA review will answer this:-)?

P.S. And the active Portalis forum is surprising. How come I've never heard of it? Or perhaps it's only for Window$, so I cursed it and forgotten?
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Old August 25, 2007, 14:24   #5
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I'm glad that you like the review. As I said before, this variant is really good (my favorite, actually), however most of the *banders (unfortunately) don't seem to know much about it. I strongly encourage everyone to at least try it out!

You can get the latest version (post-release bugfixes are included) from the Portralis homepage:

http://www.geocities.com/pericles_2ca/

Or at the forums (see the downloads section):

http://variaz.proboards3.com/index.cgi?

As to Linux, I wouldn't know much about it, but I'm sure others will know how to help you out!

Best regards, have fun!
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Old August 25, 2007, 14:31   #6
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Nice review, Lipa - I find that an excited breakdown of all the best features gets me a lot more interested than most of the terse descriptions lying around the web. There is a lesson for maintainers who want to attract players here.

Portralis - for the first time - really interests me. Anyone ever play WHFRP? it reminds of character development in that. Sounds also like it borrows a lot from japanese style CRPG games (old-FF skill/class systems, dialogues) - not necessarilly a bad thing in my book!

Urggh, I wish people would stop making me want to play more variants. Even for an insomniac like me, there are only 23.25 waking hours in a day!

Nice one Lipa; for someone who "isn't that familiar" with the variant, you really did your homework!
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Last edited by Daven_26d1; August 25, 2007 at 17:41.
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Old August 25, 2007, 14:46   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lipa View Post
You can get the latest version (post-release bugfixes are included) from [...]
No luck here. The newest I can see is from Wed May 02 18:53 UTC.
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Old August 25, 2007, 15:11   #8
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I see. Hm... Not sure if there were any other bugfix releases. I guess this is it then?

Also, please bare in mind that currently Portralis is still in beta stage. It is perfectly playable though! It's just that the world is not yet finished, and there may be a bug here and there... But the story itself (with lots of quests and dungeons) even now provides for *hours* of gameplay, and since there are so many choices a player can take in terms of character design, replayability is extremely high. I really hope you won't get discouraged by the "unfinished" status.

Oh, one more thing I think I should mention. Obviously, I'm a fan. But please note that I didn't write the review in order to "force" you into Portralis. Not at all. I know and I perfectly understand that not all will love it as much as I do, for (fortunately!) we each have a different taste. My intention was simply to describe the variant and hopefully encourage you to try it out! At the moment, Portralis is pretty much unknown, and I think it really deserves more attention. Later, as you'll see how things are, you'll (of course) make your own judgment. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you'll hate it, or maybe you'll fall in love with it like I did.

Best regards!

Last edited by Lipa; August 26, 2007 at 11:28.
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Old August 25, 2007, 15:26   #9
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Wait! There is already a Portalis review by TJA (with replies from the benevolent maintainer, no less). It seems the source compiles on Linux after some tweaks. Great!

http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showthread.php?t=207

Thank you both. I now have both an incentive and technical assistance to try it out.
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Old August 25, 2007, 15:41   #10
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Excellent! I wish you lots of fun!
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