Readers of Anne McCaffrey's Pern books will finally get a chance to explore the world of Pern through Ubi-Soft's upcoming RPG, Dragonriders - Chronicles of Pern. As epic in scope as the books, Dragonriders will have players adventuring through both dark, claustrophobic caves and massive outdoor areas with clear skies and an impressive viewing range. Dragonriders opens with a disease spreading through the land at the hands of a powerful adversary. This creates turmoil among the lower classes, and eventually a Dragonrider named D'Kor is sent to assist in ridding the land of the disease. Through this story players will be able to explore an entertaining and accurate representation of Pern, a representation developed in complete cooperation with Anne McCaffrey.
Dragonriders begins with the now-standard in-game tutorial, showing players how to interact with items, how to build up abilities, and how to fight. The player is then introduced to D'Kor's three attributes -- knowledge, reputation, and strength. Through puzzles, battles, and other such methods of character building, these attributes can be increased. These attributes are necessary to complete certain objectives in the game. For example, a high reputation is necessary to get into certain areas. New skills can be learned with increased ability points. These skills must be taught by computer controlled characters, of which there are many, all of which are easy to coverse with. One can even hold a conversation with the dragon (albeit telepathically), who will give information and insight on the surroundings.
Combat is done in a different manner than many RPGs; a "crossed swords" indicator will appear when an enemy is in range. Once combat is initiated, the player cannot move forward or backward. Rather, pressing toward the enemy will attack, while pulling away will defend. Left and Right will circle the enemy. To move closer to or farther away from the enemy, the player must exit combat. Though this may seem like a limitation, it allows for a wide variety of attacks. Short slashes can be performed by a tap of the analog pad, and stronger attacks can be performed by pressing the analog pad further up. When an enemy is defeated, the strength attribute will increase.
Graphically, the game performs well. Though the framerate stayed around 30fps in most of the preview versions, it should be increased by the time the game comes out. The small details that bring life to the game world all exist, however, be it facial expressions, fluid animation, and idle movements. The world stretches all the way to the horizon, creating vast areas to explore. All in all, the world of Pern is faithfully and beautifully crafted, and though the game had some minor problems as of the last preview release, they should not be difficult to fix in time for Dragonriders - Chronicles of Pern's May 22 (Dreamcast) and May 29 (PC) releases.