This is the closest to oldschool pen and paper role playing game I’ve played in a long while. It uses The dark Eye, which is a combat / skill system similar to D&D but different enough to keep it interesting. I enjoyed discovering this new system, which has a few strengths and a few weaknesses compared to D&D.
Strength of the combat system comes mainly from its leveling system. Experience is used to upgrade everything. From stats to spells to talents to weapon mastery. This is good as it does not try to baby sit you and limit your options level by level, like what you see in similar games like NWN.
Oldschool RPG, NWN-like.
System Similar to D&D.
Great graphics. (for 2009.)
Stimulating tactical combats.
Amazing value for 29$ (update : Now 9$ on Steam).
Its weaknesses revolve mostly around balance. For exemple the daggers weapon class is fundamentally flawed and need some major changes to be at least remotely useful in the game. Some spells do not scale well, others are near useless.
The game itself is very pretty, and even if for me graphics are generally not an issue (gameplay being the king) in this game it really helps immersion. Characters and NPCS look great from any distance, even when zoomed in real close. Some places like the dark forest with a few rays of light coming here and there are very charming. The use of colors is especially good, as most games in this genre tend to have mostly brownish hues and it gets stale after a while.
The combat system is very dynamic and fun. 4 fights on 5 you can just play it tactical, using keyboard shotcut to cast spells, special attacks and such in real time. For more difficult fights you will feel the need to pause the game and really think about strategy and plan every action. This gives a nice balance between pure action and strategy.
Note that the first part of the game is kind of easy, probably to let the player learn the game mechanics. Later on things become more challenging and the real fun begins. This increased difficulty will make you want to think about your characters and the way you build them, similar to what happens to you in diablo or in most MMOs where character planning is a big part of the fun.
A little advice on this last part : it would be a good idea to join a forum where you can ask your questions about the more advanced aspects of the game and the experience system. The dark eye is similar to D&D but is different enough that some homework can really make a difference in how strong your characters can become. (Some things can look similar to D&D on the surface, but be very different in practice.)
I finished this game in around 80 hours. And even then, It was fun enough to go back and try some different choices (quests and character development) for an additional 40 hours. Which is an amazing value for its small 29$ price. (Now 9$ on Steam!)
I highly recommend this to any RPG fan out there.