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Video Game / Realms of Arkania

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The Realms of Arkania PC games, also known as the Northern Reaches Trilogy, are three RPGs based on the 3rd edition of The Dark Eye. They were developed by attic Entertainment Software and initially not planned to be released outside Germany, but due to the first game's success, it and its successors were translated into English and published internationally (by Sir-Tech in the US).

In the first part, Blade of Destiny (released originally in 1992, internationally in 1993), the player's party of adventurers is tasked to find a legendary sword, Grimring, in order to stop an Orc invasion. The objective of the second game, Star Trail (1994), is to find and deliver the Salamander Stone, a symbol for an alliance between Elves and Dwarves. Shadows over Riva (1997), the third part, has a more elaborate plot about Elf-Orc crossbreeds, a secret underground organization and telepathic worms.

Gameplay takes place in three perspectives: First-Person Perspective (in pseudo-3D in Blade of Destiny) in towns and dungeons, Isometric Projection in combat, and a world map view when travelling (except in Shadows over Riva where travelling is not possible). The trilogy was and still is popular for its depth and complexity (owing to it being a relatively faithful conversion of the pen and paper system), its open world, immersive atmosphere and its plot.


A remake of the first game was released in 2013. A remake of the 2nd game was release in 2017.

Realms of Arkania provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Low Levelcap: Simultaneously averted and enforced. On the one hand, you can theoretically rise to level 20, which is the status of a legendary hero (with all those maxed out stats and skills that come with it). On the other, the XP gain is so low that you'll never get there by ordinary means: while XP progression isn't particularly steep (in the German version, you need 100 XP for 1st level, an additional 200 XP for 2nd (which means 300 XP for level 2), an additional 300 XP for 3rd (which means 600 XP for level 3) and so on), as soon as you've fought a particular monster type more than once or twice, the XP gain is reduced to 1 XP for each character. All this makes sure that even a thorough completionist won't be more experienced than roughly level 6 (1500 XP) after the first game, and maybe level 9 (3600 XP) after the second.
  • All There in the Manual: In an optional encounter with gryphons in Blade of Destiny, lack of knowledge about the setting can result in the loss of a party member.
    • Which types of weapons and armor are allowed by which class - without knowledge of the game system, you'll have to figure this out through trial and error.
    • The Elf-Orcs from the final part of the trilogy? Yes, they're canon as well and have been introduced in a (by now pretty obscure) adventure module from 1987, though they hardly got much more attention in the three decades since then.
  • An Adventurer Is You
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: While an unlimited number of characters can be created and exchanged in temples, only six player characters and one NPC can be in the party simultaneously.
  • Bag of Spilling: Thankfully averted, you get to keep all the loot from the prior installations in both Star Trail and Shadows over Riva.
  • Booze-Based Buff: Being drunk affects all attributes. Although slightly more of them deteriorate than improve, it can be useful in some situations, especially combat against non-magic users. In Shadows over Riva, however, outside of combat being drunk will cause staggering movement.
  • Callback: Early on in Star Trail, the party comes across a heavily-armed adventurer in the road. If they ask him about the throwing axe Star Trail, he becomes angry and replies with "Star Trail? Did you just say 'Star Trail' to me?!" and proceeds to barely hold back his rage at the name being brought up. Early in Shadows over Riva, which is a direct sequel, a random encounter in the town of Riva itself involves an NPC asking a party member if they want to buy a treasure map to the legendary throwing axe, Star Trail, at which point the chosen party member responds with "Did you say Star Trail just then?!" and immediately tries to punch the NPC.
  • Canon Discontinuity: While the events of Blade of Destiny are canon for the tabletop version as well (and are dutifully referenced to in various sources), the other two installments aren't. Which also has a lot to do with the extreme liberties it took with the setting (no, there is no Elven King, no gigantic temple dungeon of the Nameless One under Tjolmar, and Borbarad had nothing to do with the War against the Orcs).
  • Class and Level System
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Averted. Carrying too much gradually slows characters down.
  • Crystal Ball: An item that improves its carrier's Danger Sense talent.
  • Dialogue Tree: Blade of Destiny was among the first Western RPGs to use them.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: A Treasure Map in Blade of Destiny.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?
  • Duels Decide Everything: Should the party win over the orc chieftain in a duel, his whole army will go and rampage elsewhere.
  • Enter Solution Here: Shadows over Riva requires the player to enter a codephrase to progress in the dwarven mines. As in the original german version it contains an Umlaut, this can turn the game unwinnable at wrong keyboard setups.
  • Even Better Sequel: Star Trail is generally considered the best installment of the series.
  • Faux First-Person 3D: Inside cities in the first two games. The third game is "flat 3D" like Wolfenstein 3-D, but also allows to tie the party to the familiar grid, fixing steps and turning angles.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In Blade of Destiny, burning the cocoons in the spider cave causes every dungeon in the game to fill up with poisonous gas which can easily turn the game unwinnable.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Several in each game, usually optional.
  • Guide Dang It!: Especially trigger-effect relations are often unobvious.
    • Also instances where you die immediately without any warning or information why and how it happened. Some of them are part of the Game-Breaking Bug mentioned above, but the release version of the game also had instant total party kills in the penultimate (and indispensable) dungeon right at the start.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: One way to lose involves fighting endless waves of city guards in the Fortress of Riva.
  • Inn Security: Twice in Star Trail.
  • Intimate Healing: In Star Trail, spending the night in a brothel instead of an inn is very expensive, but also increases the regeneation by x4 or x5 or so.
  • Jumped at the Call
  • Jump Scare: In the first game. Because this entry in the series has a bunch of unexpected instant Total Party Kill triggers (see Guide Dang It!), you're regularly confronted with the Game Over-Screen out of the blue.
  • Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Sure enough, equipment is really expensive to buy, and you barely make any silvers from selling looted gear. Good luck affording full plate armor.
    • Averted with herbs: you can make truckloads of money just by selling the stuff the herbalist in your party picks up while camping. At least in the first and second game.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Deconstructed. The heroes can break into houses, but not only will they rarely find anything useful, they may also be arrested by the city guard (only in larger cities).
  • Leaked Experience: Averted. While all active party members gain the same amount of experience from combats, unconscious, dead and absent party members miss out. Some actions and events, such as picking locks, grant experience only to the characters directly involved.
  • Level-Map Display
    • The spell "Penetrating Wood and Stone" reveals previously unvisited areas on the automap.
    • The rather minimalist maps in Blade of Destiny can be somewhat annoying. They cannot be annotated and do not distinguish between taverns and inns or between types of shops.
    • In Shadows over Riva, a complete, annotated city map can be bought. Alternatively, of course, the party can explore the city on their own.
  • Mage Tower: The party will see, and sometimes enter, a few of them.
  • Mana: Called "astral energy".
  • Mana Drain: The spell "Astral Theft".
  • Mirror Match: In Shadows over Riva, the party fights against mirror images of themselves. Subverted in that more mirror images join the battle after a while and some of their values differ from those of the originals.
    • You can also bypass the fight by turning yourself invisible or using darkness spells so that no mirror images are generated.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters
    • The Holberkians are Elf-Orc crossbreeds (though "crossbreed" is stretching it, they're more like 90% Orc and 10% Elf).
    • Apart from meeting various hybrid enemies, player characters can learn a spell to create such creatures themselves. Unfortunately, the spell requires additional paraphernalia which cannot be found anywhere in the trilogy.
  • Monster Allies: Magicians can summon demons and create undead. A couple of Guest Star Party Members also qualify.
  • Never Trust a Title: In Star Trail, finding the eponymous throwing axe is merely a sidequest (and you don't even succeed at it).
  • Nipple and Dimed: Only female characters start with shirts, and when the Orcs besieging Lowangen take the party's equipment, they get to keep their armors.
  • No-Gear Level: At a few points in the games, the party will lose most or all of their equipment, in one case even permanently (and in another permanently in regard to gameplay but not story).
  • Non-Human Undead: Elven vampire anyone?
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Heroes with five or less health points are unconscious and will be ignored by some enemies. However, enemies can inflict much more than five damage points, so dying without previously fainting is common.
  • Non Standard Gameover: In Blade Of Destiny, letting the time run out. You have to do this almost intentionally, though.
  • Obvious Beta: The HD remake was rushed out in pre-alpha stage at best, with many obvious missing features and loads of bugs. It was vastly improved with more than 30 patches released within the year.
  • Only Mostly Dead: A god may choose to resurrect a dead character if the player is pious (i.e. donates generously to their temple) and lucky.
  • Optional Party Member
  • Outlaw Town: Daspota in Blade of Destiny.
  • Pervert Revenge Mode: Characters not wearing pants in towns will attract attention and possibly be beaten up by offended townsfolk.
  • Player Party
  • Puppeteer Parasite: You get to know a couple of telepathic bugs.
  • Religion of Evil: The party fights the cult of the Nameless God on a couple of occasions.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Sometimes without any warning.
  • Save Point
    • Downplayed in Blade of Destiny: Unless it is done in a temple, saving costs experience points — not enough to be a problem, but enough to prevent Save Scumming.
    • Averted in the other two games.
  • Shop Fodder: Justified. All useless items that shops buy would make sense for them to sell, e.g. jewelry.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The games' nonlinearity averts this. Since the heroes' power grows relatively slowly, they are unlikely to meet vastly superior enemies nonetheless.
  • Squishy Wizard: Most magically talented classes start with less health and are subject to severe weapon and armor restrictions. The Wizard / Sorceress may roll even fewer Vitality / Astral Energy points than their fellow spellcasters, and cannot even wear leather caps.
    • On the other hand, spellcasters (apart from the Wizard) get 1d6+2 points per level, so if they allot all of them to their health pool (not a very smart choice, but possible nonetheless), they can easily outclass the mundane characters at least in that regard.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The eponymous Blade of Destiny, forged by cyclopes, ravager of orcs...
  • Taken for Granite: The spell "Paralyze" temporarily petrifies its target. Some enemies know a permanent version.
  • Total Party Kill: Several. Some of them qualify as Too Dumb to Live, others are far less obvious.
    • In the first game: Running into a petrification apparatus that turns your entire party to stone; burning the spider egg in a dungeon that fills with toxic vapors afterwards and not getting out in time (plus the Gamebreaking Bug mentioned above); not getting off a sinking ship after killing the boss on it; trying to board a few boats in a pirate lair that end up in a maelstrom.
    • In the second game: Try to leave the game map (which leads you into a trap of hostile Elves, to a basilisk etc.) and not cooperating with the Ork army that's besieging Lowangen once you've run into it.
    • In the third game: The random change to get cornered and then executed after you've been declared outlaw; removing the shrinking spell in the last part of the game before you finished the final task.
  • Trauma Inn: Averted. While the TDE tabletop system has traditionally been rather forgiving when it comes to natural healing (i.e. without the use of alchemy or magic) when compared to reality (you could be expected to be fully healed after two weeks even after having suffered rather grievous wounds), your healing process wasn't particularly fast for an RPG; and the videogame version has adopted that system practically 1:1. The main advantage of an inn is the impossibility to fall victim to attacks or theft. The better rooms also provide faster regeneration, but it will still take several nights for severely injured characters to completely recover.
  • Treasure Map: Dismantled MacGuffin of the Blade of Destiny main quest.
  • Turn-Based Tactics: The combat system.
  • Unbreakable Weapons: Averted. Weapons (except a few magical ones) can break when their bearer critically fails an attack or parry. They can be repaired, however.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Leaving certain locations becomes impossible after performing (or failing to perform) specific unobvious actions (or being able to cast specific spells). The player will rarely immediately notice when it is too late.
    • In the first game, it's a mandatory dungeon where you automatically die if you step onto any field adjacent to the one where you enter the dungeon. Unless your party is able to cast a teleport spell, you're toast.
    • In the second game, there's a room whose exit gets blocked by a ghost once you've entered it. Unless you have the spell necessariy to banish the ghost at your disposal, you can't get out of there either.
  • Useless Item: There are several items, talents and spells with no or negligible use.
  • Useless useful spell/skill: Might just as well be called totally useless skill, and the game has them in spades. Because even though a lot of skills and spells from the tabletop version had been Adapted Out, there's still a truckload that made it into the game and might be usefull from a common sense perspective, yet either have very limited use (playing an instrument or pickpocketing nets you a bit of money even though you can easily make more by selling abundant herbs or vendor trash), are basically useless (the drinking skill only averts that you get the "drunk" debuff after having visited a tavern, which is largely inconsequential in the game), are for all intents and purposes useless except for very few opportunities (the third game had a few instances were notoriously unused skills had A Day in the Limelight), or are completely and utterly useless (the spell that lets you summon a magical bridge, or the one that lets you talk to the dead, or just plain ole' riding skill? All useless in this game, yet it's still possible to blow skill points on them).
  • We Buy Anything: Averted. There are three kinds of shops, for weapons, herbs, and groceries (as well as a few unique, very specialized shops), and none buys goods of a type it does not sell.
  • Welcome to Corneria: In every town in Blade of Destiny, when entering a house whose inhabitant lacks special dialogue, they will all say the same line (usually something unfriendly).
  • We Sell Everything: Averted, see "We Buy Anything".
  • What the Hell, Player?: The game will tell you that scaring an old woman, thus causing her to faint, and then marching on without giving her any further thought is not very nice if you do so; and if you push it too far, the game may even reset the computer.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: The first two games score 5 to 6 on the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness, while Shadows over Riva is only a 4.
    • In Blade of Destiny, the main quest primarily consists of travelling from town to town (in random order) and talking to people. While doing so, the party will inevitably have various encounters and discover numerous dungeons. The game does have a time limit, but it is so generous that unintentionally missing it is nearly impossible.
    • The main quest of Star Trail is slightly more linear, and there are less dungeons, but most quests are still optional, and the game has no time limit.
    • Shadows over Riva does away with the travel system, restricting the player to the city of Riva (which is much more detailed than any city in the previous games) and its surroundings. It has comparably few sidequests, and many locations can only be entered after completing parts of the main quest.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Without food and water or beer, the characters will eventually die; however, since an accordingly skilled character will seldom have trouble acquiring those (either by hunting game and searching water when resting in the wilderness or by simply buying them), the primary problem is balancing between having enough food to avoid starving and not carrying so much of it that it encumbers the characters. Throughout the trilogy, several items can be found that eliminate hunger and/or thirst.
  • You All Look Familiar: Not only do some enemy types share the same sprites, some may even look like the player characters (depending on their class and sex). In Blade of Destiny, this can result in enemies being indiscernible from party members until their first turn.