Talesworth Arena: Death Watch
Talesworth Arena: Death Watch, by Sean Gailey (Mr. Jinx), is an RPG with a strong focus on one-on-one combat and a cool industrial fantasy setting. Choose one of three characters — Engineer, Psionic, or Juggernaut — and battle your way through 10 levels of deadly gladiators. The combat system will be familiar to anyone who has played World of Warcraft or similar MMORPGS. Your weapons and techniques each take the form of a clickable button, with its own casting delay and recharge period. Just click on the buttons with appropriate timing to defeat your opponent. The cash you win can be traded at the Training Center for new combat moves, or at the Bazaar for magical stat-enhancing artifacts.
What makes Talesworth noteworthy is the finely-balanced puzzle aspect to the gameplay. After the first level, which acts as a training period, you'll face opponents with deadly techniques that will wreck you if you let them resolve. You'll have to arm yourself with moves that can interrupt and cancel the incoming pummeling. Of course, your foes will start showing up with interrupts to cancel out your own killer moves. Each battle becomes an intriguing web of tempo, reflexes, and strategy. And right when you think you've got the game figured out, watch what the 2nd boss does to your battle grid.
Analysis: Talesworth Arena has top-quality production, with gorgeous character portraits and music that sets the mood perfectly. I would have liked a wider selection of sound effects in battle, though, and I hope that the sequel includes some animation. A simple but well-written plotline and a handful of side quests round out the package.
The engineer is probably the easiest character to start with, since he gets a hair-trigger interrupt move right away, and the first version of Talesworth was balanced around him. You think you can make it to the end and defeat Klax, the Arena Master? Better polish up that flame-thrower! And remember: don't blow your money at the Bazaar until you're sure you've got all the training you need.