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Review: Sentinel Worlds 1: Future Magic (DOS/C64)

One of my very favorite games back on Amiga was the space RPG Hard Nova (to be reviewed in a while) which took me long cozy winter nights to solve. The predecessor of Hard Nova was a game called Sentinel Worlds 1: Future Magic which was released in 1988 by Electronic Arts and had it’s success under science fiction RPG videogamers. Me – PC-less – always looked enviously over to the PC crowd. But that only until decent DOS Emulators were developed, like DOSBox.

A cozy bedroom on a cozy yacht ... with a surprise.

A cozy bedroom on a cozy yacht ... with a cozy surprise.

In the year 2996 the government of the Caldorre system is seriously concerned about tradeships who want to approach the four planets who are getting attacked by space pirates. A whole fleet of defense ships is being ordered to stop the pirates and you have to control five crew members to care for peace around the system. Sounds like a shoot’em’up but it’s actually a space roleplay game with neat EGA (16 colors) graphics and sound which isn’t too bad for an early DOS game. Until around this time generally only fantasy roleplay games were popular and solely. That had to be changed from now on with this great game!

Arnold, err, Bnold is also on the party.

Arnold, err, Bnold is also on the party.

Your crew consists of a pilot, a navigator, a communication officer, an engineer and a medic. Everyone of them has special skills which can be improved during the game. You can buy new equipment and weapons at shops and fight enemies on the planet surfaces or fight in space with your ship and it’s even possible to enter other ships. There are four planets which can be orbited and where you can land on and drive around with a special terrain vehicle. In many buildings you meet NPC’s to whom you can talk to. It’s also possible to search for minerals and sell them or to improve your ships systems. Shortly said you have to collect information and solve quests to get into the secret behind the space pirates.

With our ATV we meander over the planet surfaces.

With our ATV we meander over the planet surfaces.

While Future Magic’s graphics only really looked so colorful on PC’s with EGA cards, nowadays such hardware of course is long forgotten and most old DOS games even doesn’t run anymore in a DOS prompt on Win2k/XP. Therefore the more lucky it is to see some decent emulation developments recently that make playing abandonware DOS games no lesser fun on recent OS systems. As mentioned before one such DOS emulator is the highly praised DOSBox which in it’s most recent version now even supports XMS and EMS and thus games like Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games can be emulated.

After the DOS version another version of Future Magic was released for the good old C64 which doesn’t need to hide at all behind it’s DOS cognate. The C64 graphics looking almost as fresh as on the PC and the gameplay is still acceptable, well except for the floppy disk changing.

The C64 version ...

The C64 version ...

The games half title is Sentinel Worlds 1 which let’s one come to think there are more parts of the series but unfortunately for some reason the creators doesn’t developed a second part but published the famous Hard Nova which could be seen as the sequel to this game and though with a different story and improved graphics it has the similar engine and gameplay. I’m going to review Hard Nova later so check back in a while for it.

... looks nice as well.

... looks nice as well.

As a conclusion I can say that playing this game now after a while it’s even more fun than many modern up-to-date RPG or adventure games and I can only recommend anyone who’s into such type of game to snoop into it. That means check your local dealer (abandonware sites like The Underdogs) for the game. I don’t think you will get the game anywhere now except for the second hand market or auctions. The C64 version fixed for emulators is here (with kind regards of the makers of Girls of 64).

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  1. BrianZofK
    May 14th, 2006 at 01:16 | #1

    I loved this game! Together with Hard Nova they were some of the best space roleplaying games in time! It’s always amazing again to see how much story and atmosphere were brought into such one or two floppy disk big games. Thanks for the great review!

  2. uk_john
    May 14th, 2006 at 01:16 | #2

    I love this and Hard Nova! Why can’t we get this level of immersion, NPC’s, storyline and fun in modern games? Surely you could even use this engine with a nice 3D front end and have a better game than the modern shallow 3D games? (well, that’s if you will ever get a sci-fi rpg ever agin on the PC! They don’t seem to be released anymore. Sci-Fi seems strictly for the FPS genre now!) :(

  3. May 14th, 2006 at 01:17 | #3

    uk_john, I pretty well hear ya! It’s a shame there’s almost only fantasy RPG stuff released today! Maybe SWKOTOR could be taken as an exception but IMHO SWKOTOR is very strict and limited when it comes to the level of freedom of what you can do in the virtual world (while it’s presentation sure is great).
    There should be 3D RPG’s with a theme similar like Hard Nova/SWFM!

  4. em
    December 25th, 2008 at 20:35 | #4

    Heh, I finished playing Mass Effect recently and can’t help but wonder if creators of Mass Effect played Sentinel Worlds and Star Control II a lot back at the day.

    I hope Sentinel Worlds would get similar re-make as Star Control II (The Urguan Masters).

  5. December 25th, 2008 at 21:45 | #5

    em, you bet they know (and probably played) Future Magic. If you’d leave only one choice to play either Mass Effect or SWFM, I’d choose Future Magic anytime. Mass Effect looks nice and has great acting but that’s basically it. Future Magic is so much more well designed as a RPG. Future Magic and it’s unofficial sequel Hard Nova are two of my most-influential games ever.

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