aGORA is, mostly, an action-adventure game, with some real-time strategy. There are also some puzzle solving elements, all in a fantasy RPG setting. Fortunately, playing the game is much more fun than classifying it. Runner movement and combat are controlled from the keyboard as the player views the action via a movable camera, ala Myth. Combat is simple and entertaining, revolving more around moving into good position and knowing when to attack rather than around the simple attack and defend buttons. Magic is an integral part of the game and every runner, even the barbarian, eventually learns three spells. Potions and scrolls are also found scattered throughout the levels. There are six character types in aGORA, each with different balances between health, magic and combat. You must also choose your magic guild which determines the spells you will learn.

In the single-player game, your quest is to traverse the eighteen globes and save the known universe. Each globe contains a key; the broken pieces of the key must be found and reunited in order to move on. Hordes of skeletal defenders, competing runners and devious puzzles spin a vortex of complications. The levels are diverse and entertaining. Youíll never know what to expect next. Some of the globes are quite difficult to solve and will take some replaying to master. It is a bit of a disappointment that there are only eighteen. I definitely wanted more. The skills game and networked play pick up the slack and result in a game which can be played indefinitely. One of aGORAís most interesting innovations is the replacement of maps with globes. There are no boundaries in aGORA. Each level takes place on a globe. No more bumping against sidelines and getting pinned in the corners of a map. You may even be able to circumnavigate a globe and come up behind the enemy.

How is aGORA different from Myth? Aesthetically, aGORA looks much like Myth. Like Myth, aGORA is a real-time strategy game set in a fantasy worldand sports a movable camera. The difference between the two games is one of scope. Myth is a tactical combat game concentrating on the management of a troop of forces. aGORA, however, plays more like Diablo. In aGORA, you maneuver a single character around the world. This character will advance in levels and capabilities much as in role playing games. You control every movement, every sword slash and every defensive parry. Still, the combat is not super-fast twitch action like Diablo. aGORA is paced a little slower and requires more strategy and puzzle solving. Pure twitch gamers may be initially disappointed. The strategy elements of the game require lessened pace and enhance the gaming experience. The action is plenty hot in aGORA, especially in networked games which are the best part.

aGORA was initially conceived and truly shines as a network game. The title aGORA is taken from the Greek word, ìagora,î which means "marketplace." The marketplace was where people came together to meet and to discuss matters. aGORA's creator, Zachary Waibel, tells us that he has an image of large groupsÝ networking together for discussion and gaming. Up to ten people can play one network game. As you who already play networked games know, there is nothing like a human opponent. Imagine ten! There is nothing like the mayhem of four teams defending their own oracles and trying to reduce the other teamís to a slagged heap of smoking rubble. Games can be played over TCP/IP and/or AppleTalk (thatís right, you can play a game over both AppleTalk and the internet at the same time). It would, however, have been nice if NetWar City (Knowble Design's utility to bring network players together) had been bundled with the game rather than distributed as an after-market download. If you are not already playing networked games, aGORA is a great place to start. You will want to play through the single-player levels first, however.

One of the game's caveats is that aGORA seems to require very fast connections to network well. On busy internet nights, I sometimes had difficulties even with a 56K modem. The odds of getting multiple perfect internet connections are low and this may cause frustrating slow downs for multi-player games. Other complaints I have are that the 18 single player globes left me wanting more and a couple of them were not quite as outstanding as the others. Some seemed too damn hard, frankly. In the single player quest, the AI of computer allies is imperfect and you may find yourself cursing your allies more than your enemies.

Those are minor quibbles, however. aGORA is a fantastic game. It draws you into its vast world and engages you for hours at a time.

Highs:
Great, genre stretching game play
Beautiful look and feel to the game
Innovative use of unbounded globes rather than restrictive maps
Exciting network possibilities

Lows
Some levels may be too hard
Artificial intelligence uneven
Network play sometimes very slow

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