When fans of Black Isle Studios heard that the company was revealing a new RPG at E3, rumors began to spread. Many were of the opinion that
Black Isle would finally unveil the next title in the flagship series Fallout. Others believed that the game was to be a Fallout-styled fantasy game. Still others thought that maybe, just maybe, Black Isle Studios would create a sequel to the much-loved Planescape: Torment. None of them were correct. Instead, Black Isle would only be the publisher and that their upcoming RPG would be developed externally by little-known developer Reflexive Entertainment (Zax: The Alien Hunter, Star Trek Away Team). Thus with much speculation and trepidation, Lionheart was unveiled to the world.
Rather than a sequel to a pre-existing Black Isle game, Lionheart is an original story set during the 16th century in an alternate version of our own world. After the Third Crusade, a shifting of reality occurred which caused a profound influx of magic and extemporaneous creatures into the world. The planet was covered in a perpetual Dark Age that would last over 400 years; and now a hero must emerge. The player is cast into the role of a descendant of King Richard the Lionheart during these turbulent times, with adventures that can conclude in a multitude of scripted endings. Reflexive Entertainment hopes to capture the non-linear storytelling that made Fallout so appealing with an open-ended adventure that changes based on the decisions you make throughout the game. The player will be allowed to interact with historical figures and possibly have an impact on the history of the world. This is truly a unique and interesting premise, which if executed properly, could result in being truly great.
The graphics look similar to previous Black Isle RPG’s with some improvements. Lionheart is viewed from a ľ perspective, using Reflexive Entertainment’s Velocity engine: scaled 3D polygonal characters on 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. This allows for a greater variety of appearances in character models than previous games. If you've played any of Black Isle's other games, you’ll feel right at home. Unlike many other RPG’s, Lionheart limits the player to controlling only one character. At this time Reflexive Entertainment has no plans to allow player-controlled NPC’s.
Lionheart features the popular S.P.E.C.I.A.L. role-playing system that was introduced in Fallout. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. is an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. All skills present in the game use these seven basic characteristics as the base when measuring your success at any given task. Each time you gain a level, you will receive skill points, which you can use to increase your skill in various areas. Lionheart’s combat will also be executed in real-time, introducing the concept of Action Points (AP), which while derived from a characters Agility score, determines the speed of which most martial actions are executed. Characters also gain additional abilities known as “perks”, which are received every few levels. For instance, in Fallout, you could choose perks that would allow you to have better sniping skills or carry more weight. If you’ve played Neverwinter Nights (or any 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons game), perks are similar to feats. Modifications will be made to Lionheart’s incarnation of this mechanism in order to allow spell casting among other more fantasy-oriented abilities. Considering that the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system has been used before with great success, this portion of the game will surely be a treat.
Even though Reflexive Entertainment has limited experience, Black Isle has yet to publish anything short of excellent, and Lionheart shows promise. Lionheart is slated for a Winter 2002 release for Windows® 95/98/00/ME/XP.