Two of the most underrated shareware RPGs ever made can be found in TaskMaker and the sequel Tomb of the TaskMaker for the Macintosh. Both are top-down RPGs reminiscent of Ultima III, albeit not as complex or long. The plots are hackneyed fantasy fare, but passable. In Taskmaker, you are the hero who arrives in a new land to prove your worth. You must accomplish ten Hercules-style tasks set out by the TaskMaker. In the second game, you have become the ruler of the land following the TaskMaker's death. Now you must fight new evil creatures that are invading your people's towns and face the mastermind behind the havoc. |
One of the best things about both TaskMaker games is the excellent tutorial at the beginning that teaches you all the basics. Another neat touch is that when you die, you can fight your way out of Hell (a randomly generated maze with four possible exits) to restore your character to life.
RPG fans will be familiar with the gameplay: explore dungeons and villages (over one hundred million pixels of gameworld), fight monsters, cast spells, sail ships, and generally help people whenever your can. Designed to be accessible to players of all levels, both games are very easy to learn and play – no need to memorize complicated statistics or spend hours creating your hero: just start the game, and have fun. Although some of the first few tasks the TaskMaker assigns you are a bit irrelevant ("go get me a chessboard" for instance), the tasks get gradually more difficult and much more interesting, not to mention clever. Some tasks remind me of the neat physical crossword puzzle in Dark Heart of Uukrul, and I had a lot of fun trying to find secret doors and discover the use of weird and wacky items I collect along the way.
The sequel Tomb of the TaskMaker is even better. It is bigger, looks prettier, and even allows you to be be one of three classes: fighter, mage, and thief, thereby significantly increasing replayability (which was somewhat lacking in the original since the maps are predetermined).
Fans of light RPGs and early Ultima games should definitely have fun with these two underdogs, which run flawlessly on the Basilisk II emulator for PC. Two thumbs up, way up!Reviewed by: Underdogs