By now we can safely assume that you have heard about roleplaying games, but have you ever heard of a Roleplaying Odyssey? Let me introduce you to Phantasie, a game where the front of the box promised such an experience. And for the most part, we can acknowledge that it pretty much reflects the memory we have of the game.
Looking back, Phantasie might have been a pure Ultima derivative. It featured a large world for you to explore on foot as you searched for the next town or dungeon. However, it did not feature 3D dungeons. Instead, you would kind of unveil the passages of each dungeon on some kind of map screen. The advantage was that you didn't need to create a pen & paper yourself! Add a combat screen to the mix and you had what some of us considered to be the best RPG of 1985 for the Commodore C64. Better even than Ultima IV because it allowed players to create an entire party made up of different classes and races.
Phantasie also included a remarkable hidden feature. If you allowed the game to pick a character's race at random, it would give you access to additional race that were not accessible otherwise. This way, suddenly, even Trolls and Pixies could be part of your party, aside from the standard choices of Human, Dwarf, Halfling, Elf or Gnome. All in all, Phantasie wasn’t the quest of the Avatar and his friends. This was a game that offered a large number of combinations when it came to the creation of characters!
Aside from the character system and party creation, the fondest memories of Phantasie spring from its exploration elements. Practically every step you took while you were exploring the world could trigger some kind of random encounter. If you were lucky, you would even surprise sleeping monsters and have the advantage! The world exploration made Phantasie feel open and almost limitless in its possibility to adventure and explore.
The main objective of the game was to defeat the evil sorcerer Nikademus who lead the evil Black Knights that terrorized all the lands. But despite its story, the game never felt linear. It never guided or shackled you to your path to victory. Once you started strolling around, it was easy to completely forget about your main objective—and it happened quite frequently.
And then, there was the coolest and unique feature of all the RPGs of the era. Phantasie allowed you to print out the scrolls you found on your journeys. It was not just a gimmick, as you might first suspect. In fact, it was almost crucial, because these scrolls held valuable information about the game world and the print-outs were a great way to organize and archive all that information. Not to mention the awesome side-effect that you could study these scrolls under a blanket with a flashlight long after your parents had sent you to bed, and plot out your adventure for the coming day. Think about that the next time you hastily skip book pages in modern RPGs.
In a number of ways, Phantasie might, perhaps, be one of the most influential games for Realms Beyond. The foremost thing we want to achieve with our game is to capture that sense of wonder, that spirit of seemingly endless exploration. Finding books, discovering scrolls and tomes that may hint at a large treasure hidden deep inside a dangerous dungeon, revealing the age-old history of the location you are exploring and giving up more of its mysteries.
If we do our job right, you will be turning over every rock and visit every corner of the world of Realms Beyond, until you have uncovered its last secrets!