Star Trail follows in the tracks of the original game released two years earlier but is still different in several ways with the graphics and general gameplay being slightly more refined. It is possible to transfer the party of the original game over to Star Trail for an easier start along with their stats and most equipment. Different bugs depending on the game version can still make this annoying though as e.g. weapon skills can become messed up and the money gathered in RoA1 is generally greatly reduced.
The story is a continuation of the first game. One year has passed in Arkania since the heroes were able to thwart the orc attack on Thorwal. But not all is well as the vile creatures have instead turned their attention east and invaded and conquered the greater part of the Svellt City-League. As the heroes arrive they are given two tasks. For one they are supposed to find the Salamander Stone, an artifact created to commemorate the short-lived alliance of elves and dwarfs. The artifact might rekindle the old alliance and incite them to drive the orcs from the land. On the other the heroes ought to find the legendary throwing ax Star Trail – for mere monetary reasons.
With just the tiniest bits of information the hero party, consisting of up to six characters, is off to explore the lands. And at that point the game shows the first significant differences to the original. Walking through towns is now smooth and not a step-by-step process, greatly resembling the modern title ‘Legend of Grimrock’ minus the strafing. Buildings have various styles now, the map system was vastly improved and range weapons and spells can now be fired diagonally as well. Speech and small cut scenes were also included.
While in RoA1 even the smallest village could be thoroughly explored in RoA2 this is only true for the six major cities and the dungeons. Smaller hamlets are just handled through text boxes where the heroes are given choices to e.g. visit the local inn or temple.
Travelling through the world of Arkania is still done on a large map in form of a red line. Diseases are a constant threat in the game, caused by bites of wild animals or inappropriate camping equipment in harsh weather conditions. Food and water need to be found or the party will starve to death. In addition the shoes of a hero might be destroyed, making him lose precious health points with every step. While camping the heroes can attempt to gather herbs, food and water, perform healing talents and put up guards at night to avoid surprise attacks by the local wildlife or bandits. A handy in-game function lets you repeat these tasks as required and you do not have to set them manually every night as in RoA1.
Ever present are the death traps ranging from an ibex that likes to knock overly daring heroes off the mountain, a deadly fire spirit that needs well thought persuasion, to mobs that arrive with pitchforks and torches to end the heroes unless they carry the correct item to save them. For the most part the death traps are easier to avoid than in RoA1 though.
Combat is done on an isometric grid where the heroes and enemies move into position to do battle. New is the helpful but risky auto-combat mode where the game calculates the outcome of the battle. As the game does not bother with well thought out tactics it is good to always keep an eye on your health and quickly return to the combat screen to take over before it is too late. The auto-combat speeds up battles greatly though.
Spells are still important in the game but just like in the predecessor many spells are a waste, meaning they have no use in the game altogether. The same is true for certain talents. It is good advice to find a game guide telling which spells or talents should not be trained or precious points are lost in never used talents like ‘riding’.
All in all Star Trail is a vast improvement compared to RoA1 and probably the best of the series. It is still difficult, requires lots of micro management and one wrong move can mean death. The fact that the game gives you few hints as to what to do and where to go does not help. You need to explore a lot and talk to all the people you can meet, no matter how unimportant they seem, as they can still carry the important piece of information you need.
Star Trail might turn many players away due to its age and antiquated style but it is a grand adventure worth remembering if you give it a chance.