Released only in Europe and exclusive to the then-declining Amiga, this obscure sci-fi RPG oozes atmosphere with its audacious two-tone palette, ominous soundtrack and exotic setting.
Inspired by Dune rather than Lord of the Rings (why so few games do this?), Perihelion is set in a planet ravaged by ancient wars, inhabited by cyborgs, psionic cultists and genetically engineered mutants, all ruled by a long line of Imperial clones.
The stylized intro sequence tells of a powerful psionic god named “The Unborn” trying to breach into this reality, causing chaos all across the planet. To stop it, the Emperor summons six prophesied heroes kept in stasis for centuries just for this moment: your party.
You start the game by creating said party from several races and classes, in a complex but poorly explained ruleset – you can do things like customize the DNA composition of hybrid races, but the manual won’t even tell you what the classes do! That finished (somehow), you start your quest.
Perihelion is a first-person dungeon crawler with tactical turn-based combat, similar to the Gold Box games but based on action-points. A core difference is that the game is much shorter – about 8-10 hours long – and focus more on its story. Combat occurs sparingly and there are no random encounters, which is welcome given how slow and underwhelming the game’s battles are.
That, unfortunately, can also be said for most of the game itself. The atmosphere is great, and the story tries very hard to be interesting, but you’ll spend most of your time roaming across empty cities and dungeons, trying to figure what to do next.
There’s also the issue of the interface – while it looks impressive, it’s cumbersome and unintuitive. Simple actions such as examining an item or talking to NPCs are way harder than they ever needed to be.
In fact, the entire game has this strong “form over function” feeling. Features such as using computer terminals for investigative work (you need to actually type in commands like “read” or “login”) or crafting your own spells via runes are all great in concept, but become busy-work due to their poor execution.
It’s a shame that such unique presentation and setting are tied to such weak RPG. In the end, it’s better to just look at, rather than actually play Perihelion. Felipe Pepe