on the heels of the highly successful Lords of Midnight,
Beyond have released that epic game's successor. Larger
than the original that inspired it, this game boasts
6144 locations, 48000 screen views, 128 characters and
as many objects to collect. The game is set during the
period after the destruction of the Ice Crown and all
that it stood for by the young hero, Morkin. He meets
Tathirel the Fey, daughter of the Lord of Dreams and
falls in love with her. Arrangements are made for their
a new force of evil is afoot. Shareth the Heartstealer,
daughter of Doomdark and Empress of the Frozen Empire
kidnaps young Morkin in an attempt to eliminate Luxor
and bring about the destruction of the land of Icemark,
which lies to the north of the Land of Midnight. Enough
of all these capitals. Suffice to say that your quest
is to guide the forces of good to victory over this
evil cradle snatcher.
those three or four people unfamiliar with the layout
of these games, play is totally keyboard controlled.
You may see through the eyes of Luxor, Tarithel, Rorthron
or Morkin himself (but only once he has been freed from
Shareth). Single keypresses can select a different viewpoint,
move the selected character to a new location, select
a new character to play or examine situations, armies
and people and choose between listed options when various
idea is that by guiding characters and armies to the
right places at the right time, a victory over the enemy
may be incurred. Thus the game is a hybrid of adventure
and strategy. Screens are a mixture of text and graphic
displays. The text is a neatly defined 'American Uncial'
style script, whilst the graphics take the form of simplistic
but effective four colour views of local terrain and
any distinguishing features. This simplicity is far
from surprising considering the number of locations
and viewpoints crammed into the program.
of the more interesting aspects of presentation is that
whilst a well presented instruction booklet is supplied
to teach you the mechanics of the game, you have to
listen to a specially recorded audio cassette to fully
understand the plot. The cassette is prepared rather
like a radio show, with narrator, main characters, a
few sound effects and incidental music played on synthesizers.
To tell you the truth, it's all rather amusing. The
narrator reminds me of a televised satire on Shakespeare
which was full of 'Twas a dark, dark night, that cold
and dark night. Dark and cold it was . . .' Everything
is 'dark of hue' instead of black or 'soft of melody'
instead of wimpish. Good, atmospheric stuff, eh? The
narrator sounds like a Spitting Image Lawrence Olivier
(shame about the lack of a Gielgud sound-alike though).
This is fun. I've always wanted to write record reviews.
string sounds ooze through the eight track with all
the atmospheric authenticity of a Fender Stratocaster
screeching through a primordial mist. The characters
come from the Awwfully Jolly School Of Acting and sound
as if their involvement with the tape has been slotted
in between addressing Young Aristocrats Against Work
and a good night at Stringfellow's. Prize for most sincere
performance must, however, go to the anonymous creature
who introduces each new chapter in the story. His voice
constantly threatens to induce catatonia in the listener.
It's totally devoid of enthusiasm, character or anything
else for that matter. Great fun.
back to the game. Once you've suffered through the tape,
you can get down to playing what soon appears to be
a compulsive game. Whilst any particular location might
not be that interesting, the sheer scope of the game
soon comes over and the difficulty of the situation
becomes evident. No doubt a good deal of book keeping
is necessary if all four characters are to be used to
the best advantage.
sophistication of the plot is a considerable improvement
on Lords of Midnight. Whole armies exist for
you to convince of the just cause facing your forces
and responses are always unpredictable. The despicable
Shareth will be trying to lure them to her side in order
to bring about the early demise of your forces, so beware.
The characteristics of these armies' leaders are also
varied. Even if they agree to join you, they may turn
out to be cowardly, treacherous or perhaps show a modicum
of intelligence or bravery. Only trial and error will
reveal who are worthy allies.
features add depth and tension to a well devised backdrop;
do you approach an unknown force, knowing that if it
chooses to attack you, your forces may well be caught
off guard? Can you risk making too many enemies? The
nature of this epic venture is such that only considered
and varied play will bring about a full victory. Victory
itself may be achieved to different degrees. The simplest
victory is that of the freeing of Morkin. Greater victories
result from bringing more characters safely back to
the Gates of Varenorn. Shareth wins the game outright
if she kills Luxor. With his death, all is lost. If
Morkin dies, Luxor's strength will diminish because
of the grief for his loss. The only chance for victory
will then be to destroy Shareth for good. How to do
this remains to be discovered, but it is possible.