DarkSpyre by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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The first game from a small Pennsylvania-based software company called Event Horizon Software, later known as Dream Forge, DarkSpyre was released in competition with the Christmas blockbusters of the major companies. Surprisingly, it was professionally done, bug free and fun to play.
The philosophy of the company, says president James Namestka, formerly of Paragon software, is to produce real-time games that are fast-moving and, like Dungeon Master, very realistic in style of play. Faithful to this philosophy, Spyre is a success.
The object of Spyre is to survive to explore and accumulate the five runes of strength, accuracy, talent, endurance, and agility. You must also solve the puzzles of the maze, specifically the puzzles of the five runes and the puzzles of intellect, magic, and war. Without the runes youwill fail. And unless you solve the puzzles and advance to the end of the game, you will fail. Failure means the destruction of your people, your planet, and your way of life.
Spyre is a one-character game. Your champion is generated via a standard character generation scheme. You get to choose which hand you are best with and your sex. The computer rolls up attributes, which you can assign, or let the computer do so. Strength and endurance seem to be the most important attributes.
Weapons and related proficiencies are divided into seven groups, with no overlapping of proficiencies. Weapons are found on the ground or on the bodies of defeated monsters. Weapons break, so carry spares.
Like weapons, armor is found in the maze. There are shields, helms, and a combination as breast plate and greaves (referred to as armor). "Armor" can become worn and loose its protection. Helms and shields d not wear out. You must check your armor periodically to see how worn it is, and replace when necessary.
Magic and magic proficiencies are divided into six groups. Magic is essential, and you will find it impossible to finish the game without developing proficiencies in all types. Found on scrolls, spells are incorporate into your spell book, or used up to cast their powers directly from the scroll. Spells are redied in advance and activated quickly via a hot button or by clicking on an icon with mouse or joystick.
The interface is simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it. You have a full screen 3-D overhead map with your character in the center. The character screen is accessed by dragging with a mouse or joystick, or spacebar toggling the use of cursor keys to move a pointer or the champion. The keyboard interface uses hot keys effectively to perform all functions, including the manipulation of the character screen.
You use the joystick like a mouse, and can drag the screen upwrds to obscure more of the overhead map, and click on icons to moveobjects, inspect other character statistics or object condition, or activate the functions of the game, such as combat. I found the keyboard interface fast and efficient to use.
Combat is real-time with no auto-combat. As in Dungeon Master, you click icons or press hot keys to activate options like swing, bash, and cast or ready spells. To end combat, yuou move away from the foe by punching cursor keys.
Arrows and thrown objects move through the air and can be dodged. Thrown objects rebound off walls and come to rest when their momentum is spent; then you can pick them up. In some situations you can throw the same object at an opponent repeatedly by simply picking it up after it falls to the ground.
Potions are found in the maze or manufactured with an appropriately named spell, liquify, and in some cases with an appropiate gemstone. Some potions permanently increase attributes, others heal hit points and cure poison, while still others poison.
Spyre has a sphisticated object management system. Objects dropped in the maze remain where they are dropped and can be picked up again later. I have not observed other characters picking up the objects and carrying them off. Real objects save you the trouble of always having a slot open for objects, since you can always rearrange your pack and throw away the moths, cobwebs and unnecessary items. Programing of real objects shows that the Event Horizon programming and design team have a high level of skill and sophistication.
It gives us the same old "save the universe from the evil wizards" plot. In this case the universe is your home planet and the evil wizards are the supreme gods of the intelect, war, and magic. You are the last chance of your people (Sound familiar?).
The evil wizards have placed the DarkSpyre on your planet as a test its worthiness to survive. Only one champion needs to complete this test, though many have tried and failed to traverse all 50 levels of the Spyre to save the world from destruction.
Illustrations are simple VGA graphics that are as colorful as 16 colors can get. It is really a pity that the 256-color VGA is not supporte.
Items fly through the air. You can sidestep a thrown object of spell and this is part of the game play, built into the numerous physical puzzles that populate the game.
There are no human voices or voice actors used in the game.
The music was also unremarkable. Ed Puskar did the music.
The program supports Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, Tandy 3-voice and IBM 1-voice music. The sound effects are nothing to write home (or QuesBusters) about.
Rune for your life!
Found in the maze, the runes of Spyre are at once frustrating and interesting. Runes are small coins with runic writing on them endowed with certain powers. Without the runes, you cannot save the game or use the automap feature. This added an extra dimension to the game, but one I found very unplesant. The ability to save the game and use the auto-mapping feature should not be based upon finding objects in a maze. Runes can also be used for performing majic and permanently increasing the starting attributes.
A $9.95 clue book has complete maps ofall set levels, general strategy and tactics, listing of the magic properties of runes, spells and potions, specific solutions for all levels and an object list describing weapons, armor, and special items and their locations in the game.
For$19.95 you can get a drawing board program and edit maze levels and character icons, creating a new game with fresh challenges. It also includes levels not in the original.
The copy protection uses black letters and glyphs on a dark red background, which is impossible for someone with red color blindness to read and almost impossibly hard for the rest of us with normal eyes.
The game comes with a 30-page combination Novelette and Hero's Guide, an easy installation sheet, and a pack of graph paper. You will need the graph paper, so hold onto it.
Spyre is a complete game system that gives you realism and real-time challenge. Though the professional appearance and functioning of Spyre enhance the game, it is, first and foremost, pure fun to play. Recommended for anyone who likes challenges.
None. Spyre is a single player - single character real-time adventure game.
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