Darklands by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
Support The Computer Show and
get paid to surf the web. Click on this ad!
Summary * History * Company Line * Game Play * Plot * Graphics * Animation * Voice Actors * Music Score * Sound Effects * Utilities * Multi-player Features * Cheats, Hints, and Walkthrough * Journalists * References * Letters
Microprose has been a significant player in the computer game industry since 1982 when the company was formed. Contrary to popular belief, Sid Meier, is an extraordinarily talented game designer, did not do every game at Microprose. Arnold Hendrick designed Darklands. Arnold was also involved with Silent Service II as a project leader. Arnold came up with the original idea with Jim Synoski, did playtesting and wrote the manual with Joe Morel for F-19 Steath Fighter, which incidentally was designed by Sid Meier. Arnold designed, playtested, and wrote the manual for M1 Tank platoon. Arnold came up with the concept, the game system, was incharge of project management, game design with Sandy Petersen and others, and manual writing for Darklands.
My original review of the product was published as follows:
Darklands: Heroic Role-Playing Adventures in Medieval Germany, A Review by Alfred Giovetti
The setting is medieval Germany in the 1400s, where witches, alchemists, religious fanatics, dragons, demons, superstitions, mythis and other popular beliefs filled the heads of the human inhabitants. Darklands gives reality to the possibility of a true existence as the basis of the myths.
Magic, or alchemy, is based upon the mixing of 15 potions, of three distinct quality levels, from nineteen special substances and four bases in glass flasks which are thrown at, applied to, or imbibed by the intended substrate. Clerics call to 140 saints for individualized intervention in worldly events. These saints not only hae a personality but a sense of humor that makes selecting different saints in different situatios an entertaining game within itself.
Parties can be created via a selection of heritage, training, and professions, which will mold the six attributes and nineteen skills into a group of four adventurers who can be joined by a fifth for specific quests, or one can choose a prerolled party of four. Tharcters are equipped in paper-doll fashion on the comprehensive character information screen, which shows the up to 45 item inventory, known saints, and known alchemical formulae.
Overhead oblique display of real-time combat involves the involking of saints, use of alchemical formulae,ranged and melee weapons which are automatically equipped by the selection from a list of various actions. Combat can be with city street thugs, roving bandits, and dragons within knights' castles, templar monastaries, witch sabbats, and dwarven mines. Players would be advised to direct the play in real-time rather than allow the rather limited and flawed artificial intelligence routing to direct the action. For easy battles the autocombat function works adequately.
Attention to detail is exemplary with little tidbits such as the relative destructive power of brass versus iron handguns engineered and used in the 15th century. All details are as they were and as the would have been had the myths and stories believed been true in the selected time period.
The interiors of mines, monastaries, and the final citadel are all presented in the same overhead oblique perspective. Currently games cannot be saved from these interiors, making the game play more of a marathon real-time arcade game than most role-players are used to, but future patch disks intend to allow for saving indoors which will eliminate the current problem. The interior maps can be scrolled around, allowing the map to serve as its own automapping routine.
Movement through the cities is achieved by making selections from lists of choices that are overlaid by watercolor background drawing representations of the happenings at each area, which are reminiscent of the original Sword of the Samurai game engine that Darklands has hung on at considerable expense. There are many of these choices presented to the game player thoughout the game and the decisions made from these choices not only determine where the character goes, the character success or failure, but also the texture, flavor, and nuances of the game plot.
The real beauty of the epic Darklands is the multitude of choices presented to the game player which surpass the complexity and historical accuracy seen in any contemporary computer game. The true role-playing enthusiast will be dazzled by the sheer volume of choices and historically accurate situations which abound in this game. Even after the central plot and many subplots have been exploreed, the quest can continue indefinitely.
In spite of the initial trouble with bugs, this newly revised game should give hours of pleasure to role-playing enthusiasts. Microprose should be congratualted for the truly heroic effort in this remake of the old sword of the samurai game engine for sword, sorcery and history buffs.
Microprose Entertainment software
MICROPROSE RELEASES DARKLANDS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, August 10, 1992, Kathy Gilmore, 410-771-1151 ext. 217
HUNT VALLEY, MD _ MicroProse Software, Inc., famous worldwide for its high-quality entertaining simulations of combat and adventure, will release DARKLANDS, its first true fantasy role-playing game, this fall.
Set in 15th Century Medieval Germany, DARKLANDS will be as realistic and challenging a simulation as previous MicroProse releases. "The common thread of all of our titles, from GUNSHIP to RAILROAD TYCOON, is that they have an intellectual core," said Arnold Hendrick, DARKLANDS' game designer. "DARKLANDS will be no different _ the problems and tasks the gamer will face are straight from the events and attitudes of Medieval Germany." 15th Century Germany was a time of violence and corruption and was an era with three Popes simultaneously in charge, powerless emperors, gangster nobles and venal clergymen. DARKLANDS recreates this period and emphasizes the beliefs of the time: witches worshipping the devil, people praying to saints to produce real miracles, alchemists turning lead into gold and dragons inhabiting caves.
Players will explore a vast map of Germany with a party of four adventurers created from the likes of nobles, swordsmen, mercenaries, thieves, alchemists, monks and several more. Millions of different character types will be possible by choosing from 26 attributes and skills. The ultimate goal of the game will be to achieve fame and immortality on multiple quests, many of them simultaneous. Quests will be created by an "adventure generator" for endless replayability.
DARKLANDS is available for IBM-compatibles at a suggested retail price of $69.95. It requires 2MB of RAM (an earlier press release stated that it "will require 640K of RAM.") The game supports AdLib, Roland, Pro AudioSpectrum, Sound Blaster and PC speaker sounds (an earlier press release only mentioned "AdLib, Roland, Tandy and IBM sounds".) A hard disk, VGA graphics, MS DOS 5.0 or equivalent and a mouse are required (An earlier press release stated that "EGA, MCGA/VGA and Tandy 16-color graphics." would be supported.) A hard disk will be required and a mouse recommended.
MicroProse, Inc., designs and markets a full line of interactive entertainment software for personal computers and video game systems. Its products are available worldwide through major distibutors, retailers, and mass merchants.
Microprose Software, Inc., 180 Lakefront Drive, Hunt Valley, Maryland 21030-2245, (410) 771-1151
Put your review right here by emailing us the text.