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(c) 2000 James Burrows

Review by
Sean Masterson


Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
1984 Strategic Simulations Inc.
Programmed by Charles Dougherty
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the twelfth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: March 13th, 1986).


The latest issue of The Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society has recently appeared on my desk. For those of you who are otherwise unaware of its existence, this classic quarterly is published by the American company, Game Designers' Workshop to complement their cult role playing game, Traveller. GDW are now marketing referee's aids in the form of disk based programs for the Apple range of micros. Various programs, for generating anything from random Subsectors (mapped areas of space several parsecs across) and Wordgen files (allowing names to be created in the complex languages used by the alien races in the game or even for the creation of new language source files), to a Bestiary program where the physical parameters of a world can be fed in and the program generates possible non-sentient life-form characteristics, are included.

Referees of this and other games have always been able to carry out such work before, of course. In that sense the products are nothing new -- but they are important for another reason. Apart from the speed at which these utilities will carry out the tasks, they bring the association of RPGs and home computing another step closer. At one end, we have companies like SSI and PSS developing computer games with more and more role playing characteristics (the American market is far ahead of the UK in this respect) and on the other, we have first steps from leading specialist games companies (and smaller independents) to encourage the greater use of computers with their games.

What will happen when the two sides meet?

Again this month, I'll be taking a further took at the package of disk-based SSI games which US Gold is planning to release shortly in Britain. None of these is actually on sale yet, so no letters please about non-availability -- I'll let you know as soon as they are out. Consequently, the price hasn't been fixed either.


US Gold/SSI, disk only, keys and/or joystick

Unlike its predecessor Phantasie, this game is a single player RPG. Set in the world of Questron, your mission is to recover the Book of Evil Magic which has been stolen by an evil Wizard, called Mantor, in an attempt to gain power over the land. As a direct result of the book failing into his possession, the land is now scourged by evil creatures from the depths of hell, brought into creation by Mantor. The King's armies too, have been decimated by the hordes of demons and other creatures under Mantor's command.

You play a lowly serf who has received the dubious honour of being selected for the mission by the King himself. The only hope lies in the legend that a poor peasant may save the land in its direst hour. Should the myth turn out to be false then the land has a dubious future ahead of it.

Packaging is up to SSI's usual high standards, with brief notes, a well-printed instruction book complete with potted history of the events leading up to the present circumstances provided in the well illustrated box. The program itself begins with a menu allowing you to preview different sections of the game, ask for more instructions or load a saved game.

The Wild country -- part of the
fascinating world of Questron.

Unlike Phantasie, where characters are created at the start of the game replete with necessary characteristics, the computer seems to have only one standard character which the player is intended to use, and there is no way to modify this. The character is displayed on screen as a single colour User Defined Graphic inside the action window, while a menu appears down the left hand side of the screen. Messages appear at the base of the screen. Commands are of the single letter type, but a good selection of these is available. A joystick may be used in conjunction with, or instead of, the keyboard, so interaction with the game is very fast indeed.

You know little about the world of Questron, never having travelled far before, so no map or detailed information about the world is provided. You wander blindly therefore, from settlement to settlement, in the hope of earning sufficient to stay fit and purchase equipment, whilst simultaneously trying to acquire information about what's going on around you. The countryside is displayed with different terrain types and scrolls as your character travels across it. Some terrain remains impassable without the proper equipment (mountains, for instance). Inevitably, wandering monsters are encountered during your travels across the land. Sometimes a message warns you of their approach, others set upon you before any notice is given. When they are within sight, they are displayed on the map.

Vampire bats -- just one of the many horrors to
face you in the dungeons of the Land of Evil.

The monsters are well detailed in the book and they exist in such numbers and variety that graphics are understandably simplified. Many of the descriptions are evidently tongue in cheek (one reference to the deadly Acid Peanut Butter springs to mind), but others would grace many a serious D&D campaign. Some creatures are terrain or locale bound, whilst others are nomadic (like the Na-Ga Pilgrim, who often cuts himself in battle). Most of the creatures are deadly, some requiring special weaponry or fleetness of foot in order to escape from them.

Settlements can be visited and explored, as can the Cathedrals of the Magician Priests. Much is to be learned when exploring these places and various activities are available for those who wish to take advantage of the social aspects of the game (such as gambling, for example). Despite the humour that runs throughout the game, Questron has a serious side to it as well. Socialising is one way of gaining information of vital importance to the game.

Eventually, your quest should lead to the unimaginatively named Land of Evil. From there, the monsters start becoming really vicious, and most of the people you meet are literally after your blood. Should you make it to the dread dungeons at the heart of the quest, the game takes on a totally new aspect which should please most dungeoneers. The display now shows the view ahead in static fashion. If you imagine a simplified version of The Eidolon without the animation, that would be a good guide. Searching these dungeons requires the utmost wit and speedy response to every event. The traps and monsters prepared to take your insignificant life don't provide you with a moment's rest. You have been warned.


Having dreaded that Questron was just going to be a repeat of Phantasie, I was really pleased to see that the game designers had done something totally new and original with it. Like Phantasie, both sides of the disk are used, but the game does not seem quite so unwieldy in this respect. Indeed the whole thing seemed more sophisticated (and I didn't find any of the bugs that plagued Phantasie, either). Without doubt, Questron is a must for the dedicated role-player...


Presentation 90%

Up to SSI's usual high standards.

Graphics 90%
Some very good sections indeed (but you have to search to find them).

Instructions 92%
Easy to follow with interesting History and Bestiary.

Authenticity 88%
Plenty of good RPG features are well translated to the medium.

Playability 93%
Keyboard / joystick combination makes for fast and easy play.

Overall 91%
Funny and well thought out computer role playing game.



[Questron even contains a colour test for your monitor!]


Can anybody rip the SID tune out of this one?

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (26 Apr 2004)

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