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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!

Dragon Wars
1989 Electronic Arts/Interplay Productions
By Bill Heineman

 
Most text of the present article comes from the C64 review published in the fifty eighth issue of the British magazine ZZAP!64 (Street date: January 18th, 1990), the Amiga review published in the seventy first issue (Street date: February 14th, 1991) and the Interplay interview published in the fifty sixth issue (Street date: November 16th, 1989).
 

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DRAGON WARS
Interplay, C64 (disk only) 16.99

 

aving read my waffle in the in intro about what I consider to be an adventure, you may be wondering why I'm reviewing an RPG game in this section. The real reason (before it gets edited out) is nobody else on the ZZAP! team has the brain power to cope with games that require thought. Anyway, modern RPGs and adventures are such close bed partners it's getting harder to distinguish between them.

Having read Ed's intriguing interview with Interplay President, Brian Fargo (ish 56) and having not enjoyed the Bard's Tale trilogy, it was with mixed emotions that I loaded Dragon Wars. The front cover of the oddly sized box that houses the game is adorned with a Boris Vallejo painting -- I could have said 'an amazingly brilliant painting' but if you're familiar with Boris's work you'll know the adjectives are redundant -- does the program do the packaging credit?

It seems an age since you embarked on your voyage of discovery. You and your crew were intent on finding the legendary land of Dilmun. When the excited cry from the crow's nest echoed across the vastness of the open sea, your heart raced with anticipation. Could this be the fabled land of magic and dragons?

Steering a course through an ever-narrowing fjord, your snip sailed towards an unknown city. As the gangplank lowered, you paused to thank the powers that lie for guiding you to your goal. But (an' it's a big but) as soon as the ship berthed, city guards rushed on board and arrested everyone. They selected one in ten of your men for sacrifice to the dragons and stripped all others of their possessions to leave them desolate in the dirt-filled streets of their aptly-named city, Purgatory.

It is at this point, dear reader, that your adventure begins. Armed with absolutely nothing, your (and what's left of your party's) aim is to survive and, should you get sufficiently cocky, possibly kick some bum. A demonic type, by the name of Namtar, the Beast From The Pit, is to blame for your predicament, so revenge-may not be so easy.

Before play commences you're given the choice of beginning n new adventure or continuing from a saved position (you're only allowed one saved game) and you're advised to make backup copies of all three double-sided disks -- do they think we're made of magnetic media? It is at this stage that a Utilities option appears, through which you may make back-up copies or load characters from any of the Bard's Tale trilogy. You can enter Purgatory with four in-built adventurers or create your own party members.

Characters have many attributes: the more usual Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence plus skills in magic, townlore, climbing, swimming and so on. The list is very long, which either gives the game depth or makes it incredibly complicated, depending on your point of view (he said democratically). Once you' re happy with your gang, it's time to go walkabout. As you wander around Purgatory, looking for a way out, you come across gangs of people just waiting to smash your face in. Thankfully, there is a Run option so if you don't feel like dying you can usually escape.

However, running away is a hiding to nowhere, as being successful in combat is the only way to gain experience points and gold. Combat options are extensive, therefore, if you think about what you're doing, you should get through most scrapes without too much hassle. But don't go mad 'cause there are some mean monsters around, just waiting to have a party . . . your party.

During explorations you may come across areas that refer to paragraphs in the manual accompanying Dragon Wars. Reading the indicated passage gives you more info on your surroundings and may help you make the right move to progress. If you get lost, there's an Automap option which provides a bird's-eye view of your immediate area, although it only details locations visited. Screen layout is neat: split into three main areas displaying your front view (or enemies, in confrontation mode), your party members and their overall condition, and text messages. All graphics are nicely drawn and, considering the game's size, animation is smart; I particularly liked the Wolf (and its identical canines: the Wild Dog, the Wild Hound, and the Big Dog).

In fact Dragon Wars is massive! Purgalory takes ages to explore and there are eight more similar-sized cities shown in the Holiday Guide To Dilmun, plus underground complexes and, should you be dumb enough to sell yourself as a slave you'll also discover a mine . . . er, so I'm told. As with most games of this type, constantly saving your position and exploring every nook and cranny of the first city should stand you in good stead for when you travel further afield. Trying to progress too quickly could bring you to a sticky end.

A touch of tedium did raise its head when at one point confrontations occurred with every other step I took, but the Run Away option eased the situation quite a bit.

I would have liked more time to look at Dragon Wars. As it was, I played it for about sixteen hours and was just beginning to get somewhere when this issue's schedule interrupted. The fact that I wanted to continue my adventure in Dilmun puts this latest Interplay RPG shampoo above the Bard's Tale trilogy. I like it. I even like it enough to give it a much deserved Sizzler! And now if you'll excuse me, I have six Pikemen to sort out.

 
Atmosphere 87%
Puzzle Factor 85%
Interaction 88%
Lastability 91%

Overall

90%

DRAGON WARS
Interplay/Electronic Arts, Amiga 24.99

 

fter what seems like ages Interplay have produced a new RPG for the Amiga. Dragon Wars (C64 version: 90%, Issue 58) supports characters from the Bard's Tale series, and so it should because you could have called this game Bard's Tale 4 and nobody would have raised an eyebrow.

You and your party are off to find Dilmun, a legendary city. You know the sort of thing -- pavements paved with gold, buses run on time, etc. However, after being shipwrecked you are imprisoned on suspicion of spellcasting, a habit which has been recently outlawed by the dastardly King Drake. You begin the game in Purgatory, from which you must escape.

Interplay have taken the Bard's Tale system and upgraded selected elements in an effort to update it. The most important (but probably the most invisible) change is the introduction of an intricate plot. Interplay's Brian Fargo once told me that you could fully describe Bard's Tale 1 in about ten seconds (he did so as well!). Dragon Wars introduces a much better 'story', utilising more character interaction, strange clues, and so on. The manual contains paragraphs which you are directed to by the program at certain points in the story.

The combat is improved with quite complex choices on ranged combat, type of attack and defence. Spells have been extended to include more spell categories. You have no need to learn a massive spellbook, though. In order to be a wizard you select from one of four different types of magic: High, Low, Sun and Druid. Indeed, the spells must be learnt by finding scrolls with the spell inscribed on them. Furthermore, in order to cast certain spells, you must decide how many points of power to put into them. Therefore, the game includes much more resource management than most fantasy games. It means that even the lowest spell never becomes obsolete. The stronger the magician gets, the mightier the spell has the potential of being.

Attributes have been redesigned by including skills (bandaging, etc) and knowledge of various 'lore', such as forest and mountain lore. There is also an excellent 3-D automapping option, one of the best I've ever seen.

The end product is an RPG which is far better balanced than the Bard's Tale series ever was. Even though the scenery looks a little false on occasion and the walls seem paper thin at times, the character animation is much improved. Graphics as a whole are very good, with sound and spot sound effects enhancing the atmosphere. The minimalist reports (character stats, etc) do not, though. Couldn't anybody think up a more presentable report than black writing on a plain white background?

Nevertheless, Dragon Wars is an enjoyable romp, delivering a good helping of humour.

 
Atmosphere 80%
Puzzle Factor 85%
Interaction 82%
Lastability 86%

Overall

85%
 

 

RPG WARS

 
 

Interplay is the development team behind the incredibly successful Bard's Tale series: RPG games popular even with many arcade game fans. Now they've gone independent and are set to release the most sophisticated RPG yet seen -- Dragon Wars. STUART WYNNE talked to company president Brian Fargo about his creation of an alternative fantasy world.

he decision to split with Electronic Arts in the States was a brave one for Interplay, and while Battle Chess and Neuromancer made for an impressive debut, Dragon Wars is the big project. If it's successful, a series of games seems likely. The RPG market is an intensely commpetitive one though -- SSI are enjoying massive success with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Origin continue to develop the Ultima series, while FTL's Dungeon Master has put a whole new slant on the genre.

After a lengthy transatlantic trip, Brian Fargo might be expected to be rather tired, but was in fact full of enthusiasm over Dragon Wars. For people, like me, tired of the relentless combat in Bard's, Brian had good news.

'I was determined to get the feel of a real D&D campaign. We've done away with the 'arena' style, with relentless combat for no reason. At the start of the game it's virtually impossible to die. Combat starts at about 30 feet, so you can always run away from it. If you do get into fights you get 'stun' damage initially, so normally you'll fall unconscious before your health gets too low. I've been trying to hook my wife on it, and she certainly, wouldn't keep playing if you kept dying in the first few minutes.'

Is it going to be a lot easier?

'That's not so much the objective as realism, all the attacks are logical and you usually get good warning. Also, although it's harder to die now, if you do die it's effectively permanent. There is a location that you can use to resurrect characters, but it's very hard to find.'

How big is Dragon Wars?

'Wars has a huge map, including 40 dungeons which range in size from 8x8 to 32x32. Of course, by dungeon I just mean a game area; many of them are above ground. The size has allowed us to make it a lot more realistic. There are a lot of sub-adventures which you can go on, have a lot of fun with, but aren't really vital to winning. There are very few things you need to do to win, and usually there's more than one way of doing something. A lot of the time a puzzle will protect something, like an armoury, very useful for your quest but you can go on without it. I hate adventures where one puzzle stops the whole game for you.'

What other changes are there?

'Well, combat has been refined. You can now control battles a lot more precisely if you want. More importantly the chararters have been made more credible. They can now do pretty much anything you want, a wizard can act as a thief for example. But obviously those who specialize get better at their professions.'

What's the plot like?

It's our best ever, definitely. I'll give you an example. There's this castle under siege, and you're supposed to sneak in and do some damage to these villains. But when you get in you find some people who tell you they're the good guys, the baddies are on the outside. So you've got a choice. There are lots of these in Dragon Wars. We've also interlinked things, so people come up to you and say 'Hey, you killed my brother, I'm going to get you!'

What's in the future for Interplay?

'Currently we're wonting on some Nintendo products -- it's such a huge market in the US now, and on the other end of the scale a CD ROM version of Battle Chess. It's unbelievable working with CD, there's no limit on memory. There's also a game based on a book license, which I can't reveal.'

16-bit only games must be a big temptation.

'It is, and we might do something 16-bil only, but we went into the C64 market to give it a good RPG and we've got a lot of loyalty to the machine. Dragon Wars uses C64 sprites to produce great colours and animation. We think it's going to do really well.'

 


If you want a walkthrough, visit
Jacob Gunness
' Classic Adventures Solution Archive or
Martin Brunner's C64 Adventure Game Solutions Site

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (6 Mar 2010)
The original C64 review contained only the first of its above screenshots. The original Amiga review contained the Amiga version of the first of its above screenshots.

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