Monday, 30 April 2012
Review: Lands of Lore - The Throne of Chaos
Patrick Stewart! Captain Picard! Awesome! Is probably the first thing you'll be thinking of when you start playing Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos(LoL). Developed by Westwood Studios, RIP, and released in 1993, LoL has good King Richard, voiced by Patrick Stewart, charging you with rescuing the kingdom from the hag Scotia and the evil Dark Army.
The gameplay is grid based, role-play with fighting in real time. LoL's fighting style is very close to the recent Legend of Grimrock- reviewed here. The real time fighting is a mixed bag. It keeps you on your toes, but at the same time allows you to be cornered and overwhelmed quite easily. The leveling system is based on three classes; fighter, rogue and mage. Character levels are gained by using each classes' weapons. Melee combat raises fighter level, missile weapons raise rogue level and casting spells raises magery.
The leveling system and weapons you find are unique, unfortunately it also stinks. There is simply not enough meaningful information about the leveling system or the equipment you discover. There are times in the game where certain equipment is useless or near useless, but there is no way of telling until it's too late. This game has many frustrating gameplay flaws. Just being able to hit certain enemies is a chore and it kills the flow of the game. I found myself rage quitting on more than one occasion due to re-spawning monsters. The game design feels like a cut-down Dungeons and Dragons system; a system LoL doesn't pull off.
The LoL story is solid and is perhaps its greatest draw card. All the characters are expertly and fully voice acted. The shapeshifting Scotia has been the most memorable boss I have fought in a long time. The story spreads across large areas and by the end of the game it really feels like you have completed an arduous quest. The overall difficulty is high and, even though monsters are set to normal, you will be wiped out often. Saving often and in multiple slots is definitely advised. Monster difficulty is unbalanced and you'll find monsters that are either pushovers or untouchable behemoths.
This game almost feels like a satire of older DnD crpgs. Filled with in-jokes, gimmicks and poor game design I can only surmise Westwood was not taking themselves too seriously when they created LoL. I wish they had spent more time developing the leveling system and relayed more information to the player regarding equipment. This game could have been a true classic, but I would still prefer playing Eye of the Beholder, Dungeon Master or Ultima Underworld over Lands of Lore.
LoL, while flawed, has a pretty decent storyline with a few memorable characters. I would advise playing on easy and enjoying the story, voice acting and puzzles. The masochists of the world have the option of making monsters even harder, but I would only suggest this if you like pain and misery. If you've ever been accused of being a casual gamer finishing LoL will entitle you to the coveted moniker of gamer.