Eye of the Beholder

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The holy symbol or spell-book must be in the characters hand and right clicking brings up a menu from which you can select your spells. Again players of current gen games will be familiar with the spells as they have only been added to over the years, not removed. ~Rusty Quiva

Eye of the Beholder

To this day one can often find reference in  any official Dungeons & Dragons game to “the Heroes of Waterdeep”. This game is what they are referring to and i count myself lucky to have played this and its 2 sequels (Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon and Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor). I have fond memories of sifting through reems of old-school laser print-outs of maps made entirely of ASCII characters trying to find my way through some complex dungeon puzzle.

Story: Waterdeep is having some problems with their sewers. The local council employs 4 heroes to do something about it. A few steps inside the sewers and a trap is sprung sealing the intrepid party inside. To escape they must venture deeper into the sewers which turn out to be the beginning of a sinister dungeon.

Gameplay: You start by creating your 4 heroes. Players of current gen D&D games will be somewhat familiar with the character creation process.

Once you have all 4 created you can enter the game and begin your adventure. Characters have 2 hands each in which can be placed a variety of weapons, or in the case of clerics and paladins a holy symbol, and a spell-book for mages.

Dungeons and Dragons - Eye of the Beholder

The weapons are activated by right clicking on their image next to the characters portrait. Melee weapons will be swung and ranged weapons will be fired or thrown. The hand that was just used becomes temporarily unavailable as the character recovers from its use. Spells are managed in a similar manner. The holy symbol or spell-book must be in the characters hand and right clicking brings up a menu from which you can select your spells. Again players of current gen games will be familiar with the spells as they have only been added to over the years, not removed. All spells had to be memorized before hand and the number of castable spells was limited by level. So a player would choose which spells to memorize and would then need to rest to be able to cast them. Inventory is a bit similar to Diablo in that each character has slots for particular equipment and a number of backpack spaces for everything else.

Everything in EoB takes up a single space and nothing stacks, with the exception of arrows fro which there is a quiver. Something not seen in D&D games since the EoB series is food rations. Characters get hungry and failing to feed them when their food bar is empty would result in hit-point loss. Movement in the game was square based like wolfenstein and relied on the numeric keypad. Puzzles were solved by interacting with the environment, for example clicking on a lever or placing a gem in a hole.

Dungeons and Dragons - Eye of the Beholder

The player party could grow to include 6 characters total, either by finding other living characters or resurrecting the bones of dead ones found in certain places. Characters in the front rank of the party could use melee attacks while those behind were limited to ranged weapons and spells.

Monsters range from kobolds at the start of the game right up to the Beholder itself at the end. Beholders have 11 eyes, 10 on tentacle-like stalks and a main central one. In the rules of D&D each eye is supposed to cast a spell, but for this game the beholder is limited to about 5 spells. Like its predecessor games EoB would also allow players to move their parties that had successful completed the game into the next game (EoBII) a feature not seen in other games until recently (mass effect 2). The dungeon is broken up into levels, but the gameplay is not entirely linear, requiring the player to return to certain levels after obtaining certain items or to gain certain equipment.

Dungeons and Dragons - Eye of the Beholder

Graphics: Excellent back in its era. Made full use of VGA graphics and was colorful and appropriate. The interface was simple and required little to no explanation. there were not a lot of sprites for each monster, but enough to let you know which way it was looking and which way it was moving and how it was attacking you. The screens I’ve included are only from the first few minutes of the game, but suffice to say there are few different looking areas, each inhabited by its own monsters.

Sound: Again, pretty awesome for its era. Made good use of your sound-blaster pro, but like most games from this era was equally good, just pumped out of a PC speaker. It is a common misconception that a PC speaker is only capable of beeps, but this is not true. The speaker is capable of the same range of sounds as any sound-card it just takes longer to program. However i do know of games that were released even earlier than this with better sound (like pinball dreams which had sound coming out of the speaker akin to today’s MP3s…  No really! It had voice and all).

Controls: Keyboard only or keyboard and mouse. Keyboard only is more difficult, but the game is paced so that with practice a mouse user would only have the advantage of convenience not speed. movement is via the numeric keypad using 8 for forward, 7 for turn 90 degrees to the left, 9 for right, 4 and 6 for strafe left and right and 2 for step backwards.

Overall: An excellent game which will keep you busy for days without a walk-through and at least a full day with one. Has some replayabilty by trying different party make-ups. The ability to move your party into the sequels is awesome. The simple GUI means that back then and today a gamer could pick up how to play in minutes. I never saw a single bug and the game never crashed out.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
When I originally previewed Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I was pretty excited about it, what with it being the first DnD 4th edition CRPG to hit PCs and consoles; an interesting choice supported by its advertised modular system and episodic, thus manageable, lenght. Then the first reviews came -hitting sites a few days before the review copy hit my door- and they were less than stellar. Everyone complained about something and I decided to stop reading before actually playing the game, though the damage was done.
 Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
I installed the PC version of Daggerdale with the lowest of expectations, only to have them sink further when I was asked to either join or log into gamespy. Now, I’m not a multiplayer fanatic, but I have come to expect to enjoy such overtly social modes of gaming without having to sign up with any service. Always thought that Steam was more than capable and more than enough for this sort of things, and seeing Daggerdale run via Steam yet still requiring me to remember one more password, well, I simply couldn’t be bothered. Then again, in CRPGs it’s the solo experience that counts, isn’t it? Of course it is dear.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

On to the single-player campaign it was then and I went on to choose among the four available characters (a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter), customize him/her and go on and travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. There I would get to explore the catacombs of Tethyamar under the Desrtmouth Mountains (I’m not making those names up you know; and, yes, I haven’t played any proper DnD for years now), where a dwarven community is having troubles with goblins, undead things, an assortment of nasties and the malicious deity Bane. So far, so generic, I know, but playing through this story felt oddly refreshing and reminiscent of the things a seasoned DM would come up with.

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

 The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What’s more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it’s a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn’t completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
The varied bugs, visual glitches, lack of overall polish and shoddy camera, on the other hand, do border on infuriating and keep Daggerdale from becoming the game it could be, which is frankly a shame, especially considering it gets so many things right. Then again, there’s always hope that the first patch will fix things up considerably… Oh, and the game’s length is longer than I expected, without it ever becoming boring.


Verdict: A traditional hack-and-slash CRPG that’s too buggy for its own good. Definitely worth a try if you are into this sort of thing and don’t mind the generic plot.

Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part 2

TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part

Here are what I consider the next Top 10 HuCard (in no particular order) games for this forgotten system.  Remember (!): no CD Games, and only North American releases.

Air Zonk

Air Zonk
Once you get past the fact that Hudson Soft used a futuristic Bonk as the pivotal character in this game, you’ll find it a challenging shooter. Humorous sci-fi updates to Bonk’s various power-ups and their effects, such as the glass-encapsulated meat and the ability to call in one of Zonk’s friends to help shoot down the Bosses, keep Zonk’s airborne adventures from becoming just another Bonk’s Adventure game.

Bloody Wolf

Bloody Wolf
Have you ever noticed that the President of the United States gets kidnapped a lot in the video game world? He’s been kidnapped again in Bloody Wolf, along with a truckload of other hostages, all of which you have to rescue. A sound track that drives the action, plenty of enemies to dispatch with a good assortment of weapons, and a variety of level designs make this game a must-have T16 arcade experience!

Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon

Dungeons & Dragons Order of the Griffon
It’s a D&D RPG on the T16! Based on the Dungeons & Dragons rules – not the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules – this game was designed by Westwood Associates, before they became the gaming giant Westwood Studios. It is very similar to the Gold Box series by SSI: pick a party of four pre-generated characters, and off you go adventuring. Strategic thinking is required to survive the many encounters, as well as while constructing your party. Saving your game frequently is wise!

Final Lap Twin

Final Lap Twin
What’s more fun than racing behind the wheel of a Formula One race car? How about racing your buddy with the screen split in two, one half for each player? And if you don’t have any friends that want to race you, then you could also play in RPG mode, searching for challenges to face in your quest to become a World Champion racer!

Galaga ’90

Galaga ’90
Colorful animations, jaunty tunes and endless waves of alien ships are just a few of the things I liked about Galaga ’90. The ability to gain a triple ship almost immediately by temporarily sacrificing one of my precious single ships and relying on the alien capture teams and my sharpshooting skills is another. Now that is Galactic Dancing.

Klax

Klax
There’s something to be said for Tetris clones that don’t play anything like Tetris. This is a marvelous puzzle game that requires quick-thinking and even quicker reflexes as you attempt to sort the oncoming conveyor belt blocks by color into rows, stacks, and diagonals. The applause from the crowd and the onomatopoeia  from the obviously impressed female announcer make it all worthwhile.

Parasol Stars

Parasol Stars
There are two things you need to know right away about this game. First, a parasol is a sun umbrella, from the Latin verb “parere” (“to ward off”) and the noun “sol” (“sun” ). They’re often colorful and decorative, and not for heavy rain. Second, this game is part three of the Bubble Bobble trilogy, so you can expect the same kind of colorfully bright graphics and weird gameplay. So when I tell you that you use your parasol to capture and toss objects around to score points and capture power-ups, you won’t immediately re-read the sentence for clarity. Did I mention it’s bright and colorful? Because it is…relentlessly so!

R-Type

R-Type
There are some people who believe R-Type is the best arcade shooter ever devised, and though I am not one of those people, I can see their case.  The graphics are reminiscent of H.R. Giger’s work, and some of the power-ups are unique, such as the Power Pod, which can be detached to attack enemies or attached to your ship to fend off attackers. The game can be very challenging, even with the robot help, so be prepared to be faced with an equal mixture of joy and frustration when playing R-Type!

Raiden

Raiden
Another in a long series of arcade shooters that put you at the controls of an advanced fighter facing off against hordes of alien invaders, Raiden distinguished itself from its competition with superb graphics (including a wide variety of background screens), well-thought-out power-ups, and vertical scrolling gameplay that progressively became more difficult until it reached diabolical levels. The game was translated into seven different gaming platforms, but the TurboGrafx version is the best!

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier
Do you want to play a vertical shooter that is relentlessly challenging? One that boasts outstanding graphics and a wide array of weapons, all programmed onto a standard huCard? Well do I have a game for you!  Besides having some of the best weapon choices ever to grace the TurboGrafx-16, this game also does not clip when the enemies fill the screen and the action is at its most intense, making Super Star Soldier one of the best arcade shooters to ever show the T16′s capabilities!

Honorable mentionLegendary Axe II

Legendary Axe II
Now this game should probably be on the first Top Ten list as part of the Legendary Axe series, but since I didn’t remember to put it there, I’m exercising executive authority to put it on this list. Legendary Axe was a fantastic game, but its sequel (imaginatively entitled Legendary Axe II) was even better. More creatures to fight, better levels to navigate, better atmosphere overall…this was and is an amazing game that showcased what the TurboGrafx-16 could offer gamers. It could stand up against many of today’s graphic extravaganzas and easily win on gameplay alone!

Have a different Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 list?  Leave a comment with your favorites – and don’t forget to say why!