Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny
Every now and then I come across a game that figuratively and literally makes my jaw drop. Rarely do I come across a game that makes my jaw drop more than once. Never have I come across a game that has made my jaw drop nearly every single time I played it -- until now. Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny is a game that has gone further than any RPG/adventure game I have played in the past. This game is full of so many intricacies, so many cool features, that it would be impossible for me to cover all of them in this review. I will, however try to do justice to this game.
Inyou play Luther, son of the late sorceress of the Dark Army, Scotia. She has been slain and you have been imprisoned for her crimes. Along with imprisonment, you have become subject to an ancient curse that sporadically and uncontrollably transforms you into a lizard or beast. You start off the game breaking out of prison in search of a cure. Although Luther's primary concern is to rid himself of his socially restricting transformations, you discover that there is a problem of greater concern to which you are closely tied. Although this greater concern is covered in the end of the manual, I warn those who do not want to know any of the plot to skip to the next section.
For those of you that do want to know, here it goes. In LOLII, the world was created by the "Ancients" as a sort of aquarium. The Ancients wanted to see what existence would be like without their powers. Their two main rules for this new world were 1) no interference, and 2) no introduction to magic. In time the evil Belial, bored of this world void of magic, decided to break the rule. He picked a group known as the Dracoid and simply went for a stroll in their city. The Dracoid were awed by the horned beast and were eager to learn his magic. The Dracoid used the magic against their enemies, the Huline. When the Huline had been reduced to but a few, another god, the Draracle, stepped in to save them. The Ancients, of course, were not pleased. The punishment was death. Because the Ancients themselves ruled that no god would kill another, and since the Draracle had already broken a rule with less than evil motivations, the Draracle was ordered to put Belial to death. Belial, knowing there was no way out, created a Mother Beast underneath the City of the Ancients that would slowly absorb magic emanating from the Ancients and bring him back to life. The only problem was that after Belial's death, the Ancients left the land and, void of magic, the Mother Beast became dormant. The Draracle remained to keep peace in the land and because Belial promised to return.
This is where you, Luther, get tied in. All would have been fine if it weren't for your mother. You see, your mother Scotia became gifted in the black arts and managed to unearth a magic artifact, the Nether Mask. She planned to use the magic of the mask to shape-shift and kill King Richard, whom she blamed for her husband's death. Before she could do so, she was slain. Upon her death, she transferred what she could to you. You end up in prison for her crimes, along with an uncontrollable shape-shifting curse. The magic released from all this has reawakened the Mother Beast and in time, it will also awaken Belial.
For those of you hardcore RPG fans out there, blowing me off and thinking, "Come on, this game doesn't even have stats!" I tell you, you're 100% right. But this isn't a pure RPG, and it isn't advertised or promoted as a pure RPG. LOLII has been developed as a RPG/adventure game. What does that mean? It means this game focuses more on adventure and exploration than character building. Don't get the wrong idea, though; this is not the type of adventure game where you click from one screen to the next like Myst or Obsidian. You explore the world from a first-person shooter perspective. While exploring you will run into artifacts, NPCs and various cutscenes that will aid your quest. As far as character advancement, you only get strength and magic. It might have been nice to have more, but all the other strengths of the game make up for it, believe me.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics for LOLII are astounding, to say the least. The engine may be more along the lines of Duke Nukem than Quake, but you have to understand that a game like this takes a lot longer to develop than your standard shooter. The texture maps are beautiful and varied, excellent light sourcing is prevalent throughout, fog effects are used, there are realistic earthquakes, there are cave-ins, certain objects can be moved about and stacked, all monster graphics and movements are well done, and the list goes on. The cutscenes for LOLII are the best I have ever seen in any game. The transitions between the first-person engine and cutscenes and the like are also the best I have ever seen. When video-based characters are integrated into the environment, they are done so seamlessly. I've been playing games for years and LOLII is the only game I've encountered in which the lowest resolution looks nearly as good as the highest. One last thing: along with the graphics, the level design is also mind-blowing. There are rivers to traverse and wade through, caverns to explore, crevices to creep through, ledges to hug, and again, the list goes on.
The audio for LOLII is the best I've heard in any game so far. The music is captivating and never annoying. Ambient sounds fill the environments and are always appropriate. The sounds of monsters, weapons, and environment actions like cave-ins and flowing rivers and streams are also far above average. Sounds change depending on position and location, just as they would in real-world environments. Voice acting and audio during cutscenes are also well above average for the most part.
The documentation for LOLII is excellent as well. You get a full-color glossy 110-page book that covers everything you need to know to get started and more. Controls are clearly laid out, and colored screenshots of the game are included. There is also a "Lore of the Lands" section at the end of the book that covers the premise to your adventures. At first I thought it should have been in the beginning of the manual, but considering players such as myself might want to find this information while playing, I'm glad they put it at the end. The only thing missing that I could have wanted is a list of recipes. On your adventures, you will pick up initially useless items that can be mixed with others to create useful items. If you mix the wrong items you can make useless garbage, destroying the original ingredients.
Required:Win95 or DOS, P75 (P90 recommended), 16 MB RAM, VGA/MCGA graphics, 130 MB free for DOS, 105 MB for Win95, 4X CD-ROM drive, MS compatible mouse, Win95 sound card for Win95, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible for sound in DOS, and Yamaha XG or 100% compatible for music in DOS.
As you can tell, Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny blew me away. It surpassed all my expectations. The graphics, level design and audio make this a truly engrossing game. The cutscenes are the best I have ever seen, and the integration with the first-person engine is seamless. The game is dedicated to the late Robert Richter Parks. In the documentation, the Lands of Lore team states he "put the bar up higher than most of us can reach, but it was an amazing privilege to watch [him] go over it so easily and so frequently." To the Lands of Lore team, I say the same. You have taken RPG/adventures to a new level.