Dragonsphere By MicroProse 1994
I have been searching for this game for a very long time, and was finally
able to get a copy. I loaded just to take a look, but it managed to keep
me playing even though Simon 3D and Jerusalem are both sitting on my shelf.
The premise of the game is standard fantasy fare: Twenty years ago, the
King of Callahach and his court wizard, Ner-Tom, managed to imprison the
evil sorcerer Sanwe in a magical dome, thus ending his plans of conquest
and destruction. But Sanwe promised that one day he would return, and
take vengeance on the King's son, Callash. A magical sphere containing
the image of a dragon was made to show the state of the spell that held
Sanwe... if the sphere cracked, the spell was weakening. We start the
game seeing the now old king die, and ourselves, as Callash, assume the
throne. The King is dead, long live the King... only the new king's pro-
spects of long life are severely diminished by the fact that the very
next day the Dragonsphere begins to stir... and as if that wasn't enough
trouble,the man who defeated him the last time, Ner-Tom, vanishes. On
the grounds that a lone man will attract less attention than an army,
and against his wife's wishes, King Callash embarks on a quest to end
Sanwe's threat once and for all.
From this not too original start, the plot unfolds with quite a few
surprising twists. I don't want to give away too much, but the game is
far from over once you defear Sanwe. On the way you will visit many
interesting locations, from the unforgiving desert of Soptus Ecliptus,
to the land of the Shapeshifters, where nothing is what it seems, and
meet many intriguing characters, like the mischievous fairies and the
beautiful and loyal Llanie de Summers.
All of this is presented with good graphics, for a game of this time.
From a technical point of view, some locations have a slightly blurred
look, which is a real shame considering that the actual design is very
good, with many details and excellent,vivid colors, giving a vibrant
feel to the medieval world. I couldn't help but wonder wistfully what
some of the locations would look like in today's high-res,sharp graphics.
There is nothing remarkable about the music. It accompanies the game
pleasantly, without ever becoming truly epic or memorable. The speech
on the other hand is very well done, with voices that suit the characters
and all of the actors giving above average performances.
The game is 3rd person point-and-click playing entirely with the mouse.
The interface has the standard Look,Take,Open,Put and so on format of
the Lucas Arts games, but with the addition that each item currently
selected brings up some actions unique to it, such as Taste, Admire,
Invoke,Polish. It should be noted here that the game offers two
interfaces,Easy and Standard ,and two difficulty levels, Novice and
Challenging. This review is based on the Standard and Challenging settings.
This is NOT a game for those who don't like dialogue. While not as long
winded as The Longest Journey, there is lots of talking , and what's more,
for the first third of the game, paying attention to the dialogue is essential,
as it contains vital clues. Also take into account that not all dialogue
options will please the other party enough to tell you all that he or
she may know, and that in Challenging mode at least, the game will let you
blissfully go on, without giving you any intication that you did not learn
all you could from the one you were talking to. On a positive note though,
you are always able to go back to search for an item you may have missed or
speak again to someone for new information. You can die , but the game
will return you just before the danger spot, without any of those "do you
want to retry" questions. There are also a couple of timed sequences, but
there is plenty of time to perform whatever action is needed. The actual
puzzles manage to be original, and are quite difficult, which comes as
a surprise because the game lets you go on for quite a while with only
token resistance. And then, once you do reach Sanwe's tower, you find
yourself facing some very hard puzzles, and will have to carefully
consider every piece of the prophecies conserning the evil sorcerer's
defeat to figure them out. But they are not illogical or unjust.
The only noteworthy puzzle before the tower is the Fairy Maze. But it is
not a physical maze but rather a maze of confusing and self contradicting
directions. Believe me, once you go through that, you will never complain
about a maze of actual rooms again. The game also has influences from
Zork and King's Quest, since you can optionally search for the lost
treasures of the realm and bring them back with you. Finding them all
will help you get the maximum score of 250 points.
Overall, I recommend this game to fantasy and 3rd person adventure fans
who seek a good plot and a challenge, provided that they do not mind
paying attention to long dialogues.
For the technical stuff, note that the game requires 890k of EMS memory.
I run it through DOS and it played like a charm without any slowdown
utilities or other tinkering.