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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shadowlands



Stay Awhile and Listen

Shadowlands is an RPG released in 1992 by Domark that was developed by Barry Costas who created another personal favourite of mine Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters. I've wanted this game for years, and I finally have it proudly displayed on my shelf!! But will it live up to my expectations after all these years?

The story is based on an ancient legend of a warrior prince who was slaughtered on the battlefield. Somehow, our dead dude has magically awoken to find himself alive and kicking with the nifty ability to mind-control. So he went out and selected four loyal subjects to venture back into the Shadowlands and wreak his vengeance!

I don't know about you, but I'm excited already!! Onwards we go...


Earlier messages may appear rather obvious but reading them can be rewarding later on...

Don't be so quick to begin your adventure - take the time to look around this open area!


It's that time... Dungeon Crawl time!

As with any RPG, everything is in real-time with lots of puzzles to solve and beasts to kill. We begin with the option to use the default characters or manually generate their attributes, which I suggest you do. The first level begins outside in a woodland graveyard with some useful pickings before taking the plunge down into the depths.

Our adventure really begins once you're inside the creepy dungeons but the first thing that hits you is the lighting - it's absolutely incredible using a technique called Photoscape. This adds a gradual gradient to the level of light around any character carrying a lit torch for a disturbing experience. Audio isn't too shabby featuring lots of sampled sound effects throughout, however, I do wish that fantastic title music was present during play.

Perhaps I'm picky? I think a chiptune might ruin the atmosphere? Let's crack on and see a few puzzles...


I love how subtle many hints are which nicely use silly wording to give you a hint.

Sometimes it's far too subtle but at least it tries to help you and I love that!

Hey, nobody can read in the dark...

Now it's time to spend a quid... All brilliant puzzles which help make this game so interesting!


Bring friends... and a torch!

Playing Shadowlands is an instant, and fascinating, experience. In fact, I couldn't wait to leave the graveyard to venture into the depths to see what nasties lurked. As you can see, we're in charge of four characters and each can lead and be controlled independently using their avatars along the bottom of your screen.
It's not always necessary to remain as a group. Sometimes, it's best to go alone when scouting in search of items. However, idle warriors should still be vigilant for critters that like to nibble!
Your four loyal subjects will need replenishment so don't forget to eat, drink and rest whenever possible but be wise and use your stock sparingly. Flasks can always be topped up from fountains but there's nothing stopping you from having a sip or two while there. Torches are most helpful as it's so dingy plundering through the grim levels but, once again, use these sparingly and extinguish any idle ones in your inventory to make them last longer.


Look out, something hideous is creeping up on you!!!

The warrior is now a bag of bones... Perhaps he should have read the notice?


Run, think, shoot, live!

It's now that you begin to realise how awesome the user interface actually is when controlling your A-Team. The inventory screen can be accessed at any time with a single right-click and is a cinch to use and with extra functions like swapping items or grouping the adventurers into structured squads rather than a clumsy mob.

Each level has a superb design which is interesting but without losing your bearings. It's a good idea to read everything you come upon because not every puzzle is obvious; it might be a masked trap that conjures something nasty. Always beware!! Also, look out for switches, wall slots, or even odd rickety floor panel. Other puzzles are a fun play on words such as "weight and see" (a great way to get rid of any useless items).

Weapons vary and can be just about anything you're able to carry and there are many impressive items just waiting to clobber your foe. Look around right at the start for something very helpful... However, it's always good practice not to feel like you need to fight everyone all of the time - sometimes it's best to simply walk away.


Okay, I've got the key!! So let's head through that teleporter, unlock the gate and run like hell!!!

The Magician finds three suspicious holes - will he choose the correct one?


The CryptO'pinion?

Shadowlands has a few niggles and I failed to get the save game function to work no matter what I tried. But that's not much of a problem today when using the snapshot feature of your emulator or the hard drive version. Also, guiding our loyal subjects can sometimes be awkward as they struggled to walk around the graveyard or through an open doorway. Yes, they're a sandwich short of a picnic and often need a gentle push to help them out.

I've featured a variety of RPGs over the years and I genuinely thought nothing would live up to Dungeon Master or Legends Of Valour yet here we are addicted to another one! Okay, it's a different isometric take on that same RPG format AND there are a couple of quirks but Shadowlands offers a compelling experience. It's truly one of the most rewarding games I have ever played and therefore one of the best Atari ST games out there.

Install to hard drive using the snapshot-save feature!!
Are you stuck? AtariMania has access to game tips.

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