Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shadowlands


Shadowlands is an RPG released in 1992 by Domark that was developed by Barry Costas who created another personal favourite game 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 been 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!

  
Earlier messages may begin rather obvious but reading these can be rewarding later on...

  
Don't be so quick to begin your adventure and take time to look around the starting level.

As with any RPG, everything is played out 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 which is 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 16-Bit 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.

  
Sometimes this game is far too subtle but at least it tries to help you!

  
You can't read in the dark! Has anyone got some spare cash they can lend me?

The user-interface is outstanding and one of the best I have ever used. Each character can either lead or be controlled independently using their avatars along the bottom of your screen. Sometimes it's best to go it alone when scouting ahead in search of items but idle warriors should still be vigilant for critters that like to nibble! 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.

Playing Shadowlands is an incredible experience and I couldn't wait to leave the graveyard and venture onwards to see what nasties lurked in the depths. 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 and could be a trap that conjures something nasty! 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 good way to get rid of any useless items).

  
Remember, don't be too frivolous with torches. Hang on, something hideous is coming!!

  
Warrior is now a bag of bones! Perhaps he should have read the notice first?

Your 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!

Weapons vary, but can also be just about anything you're able to carry and there are some impressive items just waiting to clobber your foe. Look around right at the very 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 but jumps into the wrong one and turns into a bag of bones!

Shadowlands has a few niggles and I failed to get the save game function to work no matter what I tried. Also, guiding our loyal subjects can sometimes be awkward as they struggle 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 thought nothing could live up to the likes of Dungeon Master and Legends Of Valour yet here we are addicted to another. Okay, there are a couple of quirks but Shadowlands offers a fascinating and compelling experience and is ultimately one of the most rewarding games I have ever played.

Play this wonderful RPG off your hard drive with its cool ability to save your progress as snapshots [thx PP]

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