Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shard Of Spring: Final Ranking

If anyone knows how to wield a sword with "fierocity" (or, indeed, what "fierocity" means), please comment.

Shard of Spring
United States
Strategic Simulations, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released 1986 for Apple II and Commodore 64, 1987 for DOS
Date Started: 28 August 2010
Date Ended: 3 September 2010
Total Hours: 14
Difficulty: Moderate (3.0/5)
Final Rating: 33
Ranking at Time of Posting: 12/23 (52%)
Ranking at Game #453: 312/453 (69%)
Shard of Spring is a somewhat boring and trite little game that might have been good three years earlier. Although it has some interesting features, and it anticipates better games from SSI, its primary virtue is that it's over quickly.

1. Game World. Nothing special here: an island, a Golden Age ruined by an evil sorceress, a quest for a MacGuffin. The island doesn't really have any interesting backstory or lore, just some scattered towns and dungeons. The game world does not react much to your presence. Final score: 2.

2. Character Creation and Development. A few unique elements with five playable races, including trolls, but only two character classes. No alignments, no sexes. Method of rolling attributes is challenging and unusual and the "skill" system, while a good idea, is not as good as Wizard's Crown: you can't "improve" a skill, and by the end of the game it's pretty easy to get them all, so there's no reason to have your characters specialize in just one. Leveling is satisfying and valuable. Final score: 5.

3. NPC Interaction. The game has a few NPCs, but you don't really "interact" with them so much as you step on their squares and they tell you things. You have to talk to people in bars and dungeons to get hints for the future, but otherwise no dialog, no role-playing. Final score: 1.

4. Encounters and Foes. The foes are standard fantasy fare and the game doesn't bother to describe them. Even the "monster lore" skill only tells you a few basic things about your enemies. Different monsters do have a variety of different abilities in attacks and magic, and you have to think tactically when you face them. Because the game throws a battle at you ever 33 moves (a regularity that frankly becomes annoying once you notice it), you never have to worry about running out of fights. Final score: 3.

5. Magic and Combat. Probably the best part of the game. The magic system is different and intriguing, allowing you to channel as many spell points as you want into each spell to increase its chance of success and potency. There aren't a lot of spells, but they're divided into different schools of magic that are unique to this game. Combat is very tactical, forcing you to carefully consider deployment patterns, movement distance, and enemy priority. Between the combat decisions and magic options, a lot of strategy goes into combat, and yet it's not as confounding as Wizard's Crown. It still manages to be a little boring sometimes, especially towards the end, but on the whole a strong suit of Shard of Spring. Final score: 7.

Fritz prepares to roast some spider meat.

6. Equipment. A limited variety, items are not described, and the identification process (each spellcaster can only identify one item per day) is annoying. You can't sell equipment that you find. The game manual does provide tables to help you rank their relative worth. Final score: 3.

7. Economy. You get money for each battle and thanks to the high cost of healing and resurrection, you never really run out. There is otherwise not much to buy with your hard-earned cash, however. Final score: 4.

8. Quests. The main quest is banal and derivative. There are only a couple of bona fide "side quests," and neither offers much in the way of role-playing value. All quests have only one possible outcome. Final score: 2.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs. Bad. Monochrome and uninspired. Much better work was being done by other publishers in this era. Final score: 2.

10. Gameplay. The game is very linear and has no replay value. The level of difficulty is good, though, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Final score: 4.

Final Ranking: 33. This puts it on par with Wizard's Crown, which makes sense to me.

Matt Barton (Dungeons & Desktops, pp. 107-109) agrees with my assessment that it's "a bit crude," with primitive graphics and sound, but notes that it helped pave the way for the "Gold Box" series. If nothing else, Shard of Spring whet my appetite for Pool of Radiance. But before then, I have to get through a series of other games, starting with Starflight.


  1. Thanks for ploughing through this one. I think someone said previously that your site is the only internet source of detailed information on some of these older games and your posts / summaries are really good. I really enjoy reading your pages. Hopefully Starflight will be a more enjoyable game to play.

    I'm in the planning process for an old style CRPG of my own and I'm finding your site and pointers about what worked well and didn't work so well a great source of information.

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Sorry dude, I love your blog, but I just have to poke fun at the irony: you make overwrought fun of the game for misspelling "ferocity", and then immediately, like three sentences later, misspell "here" as "hear".

    The lesson is, don't make fun of other peoples' spelling :)

  3. Yeah, my blog isn't written by a development team that should have given it several levels of proofreading before commercial release, though.

  4. ACRIN1: No problem. It went fast enough that I'm glad I took the time to finish it. Your statement about my blog being the only place to find information on some of these games is both accurate and surprising. You'd think every game, no matter how bad (and "Shard of Spring" isn't really a "bad" game at all) would have some dedicated fan community, but apparently not. If it wasn't for this one guy named Andrew Shultz who seems to love writing walkthroughs for old CRPGs, there would be virtually nothing on this one. Glad I can contribute.

  5. If it weren't for the ultra-lame encounter-every-33-moves design, and the difficulty in finding a place to train, i would have given this game a try.

    Again, kudos for giving a very good idea of how these old games are to play. has lots of Let's Play articles, some of which feature games as old as this, but the emphasis is too much on screenshots and humour that is only funny for someone within a very narrow range of geekness, and too little on game mechanics and the "feel" of the games.

  6. Given that this game came out in the 1980s, I think you're being a little harsh on some of those scores.

    1. Jay, I realize you're new, so take a look at what I say about the GIMLET in the Wasteland posting here:

  7. Fierocity has the best deals in town on new and used Pontiacs.

  8. Shard of Spring and Demon's Winter are on now!


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