Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Shadowlands: Summary and Rating

That's maybe not a torch I'd want to carry in a cramped hallway.
            
Shadowlands
United Kingdom
Teque London (developer); Domark Software (publisher)
Released in 1992 for Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS
Date Started: 2 October 2018
Date Ended: 8 October 2018
Total Hours: 8 (unfinished)
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)
            
This is simply a genre that I'm never going to take to. I didn't like DarkSpyre; I didn't like Legend; I didn't like Heimdall. I developed a fondness for Dungeon Master, but largely because it had a good combat, magic, and character development system alongside its many buttons and pressure plates. I like the occasional puzzle, but not so much the switch-and-pressure-plate variety. There's a reason there's no "puzzles" category in my GIMLET. I say this with all respect to people who really do enjoy them. The world would be boring if we all liked the same things.

I would have persevered if not for a few other "features." One thing I hate about any game--and I don't mention this often because it rarely comes up--is the sense that the game is nipping at my heels. The occasional timed puzzle or quest is fine, but if the entire thrust of the gameplay is to impel you onwards, to punish you for dallying, to discourage careful exploration and thought, then I'm going to get frustrated fast. Shadowlands does this this first metaphorically with its food and water system. The meters deplete so fast, and the inventory of food items in the dungeon is so sparse, that I spent most of my time in a constant state of agitation. I continually felt that I needed to reload and do things faster so as to minimize food consumption.
            
The game offers a hint to throw something to the hidden pressure plate beyond the pits.
       
But even worse, Shadowlands nips at your heels quite literally by including--this has to be the worst design element in any game ever--unkillable rats that follow your party throughout the dungeon levels and attack you every time you stand still for more than a few seconds. If you don't get away from them, they'll kill a party member in less than a minute. These rats can't be targeted by weapons and can't be killed by spells. They can only be "outrun" for about 30 seconds. They're present to serve as a constant punishment for not knowing exactly what to do or where to go next. They're often present at places where you need to split the party, so that while you're trying to have one party member accomplish some task, you have to keep switching back to other party members and have them run down a corridor to give them a momentary reprieve from the rats.

Everything came to a head on one level where three of my characters, upon standing on three pressure plates, were warped into individual prison cells while the fourth character had to find a way to free them. Each of the small cells had rats in them, along with much-needed food and water fountains. So I'm desperately switching between characters, trying to get them to drink and stay away from their individual rats, while meanwhile rats are attacking all my other characters. I keep switching to the fourth character for a few seconds, but thanks to the game's horrible pathfinding, my rat-bitten characters keep dying while I futilely try to maneuver him through a small opening in the wall. I started to have one of those "what am I doing with my life" moments, and that's always a good sign that it's time to give up a game.
            
The characters end up in individual prison cells.
            
Judging by a hint guide in the June and July 1992 Amiga Power, quitting is the right decision. I left on Level 4 of ultimately 13 levels. The puzzles get harder and less intuitive, though admittedly some of them sound fun. On Level 8, there's one that involves standing characters on pressure plates in the order of the Zodiac. Level 9 has a champion battle with a minotaur. Level 7 is a giant maze--that must be fun with food and water constantly depleting. There are a number of puzzles that require light, or the absence of light, to trigger something, which is definitely a new take, but as I pointed out in the first entry, not really enough to sustain interest in a game on its own.

Throughout the game, you collect a series of "gateway keys," all of which have to be used on Level 11. After that, you face "the cave," and I'll quote the Amiga Power player directly:
             
Go through this area in darkness to get to the teleporter at the end. However, it has to be said, the odds are against you down here, with countless fire-breathing ghouls and a herd of minotaurs roaming about. If you do succeed against the beasts, exit via the teleporter and reappear on Level 13. Unfortunately, this was where nearly all of our boys got picked off by the fire-breathing ghouls, so only the warrior lived.
        
On Level 13, you kill the Overlord, "a shady looking bloke in a cloak," collect his key, use it to enter the Temple Room, and "that's it." The guide doesn't tell you what kind of an ending to expect, only that "it's a bit of an anti-climax." Having the party kill the Overlord seems to contradict the manual.
            
My warrior has a sword and buckler and has managed to get his combat level to 4. But he's about to start dying from a lack of food.
            
I can't imagine many players got this far. No one seems to have posted video of the endgame, so I'll offer a $25 Amazon gift card bounty for anyone who can reach the end and offer a quick guest post (or long comment) with their experiences and a link to the endgame video. Barring that, I preliminarily give it:
            
  • 3 points for the game world. It's a well-written story, but it's a framing story. It doesn't play any role in the game itself, or at least not in the part that I experienced.
  • 2 point for character creation and development. There are a few options, mostly cosmetic, in creation, although the ability to mix and match facial features may be a "first." Development consists of a digit occasionally added to combat or magic ability.
  • 0 points for no NPC interaction.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. One of those points is for the enemies, which seem to exist in two varieties: those that die in one hit, and those that kill you in one hit. They're not even named in-game. The other 3 points are for the puzzles, which in other ratings I included as a type of "encounter." That's as high as I'm willing to go for strictly mechanical puzzles, though.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. The combat system--select and attack--couldn't be more boring, but the magic system deserves some credit for the way you re-energize spells by sucking energy out of regular objects. I didn't get to experiment past "Light" and "Fireball," both of which performed adequately but were hard to target, especially the latter on moving enemies.
           
One level had several consecutive hallways with these female warriors.
          
  • 2 points for equipment. You get basically one weapon slot and one shield slot, and even then the weapon slot has to be continually vacated for other items. I upgraded from sticks to daggers to swords and axes during my exploration.
  • 2 points for the economy. It's not really a traditional economy, but you do find coins during your explorations that you can trade for hints or save to purchase the occasional item-filled treasure chest. (I had to read this in the hint guide; I never experienced it in-game.)
  • 2 points for a main quest with no side-quests, choices, or alternate endings.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The lighting effects are innovative for the time, but playing now the graphics in general look grainy and blocky. There are some fun sound effects, but also a lot of unexplained pings and dings that add nothing but confusion to exploration. The interface couldn't be worse--all-mouse, and even then with far more clicking than should be necessary to accomplish simple tasks, and with terrible responsiveness and pathfinding.
  • 0 points for gameplay. It's completely linear, non-replayable, too difficult (not "challenging," just difficult), too long, and too frustrating. There's absolutely nothing I like about it in this category.
           
That gives us a final score of 20, far lower than any commercial release should be rated in 1992.

Then again, we are talking about my own preferences here, and contemporary magazine reviews seem to have been written by the other kinds of people. The best comes from "Jonathan" in the April 1992 Amiga Computing. He rates it 94% and calls it a "bloody ace adventuring role-playing game" and even says (this ought to enrage everyone), "it even beats Dungeon Master, mainly because it's a lot more interactive." Whatever that means. But the text and screenshots don't show progress beyond the first couple of levels, calling into question his overall conclusions.

A lot of the reviews focus on the lighting effects (a system called "Photoscape" by the developer); Neil Jackson's 93% review in the April 1992 Amiga Format talks about almost nothing else. This makes sense for the era, the same way it makes sense for me not to be overly impressed with the same effects today. Paul Presley's March 1992 review in The One for Amiga Games manages to get the entire backstory wrong, but he actually made it to at least Level 8, so his 93% is based on a firmer foundation. He's one of the few reviewers to mention the rats, but he seems to regard them as more of a challenge than an annoyance.
               
The lighting effects are admirable, but only for a few minutes.
           
ACE gave it 92%, CU Amiga 91%. Non-English magazines were a little less charitable, ranging from 86% in the February 1992 Amiga Joker to a horrid 40% in the July 1992 German Play Time. In general, DOS reviews are far worse than Amiga reviews. (In separate reviews, the German Power Play gave the Amiga version 85% and the DOS version 74%.) Part of this is the graphics, praised by Amiga reviewers and criticized by DOS reviewers (I've watched videos of both and can't really see the difference), but part of it is that different audiences were looking for different things, and isometric puzzle-based games were just really popular in the U.K.

In the U.S., the always charitable Dragon gave it 4/5 stars in the April 1993 issue, calling the interface "frustrating" but admiring the lighting effects and overall gameplay. Robin Matthews' February 1993 review in Computer Gaming World is also positive, but in a weird way. Consider this paragraph:
            
Each of the four party members can be individually controlled and sent off on their own or in parties with other party members. This totally flexible approach means that several quests can be undertaken at any one time, or several different solutions applied to one puzzle at the same time. Combat also becomes very varied, as one can attack multiple enemies, attack from completely different angles, or even set complicated ambushes.
            
All of this sounds great, but actual gameplay in Shadowlands doesn't really support these options. There aren't "several quests" for party members to approach at the same time, nor are there really alternate solutions to puzzles (at least, as far as I can tell). The clunky combat controls--click on a character's arm, then try to click on a moving opponent, then try to repeat for the next character--don't really lend themselves to fine-tuning tactical combat. It's hard to imagine that Matthews isn't speaking entirely hypothetically. I would also note that I thought it was CGW's policy that reviewers had to complete the game, but all the screenshots in the review are from the first two levels, and none of the text suggests exposure to the deeper levels.

Elsewhere, she compares the interface to Darklands but calls it "much simpler and far more playable." That really makes me dread Darklands.

Not as much, however, as I dread Shadoworlds, the sequel to Shadowlands, released in the same year. The second game moves the action to a space station. I fired it up for a few minutes, and I'm pleased to see that they made at least some improvements to the interface. Not everything I would have hoped for, but some. There's only one character portrait on which to activate body parts, for instance, and if you switch between characters the activated body part stays active. You can now transfer items between characters' entire inventories and not just their lead hands. Walking seems a little easier. But there's still no keyboard support except for "pause" and "quit."

Shadowlands and Shadoworlds were designed by Dean Lester and programmed by Barry Costas, with art by Mark Anthony and sound by Matt Furniss. Although all of these individuals had reasonably long careers, with credits extending into the mid-2000s, none of them worked on another RPG before or after. Neither, for that matter, did Teque London or Domark.

If anything would have kept me going with this game, it's that the upcoming list is populated with stuff that just makes me groan. I have to get through a sequel to a mediocre TI-99 title, two Mac games, a porn game, and a French game before I get to anything that sounds encouraging. Lets hope one of these is surprisingly delightful in a way that Shadowlands, alas, was not.

74 comments:

  1. You got a lot farther than I would have :) No great insight, just stating a simple fact. Just reading about your experience makes me squirm with frustration.

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  2. I strongly agree with your comments about taking the time to explore and think through the puzzles. That is the reason why I play CRPGs rather than more action-oriented titles.

    This game seems like a poorly designed hybrid that would appeal to neither category of gamer.

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  3. Maybe there's a different Darklands - Darklands from Microprose has a nice interface. Like an early version of Baldur's Gate really. Navigating your group through tight corridors can be annoying, but definately not as annoying as you describe Shadowlands (and tight corridors in BG weren't exactly fun to navigate either...).

    As for the graphics, maybe it's the small screenshots, but reading your blog posts I thought Shadowlands looks rather nice.

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    1. At least in Darklands you can just select a party member with a hotkey and click the ground to move. They do get stuck on lots of things though.

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    2. "As for the graphics, maybe it's the small screenshots, but reading your blog posts I thought Shadowlands looks rather nice." It's possible that my colorblindness hides details from me and makes the overall graphics look worse than they are. This has come up before.

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    3. The interface looks all right, but especially the dungeon looks a bit drab to me. Likely because of the lighting effect, so they were limited in the selection of colours they could use for it.

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  4. I remember the rats vividly, those damn superrodents kept killing me too. Although I seem to remember being able to kill them, that's probably a figment of my imagination.

    Good thing you decided to move on, rather that than burnout.

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  5. I don't know what the reviewer was on when they bashed darklands' interface but it's miles ahead of the clunkiness you describe. It's not silky smooth and there's some aggravation with pathfinding and dubious font choices but I find it very usable (and I have very low tolerance for bad UI in games, old or new).

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  6. Honestly, the only thing Shadowlands and Darklands have in common are very similarly sounding titles.
    Given the opening paragraph, I'm really curious to see how you like The Summoning. It a sorta-sequel to Darkspyre, so puzzles galore, but there are also NPCs, quests and a highly non-linear dungeon.

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    1. The Summoner was great! I remember spending a lot of time grinding... for character stat points before the game even started!

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    2. The Summoning is much closer to Dusk of the Gods than it is to Darkspyre, and if I remember correctly Chet was ok with Dusk of the Gods, but it wasn't one of his favourites.

      We're also going to see another game by the same developer, Veil of Darkness, later on. That one is more of an adventure game with RPG elements, similar to Quest for Glory, with an isometric perspective. The puzzles in that one aren't too bad, and the core RPG gameplay is decent enough, so my guess is that Veil of Darkness will receive a decent rating.

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    3. Two, addict-wise big differences between a game like Shadowlands and The Summoning is that the latter has keyboard commands, in fact, it can be played entirely with the keyboard (although "that course of action is inadvisable"), and second, it allows you to take as much time as you want to deal with puzzles. The interface builds directly on the Dusk of the Gods one.

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    4. Well, The Summoning is much, MUCH more puzzle-heavy than Dusk.
      As for Veil of Darkness, I never found any RPG elements in that one - there are no stats and, IIRC, even no HP leveling.

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  7. If there's one lesson your blog has taught us over the years it's don't trust Amiga magazine reviews, doubly so if they're European.

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  8. Good for you! Life is too short. I used to feel bad about cheating and using walkthroughs, but so often it's justified by lazy/inconsiderate/padded game design. Skip it!

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    1. This is one of the rare cases in which having a walkthrough in front of you, telling you exactly where to go and what to do, still doesn't make the hard parts of the game any easier.

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  9. I understand You, three games for me, with superB graphic, but like 8bit action realtime gameplay. Shadowlands, Legend and Cadaver too, same disgusting frustration. But graphically - true art. I wanted like this games so much, I had Shadowlands, Shadoworlds, Legend 1 and 2 also in very nice original boxes, tried playing them mayby 3 times, but with same conclusion. Very Nice for eyes, but not funny frustration.

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    1. I stopped playing this game pretty early. But I played Legend to the end, and have always considered it a masterpiece!

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  10. PS.: I was finished by minotaur (level 9?) He was so quick, I didn´t find way, how to kill him. Realtime battle with 4 characters with management legs, hands etc.....WTF.

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  11. The rats were indeed awful, but there's apparently even worse later on - according to one of the reviews I've just been flicking through one of the later levels replaces the rats with deadly venomous instakill scorpions, which sounds like it'd just make the game plain unbearable or outright unplayable.

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    Replies
    1. God, I'm glad I didn't make it that far. My mind would have broken.

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  12. Here is a visit to Teque London Limited at the time they were making this game: https://youtu.be/WBl1V_EK09I?t=1314

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    1. That's a fantastic link. Thank you! Some reactions:

      1. Again, I'm reminded that however bad an experience I have playing one of these games, at least I don't have to do it on an era monitor.

      2. They must have scaled down some of their ambitions before release. The game is smaller than the multiple worlds Lester mentions.

      3. Mark Anthony on graphics: the use of Japanese graphics "hasn't been done before in a European role-playing game." I guess that's true if we're talking about classic anime-style graphics. The French Karma from 1987 seemed inspired by more classic Japanese art. Still, another "first" worthy of mention.

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    2. Hey, that same video has an earlier section on 1991's Lord of the Rings. That's pretty cool to watch, too.

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    3. While 1991 is a *little* too early to make me truly nostalgic, that was definitely interesting to watch. I laughed out loud at the introduction to Heimdall. "[It] is how RPGs should have been done to begin with. No hexagons, no alphabetic menus, and not a hint of keyboard control." Oh boy.

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    4. I think I have located a few more videos like this one for the games to come. I'm glad you found it interesting to watch.

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    5. At 8:12 in that video, the CRPG "Shadow Sorcerer" is presented. It seems to be missing from the master game list, or at least I haven't found it in there. It's developed by SSI and is set in the Dragonlance world.

      https://www.mobygames.com/game/shadow-sorcerer

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    6. I see now that Shadow Sorcerer has been discussed before, in this entry:

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2015/12/disciples-of-steel-cold-forge.html

      ... and that it has been rejected due to a lack of character leveling. Never mind then.

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  13. I used to really like puzzles in RPGs but at some point they became a bothersome chore I always loathe. Go figure.

    You'd really think there would be a way to deal with the rats though. That sounds like pretty awful game design.

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    Replies
    1. If it were a good game it'd be something simple like dropping some food.

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    2. I couldn't believe there wasn't, but I Googled until I confirmed it.

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    3. If it were a good game, they wouldn't exist in the first place. Outside maybe couple spots where *they* are the specific obstacle to overcome. But certainly not ubiquitously throughout the entire game.

      Apart from the clunky interface, I might have liked this game. I do like more puzzle oriented games. But the rats are instant dealbreaker.

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    4. How fun puzzles are (for me) is almost entirely dependant on my sense of learning the mind of the puzzle designer. Puzzling gets really satisfying once you get a sense of what puzzles the designer would and would not make, which directions are likely to be blind alleys you can ignore and which might be profitable. You need to build that trust, that the solution will be clever but fair and in line with what they've taught you about their puzzle design up to that point.

      The Witness, for example, is a masterpiece of puzzle design. Whereas the Professor Layton games - though I love them - are riddled with inconsistent approaches to puzzles, poor translations from the Japanese, and fundamentally unfair challenges.

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    5. The Witness is specifically a puzzle game though, so you know what you are getting.

      My problem is when you are rocking your way through some kick-ass dungeon, killing monsters, collecting loot, and leveling up, and all of a sudden the game goes, "There are a 15 different symbols spread out in this dungeon. Go find them and try to arrange them in the right pattern by reading this super-vague poetry written by engineers." Then 90% of the "puzzle" is trudging back and forth across the levels while trying to deduce the moon-logic of the writers.

      Speaking of which, have fun with the moon-logic puzzles of Mr. D.W. Bradley!

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  14. Whoa, Dragon magazine rated it 4 out of 5?!?!

    That's really the most damning review score that could happen to a game. A game that doesn't get 5 out of 5 from Dragon has to be utterly abysmal...

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  15. Good for you! Life is too short. I used to feel bad about cheating and using walkthroughs, but so often it's justified by lazy/inconsiderate/padded game design. Skip it!

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  16. You may be able to axe Cobra Mission from your list. The original Japanese game used JRPG-style combat, but this was excised in the English release. Instead, you get a "click on the right body part for damage" system instead.

    Since it was already borderline (for multiple reasons), that would probably drop it from contention.

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    1. Nah. Let him play Cobra Mission. I'm curious about his opinion:)

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    2. Regardless of combat, the game is a RPG, with character levels and stats etc.

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  17. This game sounds miserable: so much so that, were it any other writer, I'd be inclined to assume you'd overlooked something or had been bitten by a compatibility issue.

    Surely a game can't be that fundamentally misguided, can it?...well, yes, it seems it can, and 8 hours is clearly more than enough. And speaking of getting bitten, the thing with the rats sounds just plain inexcusable.

    BTW if one of the upcoming Mac games is Taskmaker, I enjoyed it for what that's worth. I don't remember anything about it being onerous or "difficult" (in the obstinate sense) at all -- just a "light, tile-based, puzzle-RPG romp" kind of game.

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    1. The two Mac games are Legends of the Lost Realm. Tried the first out today. VERY hard. Keeps the permadeath and early-game difficulty of Wizardry, and I can't even cheat it because I can't figure out how to make a copy of a folder in this absurd MacOS. Seriously, I select it and choose "Copy" but "Paste" is just grayed out everywhere I go. I hate this frigging platform.

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    2. Not sure which version of the OS you're using.. but here are the ways to copy a file/folder in OS9:
      -Highlight the file/folder, go to the edit menu and select duplicate.
      -Drag a the folder icon into another directory while holding down the option key.
      -By default, any time you drag a file/folder from one drive or partition to another, it copies.. so mount a second volume.

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  18. Ouch, I can't remember you ever giving a 0 in gameplay before!

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  19. The game seems to be fondly remembered in user reviews on the Lemon Amiga website with terms such as "milestone" and "masterpiece".
    http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/details.php?id=1234

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    1. The words "lack of pathfinding," "tedious," "inefficient" and "cumbersome" also appear. A couple of the reviews are well-balanced.

      But then: "If I had to be on an Island with only one RPG game, I'd choose Shadowlands." Good lord.

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    2. Well, it certainly is a game that would take you a very long time to get through thanks to its unfair difficulty, which means it will give you many hours of playtime on that lonely island.

      It would also massively increase the rate at which you lose your sanity :P

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    3. I'd rather play another good game a few times over, probably Dungeon Master (I actually did).

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    4. Probably rose-tinted glasses. I remember when Shadowlands came out I thought that looks cool I should get that. Didn't get round to it until two decades later, played a few minutes and was hmm, yeah screw this.

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  20. I am from the Czech Republic and first encountered Shadowlands in our only games magazine of the era. It looked really intriguing and the review was positive. The reviewer praised it mainly for its originality and gave it 88%. He said that he played it for two days and planned to finish it, but the question is whether that happened. Some time later a walkthrough appeared, which seems to have at least maps made by its czech author, but it could be taken from some foreign magazine. The RPG enthusiast around the website DJ Old Games played it a bit, but it seems they did not finish it (one of them says he was beaten repeatedly by a minotaur and gave up). ... All in all, this is quite a flawed game, but maybe 0 points in gameplay is a bit harsh (I understand it´s subjective).

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    1. "Gameplay" has never been a good name for the category. It's more of a final bucket where I score 4 things that otherwise don't have their own category:

      -Linearity
      -Difficulty
      -Replayability
      -Pacing

      A 0 may be harsh, but I couldn't think a single good thing to say in any of those four categories.

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    2. It was me in discussion on DJ old Games with minotaur :-)

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    3. The story in czech Excalibur magazine goes exactly like this: In July 1992 reviewer Andrew is overly enthusiastic as usual. Says he plans to finish the game and make a walkthrough. In March 1993 Andrew publishes a walkthrough for Shadow Worlds and in the introduction says that a lot of people, the magazine staff included, felt positive about Shadowlands but that he was not able to finish it. He also claims to know some gamers in Prague who finished the game although no one sent a complete walkthrough for publishing. Finally in September 1993 there comes a walkthrough with hand-drawn maps signed "Lee". Which I think is another guy from the magazine.

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    4. Yes, the author of walkthrough "Lee" was one of journalists for Excalibur. ... Shadowlands is an interesting case, because it seems that few czech players liked it. I tried it briefly and then quit, which i did a lot back then. Andrew´s review was of course overly enthusiastic, but as he was an avid player of DM and other RPGs I suppose he played Shadowlands at least few hours before the review and genuinely liked it. Shadowlands is not a good game, but I think in this instant the negative Addict´s review reflects particularly strongly his specific CRPG tastes (which is of course okay). And he has a specific perspective because of chronological play. One wonders whether reviewers in magazines are prone to overvaluing original ideas (which Shadowlands has few) in games and whether it is warranted.

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    5. I suppose those Excalibur and Score people gave a lot of weight to originality and more importantly they didn't tolerate the lack of it even to the fault. Like when they gave bad reviews to EoB and even EoB2 which I loved, because "meh, another DM clone". The time later when they gave like 40 % to Quake because it was too much like Doom was the worst. Also, I am sorry but is it possible you use the word "few" like a Czech person in a sense "couple/some"? It means "little/not many".

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    6. I meant "a few" in a sense some players liked it. Petr Dvorak

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  21. Small correction:
    "This is simply a genre that I'm never going to take to. I didn't like DarkSpyre; I didn't like Legends; I didn't like Heimdall."

    I guess you're talking about isometric puzzle-based RPGs here, so I'm pretty sure you mean Legend and not Legends.

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  22. As an Amiga owner, i was very hyped for this game back in the day, since it had so many good reviews and looked nice from the screenshots.

    I bought a (pirated) copy, but the game would constantly crash. I do remember being very disappointed, and tried to get a working copy for a while, but never found it. Guess i was lucky.

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  23. I am sure back then you could go ahead and give the same review as other magazines when the game was too difficult so you could not be called a wimp. Pity that the game is that bad after all.

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  24. Shadowlands and Shadoworlds are two games that I could never play past the start; I never managed to get the hang of their controls, they frustrated me completely.
    But I have to admit, I really love their lighting visual effect, in the way I loved the one in Diablo I.

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  25. I think the 'rats' may be the worst mechanic you've ever described on this blog. I'd just let them eat me.

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    Replies
    1. At least for once rats get to be more than fodder for low-level adventurers.

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  26. I remember enjoying this game in my Amiga. The interface was nice and easy to me. But I didn’t finish it, I can’t remember why or where I leave it. Also, I don’t remember the rats, I guess I’ve forgotten a lot in 25 years.
    The review in Spanish game magazine micromania was also very good, scoring 9 and 8 in all the categories, link here: https://archive.org/details/micromania-segunda-epoca-51/page/n29
    They also published the walkthrough in 2 parts https://archive.org/details/micromania-segunda-epoca-53/page/n21 and https://archive.org/details/micromania-segunda-epoca-56/page/n81 ending with satisfaction after finishing one of the best RPGs and hoping for a second part
    I still think it was a good game, it’s technology outdated, the interface is cumbersome for today standard and I don’t think I will play it again, but I have good memories
    Apart for that, I’ve been following your blog for some time. Great job, really enjoying it

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    1. I remember reading that same magazine at the time and wanting to play Shadowlands. It praised the control system, the puzzles, the magic system and the originality. But I never got it or played it. Guess I was lucky.

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  27. I would suggest looking at Amiga Power for more honest review scores, but even they gave this 87% and 80% -- the latter presumably on re-release -- so maybe not in this case.

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  28. Aww, rats, this was one of the games I was really interested in. I much prefer reading about games that did something new (even with missteps) than Ultima Ripoff #37.

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  29. I've cleared Shadowlands for the Amiga. I can't collect the reward, though, since I obviously don't have a video of it lying around. And even though this was not that many years ago, I can't really remember what the end was like, which must mean that it was nothing spectacular. I remember having many of the same issues mentioned here regarding the rats and clunky interface with lots of misclicks to the character portraits, but somehow stuck through till the end. I must be special, seeing as I've also cleared Legend...

    I remember being happy that the game was over when it did, and that it was not overly long in the end. Logic dictates that I should have a save from near the end lying around somewhere...

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    Replies
    1. Well it seem I do have a save from somewhere I think must be near the end. The problem is, it's been so long I don't remember how to play this game ;)

      Delete
    2. To anyone interested in the ending: https://vimeo.com/294868041

      The guy shooting fireballs from off-screen is the boss. Couldn't really show him without getting myself fried, but it's a spooky guy in a dark cloak.

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    3. Nice! Also I think the Amiga version is more playable than the DOS version.

      Delete
  30. I wonder if the rats being invincible is shorthand for them being too numerous to kill off. Still, it is a terrible mechanic for a real-time CRPG.

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    Replies
    1. The rats basically act as a timer. Something I'd hate in a real time RPG, but not per se a terrible mechanic. It just caters more towards a more action oriented/retry on failure kind of gameplay, which some people (not me) seem to enjoy.

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    2. It's an especially bad system in a game where you're struggling with an interface that takes a lot of clicks and therefore a lot of time to use, so all the time while you have to use the cumbersome interface where you need to click 3 different things just for a simple action the rats urge you to hurry up before you get eaten.

      The rats are a questionable design choice on their own, and so is the interface, and neither would completely kill the game on its own. But in combination, they just increase each other's frustrating elements.

      Delete

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