Monday, January 18, 2021

Legends of Valour: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

Legends of Valour
United Kingdom
Synthetic Dimensions (developer); U.S. Gold (U.K. publisher); Strategic Simulations, Inc. (U.S. publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS; 1993 for Amiga, Atari ST, and PC-98; 1994 for FM Towns
Date Started: 28 November 2020
Date Ended: 14 January 2021
Total Hours: 37
Difficulty: Easy-moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 42
Ranking at Time of Posting: 346/404 (86%)
Legends of Valour is a first-person game that takes place in a single large, gritty city called Mitteldorf. Your character, newly arrived in town to investigate the disappearance of his or her cousin, Sven, must learn how to survive in the big city and slowly advance his or her way through a series of guilds to learn the buried secrets of the city.
Legends of Valour is a flawed game but a necessary step in CRPG evolution. It is packed full of innovations that we've rarely seen in RPGs so far, including a guild system that offers a variety of quests, a map in which geography is independent of events, continuous 3D movement, and such a tight economy that it's almost a survival game. Unfortunately, it skimps on so many core RPG mechanics (combat, inventory, and character development are nearly absent) that it's hard to recommend except to see the genesis of elements that would influence later, better games.
Legends of Valour ended the way it started and played: on elements both intriguing and disappointing. It both ramped it up and fell apart in its last act, leaving the player wanting at the end what he'd likely been wanting the entire game: a little more.
When I last wrote, I was stuck on the final mission of the Thieves' Guild, unable to proceed because I couldn't find Choker Bloodaxe, who was supposed to give me a map to the Forbidden City. I had started poking around for it, but the underground is too big. Finally, I gave up and looked at the game's clue book (I tried looking for a video first but didn't find any) just to see the map that I theoretically should have been able to steal or loot off Bloodaxe.
The map showed the route to the Forbidden City from an entry point near the castle. I followed it and emerged in what the map insisted was a southwest section of the city. After comparing the area with my paper map, I was forced to concede that an entire set of buildings was completely enclosed by walls, and somehow I hadn't noticed this despite passing through the area dozens of times throughout the game. The enclosed area held about seven buildings, including a store and the Hall of Stones, where I found the necessary Jewelled Stone. None of the NPCs in the area had any special dialogue (the Forbidden City was supposed to be an area in revolt).
Spying the secret exit through a window.
The Thieves' Guild had also asked me to find the secret exit. The shop was selling something called an "exit visa," but I couldn't afford it. I'm not sure what it was; I suspect just a map. I found the secret exit by going around the perimeter and looking for any place it was permeable. On the west side, I found a window that looked into a house with a door. I used my thief skills to get through the window, picked the lock on the door, and found myself back in the main part of the city. This must have been good enough because I got the promotion to "Godfather" when I returned to the guild.
Let's go to the mattresses.
As before, the special room afforded to the head of the guild provided the fourth skull, plus a map showing the way to a special room from "The Crypt," plus an image of the four skulls, the Orb of Visions, and the Book of Summoning.
Even if you hadn't visited in a previous quest, the image makes it clear that you want to enter a building near the Stone Circle.
I ran around collecting the skulls and the Orb of Visions (which, as I mentioned last time, I had stumbled upon while trying to burgle the jeweler's shop), although this meant discarding everything from my inventory except my axe and the hourglass, which I nearly sold. Fortunately, I anticipated that the ritual involving the skulls might require exact timing.
I think I might lock this up if I owned it.
As for the Book of Summoning, I studied the list of buildings and looked for ones that sounded promising but that I hadn't explored. The only thing that seemed to have anything to do with books was the "Scriptorium," which I had already marked as being next to the Troll's Arms tavern in the northwest part of the city. Logic prevailed! It was on the second floor.
Use this book spell [sic?] only in the Royal Crypt. And only at midnight, ensuring that you have satisfied the prediction of the Orb of Visions, which you must have with you. Beware--the spell-caster must be protected by the Amulet of Defence, which is in turn protected by captive water dwellers.
"Captive water dwellers" suggested something at the zoo. The only thing that fit the bill were the lizard men, who aren't quite "water dwellers," but who do like wet areas. I used my skills to pass through the grate into their cage and found a corridor leading to a small area of waterfalls with multiple lizard men. By this time, I'd had to get rid of my axe, too, so I had to kill everything with bare fists. The Amulet of Protection was resting on a stalagmite. I had no idea how I was going to carry it with everything else, but fortunately it turned out to be the third "wearable" magic item and appeared in the upper-left box rather than in my inventory.
With all of these items, I returned to the Crypt--the same Crypt that had led me to the mummy's tomb a lot of quests ago. The map took me on a slightly different route to the Royal Crypt. I had to fight ghosts, zombies, and mummies with just my fists on the way, and I couldn't pick up the valuables that they dropped.
You wouldn't think punching a ghost would work.
The Royal Crypt had four stalagmites. The Orb of Visions showed one skull on each of them, which wasn't very helpful, since it was pretty obvious that's what I was supposed to do with the skulls. Since the skulls were all named after cardinal directions, I put them all on their appropriate stalagmites, equipped the hourglass, and periodically clicked on it until it told me it was midnight. I then equipped the Book of Summoning and used it.
The Orb of Visions' depiction of the chamber.
A cinematic took over the screen showing a summoning pentagram. A demon appeared and spoke:
At last I am released. As from now the balance of power between order and chaos within the land is equal. All that remains is for Old Wilf to be told. The key to his underground sanctuary is yours. Release him and become a living legend.
At first, I thought I'd done a bad thing.
That was an interesting twist that makes a callback to the backstory. Wilf was the king of Mitteldorf before the present king, Farley, Wilf's brother. There are pieces about Wilf in the Mitteldorf Post, calling him "Nasty King Wilf," criticizing his fiscal policies and suggesting he had illicit relations with a hamster. But these were fairly clearly propaganda pieces planted by Farley. The demon's revelation suggested that Wilf was still alive, probably being held by Farley.
By this time, I was a bit exhausted with the survival part of the game. I emerged from the underground with combat wounds, severe poisoning, rot, and dehydration, all of which cost most of the rest of my gold to cure. After restoring my food, health, and rest meters, I had no money at all. I really just wanted the game to be over. Nonetheless, I did my best to find Wilf honestly, starting with each of the four named jails and progressing to explorations of the underground, particularly areas with entrances near the castle. Nothing panned out, so I confess that I used the clue book just to show me what entrance I needed to take. It was one I hadn't noticed, in a turret near the castle.
Battling through minotaurs, guardsmen, and goblins (just in time for the end of the game, I perfected throwing my axe at them from afar, so I could kill them without having my pocket picked first), I finally reached a door that the demon's key opened. Beyond it was a chamber with an NPC wearing a crown.
He introduced himself as Wilfred of Mitteldorf. I asked about his religion; he said, "I believe in freedom and democracy." I asked about his job; he said, "Exiled King of Mitteldorf--soon to be re-instated thanks to you." And that was it. I couldn't get anything else out of him. After the dialogue, he made no motion to leave the area. I went back to the city and visited several places but got no kind of new information or ending. Nothing happened at the castle. There were no new notices in the taverns, although Choker Bloodaxe mysteriously showed up in the Hanged Man again.
Believe it or not, this seems to be the "winning screen."
To add insult to injury, there was a new dialogue option when talking with NPCs: "Where is Sven?" They all said the same thing: "He has left the city." That's it. That's the closure you get on the main quest. Neither the cluebook nor a walkthrough I found online nor an "ending" video I watched suggested that I'd missed anything.
How does everyone know this and yet not know where he went?
The clue book offers something of a happy ending for "Lord Sven," who provides a number of annotations. The suggestion is that he became head of one of the other guilds but for some reason lacked the wherewithal to complete the quest. He says in the book that he lives "in quarters at the Palace, with liveried servants attending to my every whim," which isn't an honor that I ever received. Of course, Sven may have had a fall after I freed King Wilfred--maybe that's why he left the city.
If I'd had this game as a kid, I probably would have insisted on joining the other guilds and doing their quests. As I have thousands of games waiting for me, I contented myself with simply reading about them. The final quest for the Mercenaries' Guild has you explore a large dungeon area to find and kill a dragon named Nidhug. The Brotherhood of Loki has you infiltrate the theater during a showing of Macbeth to steal the cauldron. You slay a cyclops as part of the Temple of Odin questline and a Lamia of Jotunheim (the creature that killed me in the dungeons) for the Temple of Set. Interspersed with these are a lot of fetch quests like the ones I experienced, but each with a slightly different spin.
Part of me wants the game to rate high on the GIMLET, but it managed to ruin almost every good element that it introduced. It offered continuous movement and made it agonizingly slow. It introduced a crime and punishment system but made it completely arbitrary. It gives you some stealth options but without solid stealth mechanics. It really locks down the economy, but only so you can live hand-to-mouth for the entire game. There's nothing cool to buy. It offers a lot to explore and yet no good reason to explore it, since there's no character development or interesting combat tactics. Thus, I think we're going to see a low rating with a couple of stand out categories.
  • 6 points for the game world. The setting is boilerplate high fantasy but well described. The use of the Mitteldorf Post to convey key bits of information about the world is a lot of fun, and I'm glad the game found ways to reference it multiple times. Aspects of the game make it seem like it takes place in a real, dynamic city, with numerous factions and institutes jockeying for power--but only up to a point. Like The Secrets of Bharas, Mitteldorf is often more interesting to read about than to experience. I also don't like how the city doesn't seem to change much during the game.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. You have a bare-bones creation process, and the only development you get during the game is a barely-perceptible increase in combat skills (via training), the acquisition of magic, and a few thief skills. I can't think of any reason that the developers couldn't have put a more standard experience and leveling system in here. As it is, combat is a complete waste of time except for the occasional loot that you get. I gave it an extra point for the ability to contract lycanthropy and vampirism, which I didn't explore.
  • 5 points for NPC interaction. This is a frustrating category. On the one hand, we have one of the earliest examples in which dynamic NPCs go about their business independent of the player and thus make the city feel more lived-in. They keep schedules and act according to type. On the other hand, there's so little of interest to do with them. They all have the same dialogue options, and there's rarely any reason to ask them any questions other than where something is. A keyword-based system with far more dialogue, expanding on the lore of the setting, would have been much better. That NPCs in key buildings never have anything unique to say about those buildings is repeatedly depressing. Without more interesting dialogue, all of the other things you can do with NPCs--stealing, insulting, and so forth--becomes largely pointless.
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. The monsters are standard fantasy monsters, and other than the goblins' incessant pickpocketing, none of them do anything very interesting, not even the ones that feel like they should be a lot harder to beat.
  • 2 points for magic and combat. Everything is messed up about combat. It's too easy, for one thing. Weapons don't seem to do anything more than fists. Training doesn't seem to significantly improve your approach. You can't cast spells in combat despite having a couple of "combat spells." You can't throw things in combat; only before combat. The magic spells aren't even really all that useful, except "Portal" and "Warp."
Tossing an axe at a goblin.
  • 2 points for equipment. It gets this largely for the "survival" equipment that it offers--food, drink, the occasional potion. For standard RPG equipment, it couldn't be worse. Throughout the entire game, the only melee weapons I found were a light sword, an axe, and an ornate axe. There's no armor. There are exactly three magic items that you can find to improve your abilities, and like combat training, I didn't notice that they made much of a difference.
  • 5 points for the economy. As I've discussed repeatedly, it's tight. I ended the game broke, which is probably a "first" among all the CRPGs I played. Part of me likes that. I also like that there are several different ways to make money. But when you find a treasure haul in this game, the only reason to be excited is that you can sleep and eat for another couple of days and thus have to do fewer fetch quests for bartenders. That doesn't feel rewarding at all.
Every time you think you're doing well, you find out you have 15 diseases to cure.
  • 7 points for quests. This is perhaps the best part of the game. I want to rate it higher, but very high ratings in this category requires choices and alternate endings. Still, what it lacks in options, it makes up in variety. This is how you do quest chains properly: some easy, some hard; some long, some short; some involving combat, some involving stealth; make the player use his brain, following clues and piecing together connections. No game has done this very well so far, and Legends of Valour comes out of nowhere with it. This category is Legends' most important contribution to the genre.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are good for the era, not very engaging now. There's hardly any sound at all (and no music for you lovers of game music). The interface was consistently annoying throughout, with not enough keyboard backups. Why would you design a movement pad with 9 buttons and not simply map them to their associated positions on the numberpad? Instead, you can move and turn with the numberpad, but not strafe or turn around. If an enemy attacks you while you're moving and thus holding down a key, the game immediately takes you out of combat before you can react. Turning takes too long. The automap doesn't persist after you leave an area. Things like that add up. I originally gave it 2 points but I tossed in an extra one for the window thing; that was pretty cool. We don't see anything like that today.
  • 7 points for gameplay. We end on a positive. Legends is strongly nonlinear, and the selection of guilds (plus the territory size as a whole) makes it rewarding to play a second time, and it lasts a reasonable amount of time for its content. If only it were a bit more challenging.
That gives us a final score of 42, definitely in "recommended" territory, but perhaps not all the way to the end of the game, which is disappointing. Despite its flaws, it occupies such a clear place in the history of CRPGs--marks such a clear turning point in the use of game elements like guilds, quests, and NPCs--that I feel compelled to add it to the "Must Play" list for those who want to experience the full history of the genre.
The game did some interesting things graphically, but saying, "Move over, Ultima Underworld," was overdoing it a bit.
Its legacy is most notable in The Elder Scrolls, and even into Skyrim, we can see similarities in the approach to NPCs, guilds, and guild quests. (The Elder Scrolls, it must be noted, also adopted many of the same flaws, such as NPCs who don't have much to say, and guild promotions that seem overly generous.)  But equally important to how it influences the future is how it uses the past. By drawing on the themes of Alternate Reality, which itself goes back to Moria and Oubliette, Legends creates a direct link between the PLATO titles and modern titles, even future titles.
It's amazing how little contemporary reviewers seemed to understand about any of this. They all rushed to compare Legends to Ultima Underworld despite the games having virtually nothing in common except continuous movement. I know that was a novel experience, but it's still disheartening to see experienced reviewers so obsessed with graphics that they completely overlook the game's innovations. I waited for any review to point out how promising the questing system was, or the use of NPCs, or the system of crime and punishment, but instead all they do is complain about how often you have to feed yourself, or how you can only save in hostels and taverns, as if taking three minutes to walk to one is so onerous that it completely eclipses gameplay. Chuck Miller's May 1993 review in Computer Gaming World complains about all the things you might expect but finds reasons to praise the interface, of all things, and the manual, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Dragon gave it only 2 stars--and the reviewers hardly played it at all--which is the lowest rating that I've seen from that magazine for anything that wasn't an eroge.
British magazines, on the other hand, tended to be a bit too complimentary.  Where I'm frustrated by American reviewers' inability to see the innovations, the Brits didn't seem to have seen the flaws. The One Amiga magazine gave it 92% and gushed over the graphics and world-building without once bothering to mention the lack of character development or interesting combat. (As I've pointed out, though, in this era neither British developers nor British reviewers seemed to understand the fundamental elements of RPGs. They were mostly happy if they looked pretty.) Amiga Format gave it 91% and at least mentioned the windows. The Germans were much less enamored and gave the game ratings from 49% (Power Play) to 87% (PC Joker), with the average in the 60s.
The person most responsible for Legends seems to be Kevin Bulmer. It was his first RPG, although his previous Corporation (1990, which some sites list as an RPG but I rejected for lack of character development) has a passably similar interface and also features continuous 3D movement. He seems to have gotten into the gaming field in 1985, when he was already 37, converting Gauntlet for a U.K. release by U.S. Gold. We will see his work again on Druid: Daemons of the Mind (1995), which seems to switch to an axonometric interface. Synthetic Dimensions still existed at least up to 2009 but doesn't seem to have published anything since Ed Hunter (1999). A British subtitle for Legends--Vol. 1 - The Dawning--suggests that sequels were intended but, alas, never produced. Mr. Bulmer died of prostate cancer in 2011.
In addition to Bethesda's Todd Howard, who has noted the influence of Legends of Valour several times, the game seems to have inspired at least one other American millionaire. Cryptocurrency tycoon Charles Hoskinson reportedly purchased the rights to the game last year, with eyes towards making a remake. In a video he published last May, Hoskinson shows honest love for the game, which he played as a youth, though he seems aware of its flaws as well (he comments on the lame ending around 7:30). I'm normally not excited about remakes, but I can get behind this one if he can improve the combat and character development systems. It has a few elements that only it does, but their value was lost in is flaws. Maybe Hoskinson's team can correct that.


  1. Surprisingly often, innovative games also happen to be very good, e.g. Baldur's Gate didn't just get the engine right, but also the story, and the voice acting, and characters. Similarly, Ultima Underworld was so revolutionary because it combined the technical innovations with a good engine and game world.
    But here we have the rare innovative and influential game that isn't entirely good.

    That somewhat underwhelming winning screen and the ability to play on with relatively minor changes to the game world is also a bit "Elder Scrolls".

    1. I think I said something like that when I wrote about UU. I agree. Sometimes a game with a good innovation stands entirely on that innovation, which is fine. But UU and BG (and many others) are good games even without their innovations.

    2. The lesson being that a game doesn't have to become so enamored of what it does "new" that it fails to do other things at least well.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I recall reading, and seeing the obvious joy from Dr Ray (bioware founder) when posting an example script for arrows. The combination of the new engine, with leadership that was driving it solely to produce a good game, made for a magical release with BG.

      The fact that a founder of BioWare was hanging out on a Usenet group probably says something.

  2. I can´t agree with your scoring. Mega Traveller and Magic Candle are close in score but I see them as much much better. Of course it´s only my opinion.

    1. You have an odd definition of "close." MegaTraveller rated 8 points lower and The Magic Candle rated 10 points higher.

  3. A very interesting game to read about, I don't think I'd have had the patience to play it though! I don't fault you using the guide book a bit at the end, it does seem like it was a little unfinished in parts!

    I wonder if it will affect your thoughts on TES: Arena when you get to that, my only point of comparison in 1994 had been Ultima Underworld 1&2 but as you point out for this game, it has a slightly different lineage.

  4. IIRC, comparisons with Ultima Underworld were made by the developers themselves, who described their game as a bigger better UUW.

    1. Wikipedia confirms: this game was marketed as an UUW-killer, so it is entirely fair for reviewers to look into that comparison. It was also marketed, for some reason, as being eight times bigger than EOB2.

      Also: Mobygames notes that several UK magazine editors got their faces digitized for this game, and suggests that might have increased ratings in the UK. Lol!

    2. I get that, and it's a reasonable point, but I would expect serious game reviewers to look past the game's own promotional language and see the value in things that the genre had never seen before.

    3. I mean Dungeon Siege was marketed as a Diablo killer but they barely have anything in common, so what a game is marketed as doesn't necessarily say anything meaningful about its content.

    4. JarlFrank, Dungeon Siege plays much like Diablo except for viewpoint. Point and click, loot collection, single path...without being much aware of the advertising for Dungeon Siege, the parallels were obvious to me at the time. It’s not as close a clone as Torchlight or Grim Dawn, but it is definitely enough like Diablo that marketing to Diablo players was a simple idea.

  5. Radiant: "It was also marketed, for some reason, as being eight times bigger than EOB2."

    Presumably they just counted the squares on the map of both games, and ignored the detail that EOB2's map is tightly packed with handmade content while LoV's is virtually empty.

    Finnish Pelit magazine (1/93) bashed LoV with a gang of three different reviewers, who gave it scores of 55, 58 and 65. They slammed it for mostly the same things our host pointed out - too slow, too shallow, clunky interface, having to constantly grind for gold just to cover your expenses - as well as complaining that other than the guild quests, there was simply nothing to actually do in the city. The final verdict was harsh: "LoV barely even counts as a game - it's a graphics engine with some extra subroutines".

    1. Are those scores out of 100? If they say it's barely a game, then give it an average score of 59/100, I dread to think what lower score signify!

    2. They are indeed. Nowadays, a bottom-of-the-barrel game would get a minimum score of like 78. I purposely designed my GIMLET to do the opposite.

    3. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. There's always been a sense in some game magazines that any score below 75% means the game is bad.

      I very much appreciate the GIMLET for breaking that trend!

  6. So you never catch up to Sven at all? Man, what a rip-off. Combined with the apparent lack of a final boss or any kind of ending and 'anticlimactic' doesn't even begin to describe this game.

    1. Is THIS why in adventure game Monkey Island, you can ask several people about a cousin named Sven?

    2. Considering Monkey Island came out 2 years prior, it could easily be the other way around

  7. There is, as far as I am aware, no 'legitimate' way of finding Wilf. I loved this game as a kid, flawed as it was. I remember being so incredibly excited when summoning the demon, only to be told that I had to find Wilf yet given no hint as to where he might be. I wandered around Mitteldorf and its underground for weeks after, thinking I'd missed a vital clue. Eventually I phoned the US Gold tip line for the game, where an automated voice said finding Wilf was a competition. I can't remember if they mentioned any kind of prize or not. I gave up soon after, but it really annoyed me that I'd gotten so close but not finished it.

    I replayed it again a couple of years ago after discovering I could get DOSBox on my Android phone, and I used the cluebook (no idea when that came out) just like the addict did to find Wilf. Now imagine how crushingly disappointing that scene would be if you'd been left wondering about it for 23 years! Eventually I told him he walked like a feeble dwarf, or something, and committed regicide. Still, nothing changed.

    Now I think the 'competition' mentioned on the tip line was just the publisher trying to gloss over the fact the game was blatantly unfinished. From what I understand Charles Hoskinson is planning a 'remaster' and a 'remake', with the remaster giving the game a proper ending and the remake putting it into a modern engine. I hope he eventually manages it, but it's very strange to read about because it's so surreal for me. I hope he goes through it. I always wondered what it would be like to step out of the town gate.

    The only thing I remember about vampirism is that drinking oxblood restores your food meter.

    1. Yeah, that would be pretty disappointing. If they intended to make it a "competition," you think they'd mention something about it in the manual.

    2. Outside the gates you probably find Westdorf or Ostdorf

  8. Did you ever find out what was going on with the undercity and the red monster?

    1. I think it was the "Lamia of Jotunheim" used in the Temple of Set quests.

  9. I'm not surprised that you never catch up to Sven, but it's kind of shocking that the game has no ending. Even the lowest of shovelware will almost always say "You won!" and kick you back to DOS. It's especially baffling that such an advanced game would turn out to be so unfinished in the final stretch.

    1. Eh, this isn't even the first game with no ending Chet's done here, and indeed it's a trait that has carried through to a lot of these more open world style CRPGs. (See Darklands for another 1992 example that also has no real ending sequence.)

    2. A Winner Is You!

  10. So again I was curious about what the French magazine would say.

    Generation 4 [article here :] does mention the huge freedom of the game, even stating that there is "no vilain to kill at the end" It praises the game technically, but states that combats are "ugly" and talking to players is hard to manage. Also, it warns that the player will need a lot of money ^^.

    It also gives it a "Gen d'Or", which is nice to have.

    Joystick (here page 180) gives it three pages (which is big for Joystick) and 91% // "exceptional" rating (for reference, Monkey Island II in the same magazine only gets 81%) but they admit they did not test the commercial version. They have only praise for the game, except its length to finish it, and did not miss the freedom offered to the player. No mention of combat being bad, actually reading the article it looks like the game is "Walking in a medieval-fantastic city" simulator.

    Tilt ( page 132 and 134) gives 18/20 and really it IS Chet's experience, mentionning :
    - Limited space for combat and magic, with only 10 spells
    - A special mention with advice on how to manage finances ^^
    - Very interesting exploration, with a very diverse cast in terms of humanoid races & monsters,
    - Beautiful and well animated
    - "Very good UX"... well maybe not exactly Chet's experience after all

  11. Kinda funny how the KING says "I believe in freedom and democracy."
    Ok, so you're gonna... give up your throne in favor of elections? What?

    1. The game was made in the UK. The UK actually HAS a king (queen, these days) while being a democracy. So do several other countries; it's not as crazy as it sounds.

    2. Elective monarchies were a thing for much of Middle Ages. And then in many hereditary monarchies there was a practice of decision making in consultation with representatives from nobility and other social strata.

    3. Giving the proles the false idea that they're the ones calling the shots and deciding who's in power keeps them from pulling a Louis XVI on you while you live off of their taxes.

    4. You must be extremely ignorant of politics if you think that 21st-century UK, Sweden, Spain, or dozens of other countries work by "giving the proles the false idea".

    5. The US President is not unlike a constitutional monarch with a (renewable) "best by" limit attached.

  12. From your coverage, it did sound like they had a novel idea but weren't quite sure how to fit the usual genre trappings within the original framework they'd constructed. Like deciding to minimize character development (you never leave the city, so it perhaps wouldn't feel right for a character to ascend to near godhood without ever leaving their immediate neighborhood) and emphasizing economy (since you spend the whole game in civilization where it's much more important). As you say, future RPGs that are also as city-centric will have figured it out.

    What's exciting is seeing Might and Magic IV added to your to-do list, which I believe is the closer for 1992? The end is in sight. (Nothing against 1992, but there's a lot of 1993 games I'm eager to see on here.)

    1. There are some Neurosport titles that I at least have to BRIEF, but otherwise, yes, MM4 closes the year. After that, I have to figure out what to do.

    2. Really looking forward to MM4/5 (which I never got around to playing) and Ultima Underworld 2, Quest for Glory IV, for sure. Looks like quite a lot of other exciting titles in 1993 as well.

    3. I'm excited to see how the Magic Candle 3 thing is going to go down! ;-D

      Apart from that, I'll be sad to see 1992 go. So many genre-defining games, that moreover also fall smack-dab in the middle of the time I got into PC gaming - UU, U7, Amberstar, Wizardry 7, just some of the all time favourites for me.

    4. Calling it now: Quest for Glory IV sweeps all the categories except for 'magic and combat' due to combat being...not good at all. It would usurp Quest for Glory II as my favorite QFG game if it wasn't for the atrocious combat.

      I'm excited about The Magic Candle 3 as well. I've not heard good things about it, but I've not heard much bad other than "eh, it's okay".

  13. This seems like the sort of game where the best thing to do is play it for an afternoon, maybe do some of the guild questlines, but not go all the way to beat it. It sounds like the sort of game where after a few hours you've experienced most of what it offers, and ends up not having too much going for it after that.

  14. So what's up with the lycanthropy and vampirism mechanics then?

  15. "You wouldn't think punching a ghost would work."
    One more thing this game passed on to the TES. There you can always pummel any enemy with the characters's fist, even if that enemy requires a weapon made from something better than iron or steel to kill.

  16. Hey cool, you're going to play Sword of Zedek. Another ancient quasi-RPG. I kind of enjoyed the 30 minutes it took to beat, but it's not a great game by any stretch.

  17. I am enjoying your blog; thank you !

  18. Apparently games character pictures are photos of british gaming magazine personnel. Good way to ensure high ratings

  19. What makes me sad about games like this is that these engines were built with so much work and crunch for one game and then thrown out - the studio's next game is an isometric rpg so I assume the engine wasn't used after LoV.

    While the SSI model took things too far with pretty much all the games on the same engine, it really feels wasteful to work so much on an engine and then throw it out after one try.

    If they had been able to do a LoV1.5, bake the engine and story a little more, this could have been something good, definitely better than the bare framework we got in LoV1.

    1. I agree 100%. Developers of the day did a poor job analyzing what parts of a game worked and what parts didn't, then retaining the ones that did.

    2. Even successful games from the period are often followed by new titles that fail to use the good parts of the previous engine or mechanics.

  20. I remember it being extremely common in this time period for magazine reviewers to be overly fixated on graphics to the exclusion of nearly everything else; in hindsight I feel like this probably has a lot to do with the fact that around 1991 was when VGA graphics became pretty standard for home PCs, and the visual difference between even the best-looking EGA games and nearly any VGA game is stark.

  21. Congratulations on the victory(?), Addict. This game mystified me as a very young lad, and having now seen the game in the hands of somebody it was clearly aimed at, I can feel a lot better about not getting into it.

  22. I am surprised by your score, it's better than I expected.

    And, somehow, I like the games' constantly messing with your narcissistic expectations. It seems to be a game that wants you to be just a humble guy fighting for survival in some fantasy city (as head of four guild ;). I do appreciate that, although I surely would have liked SOME ending.

    But the fact that Sven is a complete wild goose chase is great :)

  23. It's really quite impressive how many interesting aspects and/or innovations can be found in LoV even if it does not come together to form a great game. Gender has no effect on your statistics, but will affect how you are treated by people you meet in Mitteldorf. Clothing has an effect on Appeal which also influences how people react to you. Vampires don't need food or drink except ox blood, have a higher Appeal on women etc.
    Apparently (as per two reviews linked below) you could even scan in your own picture, send it to U.S. Gold and then somehow use it for character creation.

  24. To complement and expand on Chet's brief mention of the German magazine reviews (as well as Narwhal's French press review above), it seems they basically fell into two camps: those (the majority) who liked it for its graphics and partly certain original ideas despite often seeing some of its shortcomings; and those who centered on elements of gameplay and interface they considered lacking as well as comparing it unfavorably to UU (and UU II) in several aspects. All can be found here:

    Amiga Joker 1/93 (80%) complained about slow speed and thought story and quests weren't huge innovations, but liked most of the rest and the graphics very much. Didn't rate sound because it "is being reworked".

    ASM 12/92 (11/12) praised not only graphics and interface, but also starting out without some world-saving quest, elements beyond the "standard" RPG like having to work jobs or trade commodities for a living, being able to look through windows, this being punishable same as other behaviours and original aspects like lycanthrophy.

    PC Games 12/92 (75%) critized the restricted saving possibilities (e.g. when having to interrupt gameplay in the middle of a dungeon), limitations of the automap, the NPC conversation options and the combat which they saw as "brainless brawling" not offering the same tactical options as UU. The review positively mentions details like a justice system or the food options in inns and also considers the graphics quite good, even though not on par with UU (e.g. no looking upwards or downwards). It also liked the new option to look through windows, found the sound effects too sparse, but interestingly mentions game music / a soundtrack.

    PC Joker 6/92 (87%) praised graphics, sound and interface. It mentions there was an option to send your own scanned picture to U.S. Gold to be used for character creation and generally liked the latter and its effects including clothing as well as the conversation interface, the automap and the humour, e.g. the bard "Elvis of Gracelands" looking for his band (also mentioned in the cluebook).

    Play Time 12/92 (81%) found the speed somewhat lacking on slower PCs, but otherwise appeared to be fine with most of the game. It also mentions the windows and the possibility to send in your own picture.

    The reviewer for PC Player 3/93 (49%) thought the graphical implementation was quite inferior to UU and UUII in its lack of detail and the sound also underwhelming. He further complained about mouse problems, limited inventory space, conversation options and passive NPCs. Combat and magic are also criticized as limited and boring and he wasn't happy about the automap not showing details and disappearing when leaving dungeons. The only positive aspects in his view being the game materials including the humorous manual and the fact the game was published fully in German.

    Both reviewers of Power Play 1/93 (49%) were not convinced. One saw a failed attempt to copy UU, explicitly slamming the limited automap and AI of passing NPCs who do not react to you slaughtering their co-citizens or monsters who just continue to go their ways if you stop attacking them. The other found the gameplay mechanics (make money, kill monsters, fetch quests) lacking in spite of nice graphics and story. He also thought UU offered more atmosphere and variability.


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