Monday, May 30, 2022

BRIEF: Lords of Doom (1990)

Lords of Doom
Attic Entertainment Software (developer); Starbyte (publisher)
Released in 1990 for DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, and Commodore 64
Rejected for: No experience, leveling, or other character development
Games taken in isolation are often less impressive than games taken as a group, and such is the case with the output of Hans‑Jürgen Brändle and Guido Henkel at attic Entertainment Software in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the space of only three years, they went from the all-text Die Drachen von Laas (1991 but written in 1989) to the graphic RPG Spirit of Adventure (1991) to the much more complex graphic RPG Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny (1992). Between those first two titles is this game, the graphic adventure Lords of Doom. It's not an RPG, and in my opinion not a great adventure game, but you can see them developing the type of interface and programming skills that they'll need for Spirit. Overall, the four games show remarkable growth in a short period of time.
The attic team advertises their next game in their current one.
Doom takes place in a hamlet called Vertic, which has suddenly become flooded with zombies, werewolves, mummies, and vampires. Two survivors of the apocalypse, Sharon McGillis and Charlie Jackson, team up to find the hideouts of the monsters' leaders--the four titular Lords of Doom--and slay them. Early in their adventure, they find the address of famed vampire hunter Abraham Van Halen (yes, the game is full of this type of humor). A few minutes after he's wired from the telegraph office, he shows up with his assistant, Susan Leicester, to lend his aid.
Although the four characters form a team, each navigates the city independently; there's no way to move them together or engage in combat together. None of them have attributes or particular strengths or weaknesses, so I guess the only reason to have four of them is that you need all of the inventory slots for the few dozen items that you have to find and use. I also read on a web site that only Charlie can defeat the Lord of the Werewolves and only Abraham can defeat the Lord of the Vampires, but I don't know why in either case.
The core of gameplay is exploring the streets and shops of Vertic, clicking on cabinets and drawers to find items, and assembling weapons and other puzzle-solving tools. As you explore, you're occasionally attacked by a random mummy, vampire, werewolf, or zombie, and you need to use whatever weapons you have to kill them by clicking on the chosen weapon, clicking on the "use" icon, and furiously clicking on the monster. You get no feedback during this combat, so I don't know how often your clicks are necessary nor how many the game registers. Eventually, the monster crumbles to ash. If you kill the "lord" monsters, then none of the lesser ones appear in the game thereafter.
Fighting a random monster . . .

. . . and eventually killing one.
Killing the four lords involves special tools. For instance, the Lord of the Mummies must be killed with a flamethrower, as a book in the library relates. Flamethrowers are not often to be found in sleepy hamlets, so you have to assemble one by looting a nursery for a hose and hose head, then assembling them, then using a pipe ripped from a sink in a barber shop to siphon gas from a car. That sentence perfectly describes why I am an RPG addict and not an adventure game addict. I suppose I would have eventually figured it out just by clicking on things at random. Then again, maybe not--I thought the car was just a part of the background. 
What's the ignition source? What is putting the gas under pressure? How is the operator's hand not burned if the trigger is so close to the outlet?
The Lord of the Vampires has to be killed with a wooden crossbow bolt (which you have to make starting with an axe and some logs). Killing the Lord of the Werewolves involves melting down some silver jewelry to make a silver bullet. I'm not sure how the Lord of the Zombies is killed.
Well, that's convenient. Now, where do I melt it?
In addition to the core puzzles, hunger, thirst, and health are a logistical challenge. You can find food and drink in various locations (restaurant, theater, kitchen of the mansion), and there are even a couple of places, like a broken hydrant, where I think sources of sustenance are endless. You restore health by eating or drinking when your food and water meters are already at maximum.
The authors put their humor on display throughout the proceedings, and one thing I like about the game is that a lot of things give you messages when you click on them, just like Quest for Glory. But my absolute favorite part of the game is that the developers included a "boss key" to quickly hide the game if someone walks into your office behind you, only instead of simulating a return to DOS (like most games with "boss keys" do), the key combo actually quits you out of the game without saving and dumps you to DOS. Talk about a Sophie's choice.
I nearly got caught in the trap of playing this one to the end despite its lack of RPG credentials. It doesn't seem very big, and I suspect it could be won in just a couple of hours. But I got to a point where I just couldn't find anything, particularly the Lords of Doom. Maps online show places that I can't figure out how to get to. I marked a lot of my squares "instant death" because the game warns you not to try going in that direction and then kills the character if you do. Maybe there's a way to "unlock" these squares that I'm not figuring out. 
My map of Lords of Doom.
Anyway, I shouldn't allow myself to get sucked into games after I've rejected them. I leave this one for The Adventurer's Guild and move forward.


  1. "But I got to a point where I just couldn't find anything, particularly the Lords of Doom."

    I see what you did there ;)

  2. An action adventure game can be quite broad brush.

  3. I wonder whether the Boss Key thing was copied from Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry, which would show a spreadsheet/chart program but then display some humorous error message and quit the game entirely.

  4. So this confirms what was discussed in the comments... more than eight years ago - not sure why it was in the "upcoming" games (already) back then:
    Elaranae who commented there has a playthrough of LoD on YouTube.

    If you couldn't find the Lords of Doom, maybe you should have checked out the Bahamas:

    But seriously, it's probably better you did not let yourself get sucked into the game. According to the German C64 wiki, there is a second copy protection element which in the cracked versions leads to problems, making the game unfinishable unless you follow specific emulator / saving instructions to circumvent it.

    1. I've rejected a lot of games over the years, but I didn't hit on the idea of BRIEFing them until fairly recently. So every once in a while a game I previously rejected comes up in a random roll and I decide to BRIEF it.

  5. Is "Sophie's choice" a common phrase? I haven't heard it before.
    I looked it up and I find it highly questionable to compare giving up your progress in a game (or answer to your boss about not wokring) to being forced to choose one of your children to be murdered by a genocidal regime.

    1. It has become shorthand for a decision where both chooses are bad and used for everyday situation even if the origin is quite harsh.

    2. Filed under: "Unexpected objections"

    3. A lot of metaphors have violent or macabre origins. Drink the Kool-Aid, as Tetrapod points out; Pyrrhic victory; met his Waterloo; a hill to die on; Kamikaze attack. They have to be notably violent, I suppose, or they wouldn't be sayings. You never hear something like, "Salvatore Rigoletti once stood in front of a cooler a 7-Eleven for two hours trying to choose between Orange Crush and Sunkist. We now call a trivial dilemma that nonetheless takes a long time to decide a 'Salvatore's choice.'"

      On a related note, I don't think I have much more patience for commenters telling me what language to use on my blog. There's been a little too much of that in the last year. I write what I write; take yourself elsewhere if you have a problem with it. These comment sections should be for discussions about the game.

    4. This review brought to mind your review of Quarterstaff, which also had a 'boss key'. Except in Quarterstaff, you had to choose between letting your boss find you playing games at work or using the boss key and risk getting caught using company time to look for a new job. Now that's a Sophie's choice!

    5. Just wanted to say I love your response, Addict, and will in the future definitely be using (and promoting the use of) "Salvatore's choice"!

    6. The people who make koolaid must be really annoyed by that one. Particularly as I recently learned it was flavouraid used by the cult, not koolaid.

    7. Envy: Not helpful.

      There’s value in informing people when they are using insensitive language but only if you really know wtf you’re talking about.

    8. Well I couldn't find this phrase anywhere (other than the film title), so at least I learned something. More than if I had not asked.
      On the other hand, people may get used to things so much they are not noticing they are being insensitive when they think they know what they are talking about. Anyway, Chet is right this is not the place for extended discussion on that topic. Sorry.

  6. Yeah, at least in the US I find it’s a pretty
    commonly-used phrase, largely by dint of the high profile movie from the early 80s, I’d guess. Since it’s fictional it’s at least less macabre than “drink the Kool-Aid” which still has way more currency than it should.

    1. Considering the terrible effects of cults in society, I'd say the problem is mostly that the gravity of the Kool-aid reference has worn off, rather than that it's being alluded to at all.

  7. Hey everyone. At Chet's urging I'm going to try to keep up with new posts while also catching up on older posts. Now that I'm done my PhD and have a job with set hours, I'm finding I have a lot more energy for reading, and that includes Chet's blog. I'm glad I see some of the old names still around.

    In other news, these BRIEF posts seem cool, I'm looking forward to finding the first one as I catch up.

    1. This comment got buried under about 500 that I had to catch up on, so I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I'm glad you're actively commenting again, and congratulations on the PhD. "Dr. Canageek" has a certain flair.

    2. No worries, and thank you very much

  8. Oh yeah I remember this game from the early Amiga era which I remember fondly. Horror and adult-themed games were always high on the list of getting copied at my local warez dealer, no matter the actual gameplay value of the game. It was more the atmosphere of the game that mattered and that ultimately made many of these titles so nostalgic.


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