Saturday, August 13, 2011

Times of Lore: A Quick Rating

My second, ill-fated quest begins.
I mustered all the enthusiasm I could for Times of Lore, but the game finally did me in, after about 12 deaths trying to reach my next objective. This game kicked my ass so badly that in more than four hours of playing, I only have one screenshot to show you. I'm not so stubborn as to keep playing such an unrewarding game just because I don't want it to beat me (although I admit it is a bit galling). Part of the problem, I think, is the controls I'm using. The first question the game asks is "Do you have a joystick?" Like Wizard Warz, another difficult-to-maneuver game with a tiny window, this game feels like it simply wasn't meant to be played with a PC keyboard. This is going to shock you, but Andrew Schultz did a walkthrough for this game. It promises some semi-intriguing stuff to come, but to be honest, the walkthrough is a bit more rushed and disorganized than Schultz's normal work. It's also filled with phrases like "annoying" and "patience" and "obnoxious," which makes me feel better about having bailed on it. I also read Scorpia's review in the January 1989 Computer Gaming World [large PDF]. She confirms that there is no leveling in the game, nor any way to purchase weapons (what is all this gold for?) and no armor at all. Give all this, plus the inventory and combat systems, I've basically wasted all this time playing something that isn't even a CRPG by my definitions. Ultimately, Scorpia liked it better than I did, calling it "a good introductory computer role-playing game." Here's my quick GIMLET: The game world is basic high-fantasy stuff with a quasi-interesting quest setup (3), but character creation is a process of simply choosing one of three classes, and there's no development at all (0). NPC interaction is probably the most interesting part of the game, certainly much more than we get in a typical action CRPG (4). The encounters with various creatures are tedious and unimaginative, although different creatures do attack in different ways (2), and combat (there is no magic) is an ENTER-key-mashing chore (1). You can find a few potions and scrolls--only one of each at a time--and that's the extent of the equipment (1). You do find gold, and food and lodging purchases give the game a basic economy, but not enough to rank it higher than (1). There is a reasonably interesting main quest but no side quests and, I gather from the reviews, no role-playing opportunities (2). Graphics are not torturous, but the sound is (except for the introductory music), the controls simply suck, and (as many of you have pointed out) the game window is too small (2). Finally, the gameplay is theoretically non-linear--you could head out in any direction from the first town--although I think you have to do the quests in a specific order. Ultimately, I just found it too hard, which was partly a function of the keyboard issue (2). Final Score: 18. Almost the exact same score as the aforementioned Wizard Warz, to which this game felt very similar. All right. Time to rouse myself back to Sentinel Worlds. Whether I like that game or not, I think I'll at least be able to get more posting material out of it. [Later edit: if you really want to know more about Times of Lore, reader Dave Eaton has a good review and walkthrough on his site here.]


  1. Obviously, if the game is that terrible, you should just move forward (or backward, in this case). Seriously, if you can't get back into Sentinel Worlds, perhaps you should just move on from that as well. It wouldn't be the first game that you gave a few hours to and abandoned. No sense burning yourself out on a game you're not 100% interested in.

    None of us would think any less of you if you just decided to push forward.

  2. Sometimes you win some and you lose some. I can not tell you that amount of times MM2 kicked my ass but after a year and a half I beat it. I feel like such a loser. LOL

  3. I remember seeing a friend play this on NES. And it was super boring to watch. Never played it on pc. Glad you are moving on, I never really considered this an RPG.

    Can't wait for you to get to Ultima V and then Wasteland.

  4. I'm still working through the backlogs, so by the time I read about this game it's going to be August of next year.

    Just wanted to point out, while I was looking for ADOM on your list of CRPGs I ended up coming across Defcon 5 in 1995. I just want to point out that Defcon 5 is not a CRPG, doesn't contain RPG elements, few's more like a shooter/strategy game than anything, and if you know what you're doing you can beat the game in under an hour.

    I can save you the time and just do a playthrough of it on youtube. It's an interesting game, and if it was expanded with today's technology it would be incredibly atmospheric and bone-chilling with a wide variety of tactics involved. Otherwise, I don't know how it got on your list at all.

  5. I support the idea that you should move on past Sentinel Worlds if you don't find it very compelling. Your own rule #5 says "at least six hours". Sounds fair to me.

    This is YOUR blog. It's supposed to be fun for you, as well as fun for us to read (and it has been so far). You have so many good games ahead, don't be stubborn about finishing too many that just are average. You write quite well and convey the impression of each game in a clear way. Some of the ones you didn't finish I kept a list of, in case I have time to try them out myself.

  6. I can't wait for you to reach Din's Curse and Depths of Peril sometime in the 2020s and revise your opinion on action RPGs. Wait, System Shock was an ARPG right? It might work. Great plot at least, from what I understand.

  7. Here is why I, personally, would like you to give those two SF RPG's a pass and go on to the next game: You haven't sounded, for quite some time now, like you are enjoying yourself at all. When you talk about books or so you are enthusiastic, you exposit, you gush- we can tell you are enjoying yourself and having fun reading and blogging about your reading. The games you've been playing lately- you're having to force yourself to play them and it seems like you are only posting because you feel you have to post for us, not because you want to.

    That scares me for the future of the blog.

    Go ahead and skip the games that aren't games, please, that are work, and go to the games that will bring back your will to post. I'd love to keep reading your blog for a long long time.

    Thank you.

  8. I agree you should stick with what you like because it does show in your writing. ditto on the skip the games that are not games and stay with what you like.

  9. I actually think that both Star Command and Sentinel worlds look interesting, and I'd like to hear more about them, but ultimately I agree with William. If you continuously have to force yourself to play them, you should probably just skip them altogether.

    It's your blog after all, and you should be able to do as you please. :)

  10. Oh, as a by-the-by, I think I have my next game for :) On the NES, Times of Lore is way different- the game screen takes up the whole screen! You press B and the icons to manipulate the world come up. Otherwise it's pure gaming (gag! :) ) goodness. Just gotta finish Pool of Radiance for my loyal readers... of which, loyal reader (I'm speaking to YOU reading this right now!) why not join me? :)

  11. Just chiming in to say I also think you should simply skip Sentinel Worlds and Star Command. Ultima V and Wasteland are coming up and I'm hoping that between the two games your spirit will be revitalized. It really has seemed that this blog has become something of an obligation, rather than a pleasure for you.

  12. I have to admit, this game was pretty annoying. I did a writeup of it a while ago (I notice someone linked to the map I hosted):

    One thing I found out about the game after re-playing it on my old Apple II was that the DOSBox version is MUCH more difficult.

    Also, you are guaranteed to hate the game until you get "The Axe", which is a missile weapon that returns to you when you throw it, making combat bearable.

    It further doesn't help that you chose the Valkyrie. Without "The Dagger", she takes extra hits to kill enemies, making the already arduous combat even more painful.

    Once you get The Axe, the game basically just becomes boring. You essentially just run around the map from place to place, picking up different inventory items until you manage to win.

    Back in the day, I liked playing it, but it definitely didn't age well.


  13. Thats a bit harsh Dave, LOL. I'll be honest I've never heard of this game. I know nothing about it and after hearing all the responses I kinda glad I was spared the pain and agony.

  14. I thought something was weird when FF was acting up, so I did a force quit and reloaded only to discover that my google account was wiped. Any suggestions as to what I should do?

    I could create a new account with a new password and patch everything back to the new email account but will I lose access to my Blog if I do that?

    sorry for the nongamming questions but I'm at a loss here.

    Alex Rosencrux

  15. I HAVE WON! OK that was a bit childish, I'll admit, but I was able to regain control of my account again.


  16. Actually you can buy an Axe, but it's just an upgrade to your knife.

  17. OK after reading these posts I have to ask this question, Does this game truly suck that bad?

  18. Playing back in 1988, no, it wasn't all that awful. It was comparable to an Atari game, though, rather than an RPG, since the majority of the game was just a matter of fighting off the same enemies over and over again.

    As noted by The Addict, there's no real stats or leveling. The only "equipment" items you'll ever get are:

    - Dagger
    - Axe
    - Boots

    The only other items are limited-use items.

    At the time, the interface was different. Every other game was based on very grid-based maps, whereas this had a more realistic feel to it (and the graphics were pretty good comparatively). I recall reading somewhere (Wikipedia, maybe?) that the large game map, absence of sub-maps that had to load, and non-grid like system were pretty innovative.

    But now, in replaying it, it's only virtue for me lay in the fact that I recall playing it as a kid and liking it. Or... really I should say that I WANTED to like it. I can remember completing all the quests and wanting some sort of vindication that never came. I had beaten the game, I had all the items, tons of money... but it wasn't all that different from when I started.

    Upon re-playing it years later, I have to admit it was tedious to play. I died frequently, and had to travel long distances (fraught with meaningless combat), just so I could... read another paragraph of the storyline?

    Speaking of which, the storyline was dumb. Reading the intro screen, you'd think maybe there was some interesting plot buried in there, and some back-story that's perhaps rich in development. But no. It's got a vague story, but the details are largely unconnected.

    Is it a BAD game? I dunno. It's a boring game. And that's not good. And it's got some bugs in it that can prevent you from winning-- also bad. I certainly wouldn't recommend playing it, unless it's just for the sake of curiosity.


    1. I remember liking it a lot as a youngster, playing it on my Amstrad CPC. The large game world, and my imagination, probably helped a lot. But trying it again since I found it really boring and clunky, a very limited storyline, very arcadey, and fairly easy. It's like the developers developed 70% of a game engine, then were forced to create a saleable product in a couple of weeks from it.

      I don't think it's that bad a game from an arcade walk-em-up. And the boots and axe made things less tedious. But there's a massive lack of enemies, character development, story, etc.

      Very nicely presented product.

  19. See that just bad all around. Vague story, bugs that prevent you from winning, unconnected details. I'll pass thank you.

  20. Another vote to go ahead and skip to the next game. I'd also suggest trying to split up Star Command and Sentinel Worlds so the two don't end up overlapping. Put at least one fantasy game under your belt between them.

  21. All right, I appreciate everyone's input. I'll scratch SW and SC for now and consider revisiting them at the end of 1988. Thanks!

    Dave, I really appreciate your review of the game, especially the note about the story. I'm going to edit my posting to link to your review/walkthrough.

  22. If you are also returning to Bard's Tale 3, you may want to put it between Sentinel Worlds and Star Command.

  23. My concern is that you are loading all the games that you weren't feeling till the end of this years list, and that may give you a bit of a burned out feeling when you push through them. I know you have a need for rules instead of freeform but, why not just put these guys on a side list and give em a try when you feel like it instead of all at once later. Do something like, when you are ready for a next game take a look at the next one on the list and your side list, then make a choice as to which one you want to get into.

    Or you could also find a pallet cleanser that you use if you need it, something you do to regain your appetite. I personally like your musings on games or whatever random thing you feel inspired to discuss, which can liven this place up when your not feeling a game. You have said that at times you think its just your mood that prevents you from really getting into a game, so if that's the case stop take a breather and lets discuss something that lightens the mood shall we?

  24. UbAh, I share your concern. You make some good suggestions. We'll see what happens at the end of 1988.

  25. I remember getting this game like yesterday. I got this game for C64 in friday and I played it through during that same weekend and I was very disappointed how easy it was, less than 10 hours.

  26. A lot of people report it as easy. I don't know why I found it so hard. Lack of a joystick?

  27. Suggestion: Buy a joystick. Just a cheap one, like a $20 one at Bestbuy or whatever. This has hit several games you've played so far (ref: Autoduel, this one, possibly one other that I can't think of.)

    If you want, set up a Kickstarter for it: Add reward levels: Mentioned on blog, Friend of Blog, and so on. If you donate more then the cost of the joystick you can pick one game that was harmed by the joystick for you to put another 6 hours into.
    Spend any money beyond the cost of your joystick on your wife.

    This would obviously have to wait until you had more time, but I can think of worse things I've seen on Kickstarter.

  28. Addict, your link to the CGW issue is broken. For the benefit of people coming to this page, the new website for back issues of CGW is:

    as of June 22, 2012. And the Jan 1989 issue is here:

  29. I think this game is really a gem...on the C64. All other versions however sucked badly. Seriously, you should've played it back then. I even can enjoy it today. It has some very unique things to it, and the game world was really huge back then. Of course there were better games, but the experience was quite the opposite of generic. And I don#t remember it being so difficult so perhaps they just made bad ports to other systems. Like the Atari ST version was awfully slow and the amiga version had the actual gameplay screen reduced to 1/2 of the c64 version.

  30. I agree with this anon. What he says about other versions is true, I checked a few years and was surprised to see other versions having better graphics but annoying slowdown and reduced screensize.

    Also had it on my c64, and it is one c64 game I kept in good memory. The intro was one of the best, in days were often enough a good intro was the only thing which could set the mood for a game. But it wasn't only the intro, never before (until Ultima 6) have I seen a gameworld this graphically detailed and huge the same time. Story was ok, nothing special really, but at least you could talk to people about different things, although the standard peasant or guard of course hadn't much to say either. I did like the quest however, it sent you to different locations with a variety of tasks. I remember the dungeons and fighting to be a bit simplistic and gauntlet-like, which was just fine for an impatient kid like me back then, although I did experience tactitcal combat in more classical rpg already I did enjoy those only when I grew up a bit more, Ultima IV being the one exception to that.

    Anyway...Chet, I don't think you should revisit this one, it's too dependent on its arcade joystick fighting which means it would always be a chore for you I guess.

    1. Yeah, this review sadly doesn't capture what a technical achievement the game was at the time on the C64. The intro was fabulous, including some great graphical stills and terrific Martian Galway music. And to get such a huge, detailed, single-scale world in a single load on the C64 was amazing, when one considers how impressive Faery Tale Adventure on the Amiga had been two years prior.

      The gameplay is too hard and I never advanced far. But for presentation, ToL is one of those late-C64 titles (not unlike Project Firestart) which really pushed the envelope as far as what that little machine could do.

  31. I have a lot of nostalgia around Times of Lore. It doesn’t really qualify as a CRPG but, at the time of release, it was sort of carried along (in my mind, at least) by the Origin slipstream. The Denis Loubet art, the immaculate Origin packaging, the more-detailed-than-necessary manual, all added to the mystique. I originally got the game for my 14th birthday but didn’t play it much and hardly got anywhere. My favorite part, at the time, was the opening, with the beautiful pixel art slides laying out the story, and the excellent Martin Galway music. Recently I started it up again on a C64 emulator, on a whim, and this time did a complete playthrough. It felt good to beat it after so many years.

    A lot of what impressed me about the game, at the time, was technical. I was amazed that a C64 could present a single-scale, continuous scrolling world on a scale comparable to The Faery Tale Adventure – all on a single disk load, no less! It was an impressive feat of programming. I loved those pop-off roofs, too. (Even Faery Tale, on the mighty Amiga, had to load for a while every time you entered a house, however tiny.) I perceived the game, at the time, as partly an answer to Faery Tale and partly an answer to the question of “what if Gauntlet were an RPG?”

    Setting aside the fact that it has no character/stat development and so isn’t really an RPG, I still found it pretty enjoyable. The most annoying thing is the constant presence of random monsters, which gets wearying. But again, if you approach it as ‘Gauntlet in an open world,’ this arcadey aspect makes a certain amount of sense. Once you get the magic axe the difficulty is mostly trivial, except in the two dungeons, where it is pretty hard to figure out the button-push puzzles amid the constant wave of monsters (monsters who, being all undead or slimes, don’t drop any healing potions to replenish your supply).

    There are also a few moments where I had to figure out what to do next, and was stuck for a time until it suddenly clicked, or I stumbled on something. Solving the final temple is an example of this – going in without any hints, you need to be observant and able to put two and two together to figure out how to kill the Grey Abbot. I appreciate that the puzzle design hits a fine line between solvable and obscure, trusting the player to make connections.

    Next to the contemporaneous Ultima V, this is a pretty minor title. But I have a soft spot in my heart for it. Glad I finally notched a win.

    1. This is one of those early-in-my-blog entries that embarrasses me a bit. Nowadays, I'd alternate it with another game and give it more time. I should have also recognized its engine as a precursor to Ultima VI and played it to the end for that reason alone. In any event, thanks for coming by and offering your thoughts. I agree that it's a more impressive game than perhaps I made it out to be at the time.


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