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1987
Tactical Combat
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Firebird BleepLoad

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91
Andy Smith
Chris Bourne

Make some strange friends with Firebird.

Reapers, assassins, fools; lend me your ears - for the darkness descends on this fair Western isle of ours. The Northlanders, once mere men like you and I, have been touched by the malice of the Dark Sceptre and have become the Lords Of The Shadows; gripped by evil.

That, then, is the scene set for this long-awaited Mike Singleton game. The player takes charge of a band of warriors of varying ability and tries to use their differing characteristics in an attempt to befriend and recruit allies from among the other six tribes on the island. The objective is to recover and destroy the Dark Sceptre before it can do more harm.

You view the game through an on-screen window that displays either a representation of the characters on their travels or a menu displaying a number of possible choices that are available to whichever character you happen to be controlling. Alternating between characters simply involves moving either your joystick (or pressing a key) left or right. You then issue up to three separate orders to the character, when you have finished, the screen switches to show your character stomping off to complete the first order (to the best of his ability.)

Orders possible include, HARASSing other warriors; BRIBE other warriors; GUARDing objects; WAIT AT places and WAIT FOR warriors. There are approx 30 different commands that can be issued to any number of your characters. As mentioned earlier, these characters have peculiar attributes which need utilising; Mystics are usually in possession of magical powers which allows them to carry out orders requiring a certain knowledge of such things, whereas Fools (despite the name) are persuasive and good talkers, which makes them handy at convincing other characters of your worthy and just crusade.

Merely attempting to take the Sceptre at the beginning of the game is not such a good idea as several steps have to be taken to ensure the power of the thing doesn't destroy you. There are lots of other objects found around the isle that can be utilised in the attempt to reach your goal, and it's up to the player to discover how these objects are best used.

Dark Sceptre has a very familiar feel about it if you've ever played Lords Of Midnight or Doomdark's Revenge, in that the game is deep and complex with enough happening to keep you engrossed and playing for months to come.

Reviewer: Andy Smith

RELEASE BOX
Spec, £7.95cs, Reviewed
Ams, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Jan 88

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 68/100
1 hour: 55/100
1 day: 83/100
1 week: 88/100
1 month: 72/100
1 year: 50/100

Instant appeal gives way to panic as your forces stumble around - but find some objects and the game will reveal its depth.

7/10
7/10
7/10
6/10
856/1000

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SPECTRUM VERSION

Huge colourful sprites roam the game area clashing only in combat. A black border around each figure prevents any hint of attribute clash - it's clever, effective and very well done. Sound is limited to stomping footsteps and chilling steel-on-steel effects, plus a short piece of music to indicate a recruitment or a desertion. The large game area and the amount and variety of objects that need manipulated properly means you'll be puzzling quite some time. Even so, the ability to save the game position enables you to pick and play for short periods without having to cover old ground.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT?

When a programmer writes a very successful game, he can find himself with a reputation to live up to. Mike Singleton is one such programmer; his immensely successful Lords Of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge games have meant that any further release is bound to be compared to the earlier masterpieces.

In some respects Dark Sceptre is very comparable to the earlier games. The idea of having to recruit allies and utilise their particular abilities was seen in both of the earlier games, but despite being a very good game, Dark Sceptre just doesn't seem to create the same atmosphere as the other two games. It's involving all right, but not to the extent that either of the earlier games were. Could it be that Mike Singleton has reached the end of this particular vein?

Screenshot Text

Reaping the benefits: Your reaper's one mean fighting machine who tends to kill first - talk later.