Dragons Of Flame is the latest addition to US Gold's series of games inspired by TSR's Advanced Dungeons And Dragons. Remember Heroes Of The Lance? Well, that was the first AD&D game which appeared way back in March '89 and received a hearty thumbs-up (a Megagame no less, fact fans) from Phil 'Snouty' South. Dragons Of Flame is another one in the series, and continues the scenario established in that title. And what a scenario it was...
Everything takes place on the Planet Krynn. It's been 300 years since the old gods deserted the populace and left them at the mercy of the evil Queen Takhisis. I guess the folks lust had to Krynn and bear it (groan), especially after the Companions (a bunch of heroes upon whom everyone was pinning their hopes) went and got trapped by the Draconians. To cut a long story short, the chums were rescued by Elvis just in the nick of time - er, sorry, that's Elves. Anyway, this is where you come in, getting to control the Companions, via whoever you elect as their leader. In the meantime, Krynn is in a right old two-and-eight. There's all manner of man and beast wandering around, you can't turn corners for bumping into chests (good news for Maria Whittaker fans) and evil is most definitely afoot. (I quite like feet. Why do they always have to be evil?)
The game system tries to emulate the D8D system, except with only one player and with the computer as Dungeon Master. All the characters have the familiar list of attributes (strength, wisdom, dexterity, intelligence) and these help you to strategically employ the 'best man for the job' (to coin a phrase, but let's not be sexist - there are 'Companion chicks' as well). (Sexist! Ed) With trillions of spells and numerous commands at your disposal (accessed via menus) you set out on your quest to unite the good folk of the land and duff up loads of baddies.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Er, the only problem is the game doesn't live up to expectations. The graphics aren't anything to write home about (you only ever see one character, ie the same sprite, a rather slim masculine warrior type - even if you choose to control Tasselhoff Burrfoot, a rather fat mamma with ginormous ears), and I found the control system infuriating to say the least. Basically, you press the usual Up/Down/Left and Right keys in the combat sequence (along with diagonal jumps and high or low blows) but - and here's the tricky bit to get to grips with - when you're not in combat your Left/Right keys move you physically left and right on the screen, while the Uppie/Downie keys toggle your viewpoint to east west again. So going left or right takes you, er... east or west. All this probably sounds totally clear (unusual but clear) and I'm sure you're thinking I'm a right old simpleton, but, believe me, it is very easy to go around in circles. With only about three basic backgrounds wandering around corridors soon becomes tedious.
Fighting monsters is okay. You keep having to flick to character charts to check physical and magical weapons etc then hack. There is some variety in that you can hack up, down or in the middle and that you've got both close-combat weapons (swords and the like) and range weapons (arrows and spears). However to kill a few you'll be wandering around uninspiring corridors for ages. Although these computer interpretations can't compete with real D&D (with loads of chums, maybe some little lead characters, and those jolly little pointy multi-sided dice), D&D strategy addicts probably won't think it's too bad. Sadly, I suspect your average Spec-chum (like humble ol' me) will be left uninspired.
Good potential, but doesn't deliver the goods. D&Ders probably won't find it that bad though.
Here I am, leading a couple of blokes along a corridor. They're the small, hunchback ones, and I'm the noble, upright, six-foot warrior. (Strange really, since I chose to play Goldmoon, the sultry cheiftains daughter!)
Oops! I seem to have turned into a dead end (that's why I'm leaping about in frustration). Better head back the way I came, guess.
Hmm. There's something funny about this message. (I know, it's spookily appropriate to the game in hand!)