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Wintersoft [2]
Adventure: RPG
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

The Ring of Darkness was a highly successful game on the Dragon 32 and has now been converted for the Spectrum. Your first task is to develop a character to represent you on yourquest and this is achieved via a program on side 'A' of the cassette. After choosing your character name 40 points are distributed to determine your intelligence, strength and agility. In keeping with true roleplaying vogue the adventure is enacted within a midworld, your race can be Dwarf. Elf or Human and characteer classes include Wizard, Warrior and Thief.

The game sees you moving through a scene with simple representations of rivers, mountains and forests. In effect your token remains in the central area of the screen and the map scrolls in the opposite direction to your apparent movement. On first playing you are unable to cross the rivers or climb the mountains and the forests are the i home of deadly accurate and seemingly unassailable archers. At almost regular intervals you are confronted by bandits and evil rangers and, since it is difficult to escape, a simple battle scenario begins. Although you can be resurrected three times, on each occasion one of the objects you were carrying is mislaid.

Every now and then a settlement appears though Borderton looks remarkably similar to Port Stillwater with a Smiths, Arms, Pubs, and Magic and King's domains. Buying and selling items at Will's Weapon Store is a nice part of the game. One quest had me searching for a jelly cube (curious - but similar forms are not unknown to the role-playing fraternity) and on another I was searching for the Sinclair sign.

The game consists of several programs that must be loaded consecutively but to be honest I could only reach the second level (a 3D maze) before an untimely end at the hand of a skeleton. If only I'd started out as a warrior, and not a wizard whose character is blighted by his inability to cast spells unless ensconced within the underground caverns.

The game is in real time to the extent that if you leave the game the word PASS will appear every 20 seconds. A more conscientious approach will see you gaining experience with progressive increases in the technology and the variety of goods available to you. Hence a little patience in the 'early stages, when experiences are mostly of a violent nature, is probably what's needed. It's a good idea to keep up to date with your status, hit points (a measure of your mortality) and food units (with each movement using up food) as starvation can be an embarrassing end to first attempts.

The Ring of Darkness will take a long time to solve because it is a relatively long and complex adventure and there is too little information provided at the start with the effect that you set off having no idea of what exactly it is that you must do. The choice of keys for the Spectrum version are very poor - OW & P - mixing up and down with left and right (much like the syncopation exercise where you circle your head with one hand and pat your stomach with the other) and the painfully slow movement of the figure through the adventure becomes monotonous after a short time.

The game falls between the two stools of arcade and adventure without the addictive qualities of either but marks an interesting adaptation of the role-playing theme.