Sorderon's Shadow - The Legend of Elindor is the most innovative of this month's selection. Beyond has consistently tried to push out the frontiers of games software and this latest program is no exception. In fact the scope of the game is so wide that it would be difficult to explain all its facets in such a small space.
The setting is the land of Elindor, much troubled by the evil of the sorcerer Sorderon. That wicked magus has blighted the land by his spells and the country is wasted by his minions and creatures. Krillan zombie warriors terrorise the people and other half-human things haunt the landscape.
You are cast as the Un-named One, foretold in legend as the saviour of Elindor. To defeat Sorderon you must successfully accomplish nine major quests, all of which are subdivided into lesser tasks. Most of those tasks involve the enlisting of other characters, many of whom are hostile or indifferent to you. At other points you will need to reconstruct magical artifacts such as the Staff of Power, or trade items of power for others necessary to your purpose. The overthrow of Sorderon is no straightforward matter.
Your journey takes place in a landscape familiar to addicts of Lords of Midnight or Doomdark's Revenge. As you move from location to location the features shift in perspective and size on the screen. You can view the country from all eight major compass directions before deciding where you want to go. There are mountains, plains, lakes and forests. Within those you will discover tombs, huts, caves and other man-made places. Beyond claim over 4,000 locations and a staggering 33,000 screen views.
Commands are given in a variety of ways. By pressing Symbol Shift you can access a range of single key instructions. With those you can move, get an inventory, count your money, identify other characters, and carry out a number of other functions like scoring, saving and so on. There is also a full text interpreter which allows you to play the game as a text adventure too. That takes the program beyond the systems used in Lords of Midnight and provides a wide variety of choice for your approach to the game.
The interpreter shows the results of your actions on a scroll above the landscape and informs you of any problems in your input with an error message buffer. The screen also displays your strength - you'll need to find food - and shows small graphics of the characters who are with you in the location.
There are many other inhabitants of Elindor living their own lives around you in real time. You can speak to them and get them to help or do your bidding. You may, of course, need to fight them so you will have to be quick on the uptake.
Before you begin you will need to familiarise yourself with the very complex game format. There is a vast wodge of documentation with the cassette and I advise you to spend a fair bit of time taking it all in. The quests and sub-quests are very involved.
The first quest is to follow your companion Morrin to the cave where a magical um is secreted. The inscription on it will provide more clues to your task and Morrin then vanishes - you're on your own. My own first priority was to get used to the landscape - it took me a while to realise that wandering unprepared and unarmed was perilous, and I found myself being slaughtered regularly. Make sure you Save a position early on as you cannot simply quit and begin again - you have to load in a prepared set of data.
My review copy was a pre- production version and I ran into a few glitches in the program. At one point I typed 'Wait' - everything crashed and I couldn't get the game going again. The text interpreter kept telling me that my sentence lacked a verb when it clearly didn't. Fortunately, that did not affect the play much and it's worth remembering that there are very few other games which even possess that sort of error-trapping function.
Sorderon's Shadow is a heady blend of text adventure and strategy, and is a true successor to the realms of Midnight. I am sure that it will have a strong appeal to those who have clashed with Doomdark, and it should pull in many other text players who may have shied away from the military bias of those previous programs. In some ways it is experimental, but definitely shows the way forward for mixed format games. Good luck and don't talk to any strange lizards.
Publisher: Beyond Software