Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lands of Lore 1 (Classic Review No. 1)

Slay hordes of monsters and solve the complex riddles of the dungeons in this first part of the Lands of Lore trilogy.

Title screen of Lands of Lore


Lands of Lore 1 is a first-person adventure where you control a group of up to 3 heroes on your quest to stop an evil (and also ugly as sin) witch from destroying the kingdom of Gladstone. The main focus of this game lies on puzzle solving and fighting hordes of enemies. The rpg elements and story are present but take on secondary roles. You move through the Lands in a grid-based movement sytem, meaning that you move your party from one tile to another. A trusty auto-map is also included to help you navigate.
The combat system is a hybrid of turn-based and real-time combat that is almost extinct nowadays. Every time a character performs an action he goes "on cooldown" and you have to wait a few seconds before he can do his next move. But the enemies will not wait until you decide what you want to do so you have to click fast if you don´t want to waste too much precious time. It has many similarities to the combat system of Legends of Grimrock.

Combat in Lands of Lore: the party gets smashed by a ghostly figure
Combat with a ghost-like figure
The rpg elements are quite simple. You can equip your characters with a healthy variety of weapons and armour. Each character has 3 experience bars that represent their prowess in the fields of fighting, casting and thievery. Experience is awarded when you perform the appropriate actions. For example, killing an enemy with a spell will grant you caster experience.

Status screen from Lands of Lore, it shows the 3 separate experience bars for a single character.
Inventory screen

The good things: A highly polished game

This game was released around 1993 and despite this age, this game is still pleasant to hear and look at. Graphics are carefully hand-drawn and the voice-acting is on par even with productions of today. The music lacks in quality but the melodies are catchy.

Character selection at start of Lands of Lore. You can choose between 4 with different strengths and weaknesses.
Character Selection, the beautiful voice acting is not included in the screenshot

The gameplay is also a very smooth affair. The rpg elements were kept small to make it easier for you to hop into the action. Despite the unfamiliar combat system you will be mowing down enemies after just a few tries. Also, this game avoids the slowdowns that are common for games of this kind. For example, you can rest anywhere (as long as no enemies are nearby) and you don´t need food to rest. The inhabitants of this world get their nutrition from thin air and the blood of their enemies!

The bad things: Spikes of frustration due to respawn

In Lands of Lore 1, enemies respawn even on dungeon floors that you have fully cleared. This will become an issue since some puzzles require a bit of backtracking from you. Killing all this cannon fodder again and again can wear on your nerves.
Also, I would have liked to see a bit more innovation in this game. It takes a lot of the features from similar games and refines them resulting in a very polished game. But it does not add anything new to the table. 

Conclusion: 2 of 3 points. Too heavy on the combat-side due to limitless respawn, but still an enjoyable dungeon crawl.

This game is worth a try due to the fact that this kind of gameplay has become nearly extinct in the modern gaming industry. The only direct comparison would be Legend of Grimrock, and if you played it you should definitely try out Lands of Lore 1. Also, if you like combat-heavy dungeon crawls and don´t mind the semi-turn-based approach, Lands of Lore 1 might be your cup of tea.

Want to see more of Lands of Lore 1? Check out this video from Matt Barton on YouTube.

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