Pixie hats on - it's RPG time again. Heroes of the Lance has an impeccable pedigree; it's an official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons scenario based on the Dragonlance series of characters and situations. If all this means nothing to you, then you probably won't think much of the game; if however you're a Dragonlance fan, you'll wee yourself with joy at the prospect of seeing your favourite characters in computer form.
The characters are the usual motley assortment of elves, humans, trolls and wizards. Each one is introduced with a portrait, biographical details, and, in the 25-page booklet, attribute points for characteristics such as strength, intelligence, dexterity and charisma.
This is the first problem with the game; although the characteristics obviously change as you play the game, you can't edit them or define your characters. In that sense, it may be a role-playing game, but the roles are strictly defined by the program.Once you've gone through the enormously long-winded multi-stage loading process, you are ready to begin the quest. There's a pseudo mediaeval music theme: otherwise sound effects are minimal. The playing screen shows the ruined city of Xak Tsaroth. Your party has to explore the ruins, recover the lost Disks of Tsaroth and do a little shopping.
The second big prob with the game is that while the graphics are quite ambitious and the characters well animated, the designs are dead boring - warrior, demon, dwarf, ho-hum - and the characters, backgrounds AND menus are all white-on-black. Monochrome is OK if you want to avoid colour clash, but all black-and-white, all the way through the game? Leave it out, Bjornthroth.
The eight characters of the party are shown beneath the main screen, each with his or her strength meter. As you move through the city, using joystick or keyboard control to move left and right, and into or out of exits, you will soon realise that you can't get by without making a map. The compass to the bottom left spins to show your current orientation, and flashes to indicate any possible directions of movement.
When you encounter any of the fearsome monsters (yawn), you can combat them according to what weapons you are carrying, or have found along the way. You can choose a high, centre or low thrust, or a dodge. If you carry a bow or spear you can stick the baddies from a distance. Unfortunately, there's no indication of how much damage you've done, which makes it a bit difficult to judge when to run away. Speaking of fleeing, you can also run or jump over certain obstacles, though some crevasses seem to be impassable.
Two sub-menus allow you to select further functions such as TAKE, USE, GIVE and DROP; and to select spells for your magic users. These include spells to locate traps (such as blocks of stone which plummet from ceilings when you walk beneath them, curiously like Psygnosis' Barbarian); to defect dragon breath (there are lots of dragons in the lower levels) and to cure critical wounds.
If a character dies, the next one along automatically takes over, but you can select a different character if you wish. I think it's a problem though that in effect you are controlling only one character at a time, so you don't get much impression of controlling an entire party (and you certainly don't see them all simultaneously in animated form on the screen).
You can save and reload games, but basically every time you play you'll have the same goats, and all you can hope to do is to score a higher overall mark.
Compared to something like The Bard's Tale, Heroes of the Lance has limited play appeal. It's a disappointing cross between RPGs and arcade-adventures which doesn't make the bast of either genre, though it will probably be enjoyed by anyone is a true devotee of the original.
Label: US Gold/SSI Author: Teoman Irmak Price: £9.99/£14.99 Memory: 48K/128K Joystick: various Reviewer: ?
Unsuccessful cross between RPGs and arcade-adventure.