Commodore User1st February 1986
Published in Commodore User #30
No one has ever come close - and perhaps never will - to emulating Mike Singleton's genius with graphics manipulation in his superb strategy-cum-adventure game The Lords Of Midnight, which was a huge hit on the Spectrum but - perhaps because of the delay in its release - failed to make anything like the same impression when the C64 version finally appeared. By then, Beyond weren't too fussed anyway, as they were enjoying another success with the spectrum version of the sequel, Doomdark's Revenge - and a Commodore implementation of that title, though frequently promised, seemed itself doomed never to sizzle the C64's circuitry.
But now it seems that British Telecom's takeover of Beyond (and perhaps the generally dismal reception given to Superman) has prompted a rethink with the result that Doomdark's Revenge for the C64 has at last arrived - and it's looking very, very good.
If you've not played Lords Of Midnight, it's necessary to explain that it differs from conventional adventures in that any of the available actions can be taken by just a single keypress, though the response always takes the form of text set against one of the splendid landscapes of Icemark that number literally thousands. Indeed, one can at any location take a 360 degree view by tapping the keys numbered 1 to 8 in sequence, and then move in any of eight directions.
In this further confrontation with the evil witchking Doomdark and the unassailable Shareth the Heartstealer you in your role as Luxor, the MoonPrince of Midnight have the power to directly control three other characters who are sympathetic to your cause. They are Morkin, Tarithel and Rorthron and are accessed simply by pressing one of the function keys. When one of those alternatives is selected, the screen immediately changes to that character's viewpoint, wherever he may be in Icemark.
The player may look or move in any of eight directions, and choose one of several courses of action. He is also able to check progress in several ways. He may for instance ask for more detailed information about his present location, seek intelligence about any battle of skirmish in which he has been involved, confirm the position of his own army and of any others in the same location, and learn more about the character of the person under his control (and beware - this can change during the course of a game!).
In Doomdark's Revenge, as in its predecessor, the sophistication of the combat interludes belies Mike Singleton's interest in, and mastery of, wargaming - for although the options are much simpler than in a conventional simulation (because, after all, combat is only one of the game's many features), one's strategy can really be quite subtle. Here, combat is by no means a question of swiping at the nearest adversary and hoping that your strength holds up for a few more telling blows. Instead you are concerned with manipulating a whole army, and then deciding whether to attack or simply approach another army, not knowing whether it is comprised of allies or adversaries.
There are more than just wandering armies, and special characters, depicted in Mike Singleton's unique graphic style. In the Kingdom of Icemark you will also discover strange watch-towers, fortresses, palaces, temples, torchlit tunnels and refreshing fountains - not to mention the cold mists that will spoil your view but at least entrap Shareth's iceguard.
The wonder of it is that a C64 version has been held back so long. But it is here to enjoy now, and enjoy it you will - enormously. The final part of Luxor's epic quest, Eye Of The Moon, is due out soon. One hopes that it will not be another year before a C64 implementation of that title too is made available, to complete a trilogy of strategy adventures that, in terms of their stunning visual appeal, originality and playability, have no equals.