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Monday, May 16, 2022

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of the Lance

Released on computers as part of SSI's "Silver Box" line, Heroes of the Lance is a loose adaptation of the DragonLance series of novels inspired by the eponymous D&D modules, and a relatively unique take on the D&D format, focusing on real time action rather than turn-based strategic combat.  Decent enough for a 1988 game, especially on computer platforms where sidescrolling action games were still relatively unheard of, but its NES port is another heavily derided game on the platform.  The ugly graphics, irritating music and stiff controls didn't endear it too much to fans of sidescrolling action games like Super Mario Bros, while RPG fans were let down by the absence of narrative and the general lack of depth to the game's combat.   Despite being an action game, everything is still centered around dice rolls, so it's not a matter of skill-based attacking and evading; instead, you mostly just stand toe-to-toe with your enemies and hold down a button to swing at each other until one of you dies.  Disarming traps is just a matter of having the right character in the front of your party (or just getting hit - they rarely do much damage anyway), and most offensive spells you have are pretty useless.  Oh, and it's also possible to make the game unwinnable - if Goldmoon (or another character carrying her staff) drops into a pit, you're done; that item is the only thing that can kill the final boss.  But most insulting of all is the game's length - while it takes place in a fairly large and convoluted maze, once you know the route to go through and how to counter the few enemy curveballs the game throws at you, you can beat the whole game in under ten minutes.  So, you get something that isn't appealing to look at, listen to or play, and even for masochistic fans of bad games, it's too short to even provide much ironic entertainment value.  Just a lousy and unsatisfying experience no matter what angle you come at it from.

Developer: US Gold, Natsume (NES)
Publisher: Strategic Simulations, US Gold, Pony Canyon
Released: 1988, 1991
Platform: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, FM Towns, MS-DOS, MSX2, NEC PC-8801, PC-9801, NES, Sega Master System, ZX Spectrum