Battle Master logo

PSS £29.99 * Mouse

Dwarfs hate Elves and Orcs. Elves hate Dwars and Orcs. Humans do not like anyone, but despise Orcs the most. Orcs hate everyone. Now then, who do you want to be? In Battlemaster, the hero you play is chosen from a roster of sixteen, four from each race. You might be a merchant, a fighter, a wizard or a thief but whatever or whoever you are your task is the same.

Four kingdoms that have warred and crumbled now face complete extinction, unless a hero who can prove his worth and gather an army can conquer all four nations and take the crowns of each race to the immortal Watcher who resides in the northeastern wastes.

You may start with a number of followers, which is partly determined by your character: warriors, for instance, always begin alone. Your hero is kitted out with one ranged weapon and one close-combat weapon and promptly plunged into the midst of the first scenario. This may be based on a puzzle, combat or negotiation: there are a good many scenarios and they vary considerably in style.

Most play occurs on the left-most two-thirds of the screen, on which you view all characters present. The rest of the display is given over to icons for accessing other features. Followers tag along in formation; they might engage enemies in combat, should morale be high, or try to leave the scene of battle if they do not think much of your leadership. You can ask them to wait while you go ahead, or call them to you: these commands are made via a group of icons on the right of the screen.

Other icons lead to nested screens, dealing with character status, parleying or travelling across the world map from one scenario to the next. You can only leave the scenario you are in after completing it but, depending on where you are in the game, you can get to a number of others by calling up a beautifully detailed map. Action on the main screen freezes while you access icons.

To help you figure out what needs to be done in each scenario there is a message window at the bottom of the screen. Some are easy. Others demand good tactics and planning and will cost you at least a follower or two. But as you go, you will face traps (and tricks) and will find rewards in the form of artefacts, treasure and food: all three of which are the staple diet of every hero in the making.


Beyond a loading tune of mediaeval inclination, sound in Battlemaster is limited to the hack of blade on armour, the ozone-devouring shoosh of a flying fireball and, of course, the screams of the dying. But the graphics work wonderfully, especially in a party of Orcs: all those round-shouldered green guys shuffling up behind the boss has to grab a giggle from even the weariest cynic. The backgrounds are all colourful but clear and the stats screens are adorned with all kinds of implausible weaponry. To top it all, you can actually tell what everything is on the screen, a criterion often ignored for the sake of effect.


Though it is hard to survive at first, the number of different openings will call you back for long enough to want to sit down and start a serious bash. A large party engaged in combat with a similarly large group of opponents sometimes proves difficult to control via the mouse, but the keyboard controls (which are redefinable) are easy to master. Once you make lots of progress you will be fumbling for the save game option right away.


Take a plot that is longer in the tooth than a dragon's incisor and then apply a unique approach to turning it into a game. It is not as static as Laser Squad and is more visually appealing than anything in the Ultima vein. It has a good sense of humour, too, thank goodness (this is not given away much by the tame and tired documentation but boot up and there it is). Battlemaster, thanks to some clever design, has both instant and lasting appeal. This way, grunts!

Battle Master logo

Wer einfache, geradlinige Fantasy-Adventures mag, ist beim neuen Spiel von PSS gut aufgehoben. Wie es der Titel bereits andeutet, muß man hier keine geistigen Höchstleistungen vollbringen - Kämpfnaturen sind gefragt!

Die Hintergrundstory erzählt in bester Tolkien-Manier von den vier Königreichen der Elfen, Menschen, Orcs und Zwerge, die nach einem schier endlosen Krieg nunmehr heillos zerstritten sind. Eine geheimnisvolle Prophezeiung verspricht die Wiederkehr des Goldenen Zeitalters, sollte es einem Helden aus dem Süden gelingen, alle Königreiche zu erobern und dem Wächter im Turm die vier Kronen zu bringen...

Als erstes darf man sich seinen Wunschhelden aus einer Reihe von 16 Charakteren (vier aus jeder Rasse) aussuchen, der von maximal 16 Söldern (der gleichen Rasse) begleitet wird. Konkret bedeutet das, daß sich bis zu siebzehn Sprites gleichzeitig auf dem Bildschirm tummeln, die dann oft noch mit einer gleich großen Zahl von Gegnern zu kämpfen haben.

Damit man bei diesem Gewusel nicht den Überblick verliert, zeigt ein roter Pfeil auf die Spielerfigur - wegen der etwas verunglückten Animationen und der einander recht ähnlichen Sprites ist dennoch häufig unklar, ob man gerade auf Freund oder Feind eindrischt.

Die Königreiche müssen Stadt für Stadt erobert werden, wobei man es entweder mit Bestechung oder fleich mit offenem Kampf probieren kann. In der Regel wird man sich für's Kämpfen entscheiden, da die Kohle dringend für die Bezahlung der Söldner benötigt wird.

Bei den Waffen gibt es eine grundsätzliche Einteilung in Schußwaffen für entfernte Ziele und Handwaffen für den Nahkampf, ansonsten herrscht eine verwirrende Vielfalt: So haben etwa viele der Dolche, die man findet, individuelle Eigenschaften und Namen (in der - deutschen - Anleitung befindet sich eine ellenlange Auflistung, die aber leider trotzdem nicht komplett ist).

Ein anderes Problem ist, daß man einmal eroberte oder gekaufte Waffen nicht mehr los wird - das gilt übrigens auch für alle anderen Gegenstände. Bevor man sich in einen Kampf stürzt, sollte man (wenn irgend möglich) erstmal das Verhalten der Gegner studieren und sich danach eine geeignete Taktik zurechtlegen.

Auch wenn bei Battlemaster sehr viel gekämpft wird - ein paar Rätsel sind natürlich schon zu lösen: z.B. muß man für einige Türen die Schlüssel finden und zahlreiche Fallen per Schalter deaktivieren. Die (ruckelige) Grafik reißt zwar keinen vom Hocker, ist aber solide und detailreich gemacht. Jede Stadt hat ihren eigenen Charakter, und die teilweise sogar animierten Hintergründe wechseln ziemlich häufig.

Aus dem Lautsprecher dringen leider nur aüßerst mäßige Soundeffekte, die Steuerung (Tastatur, Maus, Joystick,) ist dafür guter Durchschnitt. Battlemaster wird zwar keine Softwaregeschichte schreiben, aber für ein paar Stunden actionreichen Adventure-spaßes ist es allemal gut. (Felix Bübl)

Battle Master logo

PSS/Mirrorsoft, Amiga £29.99

This novel game attempts to combine tactical and arcade elements, thus crossing gaming boundaries and pleasing everyone. Arriving on one disk along with a 24-page manual and a glossy, well produced map, Battlemaster asks 'a hero' to settle the lands and end the chaos. You have to conquer one small piece of the game-world before moving onto the next piece.

You do this by controlling a central character in a top-down view. Other men of a similar race/type can be bought and added to your personal army. These men fellow you around like sheep (although they can be ordered into different tactical formations: wedge, line etc). Weapons can be toggled from range (bow and arrow) to melee (sword). A variety of other weapons and armour are available.

Apart from killing all and sundry, you'll encounter very simple 'puzzles' (find the key for a locked door, throw switches to open secret passages, etc.). The game is biased towards action giving it a Gauntlet feel. This arcade action is fast and furious, providing no real tactical options even though the game suggests this. In fact, the formation is largely dormant as a result.

I am rather disappointed in the program's design from the user's point of view. The game takes no heed of extra memory (which is increasingly common these days), makes some horrible loading noises that furrowed the brow and must reload from scratch every time you get killed (groan).

Battlemaster has too little depth with too little tactical meat to be considered by anyone but Gauntlet fanatics, who would, in turn, be disappointed with it as a true arcade game.