Sauberer Zauberer?

Lords of Chaos logo

Falls Euch der Titel merkwürdig bekannt vorkommen sollte: Die kuriose Mischung aus Strategie und Rollenspiel erblickte bereits vor anderthalb Jahren am C64 das Licht der Welt. Mit dem berühmten Dungeon-Hocker Lord Chaos ist sie allerdings weder verwandt noch verschwägert...

Ein Gruppe von Magiern prügelt sich hier durch drei verschiedene Welten - jeder möchte am Ende Alleinherrscher sein. Teilnahmeberechtigt sind bis zu vier menschliche Hexer; auch ein Duo-Modus (Mensch gegen Computer) ist vorhanden.

Am Anfang steht die aus Rollenspielen bekannte Charaktererstellung, entweder vollautomatisch oder halt per Hand. Dann werden die Streithähne irgendwo im gewünschten Szenario ausgesetzt, wo sie mittels herbeigezauberter Kreaturen rundenweise um die Vorherrschaft rangeln. Wer einen Schatz findet oder Monster erschlägt (möglichst die seiner Konkurrenten), heimst dafür Siegespunkte ein.

Nach einer vorher festgelegten Rundenzahl erscheint dann für begrenzte Zeit ein Tor, durch das diese Welt verlassen werden darf. Um aber seinen Spellcaster für die kommenden Aufgaben mit besseren Fähigkeiten ausstatten zu können, sollte man möglichst viele der erwähnten Winning-Points im Gepack haben. Wer hingegen getötet wurde oder die Passage verpaßt, hat schlicht verloren!

Wenn die teils animierte Grafik auch manchmal ebenso ruckelig wie blockig daherkommt, ist sie doch zumindest recht bunt ausgefallen. Die gewöhnungsbedürftige Maussteuerung trübt allerdings den Spaß, und am Sound gefällt eigentlich nur die schön gruselige Titelmusik. Trotzdem: Das Teil hat ein gewisses Etwas - man muß es bloß erst finden... (jn)

Lords of Chaos logo

By marrying aspects of his classic Laser Squad and the 8-bit cult game Chaos, Julian Gallop has produced a new slant on the fantasy/strategy genre.

This 16-bit conversion of the latest game from Julian Gollop (programmer of the classics Chaos, Rebelstar and Laser Squad) has been eagerly awaited by - well, me, basically. Promising to be a hybrid of all the three previous games - well, except Rebelstar - Lords Of Chaos boasts nearly all of the features and spells of the original Chaos but in a strategy game setting much closer to that of Laser Squad.

The players (or player - up to four can play at one time) finds himself (or themselves) in one of three types of scenario from which he (or they - well anyway, you get the idea) has to escape within a set number of turns, preferably carrying lots of treasure and having killed the evil Torquemada (or some other big bad guy wizard) into the bargain.

Our her is helped by a handful of wizardly weapons, and also by a number of spells, varying from the creation of magical creatures such as dragons, goblins, unicorns and, erm, crocodiles to the summoning of fire, water, and strange forms of malignant plant life.

Unfortunately, nasty old Torquemada can also call on all these powers, so clearly there's going to be a good messy fight with lots of entrails a-flying before anything gets resolved. And that's just about where I come in...

Let's get right down to it, shall we? I've been playing this game for quite some time now, and if there's one thing missing from it, it's 'chaos'. (Actually I haven't found many 'lords' in it either, but let's deal with the 'chaos' for now).

Things seem to take the form less of a life-ordeath, do-or-die, against-all the-odds battle to the finish, and more of a gentle country stroll, taking in the occasional encounter with some mildly belligerent wildlife, but nothing to write home about any more than if you swatted a wasp.

At least in the earlier levels, I found that most of the difficulty present in Lords Of Chaos came from simply trekking across the landscape, as some of the terrain types take quite a heavy toll on your movement points. This leads to the game having a rather stop-start kind of feel to it, as you negotiate the slightly unwieldy menu system, move each piece four or five spaces and then run out of action points, end your turn, watch not very much happen to all the other creatures in the game, then start the whole palaver again.

My reaction has to be, "Is that all there is?"

Even when nearing the time limit, there seemed to me to be very little in the way of immediate or pressing danger, and this lends the proceedings more of the air of an orienteering expedition than a high-powered showdown of strategy and sorcery. Why orienteering? Well, the game uses a novel approach, in that your view of the overall map is realistically related to the information you would actually receive from the characters under your control. Hence, each character can only see a certain distance in from of him, so any areas of the map (including other characters) which are outside his individual range, or obscured in some way (by trees, walls, thick undergrowth etc) appear on the screen as black squares until a character moves close to them. In this way, you never quite know what you;re going to stumble across until you're practically on top of it, which does bring a certain element of suspense into play.

Unfortunately, it can also necessitate a rather tedious amount of searching around in forests for concealed treasures and suchlike which are only revealed when you get very close to them indeed, and since such areas are usually comprised of fairly heavy terrain the going can be very slow. The air of slowness is also compounded by the rather sprawling nature of the play area, compared to the quite spartan sprinkling of creatures, with the result that slices of fast-moving thrills are few and far between.

In Laser Squad, the relative slowness of the actual gameplay was compensated for by some pretty heavy firefights with some serious weaponry. As the majority of the fighting in Lords Of Chaos is of the hand-to-hand (or beak-to-claw) variety, there isn't the same impression of action and excitement, and it's something that proves more noticeable a drawback than it might first have seemed. Where the other games were finely and superbly balanced between thoughtful planning and frenetic violence, that balance has gone for a burton here, and it leaves the game looking suspiciously thin. Even when there is a burst of hack-and-slashing, it's of a pretty subdued nature, and it takes a while for any results to unfold.

This is my only real problem with Lords Of Chaos - this not-much-going-on-ness - as in all other respects it's a very well-executed thing. The control system while a little bit clumsy in use, is very easy to get the hang of (at least if you've played Chaos it is, but it feels like it would be simple to grasp for complete newcomers too), the graphics are clear and colourful, and it's easy to just dive into, although you can set things up much more carefully if you want to try a particular strategic approach.

There's a wide range of difficulty levels for experienced players, several different types of scenarios with different dangers and objectives, and the opportunity to build up your character over a number of games, in the best role-playing tradition.

In general then, Lords Of Chaos has a lot going for it, and if you're more of a strategy purist than I am then you probably won't be too bothered by the lack of a good-going bloodbath. There's enough depth to keep you engrossed for a good few weeks, and enough scope for tactics to ensure that you never have to play the game the same twice.

All the same, it's quite hard to see just who this game is going to be bought by. It's still likely to be too 'arcadey' for real wargame fans, and those people who liked Julian Gollop's previous efforts may well be put off by the aforementioned lack of any zapping.

I was really disappointed when I played this - I'd hoped and expected on the strength of its predecessors that this would be brilliant, and sadly that just isn't the case. For all the game's depth I just wasn't drawn into it in any significant way. Lords Of Chaos is by no means a bad game, but at the end of the day, my reaction has to be, 'is that all there is'?


The key to playing Lords Of Chaos lies in the proper use of its icons. Although they are fairly self-explanatory, it's always a good idea to really learn your way around.

Lords of Chaos CAST AT GROUND/AT AIR - to summon one of your walking or flying creatures.

Lords of Chaos INFORMATION - gives more details about whichever square the main screen cursor is currently resting in.

Lords of Chaos THROW AT GROUND/IN AIR - for throwing weapons such as spears against walking or flying targets.

Lords of Chaos READ - for use of range weapons (such as bows) against walking or flying targets.

Lords of Chaos FIRE AT GROUND/IN AIR - for for use of ranged weapons (such as bows) against walking or flying targets.

Lords of Chaos CENTRE - centres the screen on your wizard.

Lords of Chaos USE - use whatever the wizard is currently holding (or, failing that, his hands) on the contents of the cursor square.

Lords of Chaos RIDE - used to let the wizard mount any of his creatures which can be ridden.

Lords of Chaos SELECT RIDER - dismounts the wizard from whatever creature he is riding.

Lords of Chaos BIG MAP - gives an overall view of the whole level (except any areas of the map which have not yet been explored).

Lords of Chaos LAND/FLY - toggles between ground and air movement for creatures capable of either.

Lords of Chaos FILL VIAL - Used to collect potions which have been mixed in a cauldron from various herbs found around the play area, to produce various spells which can restore the wizard's vitality, increase his combat power, etc.

Lords of Chaos PICK UP - use this to, er, pick things up.

Lords of Chaos CHANGE OBJECT IN USE - changes the object currently in the wizard's hand.

Lords of Chaos DROP - this icon is used to, er, put things down.

Lords of Chaos EAT - eat food to restore the wizard's spell-casting powers.

Lords of Chaos DRINK VIAL - drink a previously-mixed magic potion.

Lords of Chaos DRINK FROM CAULDRON - potions can be drunk straight from the cauldron. This means that the potion will take immediate effect. (Of course this is the only way to use a potion if you don't actually own a vial).

Lords of Chaos logo

With Blade Software's Lords of Chaos gaining a strong following with strategy and fantasy fans alike, Paul Boughton takes a look at the game and the newly released disks.

In some quarters Lords of Chaos has been described as a role-playing game, but a number of limitations and game aspects defy this classification. It isn't really fair to compare it with likes of FTL's Dungeon Master or SSI's Pools of Radiance because there's only one character for the player to control, and the game's Wizard Designer (a sort of construction kit) offers very little scope for character creation and development. LoC operates on a far simpler, more accessible level and designers, Blade, call it a fantasy strategy which, to be fair, is probably the best description possible.

Between one to four players can take part, each controlling their own wizard, and the surrounding scenario is pretty standard fare. A war-torn world is further ravaged by an earthquake which has shattered it into three separate and self-contained environments. The surviving wizards must compete against each other, exploring and surviving these dangerous lands, and encountering magical monsters, tricks, traps, and assorted dangers. Their aim is to become the Lord of Chaos of the title and further your power by collecting the many treasure caches that can be found within the surrounding areas.

Blade have opted for a 2D play area, and the resulting flat image gives the game a rather 8-bitesque look. The game does have its roots within the 8-bit machines, but I can't help but think that a little more could have been done with the graphics and backdrops. In addition - and this is a fault with this style of game anyway - the sound is very disappointing and could easily have been used to add more atmosphere. However, looking beneath the weak graphics and overall presentation, there is in fact an easy-to-get-into game lurking there. The game uses a simplistic 'point 'n' click' system to access the action, and all the relevant movements are clearly set out and allow for smooth and logical action sequences. Even newcomers to this style of game should be able to get to grips with it within a matter of minutes.

Each wizard has quite a wide range of magical powers at his disposal. Depending on which world you are on, there are some forty-five spells to cast, ranging from the almost obligatory healing, fire bolts, and lightning, to teleportation brews, and ones that enchant oncoming creatures and turn them into gooey grey blobs. The three lands are the Many-Coloured Land, which is overrun by the wicked Torquemada; the Slayer's Dungeon, which is named after the fearsome weapon which lies at the heart of the land; and the realm of Ragaril. The latter one causes real problems - Ragaril is an evil and extremely powerful wizard, and play at this particular stage can only be attempted by one person.

The length of game and turn time can also be adjusted to pace the game or add a sense of urgency. This means that the game's difficulty level can be altered slightly should you find the game a walk-over. Also, the way the playing environment pieces together and opens up as it is explored is really nice.

Lords of Chaos is an entertaining diversion but there's little to make you gasp, no real surprises, and no touches of real innovation. Perhaps it is intended for the newer adventurer, and if this is the case then it deserves to do quite well. More ardent dungeoneers, though, should wait for something more stimulating.

Lords of Chaos logoEXPANSION KIT ONE

It's very hard to really guess a game's potential for lastability, especially with the addition of further expansion kits. Expansion Kit One - which obviously means that more are on the way - offers two new scenarios very much in the style of the original game. There's no attempt to move or improve the game, it's just more of the same.

The two scenarios on the disk are The Island of Iris and Tombs of the Undead. The first contains treasures buried in hidden locations, and the main task is to buy spades to dig for hidden gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The second world contains a magical tomb built by the once-powerful sorcerer, Goremar the Indestructible. Somewhere in the tomb is the Staff of Goremar, the source of his power. Once again, and as in the first game's third scenario, it's another single player scenario which proves a tad limiting.

In all, Expansion Kit One is an excellent value for money addition to the original Lords of Chaos. Just load up the original, slap in the new disk, and you're off on adventures new. OK, so it offers no enhancements over the basic game, but missions are fun and will prolong the life of the game nicely. The lastability mark is lower than for the original game, though, because you only get two scenarios instead of three.

Expansion Kit One is available from Mythos Games for £8, including packaging and postage. Send a cheque or postal order payable to Mythos Games Ltd., at 19 The Rows, The High, Harlow, Essex, CM20 1BZ.