Obscured by the clouds

Swords of Twilight logo

SOLSTICE is almost upon us, and as we peer through hermetically sealed windows at the ever expanding gloom perhaps we should apre a thought for the residents of Albion where the shadows last all year round and the man from Everest hasn't been seen in living memory.

The Queendom is under threat from the malevolent Shadowlord and his merciless minions, intent on destroying the sacred temples, robbing the land of magic and supporting Millwall on Saturday afternoons.

Your quest is to do something about it - nobody is quite sure what - aided by a brave band of merry men. This is where Swords departs from the regular plot for role-playing, because form the cast of suicidal heroes you choose to direct three, not one. For this is a multiplayer role-playing game.

Now you to can invite a few mates round and enjoy the quarrels, bickering and sabre-rattling that were once the exclusive domain of that breed of person who found joy in big books full of tables and even bigger dice.

Alternatively you can elect the computer to control the other two characters and play on your own. This is still not quite like a solo role-playing through because the computer will act under the personalities of the characters it is playing, so they can be just as unhelpful and prone to sulking fits as your mates.

The characters are all chosen from a field of 31, comprising champions, knights and mages. Champions are just knights who are better at knighting, whereas a mage is a generic term for a follower of one of the five brands of magic currently on the market.

Knights come in all skill levels from the belligerent Britomart at sixth level to the lowly Kodak who is still developing. Be careful in your choice though, some weapons are only effective in the hands of a complete novice.

Control is by a sort of men affair which is activated by pressing the fire button. The options are all pretty basic, pick up and drop stuff, apart from the talk option. This is by far the most important as it handles all the interaction between you and anyone or anything you should meet.

The computer will intuitively flavour your speech depending on how wary or friendly you are at the time. If you are suspicious, comments about your name or mission will be more guarded.

It is worth noting that other characters will react depending on how you treat them. It is quite possible to charm even the most depraved of slavering hordes by giving them little gifts and saying how pleased you are to see them.

Reputations will be built from all that you spite and everyone you fight - how you treat people can easily decide your fate. Travel to the other kingdoms, which will be necessary to complete your quest, is via the ancients' alternative of arterial highways, the Rainbow Road. Ths is actually an excuse for some gratuitous colour-cycling.

The answers to your problems lie in the distant realms, but your first task is to find your way about.

The graphics are more than adequate for this type of game but the painfully grinding Ring movement will have Wagner turning in his urn. It certainly isn't how George Solti used to play it.

The only real criticism of Swords could equally well be levelled at many of the games in this genre - the incessant and aimless wandering about seems to have been overdone a bit. The plot itself is complex and interesting as it unravels, but if the tedium gets to you before the ogres do, then you'll never find out.

This is a brave attempt at properly reproducing the atmosphere and style of true role-playing. Although not quite perfect, it should find its way into every serious role-player's collection.

Swords of Twilight logo

ELECTRONIC ARTS £24.95 * Joystick and/or Keyboard

The land of Albion is under threat from the evil Shadow Lords who have managed to bring chaos and other nasty things to the seven other lands in this role-playing game from the people who designed that classic thought provoker, Archon.

Up to three people can play at once, each controlling a character from a choice of over thirty, and the ultimate quest is to recover the Swords of Twilight and thus prevent the Shadow Lords form infecting the land. The characters available include knights (who are always handy to have around just in case there's fighting to be done) and mages (who are the best when it comes to chucking magic spells about).

The game opens at the castle of the Queen of Albion, who asks you to complete a small quest. Exactly what you decide to do is up to you: the game can be played by simply completing these smaller quests and returning home, or by ignoring the Queen and going off on your own to seek adventure. Bear in mind that, whatever you decide to do, your mates will have to go along with you.

The screen is divided into five sections. The main central display shows your band of adventurers as they move around inside buildings or around the countryside. There are two display modes when you're travelling round: normal-sized inside buildings and huge when you're moving about the countryside, the same method used in the Ultima series of games.

The four surrounding windows each show a member of your party along with text messages when anyone speaks, though the fourth is reserved for a picture of any other character encountered.

The eight lands are connected by a roadway which is accessed by entering one of the gates in the land. Travel along the road and the worlds pass by in different colours; then all you have to do is hit the fire button to step off when you reach the world that's the colour you want.

Once your band comes across other characters, the first thing to do is check their attitude. If you think a fight might be on, change your characters' attitudes to hostile rather than polite. Of course you'll have to use your sill and judgement when dealing with other folk, because the big point about the game is that all of your actions have consequences and people remember good or bad deeds done to them for a very long time.

The majority of the other commands available are to do with talking to the characters and offering answers. And there you have it:a world in which you can do exactly what you want to do.


The in-game sound is simply appalling, so turn it off when you start playing. The cameos for each of the characters encountered in the game are great but the rest of the graphics, backgrounds and so on are very basic. The scrolling and animation are also weak.


This sort of game doesn't need good graphics and sound, but what it does need is a believable game world. Swords of Twilight has one all right, but there are some very annoying parts to it that severely mar the enjoyment. This is especially true in one player mode, where it can be very tricky to get the other characters to, say, walk through a door first because they have the key and you don't.

Another annoying factor is the amount of waiting that has to be endured while the computer puts up the face of a computer party. It's certainly not trash, but it's not up there with the classics either.

Swords of Twilight logo

Jahrelang hat das Programmierer-Ehepaar Freeman/Westfall ("Freefall Associates") das Haus kaum noch verlassen, um das beste Fantasy-Adventure aller Zeiten zu schreiben. Herauskommen sollte dabei nicht die Neuauflage von Altbekannten, sondern ein von Grund auf eigenständiges Spiel!

Was nach all den durchwachten Nächten schließlich das Licht der Welt erblickt hat, kann sich durchaus sehen lassen: Ein Rollenspiel, in dem man zwei Freunde auf die gefahrvolle Reise in die Phantasie mitnehmen darf!

Zwei Joysticks plus Tastatur, und fertig ist der Drei-Spieler-Modus. Hat man gerade keine abenteuerlustigen Mitstreiter zur Hand, übernimmt der Computer die übrigen Rollen.

Insgesamt stehen 31 Figuren mit unterschiedlichen Characterwerten zur "Übernahme" bereit. Ist die Abenteuertruppe fertig zusammengestellt, gibt's eine Audienz bei der Herrscherin von Albion, Königin Gloriana (sieht der Dame mit dem Taxi auch tatsächlich ähnlich!). Hier erfährt man, welche Aufgabe es zu lösen gilt, und bekommt außer etwas Proviant noch ein paar wohlmeinende Ratschläge mit auf den beschwerlichen Marsch.

An Körper und Geist gestärkt und im tiefsten Innern von dem Wunsch beseelt, die königliche Gunst nicht zu enttäuschen, verläßt man das Schloß durch das Haupttor hin zur Straße des großen Abenteuers. Von da an heißt es aufpassen, denn die Gefahr lauert überall!

&Uum;berflüssig zu erwähnen, daß mit den Mächten der Finsternis nicht zu spaß ist, aber wer seine Weggefährten vom Rechner steuern läßt, muß mit zusätzlichen Troubels rechnen: Nur zu oft haben die Kerle einen derart ausgeprägten Eigenwillen, daß es schon viel Konzentration erfordert, die bei der Stange zu halten.

Auch kann es passieren, daß sich ein Partymitglied für die gestellten Aufgaben als völlig untauglich erweist. Ist aber weiter kein Problem, anders als im richtigen Leben kann die Gruppe während des Spiels nachträglich umgestaltet werden.

Die Steuerung des Spiels erfolgt mit Joystick bzw. Cursortasten. Etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig ist die Menüführung mit ALT/AMIGA-Taste statt der üblichen Funktionstasten, zur Anwendung von Magie dient CAPS LOCK. Hier war es den Herstellern wohl wichtiger, den Besitzern von Raubkopien das Leben schwer zu machen, als das Programm benutzerfreundlich zu gestalten.

Dem ehrlichen Erwerber bietet das 58seitige deutsche Handbuch allerdings sämtliche benötigten Informationen in sehr übersichtlicher Form.

Der unterlegte Sound ist leider nicht weiter erwähnenswert, dafür zeigt sich die Grafik klein aber fein.

Ein bißchen erinnert das Game an die Ultima-Reihe, besonders da hier ebenfalls ausgiebig kommuniziert wird. Auch mit Times of Lore lassen sich einige Gemeinsamkeiten entdecken. Trotz alledem: Wir finden, Freeman/Westfall (die ja bereits durch die beiden Archon-Spiele auf eine feste Fan-Gemeinde zählen können) haben die lange Zeit ihrer gemeinsamen Klausur gut genutzt! (wh)

Swords of Twilight logo

Electronic Arts

Swords of Twilight's instruction manual promises quite a lot. It's not just a game, it seems. It offers you "freedom of action in a world of wonder... short of first degree burns, this is as close as you can get to a dragon's breath or a wizard's fireball". Sounds pretty amazing, doesn't it? But what you actually end up with is a slow version of Gauntlet mixed with a poor clone of Times Of Lore.

As usual, an evil force has taken over the land. You are the only one who can save the world from its dark oppressors - that is you and two other brave warriors, bot of whom can be controlled by computer or another player. Characters are chosen from a cast list of thirty-one warriors, all with different strengths and abilities. It's down to you to find a successful mix that will enable you to have both the physical strength to endure the wilderness, and the mental agility to overcome the obstacles and puzzles.

The game is played as a top view eight-way scroller. In three of the four corners of the screen are the pictures of the three characters in the adventure, plus an relevant information. In the fourth corner is a picture of any other characters in the area. It's by using these windows that all the clever manipulation takes place.

Pressing fire brings up a short menu, which in turn leads to others. You can move objects around, talk to people and change your temperament from friendly, to wary or hostile. If hostile, you can fight anything that moves. But the real problem with remaining hostile is that not only do bad guys tend to attack you more often, but sensibly enough, your own party spends a lot of time avoiding you.

Talking to people seems to be the real key to success in the game, but having said that, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the quality of dialogue. Each conversation consists of the bad guys asking who you are, and then you say something like: "I am Nobbin, son of Dobbin, and I am here to right wrongs, ca you help us?" The bad guys refuse and then they depart.

This is massively time consuming and adds to the problems caused by the loading system, which seems to load these characters up for no reason at all and then spends ages working out what to do with them. It's all so repetitive and makes the game very dull indeed.

The backdrops are samey and created from a limited set of blocks, the main sprites are equally unvaried, they just vary slightly different in colour. The scrolling is slow and jerky and a lot of objects are far from recognisable. The only graphic I found even remotely impressive was the large dragon that guards the gate to the next country.

There is a terrible tune that plays at the start and one or two spot effects, but on the whole the sound is poor. Considering that it doesn't look as if they used too much memory on the graphics, you would have thought they could have used a little bit more on the sound.

On the whole an uninspired RPG that's too simple to satisfy true role players and too dull to entice arcadesters.