Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny

Developer:  Westwood Studios
Publisher:  Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Year Released:  1997

Review by Rosemary Young (November, 1997)
lol2.jpgIt's important to begin this review of the long awaited Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny by noting that it's very different from the first game in the series. Although the first Lands of Lore wasn't blessed with loads of statistics to satisfy hardened roleplaying fans it was nevertheless extremely popular and neatly slotted into the roleplaying category. Contrastingly, Guardians of Destiny very nearly eludes this label with its adventuring and 3D shoot-em-up elements and may come as a surprise to many players ... but more about this later.

Solo journey
On starting out the first apparent difference is that there is no choice of character. In this game you play Luther, son of Scotia the wicked witch of Lands of Lore I. You have inherited a curse from your mother though, fortunately, it's nothing to do with her appearance as you are not endowed with a copious serving of warts. But, nevertheless, you do have different countenances one of which is none too endearing as the curse you bear is such that you change shape periodically, sometimes into a lizard and at other times into an ugly, hulking beast.

Of course, changing shape at the drop of a hat isn't all that agreeable so your aim in this sequel is to learn about the curse and how to be rid of it. Early in your travels you'll meet the Draracle who gives you your first inkling of what's to be done. You must travel to the Great Southern Continent to begin your search. From here you'll explore the Huline Jungle, do a favour or two to earn the trust of various characters and, consequently, learn more to complete your quest. Along the way there are many artefacts to find and places to explore and exploit including the Savage Jungle, The Dracoid Ruins, Claw Mountains and City of the Ancients.

All the while you'll be accompanied by your two alter-egos who will likely make their appearance at the most inopportune time causing serious injury (turning from a lizard into a full grown human is not recommended in minute crawl-ways), or making you wait endlessly until you assume the appropriate form. But don't despair, you will eventually learn to control your curse, and even how to use it to advantage to explore every nook and cranny as a lizard or move large objects as your monstrous self.

The gameplay
In this game there are heaps of items to collect including weapons and scrolls and various items which can be combined to make skill enhancers or curative preparations. Annoyingly, it is not possible to identify items easily so a lot of patient experimentation is necessary to figure out what various concoctions might do. The manual is no help at all here and the 'recipe' scrolls that litter the place mostly appear too late in the game to be useful. Because of the number of items your inventory will quickly become full and it will be necessary to discard excess baggage regularly.

Fortunately, Luther will alert you if you try to dispense with something important, although this is no help to players with a hearing impairment. Which brings me along to a grave deficiency in Guardians of Destiny ... there are no text captions. I found this extremely annoying as I quickly tired of Luther's grunts and groans which suggested that he wasn't really a human sometimes masquerading as a beast but, rather, a beast masquerading as a human. Also, I couldn't hear Luther read some of the all important scrolls because of the background noise.

Similar to LOL I, Guardians of Destiny is not statistics based. As you gain experience a line on a small bar will increase for each level of magic/combat you have attained. Another graph displays level of protection (armour), general strength, and strength of weapons. I didn't really have much occasion to check out these indicators except to experiment with newly acquired equipment to see if it was superior to that in current use.

The journey and the action
Guardians of Destiny has a 3D scrolling game engine and movement is achieved by simply moving the mouse or using keyboard directional arrows. I chose the latter as I can never get used to mouse control when it doesn't involve pointing and clicking. I always end up moving clear off the mouse pad at the crucial time.

There are also designated keys for other actions such as running, crouching, jumping, etc, and you will use these a lot. Yes, there are many episodes of jumping onto ledges, across river valleys, etc, as well as times when quick thinking is crucial and you must speed along and complete actions to save your skin. This gives the game quite an 'action/arcade' feel in places. Not good news for many roleplaying fans.

Of course, there is plenty of fighting too, although relatively little compared to the problem solving components which are straight out adventuring. By this I mean that much of your time will be spent simply exploring and manipulating objects. I didn't find this particularly rewarding as far too many of the 'puzzles' were solved by brute strength (attack the door to open it) and when they were more complex trial and error was often the only way to go.

As for the combat, there is a choice of three difficulty levels. Although there are a number of confrontations that must be faced, much of the time combat is by choice rather than necessity. For instance, many creatures don't attack unless provoked and many of the locations where combat is inevitable are merely optional side quests. Very likely this will suit players who don't want to be fighting endlessly but it does change the nature of the game. Firstly, because combat isn't ever imminent character management is not so important. Also, it means that if you want more 'action' you are cast as an aggressor rather than having a pressing purpose behind your carnage. Ok, so the difference here is subtle, but I prefer to be hindered in my purpose to obtain something crucial rather than hacking and slashing just for the sake of it.

Because of the 3D game engine and the real time combat (you can enable a targeting function to assist here), coupled with the 'intelligent' nature of your adversaries (they run around and you must chase them) Guardians of Destiny also has the feel of a 3D action game.

A mixture of genres
It would seem that Westwood have something for everyone here with this little effort. Roleplayers, intensive combatants (or not), adventurers and even action game enthusiasts will find something to suit. I'm sure Guardians of Destiny will have its fans, but I'm not sure that trying to be all things to all people will be overly successful.

Guardians of Destiny has an interesting story and a massive game world with some rather impressive transitional sequences as well as interaction with real actors. Also, it will suit players who like more freedom in a game as there are choices and, of course, some areas can be ignored. For many of you this will make it more 'replayable' and a worthwhile purchase. Although I must add that I've re-played LOL I twice and I'm certain that this one won't get such lavish attention. Unfortunately this first version has a few bugs that need to be sorted out but, regardless of this, I would only recommend it for players who like a bit of everything. Although we are classifying it as a roleplaying game it wouldn't look too out of place in the 'action adventure' category. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
DOS: MS-DOS 5 or higher, Pentium 90 recommended, 16Mb RAM minimum, 4 x CD-ROM or higher with MSCDEX 2.2 or higher, VGA/MCGA video card, Sound Card, 130Mb minimum free hard drive space (220 recommended)
Windows: Win 95, Pentium 75 minimum (90 recommended) 16M RAM minimum, 4x CD-ROM or higher, DirectX 3.0a compatible Video Card and Sound Card, 105Mb minimum free hard drive space (220 recommended)