Dragon Lore is a game that fits most snugly into the adventure genre despite the hint of role-playing elements. Made in France by Cryo in conjunction with Mindscape, we have a slightly quirky, yet compelling story of the heir to the seat of the famed Dragon Knights.
You, as Werner von Wallenrod, must avenge the death of your father Axel at the hands of the evil (and forbidding) Haagen von Diakonov. In accordance with ancient Wallenrod custom, you are brought up on a remote farm and on your eighteenth birthday must embark on a journey to discover your roots and true heritage. Normally your father would greet you as the prodigal son in his castle fastness, but your father is no more ...
Enough of the background. After a majestic and inspiring introductory sequence, that can only be described as superb, you find yourself in the yard of the farm you have known all your life. Surrounded by excellent three-dimensional raytraced graphics you are charged with the task of capturing your one and only stray cow. A humble beginning, but a worthy challenge none the less.
The graphics throughout are nothing less than truly grandiose and it is apparent that the producers spent innumerable hours creating a rich landscape to explore, but does this alone maketh a game? I think not.
As well as the awesome graphics in the introductory sequence, we have an equally awe-inspiring musical track. This is fine for the introduction, but the rest of the game is lacking in musical accompaniment. The sound effects present a more serious problem, however, as throughout the game every scene is accompanied by some amusing, but ultimately annoying digital samples. For example, it is common to find the squeaking and scurrying of mice in your castle so loud, you cannot hear yourself think! Woe betide you when those mice begin to gnaw at the woodwork! Unfortunately, if you turn off the sound effects you remove the extremely important digitised speech so there is little choice but to put up with the noise.
As for the interface; if you took a cross between the total freedom of Ultima Underworld, and the highly restricted movement of Eye of the Beholder, you would have the movement system of Dragon Lore. As you travel through the beautiful scenes, you have a choice of eight directions to face only some of which you can move towards. This allows you to look at objects from various viewpoints, but it can be difficult to determine which direction you must walk to get around that slightly off centre corner.
Most action and movement in the game is spiced with a cut-scene, or animated sequence and when you move to a different location a quick animation gives you an atmospheric transition between the game areas. There are little inconsistencies, however. A broad field has only one path in and out and though the graphics give you a large exit area you must be at one particular position in order to leave.
The interface for interacting with your environment also leaves a little to be desired. The dragon cursor you use for movement changes when over an item that can be used or taken. However, some of the changes are a little cryptic. For example, there are a number of objects that change the cursor to a dragon with a hammer indicating that you can perform an action, and in some instances a simple click carries out the action. More commonly, however, nothing happens! At these times you are required to use other items to perform a task on your newly found objects. Similarly, the dragon's eye curser indicates that you can take a closer look at an object but this, too, only works at certain times. You may first need to do something to an item before looking at it more closely.
Above all else, be sure to look at every object from all viewpoints, some items hide behind others and can be difficult to find. Perhaps the biggest problem with this game interface is the fact that there is no description feature. You simply cannot look at a certain scene and get a description of the room, trail or object. Such descriptions are usually the best and most common aid to solving adventure game puzzles and their absence contributed to the feeling that some of the puzzles were a little obscure.
You have a simple inventory to hold the items you pick up along the way and can place items of armour or weapons on your person - weapons (or spellbook) only in your left hand. There is very little fighting in Dragon Lore which is entirely in keeping with the genre. The small amount that you need to do is quite easy and shouldn't be a problem for most adventurers. With weapon in hand click on the screen to choose from one of four strokes. The most effective method is to click like mad and prevent your opponent from landing a blow.
Spells are an essential part of the game, but there are only a few to learn and these are relegated to merely another generation of puzzle to solve. The one slightly offensive spell you obtain - fireball - is not really designed for use in combat as it is simply too slow to cast, and even if cast successfully you can't be sure if you've done any damage.
During the course of your travels you will meet several other Dragon Knights, and the story unfolds that with your father's demise you must fill his place, but only if you can win the favour of more than half of the remaining Dragon Knights. Thus you are suddenly faced with a dual goal, expose the traitor Diakonov, and become a Dragon Knight. Fortunately for you, attain one and the other is guaranteed.
Interaction with the other Dragon Knights is accomplished via an animated cut scene with digitised speech. There is no input from you to steer the course of the conversation, simply listen to what they have to tell you. One or two may have tasks for you to fulfil, or warnings for you to heed. Listen well to their comments.
Taking all into consideration, this game will most likely appeal to those people who are blessed with a good dose of lateral thinking to solve the puzzles and who have a love of superb graphics, tempered with the ability to put up with annoying sound effects (those munching mice haunt me still!)
Copyright © Adrian Carmody 1995.
All rights reserved.
CD ROM, 486DX, 4MB RAM, 8MB hard drive space, mouse.