Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness
(Note: reviewed as part of Quest for Glory Collection Series)
This 4th instalment of the Quest for Glory series was first released back in 1993 so it's been a good few years since I first played it. It runs in 256 colours so the graphics aren't impressive by today's standards, but it's surprising how quickly you forget about this once you start exploring.
It's set in the troubled land of Mordavia, which could very well be Transylvania with its resident vampires and sundry monsters that are making the lives of the locals a misery. They will be sceptical of you at first, but once you get to know them you'll have some fun mending broken marriages, finding lost loves, rescuing children and, of course, learning about the Dark One and fending off the darkness that is set to descend permanently over the land. Enough of the story, suffice it to say there's lots happening in Mordavia so you'll be kept busy in this game doing good deeds, solving puzzles, and stayin' alive when you meet up with the prowling monsters.
If you haven't played a Quest for Glory game and you like consorting with vampires, gypsies, gnomes, ghosts and wizards then you are in for a treat. Although they do have a degree of fighting they also have a huge serving of puzzles. The fighting is never too arduous, in fact in this game you can set the difficulty to low and not be tested too stringently. You can even play in strategy mode rather than action mode and let the computer do the fighting for you. It's simple once you get used to it and once you have a few experience points under your belt. There are some colourful monsters including some fearsome rabbits ... they took me by surprise, but there is evil in Mordovia.
As the game starts you are given the opportunity to import a character from the previous games or you can simply start from scratch and create another. I must stress that you don't have to have played the previous games, you can jump right in without prior knowledge or you can read the story in the manual.
For creating your character there is a choice of 3 occupations ... fighter, wizard or thief. Each has different skills so this means that they must solve puzzles in different ways. There's enough difference to make it well worth playing the game more than once, especially after a bit of a break. There are even a couple of unique quests woven in for each character to vary the experience. At the start there are a few skill points to distribute but this is simple enough to deal with, you can't go wrong if you follow the lead and build up on those that your character already has.
Then it's into the game and the challenges and mystery start immediately. After collecting a few items and escaping your initial predicament there's a gaping abyss to traverse (each character will find a different path here) and then an archway etched with mysterious symbols that are worth noting down. From here on there are many puzzles to solve: how to traverse the swamp, how to trick the wicked witch, how to get into the castle ... I could go on and on.
If in doubt there are a number of characters with useful clues. In fact conversation is an important part of the game, you'll need to talk to everyone ... often, and check out the night time scene as well as the day time because some characters appear only at night. There is a shop to buy supplies and other useful items and you'll collect up even more goodies as you go. There are books to read, riddles to answer, secret passages to find as well as a couple of simple abstract puzzles that can be bypassed if you don't have the patience.
There really are a lot of things going on and there's a lot of leeway in finding your path through the story. The game is very easy to slip into. It's mouse controlled with a row of icons for you to choose an action, or you can simply right click to cycle through the action options. Just use the mouth icon on someone to talk generally, or on yourself to give information. You navigate using the foot icon, look with the eye and take with the hand ... simple. Another icon opens your inventory and there's also one for access to spells and to 'special actions' such as viewing your character sheet, gauging the time of day, sleeping, etc.
Shadows of Darkness also has a gauge to set the overall difficulty level and limitless save game slots as you can create a new save directory as each one fills up. You can enable automatic save if you like so you don't have to worry too much when a monster gets the better of you. I can't speak for the earlier floppy version but I can't remember any voices and I assume it didn't have any. However this CD version does have voices throughout as well as backup text. It also has some happy music and sound effects and you can adjust the level of sound in the options screen.
It's got a lot going for it if you don't mind some mild action along with your adventuring. I've just had a most enjoyable trip down memory lane. I'd forgotten how much fun and how long this Quest for Glory is, and I'd also forgotten how many puzzles and how to solve a lot of them. It really is fun to go back to these less sophisticated days and see (or remember) what it was like. It's well worth the trip, so if you haven't made it keep any eye out for this Quest for Glory package that has the first four games ready and waiting! It played fine in Win 98 on a PIII 500.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2003.
All rights reserved.
Win 3.1, 386 25 MHZ or faster, 8 MB RAM, VGA, Mouse, 2x CD ROM.