Anvil of Dawn

Developer:  DreamForge
Publisher:  New World Computing
Year Released:  1995

Review by Rosemary Young (April, 1996)
anvil.jpgAfter a near famine in role-playing games through most of last year it seems that we are now in for more than our fair share. We can even indulge in a spot of gluttony.

Anvil of Dawn is one of many servings tempting us at the moment and, for me at least, it has been one of the most enjoyable. The game is a long one, there are around 15 separate locations/areas to tax your role-playing skills, and each location is punctuated by some very impressive outside travel scenes of the land of Tempest shrouded in mist. The graphics here are quite spectacular including waterfalls and waterwheels, imposing castle edifices and winding mountain passes.

Ominous Opening
The story opens with an animated sequence showing the Warlord rallying his hordes in preparation for invading your land of Tempest. It doesn't look good; and it isn't. The Dark Gods have favoured the Warlord with a lethal magic weapon so Tempest is in dire trouble. Its armies are doomed, and so is the land. Trees are bending to the evil force, rivers are turning to mud and, to top it off, the dead are rising to follow the invader.

All that is left of hope lies in the five brave volunteers who stand before the Old One and the Lady of the Land. Here is where you step into the action. You must choose one of these champions to take on his or her desperate journey to find the Warlord and relieve him of his awesome magical toy. Each character is endowed with a predetermined set of attributes -- strength, agility, stamina, and magic power -- however you have the option of re-distributing these attributes. When you are satisfied, re-name your character if you wish, then off you set. Your journey will be a perilous one, and there is no guarantee of a perfect ending.

Well structured game
Anvil of Dawn is a very easy game to get into and it is an ideal game for novices as well as for more experienced adventurers. Many aspects make it suitable for less experienced players. There is only one character to worry about, character generation is simple and you don't have to be concerned with such trivialities as eating, sleeping or even lighting your way. Also the combat is not too harrowing or complicated as it is in real time. You only need to be persistent and keep casting spells or frantically clicking on your opponent, or on your weapon hand, to eventually see them depart in a colourful starburst or circle of fire. (For those of you who have an aversion to mice, there are keyboard controls to keep you happy as well). The enemies you will meet in the numerous locations are varied and well animated, and on their demise they all dissolve in a colourful display of pyrotechnics.

The story itself is well structured and develops in stages as you proceed. The first few locations are pretty much circumscribed but after this you can please yourself. By this stage you have a fairly lengthy 'shopping list' and the various items can be collected more or less in any order. Still, just remember to keep hold of anything that looks interesting. Even if you have no knowledge of it when you find it, you are bound to learn of its use in another location. If necessary, you can retrace your steps to use a particular item and, maybe gain access to an area you may have missed.

First off you must learn something of the dreadful magic that has fallen into the Warlord's hands. The Old One points you in the right direction, to the Mage of the Dark Lantern, and from here you will be directed further till you learn about the magic and how to overcome it. To start you off gently the first location is relatively painless and especially in the combat department. With a couple of useful spells and a trusty weapon the nasties here can be easily despatched. The freeze spell (Shackles of Ice) is particularly useful at this early stage of the game as it immobilises your opponents and makes easy pickings of them, although it seems to have the disadvantage of not building up experience points.

Statistics and useful tools
Unfortunately, in this adventure your character doesn't gain overall experience levels but you will build up experience in the use of particular weapons and in your expertise with magic to make your spells bigger and better. The statistics are relatively simple which is another point favouring less experienced players. Also, you can increase your hit points and your magic points, but not by hard slogging. There are potions strewn around to do this job for you.

There are 10 save game slots and lots of useful options for controlling the sound effects and music, or toggling on and off the icons at the side of the screen. The mapping feature is excellent showing objects and secret doors (after you have found them) as well as live and dead monsters, teleporters, etc. etc. and, most importantly, you can add your own notes if need be. The movement is a fairly standard step-by step affair though you can positively zoom along if you hold the movement keys flat to the keyboard or plant your finger on the mouse button. Unfortunately, there is no side stepping, which is a bit of a disadvantage during combat, but at least there is no need to laboriously check every wall for buttons. All the buttons and switches are easily recognisable and most can be manipulated without even facing them so you don't have to make a right-angled turn every time you spot one.

Look before you leap
Each of the locations you must visit in this game presents you with a sizeable area to explore. As far as I can remember all except one have at least two levels and although a couple are a little tiresome (mainly hack and slash) the majority have a fair selection of levers, teleporters, pressure plates, illusionary walls, rolling rocks and the like. And the good news is that once you have cleared out the monsters, they stay dead. With the help of your map which shows you exactly what is happening when you push that button or move that rock, you can then relax and get on with solving the numerous puzzles. These are fairly straightforward, but there are also those that will keep you guessing for a while.

If in doubt in this game, remember to consult your trusty journal. This document records all the quests and quest items you need to locate, plus lots of other useful information. There are even some good hints so that you don't miss anything that might be useful.

There are a number of non-playing characters -- you will meet at least one in every location -- and they will fill you in on the story. Some will have a sad tale of woe about the evils of the warlord whilst others will have a minor quest for you at the end of which you will get some essential information or a useful item. Other useful items such as weapons and improved armour you will find scattered around in the various tunnels, so it is advisable to check out every last corner in case you miss something.

Try your luck
Anvil of Dawn is an involving game. Whilst the overall premise is fairly standard, the plot development is varied enough to draw you into the story and keep you interested. The game world is packed with puzzles and unique monsters and all the dialogue is supported by text in case you miss any of the speech. Although many of the features make it particularly good for novices it also has enough depth to keep experienced players entertained for more than a few good long hours. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486/33 (486/66 recommended), 4MB RAM, 5-30 MB hard drive space, 2xCD-ROM, DOS 5.0 or greater, mouse.