An RPG with a funny name, based on the AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Menzoberranzan is a 1994, first-person, party-based adventure game developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc.
Released in 1994, Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession was developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc. and was distributed by US Gold in the UK.
I remember it well because I reviewed it for PC Player magazine back in the day.
The third episode in the classic Eye of the Beholder series was not developed by Westwood Studios – as the other two games were – but by publisher Strategic Simulations, Inc. itself, and as a result it doesn’t quite hit the same mark as parts one and two.
First released in 1993, Eye of the Beholder III: Assault On Myth Drannor is another involving and enjoyable, first-person, party-based RPG. While not quite as good as Eye of the Beholder II, it does have a few new features that make it interesting, like the expanded text descriptions (which scroll at the bottom of the screen); the “All Attack” button (which makes all your selected characters attack at the same time, rather than having to click for each individual character); multiple choice conversations; and – most interestingly – the ability to use ‘polearms’ to attack from the second ranks.
SSI used the AESOP Engine for this game – the same engine that was developed for the classic Dungeon Hack – and it shows. The menus, and fonts, all look identical to those seen in Dungeon Hack.
Graphically, EoB 3 doesn’t have the same Westwood ‘panache’ with cut scenes, or the in-game graphics themselves, but that’s not to say that it’s bad – it isn’t. It’s actually pretty good overall. Arguably a little rough around the edges in places, but still worthy of this great series.
Eye of the Beholder III wasn’t particularly well received, at least critically, when it was first reviewed. It does have some faults. For starters: the sound effects are ridiculous. The sound of distant monsters creeping around became a standard when the mighty Dungeon Master made it so. In this, though, loud, ear-splitting sound effects happen constantly, making it almost impossible to figure out where they are coming from. On the plus side: hearing nothing at least lets you know there are no monsters around, but overall the sound effects in EoB 3 are unsubtle at best and grating at worst (you can turn them off, but doing so will disadvantage you by removing this early warning system).
Secondly, the process of resting is much more frustrating in this game. In previous EoB games you could rest pretty much straight away, which allowed you to memorise and pray for spells immediately. In this, resting straight away isn’t possible, because you start the game in a graveyard, surrounded by ghosts (and you can’t rest with monsters nearby). So the first part of the game is a bit of a panic as you run around trying to find a safe place to rest. The key is to hack a path into the trees and find a place to rest away from the ghosts. It’s not a great start to the game, though, because – initially at least – you can’t generate any magic spells, which puts you at a disadvantage.
Finally, Eye of the Beholder III is also held back by a sprinkling of other pointless ‘features’, like having to tell the game you want to enter the mausoleum (or any major location) every time you enter it, or a key press cancelling resting, or food becoming pointless if you’ve got a Cleric who can generate it magically. On the plus side: being able to manipulate your inventory while in ‘rest’ mode is a welcome new addition.
Overall, though, Eye of the Beholder III: Assault On Myth Drannor is a decent RPG. It’s certainly a heck of a challenge – maybe even moreso than the second game – but completing the harder sections is very rewarding.
Note: just like in EoB 2, you need a Thief in your party to get past certain points in the game. A puzzle early on in EoB 3 requires a Thief to complete it. If you don’t have one (and can’t get access to one), then you’ll have no choice but to restart your game, which is very annoying.
SSI‘s Dungeon Hack is an RPG that generates random dungeons, or custom dungeons, and is one big realtime battle through a Forgotten Realms world, in the style of Dungeon Master or Eye of the Beholder. It’s a never-ending dungeon crawl that gets progressively harder, and even has its own high score table!
In some ways Dungeon Hack is a first-person version of the classic Rogue, where every game is different and random events plague your every step. But it’s much more complicated than Rogue…
You can tweak pretty much every aspect of your prospective dungeon – its depth, the number of monsters, the frequency of keys, monster difficulty, poison strength, whether enemies can use spells – all kinds of things. And when you’ve generated your dungeon you then have to fight as far into it as you can, for points, which are all detailed in the aforementioned high score table.
Dungeon Hack is great fun if you love level-grinders. It’s not really about solving puzzles (like it is in Dungeon Master) – it’s more about the combat; both warrior-style and magic-based, and the mapping. The character generation side of Dungeon Hack is also highly detailed, so allows for a wide range of classes – enough to satisfy most players.
Field of Fire is my favourite of the ancient SSI turn-based strategy games on the Commodore 64 because it is so easy to get up and running and playing, and commanding a platoon.
The scenarios are mostly Normandy campaign occupied France, with small towns and cities and bocage, but there is also an Omaha beach assault, an Ardennes mission, a Roehr crossing, and others.
Field of Fire is enjoyable old school strategy gaming at its best. I guess you could call me The King of Dull Grabs…