Lands of Lore III Review
By Michael Richter |
The third chapter in the Lands of Lore series sees young Copper LeGre searching for his soul while trying to restore order to his world. Pretty big order. Copper's the young, half-breed son of the king. Technically he's a quarter-breed, but let's skip that for now. The king and Copper's evil stepbrothers are killed by rampaging hell hounds while out hunting with Copper. Sound suspicious? Yeah, everyone else in the game thinks so too. In all fairness, you're totally innocent. During the same attack on your family, your soul was stolen. You're Copper by the way...I hope you got that already.
The girl at the magicians' guild fixes you right up with some spiritual gauze and suggests that you seek the advice of the Draracle, the local prophet. This leads you into quests through recently opened rifts into five separate dimensions to retrieve your soul and to close those five rifts which threaten the very reality of our world. As if winning your soul back isn't motivation enough. Hey, I guess for some it's not.
Although there are five unique worlds to travel in, the game settles down into a pattern pretty soon. Each new level looks different, but they're all pretty much the same. It's more of an action game than a traditional RPG. You have to hit buttons, ride platforms and jump across rivers of lava. All in all, it reminds me of a FPS with a really, really developed story. Also, there are too few types of monsters in each world. The fire world has only three types of monsters, four if you count the "boss" at the end.
There are a number of side quests outside of the main narrative that you can get involved in. This tends to give you a sense of control over the game events. It also gives you something to do when you get stuck. Unfortunately the game follows a pretty linear path. There are numerous digressions to make but they don't last too long. Given the linearity of the game, I was shocked how often I was switching out the four disks. The way the game plays out, you'll be switching back and forth a lot.
Even though LoL3 offers you one pre-set player, there are some steps you can take to shape his life. You can join up to four separate guilds. Each offers various skills, benefits and items to you. If you join the fighter's guild, you get access to the best weapons in the game. The cleric and magician guilds offer spells and magic related skills. The thieves' guild provides you with the ever useful Backstab and Lockpicking skills. They also have a pretty generic shop with a wide range of items.
Let me digress...
My big complaint here is that nobody buys anything in the game. The individual shopkeepers will only buy a few of your items. Even these they only buy in small quantities. This was extremely frustrating. When you have no use for an item, you must throw it away. The game proposes that you store this extra stuff in your hotel room. First off, I have no use for that stuff anyway. Second, the only reason to even go near the hotel is to go to the hotel. You follow me?
Back to the guilds. You many join any combination of the guilds during the game. The upside is that you get all the benefits of each guild. Since you spread out the experience between them you won't rise in level as quickly. Overall this isn't a problem. You'll still advance fairly quickly. And given the reluctance of the merchants to actually buy anything off you, you'll want to join all the guilds. Maybe somebody will want to buy your Mugwort. Call me if you get a good offer.
The game can even be played without any guild affiliation, although I don't see why. You can easily find weapons and spells outside of the guilds but only of a limited quality. Any one of the guilds is balanced enough to go solo, but they're all so much more balanced when combined. Not having a guild at all just doesn't make sense. At least be a cleric or something.
Each guild also has a familiar. You can bind yourself to one and only one of these creatures regardless of your guild membership. Each familiar possesses some knowledge which it will share. Each familiar has abilities and skills appropriate to their class. They also can attack, cast spells and bring you items-although the items they bring are never very useful. Your familiar just wont seem to bring you any Noble Valkyrie Crossbows.
Speaking of Noble Valkyrie Crossbows, there really are a lot of neat magic items in this game. A good all around assortment of weapons, armor, spell items, rings and all kinds of stuff. Some have some pretty interesting powers and a few even have drawbacks. Even better! I think the game is at fault in giving you the two most powerful weapons so early in the game. The Great Bow Shift is for sale in the fighters' guild right away. The arrows are composed of whatever your enemy is vulnerable to. Shortly after the first portal is closed, you're given a sword with so many benefits that I can't list them for reasons of space.
You can carry up to 38 items in the game. In addition to the Great Bow and the Sword of Thohan, you'll carry various restorative biscuits and magical crystals. What space isn't taken up by these essentials, will be filled to capacity with dozens of ingredients for other magical items. You can combine any of over two dozen elements to form another two dozen useful items. Can anybody name a game with a good alchemy interface? If so, I'd really like to play it.
My problem with this one is that you never really have all of ingredients together at one time. Even if you do, you're just creating more stuff to carry. Besides, so many other, ready made items can be found during your adventures. There is also usually a spell that corresponds to the powers of the various Pharmacopoeiae. You should huck the ingredients (or store them in your hotel room), and rely on the finished items and spells you already have.
There are five levels of power in 15 categories of spells. You can buy most of the spells individually in the shops. The only prerequisite is that you have the cash. In addition to the store bought spells, some of which are pretty unique, you can find Ancient Spells hidden throughout the game. These are special, hardcore magics that require the use of an Ancient Stone to cast. Hopefully, you'll have found some by the time you need them.
Combat is a pretty straightforward affair. Usually your enemies can be subdued long before your life is in danger. The AI for the creatures in the game makes it easy. Most don't seem to think about the danger inherent in turning their back on an opponent. Especially one with the awesome Backstab skill. I never felt that old Copper was in any real danger from the various villains in the game. The real danger comes from mistiming a jump and falling into the lava.
A slightly greater danger is that you'll grow frustrated with the inventory interface. Any manipulation of objects in the inventory is done one at a time. If you have 20 porkchops that are taking up space that could be filled by a more useful Champion Stone, you have to move all 20 porkchops out of your inventory individually. Ironically, forcing Copper to eat them takes a lot less time. That's another thing, Copper won't eat on his own. You have to feed him frequently or he'll start complaining about his hunger. "You have 50 pork chops!" I shout in anger. "Eat one! Aaaaaaahhh!"
When the doctors allow me near the computer again, I'm calmer. I can begin to appreciate the best parts of this game. By far the most useful and reliable component of this game is the Journal. This book records everything. I hear you asking me, "Everything, Steve?" What's with you? Yes, Everything! Pay attention. Wait ... deep breaths, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...
The journal keeps track of all quests, all items and all creatures you have encountered. It also has an automap feature. It's all in here. Forget what the hell the chick at the magicians' guild said? Read the book. Can't find the dude who sells the apples? Read the book. The journal also records any hinkfo passed on to you by your familiar. When new information appears in the book, you are notified. Wonder what that new monster is? Read the book for crying out loud! You no-good, son of a ... Sorry, lost my head. I better quit that or Trent's going to send me to anger evaluation class.
It's not a terrible game, but it's also not all that great. Where it really fails is in delivering the basic components of a traditional RPG. Its FPS action, pre-scripted conversations and single character totally ruin the RPG element here. I know I talk about how the best games merge genres, but that simply isn't the case with Lands of Lore III. It does have some truly remarkable sequences and elements to it but these are few and far between. It's a big game, but that only makes it more tedious.
-- Stephen Butts