Lands of Lore III
Funny, isn't it, how Westwood spend four years working on the last Lands Of Lore adventure, but take just over a year to come up with the third title in this ever-evolving series? But then who's complaining? As far as we're concerned, they can keep 'em coming.
Accessible, involving and (reasonably) pleasing to look at, Lands Of Lore: Guardians Of Destiny, the second instalment. Part three looks set to continue that trend. Louis Castle, executive vice president of Westwood Studios and executive producer on Lands Of Lore III, explains the evolution of the series: "Westwood want to make games that are not only A entertaining, but also very A accessible to the masses. The idea that role-playing games . I arc a lor of fun is not new to hard-core role-players - they,low that. The fact that roleing games can be played by the average mortal is news
to a lot of people (laughs). In Lands Of Lore, we learned a lot of lessons and tried lots of experiments - we went for a multi-character party that people could come and go from. In Lands Of Lore II we took that to the next level, with one main character who could change between three races and could be any type of class you wanted. In Lands of Lore III we're actually expanding on those ideas quite a bit. "There are four key elements that we really feel make Lands Of Lore III unique, advanced, and state-of-the-art in terms of role-playing games."
"First and foremost, we felt that the interface had to be more accessible - even better than a Quake-type game. It has to be as easy as pie - jump-right-in simple.
That, it seems, is already the case. An active cursor takes care of movement and exploration, much the same as before, only this time every item in the game is fully backed up with 'tool tips'-type text which helps explain things as you go along. Also, new inventory items 'sparkle' for a few minutes to indicate there's more to find out about them. 'The idea is to make people feel excited when something changes," explains Louis.
"The second key element is that we're going to include more role-playing elements in this game. Not only as many as we had in Ixmds Of Lore II, but also all the things from Lands Of Lore 1, then we're going to add on top of that. Hopefully, making the game much easier to use actually facilitates the goal to add more to it." Although Westwood shied away from including a 'class' system (the 'lifestyle' your character chooses to act out) in the second game, they plan to bring it back for the third instalment.
"Most people have no idea what 'class' is, much less which would be the right one to choose," says Louis. "So the game's designers have placed a number of'guilds' in the city, each one with a 'salesman' who tries to convince you to join their ranks." Apparently, you'll be able to select from cleric, magic user, thief or fighter classes. Other new features directly related to this are 'familiars', which follow you around, offering advice and mucking in when it comes to combat. A number of shops will also provide buying/selling opportunities - something else that didn't appear in the last game.
"The narrative is very important to us and we want to advance the art of storytelling in our products," says Louis, "so how we take the story to the next level is our third key element.
"We've tried really hard to make sure that this game is not 'big bad guy out to kill the world, hero goes and kills the bad guy'. We wanted to change that."
And change it they did: the Draracle (an ancient noble being who played a pivotal role in part two) has now left the realm and taken all his magic with him, causing all kinds of mither back home. Once fourth in line to the throne of Gladstone, you suddenly find yourself in contention for the crown when your father and elder brothers (preceding you in the royal family tree) are slain in an attack by other-worldly creatures. In the ensuing chaos you find that your soul has been stolen and your life becomes a race against death, as well as a political battle with those vying for your throne. Much like real life, in fact.
Some role-playing games have been criticised in the past for excessively linear storylines, and others for being too open-ended. It's a fine balance. Lands Of Lore 2 had two completely separate plot-lines, each of which took you on a different path through the game.
"That was a mistake," says Louis. "We spent a lot of time developing both tracks fully, and - considering it was a 100-hour game - few people actually went through and played both ways."
A bit of a waste, all told. So how linear will Lands Of Lore storyline be?
"This time, we've made the variety in the 'guilds' and the 'worlds' themselves. The different worlds - portals opened by a magical mirror - can be visited out of sequence. You don't have to do them in any particular order, but you will have to complete them all to finish the game. You don't have to join any of the guilds either; you don't have to do all that wizard stuff."
How It Looks
The fourth and final key element in Louis' Lands Of Lore arsenal is the graphics. "You know, we're addicted to the 'eye candy' too," proclaims the enthusiastic vice president. "We love Quake II and Unreal and Half-Life and all these great-looking games, and, boy, why is it that role-playing games get the backwater end of engines and don't have really cool-looking stuff?"
Lands Of Lore III does, thankfully, address this problem. Coloured lighting, real-time shadowing, animated light sources, smooth corners and voxel character models abound, and now all the structures are modelled in intricate polygonal detail. But why use voxels for the characters when the current trend is for polygons?
"Speed, mainly," Louis explains. "We debated putting the voxel system into our last game, but it would have been too great a task to rework the 60-odd monsters at such a late stage in development." In an attempt to widen the game's appeal even further, Westwood have also been working hard on a software version that should run fine on a Pentium 166. No one should have an excuse not to play. Unless, of course, you don't like role-playing games. Like adventures, there aren't many of them being made these days - not good ones, anyway. Why does Louis think this is so?
'There's a renaissance going on at the moment I think there'll be a lot of role-playing games between now and this time next year. I don't know how successful all of them will be, because these are huge games and they take a long time to get into, but the better ones will survive - the games that appeal to a much larger audience will hold their ground. The real hard-core role-playing games will, unfortunately, go the same way as hard-core strategy games - they're not going to reach out to people in the same way, so they will remain underground. They're too much work for most people to get into."
So, Lands Of Lore III is almost ready. If it's as easy to get into, as feature-packed, as engrossing and as visually stimulating as Westwood claim, we could soon be playing the most successful game in the Lands Of Lore series - it's certainly much better than the second game. Watch out for a full review soon.
Role-playing games, have something of a social stigma attached to them. Usually they are thought of as the domain of sweaty, over-nourished wearing naught but a T-shirt and a pair of four-day-old underpants for bodily company. Well, let me tell you that this is not the case, as Westwood Studios have proved in the past and are about to prove again with this, the third instalment in the ever-expanding Lands Of Lore senes.
Yes, Lands Of Lore III is a role-playing game, but it's above and beyond what many associate with the dice-rolling and goblinslaying of many traditional RPGs. In essence this game is a combination of adventure, RPG and action game, held together with a strong narrative, luscious visuals and a damn near watertight interface - diverse enough to appeal to almost anyone, least of all your average stereotyped role-playing crusty.
The Only Survivor
Following on from where Guardians Of Destiny - the second Lands Of Lore adventure - left off, episode three sees you in the shoes of young heir to the throne Copper, out hunting with his father, Richard (the King) and two elder brothers. The obligatory Westwood-style pre-rendered cut-scene picks up the story with an argument between the brothers. All is not well in this land of magic and monsters. And, it transpires, things are about to get much worse.
As the party readies to hunt, a pack of skinless, razor-toothed beasts appear from nowhere, killing the King and his two sons in the blink of an eye. Copper is the only survivor, having been savaged by the beasts, dropped down a hole and left for dead.
When Copper eventually comes to, and you regain control, your first major task is to return to the safety of the city of Gladstone and piece together some semblance of reasoning behind these brutal slayings.
Easy Like Sunday Morning
When the game begins proper, Copper is left dazed in a leafy glade and must gather his rucksack and find himself a weapon before regaining his bearings. The setting, as you would expect from a game these days, is depicted in full first-person 3D - a mixture of texture-mapped polygons and voxel sprites - and is more than adequate for the purposes of this game. Moving around is simplicity itself, achieved by using the mouse and, if so wished, a combination of keys. A Quake-stye mouse system is available for looking around: double left-click to jump; right-click to attack with whatever weapon is currently equipped (nothing at the start of the game). Action game veterans will of course define a set-up that proves most comfortable, enabling them to strafe/jump/duck using the keyboard, and look around/fight using the mouse. Whatever, there are enough options to cater for everyone, and within no time at all you're leaping around, picking up food and items and slaughtering wild boar (the most prominent nasty at the beginning of the game) with the greatest ot ease. Other basic on-screen essentials indicate your health status, mana levels, direction of facing and amount of cash you're currently carrying (see The Front End panel below for the full low-down).
Managing your possessions is of paramount importance. Lands Of Lore III is absolutely stuffed with magical items/weapons/tasty morsels, and your inventory is of a finite size. Hitting the key (or whatever you've defined as the inventory key) shrinks the screen to a quarter of its full screen size, brings up your general inventory, and shows current experience, hunger and weapons/armour slots. Less experienced players will find the 'tool tips' text and online help system extremely useful early in the game, and as you learn to make use of the fantastic automap/log book - or The Journal, as it's called in the game - it's no time at all before you've made your way out of the jungle and back to the safety of the city of Gladstone.
Once there, the story of Copper and the predicament he is in is explained fully in another excellent pre-rendered cut-sequence. It turns out that an ancient being has unleashed its evil through portals leading to five different worlds. Not only that, but you discover that your soul was taken away from you by the demons who killed your father. Closing the portals and regaining your soul are the two main tasks of the ever expanding plot.
Before you can begin your quest though, the first thing you are told to do is go out and join a guild. Unlike the previous Lands Of Lore adventure, LOL 3 contains more 'traditional' RPG elements, and learning a trade by joining a guild is just one of them. By talking to the many characters scattered throughout Gladstone you eventually discover four guilds (see Get A Job panel below right), each offering a particular type of 'class' alignment (fighter, magic user, healer or thief), plus services (training etc) and Familiars (see Looks Familiar panel on page 70) pertaining to that particular lifestyle. Once you've chosen what kind of person you're going to play, it's time to start building experience points by completing sub-quests and killing monsters.
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep
Once the game has opened up and you've discovered the first portal, you should be in control of a fairly handy persona with some weaponry and a mixed bag of rudimentary spells. It's here that you begin to realise just how 'sucked in' you are becoming.
Lands Of Lore III is in many ways reminiscent of Gremlin's classic Realms Of The Haunting - genuinely scary at times, and dripping with atmosphere the whole time you play. Another trait it shares with Realms Of The Haunting is that the graphics could be a hell of a lot better. Lands Of Lore Ill's texture-mapped polygons are cool enough. There's a tar greater sense of scale this time around, and the coloured lighting adds a heck of a lot to it, but the lack of perspective correction mins the effect when you look up and down. On top of this, the nonplayer characters - created using a voxel 3D system - are not as effective as one would have hoped. That said, if you can ignore these deficiencies and get on with the game, there's a lot to be said for the astounding atmosphere conjured up by the combination of visuals, music and sound effects.
What makes this game such an outstanding long-term prospect though, is the scope of the adventure and the open-endedness of the role-playing.
The storytelling is fairly linear, but the way you build up your character is completely up to you. There are shops this time around (not a feature of the last game), and the populated towns actually bustle with a fair degree of realism. In many ways this game is what Bethesda's grand-but-flawed Daggerfall should have been.
The attention to detail is astounding. Water ripples convincingly; birds peck at the ground and fly away when you near them; the dialogue is witty, and never seems to cut out unexpectedly or play out of context; there are some wonderful 'particle' effects when spells are cast; and there's a built-in 'auto save' option which saves the game at intervals specified by you.
There's little to annoy about this game (apart from the missed opportunity in the graphics department). The fact that your character can't swim is a bit of a pisser, as is the inability to select stacked items in your inventory (you have to take them one by one). Other than that, there's not much wrong with it. If you're looking for an easily accessible, long-term graphic adventure with role-playing elements and plenty of combat, then look no further than Lands Of Lore III - there simple isn't anything better on the PC at the moment.
This guide gives you that all-important LOL III walkthrough as well as general tips on how to prepare yourself for the gruelling adventure ahead. Furthermore, there's advice on how to cope with other well-trodden areas of the game such as the town and forest. Let the quest begin...
Once you've joined a guild, you should continue by seeking the Draracle. Go into Gladstone Forest and head south until you reach a small volcano. The portal here takes you to Volcania, where the Draracle is currently residing.
Chat with him and go through the portal he leaves behind. This takes you directly to the Draracle's Lair where the Sigil is hidden. The Sigil is the device you need to use to collect the five pieces of mirror in order to get your soul back. Got that? Good.
After Jakel has messed you about with his pathetic puppet, the real Draracle's voice guides you onwards. Throw some dust over the invisible pathway and keep going. You should find the Sigil fairly easily.
Now it's time to start collecting those pieces of the mirror. Two portals are visible on the map. Choose either one - it doesn't matter which order you complete them in, although the Frozen Wastes is probably the easier world of the two.
The Draracle's Lair is a place you find yourself returning to time and time again. Skeletal warriors patrol the hallways and, while a hindrance at first, they eventually turn out to be a good supply of money - for some reason they always carry loose change around with them. These skeletons are often accompanied by ores who also have a base within the Lair.
Being slow and stupid, they're easy prey, though sadly they have very little of any worth. After the first exploration of their paltry caves, it's not worth going back.
The Frozen Wastes
Head through the Frozen Wastes, defeating the snow tigers as you go. At the White Tower you encounter Jacinda, leader of the tribe of warrior women who live there and keeper of the shard. You have two options at this point: you can kill her immediately, or you can help her by destroying all the starks (fire-breathing chickens) that have overrun the Tower. Frankly, it's worth getting rid of her first and forgetting about the chickens, because even if you complete the task she still attacks you when you visit the throne room later for your 'reward'. So kill her, pick up the vault key, and go directly to the throne room to find the shard.
You are now transported back to the Oraracle's Lair. Chat to Jakel, then proceed through the old caves (invading the ores' lair while you're at it) and head towards the portal leading to Volcania.
A combination of nimble footwork to avoid the lava, and good long-range weaponry to wipe out those pesky firebugs should be enough to take you through to the final lava cave where Morphera (the hormonal dragon) awaits. You might actually encounter her up to three times on your way there, but unfortunately you're not able to defeat her until you reach that final cave.
When you get there, run around the edge of the cave destroying the plugs. This stops the lava from flowing into the lake and prevents Morphera regenerating when you kill her.
With those out of the way simply wade in close and hack her to bits. When she's just about to die, run backwards and finish her off with range attacks so she doesn't kill you with her explosive death. Collect the shard in the middle of the dried up lava lake and you're promptly transported back to the Draracle's Lair where Jakel awaits you.
Back in Gladstone Forest, some more portals have opened up. Go through the Underworld portal in the north...
At the entrance to the portal, your thief friend gives you a key. Advance through the portal to find yourself in a stunningly atmospheric haunted house. Walk north until you reach the ballroom with an old grandfather clock standing between two lifts. Turn the key in this lock until the clock breaks. Use a lift to go upstairs, and turn right. Go through the last door on this side of the landing and open the cupboard door. The tormented ghost of a girl is here, and she wants you to stop the fire burning her for eternity. To do this, run quickly into the other bedrooms and empty the lamp oil before it sets the house on fire. Don't worry if you aren't quick enough and the flames kill you, as you're instantly resurrected at the cupboard and asked to try again. This cycle keeps going until you successfully drain the oil from the lamp and put the ghost out of its eternal torment.
Go back downstairs and find the organist in the north end of the ballroom. To get him to bash out a tune, collect the sheet music located down the hallway to the west of the front door of the house, and a bottle of wine which Is down some stairs in the kitchen off the hallway to the east.
Go back to the ghostly Elton John and give him a bottle of wine. Once pepped up, give him the sheet music. Now we can rock 'n' roll. Get down with the ghost dancers and follow them through the secret passage up to the attic. Dash straight to the end of the room and overwind the clock/mirror containing all the lost souls. This makes the Scythe Reaper appear. Killing him is easy - get in nice and close and slice him with a sharp weapon. As long as you have plenty of healing items it's a piece of cake. If you're a mage you must now take a sample of the shard he's left behind; everybody else simply picks up the shard to be teleported back to Jakel at the Draracle's Lair. Now it's time to go to the Ruloi Homeworld...
The Ruloi Homeworld
The key to winning this level is finding the Ruloi hand. To gain the hand, keep killing the yellow Ruloi Warriors until it appears. To ease your task, destroy all the regeneration pads - this stops the Ruloi reappearing after you've defeated one.
Essentially this is a very straightforward level, as long as you have either a spell or item that protects you from poison (ie the stone bracers). Not only are you then immune to numerous spells, but you can also walk freely through the many acid pools scattered liberally around this acrid world.
When you have the hand, go to either door with a claw inscribed on the lock and use it to go through. Jump on the teleport pad to be taken to the Ruloi Hive Mother. Once again, get as close as you can and keep hacking with a sharp object - her spongy flesh doesn't take this kind of attack too well and she soon dies, leaving the shard on the floor nearby. Collect the shard to be returned to the Draracle's Lair. After you talk to Jakei, proceed to the Shattered Desert portal...
The Shattered Desert
Do not enter this world unless you have some kind of protection from poison, or the radiation will fry you before you've barely set foot on the planet.
From the start, head through the canyons, killing as many of the mutants and monsters as you can. Remember that these things are basically immune to magic, so you need some kind of heavy cleaving weapon to do the job properly. The route through can become confusing, so keep your eyes open for vines that lead up to ledges and new areas. Also, don't forget to smash the piggy bank; incredibly, it contains 100,000 credits - handy. Eventually you must enter the cave that emits a strange buzzing sound and has wires hanging down. To reach this you can just make the jump from a nearby ledge.
Once in the cave, your troubles are just starting. As well as piling up objects on top of each other (use the object manipulation key) to reach otherwise inaccessible passageways, you must find a robot eye to unlock a door, destroy computer panels, and shoot hanging live wires to stop yourself being electrocuted.
Once you gain entrance to the wizard (main computer), you must destroy the force field generators before you can destroy the computer. Just circle around the central area, taking out the shields with a long-range weapon, and the sentry guns preferably with a sword. With that done you can now face the main computer - what a joke, it's just six panels that can be destroyed with any weapon. Once you've picked up the shard, escape back through the caves before the base self-destructs, then when you're outside make your way back to the portal...
The Final Battle
Once you're back, go straight to Jakel at the Draracle's Lair. He teleports you into a pool of water. Turn around and climb up the rope. You find yourself in some kind of pulsating chamber with a pack of rift hounds. However, worse threats come from the four Jakel holograms that hurl a torrent of spells at you. To defeat these you need to be extremely well stocked up on healing items. Get in close to these spectres and keep hacking - avoid the pink columns and try some apparition spells of your own.
When they're defeated, turn the wheel that lowers the drawbridge, and then head for the final showdown. The real Jakel is no more difficult than the fake ones. Use the same aggressive manner, and after a long struggle you should be victorious. Pick up the seal that Jakel leaves and use it on the mirror.
And that's it. Sit back, witness your soul return, and breathe a great big sigh of relief.
The place where monsters play
This is where you find Gladstone's guilds, as well as Gladstone Keep. Ideally you should visit the Keep at least once. It's not an integral part of the game, but it does add a little something to the plot When you first arrive at Upper Gladstone, remember to smash as many barrels as possible - they contain items that can be useful on your quest.
Later In the game this important part of town is completely overrun by monsters. When this happens, new areas such as the Graveyard are revealed. Unfortunately the Guilds don't survive the onslaught, so if you have Guild business you need to attend to, make sure it's done before you find the fourth piece of the mirror.
You'd better hold on to your heart
The forest is home to many useful herts, and a lot of vicious otherworldly beasts too.
Make use of whatever you can in here, and don't forget to stock up on the pork chops readily supplied by the abundant boars. This is a place you visit often. Get to know the route from one place to another, and If you get really lost try glancing at the signposts dotted around.
As with most other areas of Gladstone, the forest soon becomes a haven for a mixture of enemies from all five worlds. Stay on your guard and don't become complacent in here - it's not rare for a rift hound to appear from nowhere and rip your heart out.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Lands of Lore III Screenshots
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