Eye of the Beholder

Title		Eye of the Beholder
Game Type	RPG
Players		1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility	020 + (?)
Submission	Cathy Macdonald Profiled Reviewer

Piergeiron, Chief Lord of Waterdeep, receives a troubled letter, from
Khelben of the Council, concerning a growing evil. Its source is unknown
to Khelben, but he has reason to suspect that it emanates from the elusive
Xanathar and below the city itself - out of sight of the Lords and the
Watch.  You are given a Commission to investigate the threat. The quest is
to find out what lurks beneath Waterdeep - or so you are led to believe by
the Council!  On arriving at the sewer entrance, you realise that you
have, in fact, been duped. It's someone's ploy to get rid of you, for
their own sinister designs. The real objective, therefore, is to deal with
what is behind the Council's evil inclinations, thus aiding the side of
Good - then get out of there!

The definitive computerised version of TSR's "Advanced Dungeons &
Dragons", this is more than simply a "Dungeon Master" clone. In my opinion
it appears superior, both in graphic quality and depth of gameplay.
Nonetheless, the sequels of both games do look very similar - but more on
that when I've, eventually, finished playing both of them! The intro
animations are very nice for the time of release.  (It's quite amusing to
skip the animation where they're going up to the steps - as the last
frames speed up, watch their wee legs go!  Sorry, I digress). The in-game
graphics, sound and interface are mostly well done, but some in-play
access to various panels can get a bit fraught, especially during real
time combat, when trying to access spells or change weapons/positions. A
bit too much clicking going on for my liking, and sprites can freeze when
things get frantic. The front layout is nice though, and the character
generation panels (available only at the start) are well thought out.
There are male and female of several "race" mixtures, faces, attributes
and combinations to choose from.  These are all clearly explained in the
manual, so no excuses for poor judgement!  The animated characters you
encounter (good and bad) are generally well drawn and imaginative, but
with the typical "static" animation held on to by subsequent RPG
designers, like Silmarils (who could have done more).

You are whoever you have chosen to be, with up to 3 compatriots, through
the character generator.  The game is viewed in first-person perspective;
yourself and your fellows are only seen in the face panels, from where
everything is accessed. Trouble, as ever, is seen coming at you - when
it's not sneaking up behind you!  You start out, with very little, outside
the gate to Waterdeep sewers, accompanied by the devious Council members
who subsequently seal you in - yep, it's a trap alright! No way but down
now.  Thankfully, there are some useful items in the immediate vicinity,
and the trouble you meet through the first, lever- controlled, gate is
easily dealt with.  Later, there are Runes to read, but if you haven't got
a Gnome, tough cookie! Continue wandering about, solving "puzzles",
investigating things and fighting things, in usual D&D fashion, to reach
the ladder down to Level 2.  This is where you find that Level 1 was
really a doddle!  There is a big jump in the difficulty level already.
This game needs a lot of strategic saving if you are to survive. Here we
hit the big downside to this game - the single save slot.  You can get
round this with several copies of Disk2 if you're floppy-based (i.e. still
in Amigan Dark Ages!) or renaming and storing the #?.sav on hard-drive.
But it's a bit of a pain.  On the programming side, apart from the
above-mentioned sprite-freeze, it is completely stable even with AGA which
is more than can be said for the, otherwise superb, "Ishar" (AGA) series.
Be aware, not all creatures pose a threat, so some are to be listened to
rather than butchered; there are 1 or 2 dwarves to be rescued and even a
couple of otherwise dubious characters have something to say.

So, how was it to play?  This game has been criticised by others for being
totally linear.  Well, there are one or two parts where you can just about
get through on an alternative, but, on the whole, it is a very linear game
- miss a particular key/item/message, and you can be thwarted for ages
before realising it.  Having said that, you don't have to find every part
of every level to complete the game - which can save a lot of time, as
well as trouble. The repetition of certain types of "traps", like
spinners/invisible teleports, verges on becoming more irritating than
challenging; one feels like just getting on with it when the game is
getting difficult enough without them!  And you really need an eagle eye
as some secret buttons are so tiny, or disguised, that they are easily
overlooked.  By the time you get to the last level and meet the dreaded
Eye of the Beholder, apparent mouthpiece of Xanathar himself, you have to
be at top level experience to defeat him - even with the aid of a certain
wand.  The latter is obtained via one of the sub-quests involving the very
helpful (if you're nice to them) dwarves.  My team survived to this point
as only 7th level characters and still had to build up more experience to
defeat the Beholder and find the way out. A challenging game.

Overall?  Not at the top of my own list to try again in a hurry, as there
are other games I enjoyed more.  This is not a criticsm of the game, I
just prefer the more outdoor, graphical RPGs myself. It may be
interesting, though, to try later with various team combinations. Despite
being lulled into a false sense of security by the ease of level 1, it's
not an easy game.  But if you're into book-based AD&D, this'll be right up
your street - a real treat for indoor dungeon-lovers!

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