DarkSpyre, released in 1990, was in the forefront of the fantasy role playing genre. As such, the developer, James Namestka attempted to create a somewhat innovative game, breaking from some traditions of earlier game development. For the most part, the final product succeeded in giving the player a different type of playing field. The game features a real-time environment, single character development rather than a party of heroes and an unusual (at the time) interface where both the 3-D overhead map and the character screen are displayed at the same time, resulting in little or no interruptions to the flow of the game. Unlike many of the earlier role playing games, DarkSpyre begins with a character creation screen that is implemented via a story leading up to the quest, relying on player answers and decisions to questions. The result is an evolving character with unique traits that determine strengths, weaknesses and initial capabilities. The normal complement of attributes (strength, agility, endurance, accuracy, talent (for spellcasting), and power) are generated through one of three methods and the game also contains an option to let the computer randomly create a quickstart character. Standard role playing fare in the areas of armor, weapons that eventually dull or break, encumbrance limitations, denizens (from demons to the undead), traps and puzzles provide plenty of player interaction throughout the game. Spell casting is handled via a process where spells are upgraded to higher effectiveness as the player's proficiency level increases. Magic spells come in six categories: wizardry (offensive), conjuration (summoning other worldly beings), enchantment (protective), healing (health and attribute restoration), divination (informative) and sorcery (object and environmental). Throughout the game, twenty runestones of power, each possessing a particular magical trait that enhance various abilities (e.g., agility, endurance, discovery) can be found through exploration in addition to the five special runestones that represent man's five basic characteristics.
A 15-page novelette is included in the Hero's Guide (the DarkSpyre instruction booklet) that gives a detailed background leading up to the time of the quest. Much use of the scratch pad (a thick packet of graph paper) will be required by the player as there is no auto-mapping feature in the game. Combat can be confusing and tough to master since it's carried out in real-time but the amount of combat varies significantly from level to level. Levels are attained through the discovery of the runestones and the ability to rush ahead needs to be tempered by the realization that your character will need all the experience points he can muster. Commands are functionally logical in the game and the interface is reasonably simple to operate with the added bonus of having your character on-screen at all times (no clicking over to screens such as weapon-selection, inventory or attribute recaps). Obviously, DarkSpyre's visual presentation is primitive in respect to current (1998) standards but retains a certain appeal as does the game's approach to a fantasy world of mayhem, survival and the designer's stated objective: fun.
Graphics: Somewhat blocky and limited in a manner reminiscent of most early 90's games but passable
Sound: Sound effects and music are adequate and enhance the atmosphere rather than detract.
Enjoyment: Well developed sense of player involvement through constant change and varied challenges with repetitious actions kept at a minimum.
Replay Value: Although character generation can be computer-random or player-developed, resulting in different approaches to task completion, the basics of the game remain the same in terms of requirements to complete levels and the ultimate goal.
It's a role-playing game, where you take on the role of an bold hero who ventures into a 50 levels tower named Darkspyre, full of riddles and monsters. Features a rather interesting spellcasting system and a Gauntlet-like visual from above.
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