There are two immediate things you need to know about Lands of Lore III. First, there isn't a whole lot of new ground covered in the game in terms of innovative plot and game play, and second, if you're a true fan of the series' previous two titles, it won't matter. Use of accelerator card technology gives the game new crispness and movement similar to putting on a glossy coat of paint on an old, yet cherished house. Shadowing and lighting effects have been reworked to a high level of reality.
Lands of Lore III is a game of many decisions but none is more important than the one regarding which and how many of the four guilds to join. Guilds play an integral part in shaping the type of character you want. Each guild has a specific type of Familiar you can choose as your in-game sidekick. The catch is that even though you can join all four guilds, thus causing experience points to be spread out among your attributes and slowing character development, you get only one Familiar. Thus, your choice becomes a strategic one when deciding whether your companion will complement your character's abilities or be proficient in skills otherwise not readily available.
The mouse/keyboard interface is slick, smooth, intuitive and completely customizable. The game will no doubt have a large number of detractors simply because of the nearly total linear aspect of the adventure. The game isn't overly difficult even though the world in the game is large with six distinct and cleverly detailed locales. Administrative tasks such as inventory management, character equipage and automapping are handled with a minimum of fuss. The game shines in the ease of use and the nicely designed organizational skills of an in-game journal that has a baker's dozen specifically compartmentalized areas. Any and all important game aspects are automatically entered into the journals of magic, items, creatures, pharmacopoeia, essential items, quests, guilds, skills, conversations, options, notes, automapping and user comments (your own notes).
The game play associated with spell casting, magic items and physical weaponry, such as melee and missile implements and protection (armor), features quick accessibility and ease of use. Mana and health bars are visible at all times as is a spell belt containing five readied spells/items and an inventory belt that contains up to five of your favorite inventory items. The four guilds (Warrior, Cleric, Mage or Thieves) and their familiars ensure a wide range of possibilities and interaction with various locales and a somewhat sparse number of evil and AI-challenged creatures to encounter (e.g., non-agressive or easily avoided).
Lands of Lore III comes with a short but effective walk through of the opening sequence in the Spider Cave for newcomers. The game won't impress everyone for the simple reasons stated at the beginning of the review. It has its share of poorly designed movement in places (e.g., an NPC gets hung up in a wall) and the computer "monster" AI's aren't particularly savvy. With an open mind, though, the game can be used as a break from recent RPGs that rely on 200+ hours of gameplay to complete. It's fairly simple, the tasks are not too tough and the linearity moves the game along without the need for copious backtracking. Fans will enjoy the relative simplicity of the game but RPGers looking for a grueling test may be disappointed.
Graphics: Use of 3Dfx acceleration results in smooth sailing through the game environments. The lustrous background 3D art is for the most part spectacular and the various lands, while not necessarily new to the fantasy role playing genre, are well constructed and interesting. Shadows and lighting is impressively designed to create a realistic and enjoyable environment. The opening sequence of your character Copper LeGré's forest meeting with his father and half-brothers is one of the best in recent memory. On the negative side, however, many RPG fans will dislike the linear aspect and the relative ease of solving puzzles and problems. The graphics engine does seem dated and the game has several noticeable flaws in movement and interaction with NPCs.
Sound: Musical score is mood enhancing. Voice acting is passable and in some cases quite good, however, certain characters lack the polish of professional voice actors. The cast is huge and the sheer number of voice actors required resulted in doubling or tripling up of one actor for multiple roles.
Enjoyment: As a fan of the series, I believe Lands of Lore III carries on the tradition and story of its predecessors admirably. The environment is believable and interaction is well done. The main gripe I have regarding game play is the difficulty experienced in fighting creatures (e.g., spiders, 8-foot cockroaches, etc.) that approach so closely they get under your field of vision, requiring either a quick spurt of speed to get away from them, turn and fight or that you be extra dexterious in controlling the "look down" movement function. Admittedly, this and the occasional slow load times are petty gripes and are not nearly enough to offset the quality of the game.
Replay Value: Probably higher than a normal rating in the replayability of a role playing game. However, in this instance, the development of your character with his affiliation to the guilds and use of only one of the four possible Familiars could be a factor in how the game plays out. As stated earlier, decisions are a large part of the game and none bigger than how you want your character to evolve.
People who downloaded Lands of Lore 3 have also downloaded:
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos, Lands of Lore 2: Guardians of Destiny, Might and Magic 7: For Blood and Honor, Might and Magic 9, Might and Magic 6: The Mandate of Heaven, Diablo 2, Knights of the Temple II, Knights of Honor
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