Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Below the Cut: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance (NES)

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance - Rating(8 RPP)
1) 1 - Character Advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
2) 3 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3) 2 - Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 1 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5) 1 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 0 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve
Unlike other platforms, the NES thankfully has a save/load option
One would think a game based off D&D would include, at the very least, character progression. Sure there are "experience points" tracked for killing enemies and finding treasure, but this acts as little more than a final score at the end of the game. Characters never change, hit points are not gained, and new skills are not learned. It almost squeaked by unnoticed, but I have to cut the game short. The experience is too shallow. I can't say I'm sorry to see it go (although I don't think it's the worst game on the NES--it did make me realize up+right isn't as responsive as up+left on my controller).
The character portraits at the beginning are the best part
I'm a bit generous in the above scale. Combat options are limited to only scrolls and wands beyond normal spells and attacks. Equipment decisions are unclear: is "Sword" better than "Spear?" Character animations doesn't reflect a change in equipment. My characters had shields, but there was no indication they were actually equipped. Rings of protection were used (removed from inventory) after a message stating I felt more protected, but without an AC visible I couldn't tell if it was a temporary or permanent change.
I used Sturm for all close combat due to his magical long sword +3, plus his 'stache
I played for about two hours before calling it quits. I believe I'm about halfway through, but I just can't bring myself to legitimize this game for inclusion in the blog while I cut games that weigh in at 9 points. I may still include some 9s, but an 8 (especially one so forced) just won't do. If there were a deeper lore, some descriptions of items (not even ranged weapon ammo is available), or some kind of puzzles or side quests I might have made it a full post plus rating. Alas, this is just not an RPG.
If allowed, I played a kender any chance I could in Dragon Lance campaigns
I imagine much of the frustration with this game came from not having (or reading) the manual. Small hints like pressing diagonally up and forward instantly causes the character to run, pressing diagonally down+forward+B will cause characters to use a downward stab (up for upward), and Raistlin having a longer of jump distance (he actually levitates) are lost without it. It's true that losing Goldmoon in a pit causes a walking dead scenario (game is unbeatable without her blue crystal staff), but if she dies there are three other characters that can pick up the staff and still win.
Hard to tell here, but Raistlin started the craze of having mages with strange eyes (hourglass shaped... hard to see here)
There were only a few instances where the game was completely unfair. One was a hallway of fire, and the other I recall was a hallway with respawning magic-users. Unless there's more of that later on, I believe the game wouldn't take more than 3 - 4 hours total. I may finish on my own just to see how it ends, but I think I've said enough to justify cutting it now. If you're eager to see the ending, you'll be happy to know there's a speedrun that takes all of 5 minutes to reach the end. Now on to a good game! Sword of Vermilion up next.
Let's not and say we did...


  1. Just wanted to say another pro-kender brutha over here (although gnomes will always be my first love). Too bad the longest running Dragonlance campaign I was in (Chronicles trilogy), I couldn't be a kender because another player already was. We tended not to double up on race or class if possible for whatever reason. Mmm, probably to make RPing a little easier and help players run a distinctive character. Anyway, good to cut this game as it is complete ass and not worthy of the AD&D brand.

    1. Sounds reasonable. I always tried to have a unique character. I even talked a DM into letting me play a Kender during a Planescape campaign. Boy did that make for a fun time as I would randomly find I had picked up gate keys.

      I actually don't think the game is all bad, but definitely not worth anyone's time. There are worse games out there. I think the biggest fault it has, which I was going to focus on during a full article, is it falls into a trap of being an action game with combat rolls. So, it'll look like you should be hitting, but you don't do any damage. The idea that you can miss while visibly hitting the enemy doesn't sit well with me.

  2. I love the speedrun link, but the best part is where the speedrun author writes:

    "The question is how much effort anyone is ready to put into a game like this though?"

    ...after he worked tirelessly to earn his 5 min. speedrun without tools. After seeing what the game looks like when played (not good), I have to say he sure put more effort into it than I ever would!

    The game premise/ending is lifted wholsesale from the first(?) Dragonlance book, or a piece of the book, with everything but the dungeon crawl and the black dragon battle cut out. I also recognize crudely digitized renditions of Larry Elmore's Dragonlance artwork for the title screen and character portraits. I suppose it's bound by the technological limits of the NES.

    All told, the game sounds like a cheap cash-in on the license. If anyone reading this has not heard of the Gold Box D&D RPGs for the PC, well, those are definitely the ones to play.

    1. Don't you worry, Pool of Radiance was ported to the NES. That comes in 1992. It's unfortunate that I'm not able to discount Hillsfar as well.