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TIMES OF LORE By Lucas van den Berg

Mixed feelings from Origin/Microprose.

Hello, readers; apart from Crimson's Column (dealing with the
War in Middle Earth) yours truly presents today an article
concerning the latest release from Origin (remember Ultima?):
Times of Lore.
The package of Times of Lore informs us that here lies a
major task: up to two or even three hundred hours of play are
required to finish all quests that make up this game. Impressive,
to say the least. So let's start at the package itself.
First of all, the buyer is given a cardboard box (the usual
dimensions) including a manual, a full-color poster depicting the
Kingdom of Albareth, a technical supplement (for non C-64 owners)
and a copy-protected single-sided program disk.
Reading the manual (a small booklet) we discover the usual
setup: introductory story explaining past events in the Kingdom,
an explanation of all commands and a short list of possible
encounters. There are also concise examples of speech and combat,
as well as a list of objects and monsters. The booklet's last
pages include some hints & tips for the inexperienced.

Getting Started.

Before play starts, there are some introductory sequences.
Apart from a slow but nice title window (can be circumvented)
ending with the new game/continue saved game option (which
doesn't seem to work in my version but there's an easy way around
it by fiddling with the write-protect status) there's a rather
extensive introduction revealing the latest developments in the
kingdom of Albareth. The intro consists of picture/text screens,
each accompanied by its own little music. At the end of the
opening sequence, you have to select your hero: a valiant knight,
a tough valkyrie or a strong barbarian.

Now the game has started and you find yourself facing a screen
which is roughly divided into two areas.
Area one, the large rectangle in the upper left corner
(filling more than half the screen), depicts the playing area in
two-dimensional aspect with a three-dimensional perspective (how
did I say that?). Basically, you can move in two dimensions
(compass directions) but all graphics have been given shadow and
and perspective, so you seem to look down onto the playing area
from a place in the sky. One of the nice touches in the game is
the drawing of roofs over all buildings the hero(ine) does not
currently occupy (in other words, only when you enter a building
does its layout become evident and are its inhabitants - if any -
visible).
Area two consists of an icon-command strip which runs all the
way across the bottom of the screen and partway up the right hand
side. Commands are: Talk - Examine - Inventory - Drop - Take -
Read Scroll - Restore/Pause/Score (you can only save game in a
bar) - Use - Offer.

The first steps.

As the game starts, you find yourself on the second floor of
an inn. Exploring the common area downstairs will result in some
interesting conversations but may also confront you with what
seems an irritating flaw in the program: when you accidentally
push the fire-button (all actions are executed by joystick;
spacebar toggles between screen-action and icon commands) while
in screen action at the moment you're near a person then that
means you attack him and the consequence of an attack against any
one villager (all people you need to talk with) results in the
entire village ignoring and/or attacking you from that point on.
As all conversations with villagers are executed by pressing the
firebutton in order to select the desired question or answer the
process becomes one that has to be conducted with great care (you
get the knack of it after a while but I know of at least one
person who discarded the game as a result of this flaw).
After some of your first conversations you can start on your
first quest, the recovery of the Foretelling Stones. In order to
achieve this relatively easy goal you need to do a lot of walking
(and walking is very slow, until you buy yourself a pair of magic
boots - from then on walking is just slow; get the picture?) and
defeat a good deal of orcs and bowmen. You may find a knife, some
scrolls, some potions, food and gold, you may also talk with a
woodsman who can give you some interesting news, and get
hopelessly lost in the woods if you don't have the good sense of
making a map of the complex area (the fact that there are only a
few trails without a dead end makes things relatively easy after
a while). When you defeat the chief of the camp (looking a little
blue) you'll find what you're looking for. Returning your find to
your employer will result in a reward (listen to gossip and buy
yourself some fast shoes) and a new quest, this time orders are
to find the Tablet of Truth.
When you've located the tablet (for which you'll need to find
a secret passage and a scroll or something to paralyse the guard
- don't kill him, he's a villager!) you'll get some background on
recent developments and, once you've delivered the item to the
Steward you may buy a very handy magic axe and start some
inquiries.
Which is as far as I got, apart from the fact that I did
locate several places that were, as yet, useless or inaccessible.
And also, among the desert ruins, I found a dungeon that could be
entered without password or key or the like. Sort of an extra
touch to the game; there must be at least two dungeons in the
settings, perhaps more.

Conclusion.

Times of Lore is not a bad concept, although it's far from
revolutionary. Graphics are good, sound is minimal (not bad but
there just isn't very much of it), movement reasonably smooth
(the map scrolls in both dimensions) and, on the whole, there's
little technical fault. My major points of critisism (but they're
personal) are total lack of pace in the game and the absence of
reality: when you see the fiftieth tiny orc slowly walking across
the screen you don't get the feeling something great is going to
happen; there's too much repetition to my taste.
For those of you who enjoyed Ultima IV, Times of Lore may be a
very nice game and a good choice to buy. For the Dungeon Master
fanatics, I recommend the upcoming sequel: the Deeper Dungeons
(Chaos strikes back) or, for D&D afficionados, SSI's Pool of
Radiance.

Good Luck,

Lucas.

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.