Old gem

Sometime about 5 years ago, I picked up a compilation of old D&D games. It included the Gold Box games (which actually I’ve never put more than 5 minutes into, I can’t get past the interface), the Krondor stuff, and something called “Blood & Magic”, from Interplay. Which bills itself has being officially licensed D&D blablabla using officially licensed D&D characters blablabla set in officially licensed D&D Forgotten Realms blablabla. Ok. Actually it isn’t anything of the sort; it’s a Warcraft 1-ish RTS, and some of the units might possibly be mistaken for D&D creatures, and the Forgotten Realms have absolutely nothing to do with it.

But the thing is, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been trying to figure out why.

To start with, the presentation. You start off with a world map (of some place that never heard of Faerun), on which there are 5 campaigns of 3 maps each. Each campaign is a difficulty level, and you have to play through the first one to unlock the second one, etc. Once you’ve unlocked a campaign you can start right from there. For each campaign, you can play either side - and it is well-balanced - and each campaign, as well as each map within the campaign, is introduced by a little cut-scene complete with rhyming poetry (spoken aloud; the voicework here is good) describing the situation and what the next battle will be about. Ok, cute and fun, but not revolutionary.

But then, once you’ve completed the hardest campaign and you’re thinking “well, I’m done, that was fun” - there’s a new menu option that suddenly appears on the game’s main menu; “legendary campaign”. Ok, play that. It takes you through a 15-battle campaign, refighting each map once, but with different opponents and some randomized storyline. That’s fun too, and some of the later battles are really challenging and you have to do some inventive stuff to make it through. Then, you’re finishing the 15th fight, and thinking “well, I’m done, that was fun” - and you get another little cutscene and poetry, and a story about how the great conqueror fought one more battle at the end of his life at the Well of Immortals, and hey presto, there you are in one more battle, on a map you’ve never played before. And it’s a tough situation, you REALLY have to use all your tricks, and some you never tried; and then, right when you think you’re about to win, something you do causes something that you should have predicted, and I was laughing out loud and yelling “It’s a freaking massacre!” while the computer was stuttering over all the “Your <X> has been killed” messages - one of the most awesomely fun instances of what I would normally call “designers using scripted events to cheat”. So I reloaded - one of the few times doing so had actually been necessary - and came up with even more tricks and won, and this time I finish and get another cut scene and a congratulations message and I’m actually done with it.

The units are interesting. There’s five different types of recruiting structures, with a very little overlap - for instance, paladins are recruitable in both barracks and temples; but for the most part each one has its own unique units. There’s some very good rock/paper/scissors type behavior here, with wraiths (immune to all but a few select units), nymphs (lure hostile units out of position, usually into areas where they’ll get slaughtered), ranged units, healers, golems (super-tough, but unhealable; you need to repair them the way you would buildings) - it all works pretty well. The initial 5 campaigns are a good introduction to all the units; you start off not really knowing what you should be building, but by the time you’re doing the 4th, you’ve got most of them researched and a few favorites. And then in the 5th campaign, the fact that some structures seemed to have an empty recruiting spot is explained; there are some special units which are only unlocked when there’s a cauldron on the map (which only happens on the 3 maps used in that 5th campaign) (these units aren’t even listed in the in-game help/encyclopedia unless the cauldron is on the current map, so there’s no way to know about them beforehand). This includes goblins (really tough melee AND fire two missiles per round unlike the one that the standard ranged fighters do), harpies (grab up an enemy unit in a net, fly back to your cauldron, drop him in for a mana boost! and great way to take care of tough enemy units), and enchanters (convert an enemy unit to your side). So there’s this sense of sudden discovery right when you thought you knew the game, and these various new units to play with (and to defend against, which can be tough).

In the legendary campaign, towards the end, you get into situations where you have to fight enemy units like wraiths and nymphs with just your standard base militia - which is tough, because at first glance, you have absolutely no counter to their special abilities. But then, after experimenting, it turns out you do.

Oh yeah, and the in-game help is excellent. Explains everything you need to know. Except of course for the hidden stuff you unlock; that, it explains after the fact.

In general, it seems to me this game did a marvelous job of taking a comparatively limited set of resources - 16 maps, 20 units - and feeding it to the player in such a way as to make the player really feel that sense of discovery on a regular basis. It helps that the maps have a LOT of character and personality; every place is different. The music is well done and fits each map perfectly. The voicework and little poetic interludes are very good. The challenge level is perfect - the occasional reload when they throw something you weren’t expecting, but overall you can roll with the punches and keep going.

I looked this up on MobyGames but aside from the Interplay head honchos like Brian Fargo and Feargus Urquhart, I don’t see many names on it that I recognize or that seem to have gone on to bigger and better things. Damn shame. This thing is QUALITY.

I think you would be an excellent game reviewer. And you really made me want to play that thing, too.

That said, I can’t remember having heard anything about this game before. I’ll have to go through my old gaming mags of around 1996.

I remember it. I still own it actually. But as much as I looked forward to it at the time, I was really disappointed by it. I played it a few hours, maybe, and then never played it again.

According to IGN, the developer was Pulsar Interactive, which is credited with:

Game Boy Color
Barbie Fashion Pack

Quest for Glory V - Dragon Fire

Blood & Magic
Manage This!
Math Shop Deluxe
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire

So I missed both Blood & Magic AND Barbie Fashion Pack.

Just curious, did you run this under DOSBox? Or on an old machine?

I heard Quest for Glory V was disappointing when comparing it to the other four. It’s the only one I never got a chance to try.

I’m not surprised. It took me a while to decide that I liked it; I had much the same reaction at first - “what the hell is this?”

On my Win98SE machine. Haven’t tried it under XP.

I actually bought this recently, in a similar mega-collection. Looks like I’ll have to try it out.

Quest For Glory V sucked on a lot of levels.

But if you enjoyed the series, or even adventure games in general, it was pretty damn good. Well, alright, it had a great soundtrack and gorgeous hand-drawn scenery. So the gameplay was pretty easy to get over.

I loved it. I’m also a moron.

Incidentally, Barbie Fashion Pack wasn’t bad.