Crash1st January 1986
Published in Crash #24
Seas of Blood
Seas of Blood is a game fashioned by big names from both the Fantasy Game and Adventure worlds. From the role-playing, Fighting Fantasy book corner come Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who wrote the book of the same name. From the Adventure corner we have Mike Woodroffe and Brian Howarth who are the names behind Adventure International's impressive Robin of Sherwood. Put them together and you could get something which might knock the spots off the opposition, or you might end up with something just that bit smaller than either of these two giants. Read on to find out which is true...
Seas of Blood has been specifically written to encompass both the playability of the fighting fantasy combat system and the problem solving of the adventure world. The game features over 300 locations, all with graphics, together with an animated dice sequence that represents the fighting fantasy combat system.
The city of Tak, at the northern end of the Inland Sea, is the greatest den of thieves, pirates and cut-throats the civilised world has ever seen. In this city of scum there are many pirates infamous for their ruthless greed, daring raids and countless skirmishes with death. One of these scoundrels is you, the captain of the pirate vessel Banshee. Together with your band of seasoned cut-throats you search for treasure around the Inland Sea which is the vehicle of much of your exploration.
To be a successful pirate you should locate and retrieve 20 treasures and take them to the top of the mountain on Nippur at the southern end of the Inland Sea. Movement around this sea is achieved with the use of commands like SAIL NORTH. Leaving and boarding the ship is achieved with SWIM white at sea, with GO ASHORE when adjacent to land, and GO BOAT when by another vessel. BOARD BENSHEE takes you back onto your own vessel.
This is one of those adventures where you could either say ' I've seen all this before' or 'this really has got a number of new features'. The curious thing is neither of these statements is incorrect it's just that the overriding feeling is more in line with the 'I've seen it all before' argument. Yes folks this is yet another Brian Howarth implementation of a big idea. The reason I take this tone is not because it is necessarily a bad thing when a programmer takes on many such projects. No, not at all, it is only a bad thing when that programmer keeps churning out the same string of programming faults so painstakingly picked over in this very column time and time again. When a programmer stands still its bad news in an industry which never will. A glaring white background is bad enough (especially on a colour set which often needs resetting just to play the one inconsiderate game after all, how often do TV broadcasts choose white as a background colour: send your answers to Adventure International) but when it is constantly removed and flashed up again as in this game it becomes irritating in the extreme.
Whenever something is picked up or dropped, or the ship you captain is moved along, the whole screen is taken away and placed back up again. It is particularly strange when you choose to sail in a direction which is not permissible and the screen does its ridiculous flash routine.
On the new features front the game can offer one or two surprises. The best of these is the combat routine. This ties in with a status page that can be called up along with the inventory by pressing the letter I. On this page are you and your crew's vital statistics: Log, Provisions, Skill, Stamina, Crew Strike and Crew Strength. The number of days you have spent on the voyage are recorded under Log while Provisions generally decrease accordingly as one provision can maintain a ship for one day at sea. Provisions are not used on shore and food can be found under various guises as you go on your pirating way.
Skill is your personal skill as a fighter and you will probably want to compare it to that of your opponent in any hand-to-hand combat. Its value is important as during combat its figure is added to the random figure which is the sum of the values shown on the two faces of dice which spin and stop before you, Your opponent's dice are stopped from spinning by the computer, while your dice spin until you chance your arm. The spin of the dice is shown by very quickly changing figures as well as dice faces. These figures are in random sequences.
Stamina will generally decrease as you are wounded during a battle but hopefully not as quickly as your opponent 's who is seen off once his Stamina reaches zero. Crew Strike and Crew Strength are of greatest interest during ship-to-ship conflict where Strike represents the attacking power of your crew while aboard the Banshee, and Crew Strength shows how the shipmates are holding up to the onslaught of the battle.
Seas of Blood is a very entertaining game but will not automatically attract those adventurers, both experienced and novice, who delighted in the sheer slickness of Robin of Sherwood. One obvious reason might be the lack of the kind of stunning graphics found in Touchstones of Rhiannon as the skills of the artist Teoman Irmak were not available for this game. Another might be the less than friendly vocabulary, or the lack of the GET EVERYTHING and AGAIN commands which bring a touch of class to adventure games (the A for AGAIN command would have been very useful when sailing repeatedly in the same direction).
The problem is, Adventure International have set themselves very high standards to maintain and we reviewers are easily disgruntled. The plusses, like the combat system, are welcome additions it's just the minuses begin to jar a little in this one.
Difficulty: difficult to get into but then easier
Presentation: white glares on colour TV (still)
Input facility: verb/noun