ZX Computing

Throne Of Fire

Publisher: Melbourne House
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in ZX Computing #38

The latest game from the author of Doomdarks Revenge

Throne Of Fire

In between his efforts to complete Dark Sceptre, Mike Singleton has managed to find time to design Throne Of Fire for Melbourne House. However, the design is all that he's done, for the inlay credits all the programming, graphics and music to Consult Computer Systems. Perhaps this rather piecemeal approach explains why the game doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be.

The action takes place within the Burning Citadel, home of the King of Carakesh who has just shuffled off this mortal coil, and centres around his three sons. Alorn (well meaning but thick), Cordrin (the good guy) and Karag (boo, hiss). All three princes want to be the next king but in order to ascend to the now vacant Throne of Fire one brother has to destroy the other two. Which is where you come in.

The game offers one or two-player combinations, with the computer controlling either one or two princes depending upon the number of human players. Each prince begins with a force of nine men-at-arms, loyal followers who are under his control, scattered around the citadel so that you control a total of ten characters in all. In addition there is a fourth force, the King's Guard, who are neutral until one of the princes gains the Throne, at which point they throw their lot in with him, giving him a military advantage. There is also a number of Gate Rooms, where new men-at-arms can enter the castle. These new men become loyal to whichever prince's forces control the rooms, so it's to your advantage to try and secure one or more of these rooms.

Throne Of Fire

Once you've selected your control options, number of players etc, the screen display is divided in half - one half for each prince (while the third just wanders around making a nuisance of himself). The top of each part of the display shows the room that the prince or one of his men occupies, and the lower part is a map of that part of the citadel, with the windows of each room coloured too indicate which force holds it.

Although you control ten or more characters in all, you can only control one at a time, so much of the skill of playing the game lies in co-ordinating these characters' actions so that you can explore the castle and secure the best locations.

Control of the game is divided amongst three modes of action. Select mode allows you to move a cursor around the citadel map in order to select which of your characters you want to control. Movement mode shows the animated movements of your character from room to room, and combat mode lets you swash a few buckles via joystick or keyboard control. The combat is swordplay, though there are a number of different weapons and magic objects that can be found around the place.

Throne Of Fire

Most games players these days fall into one of two camps; there are the adventure/strategies, and the arcade zap fans. Throne Of Fire however falls rather uneasily between these two stools. The strategic element in the game is nowhere near as challenging or as wide in scope as Mike Singleton's earlier Lords Of Midnight series, presumably because of the memory taken up by animated graphics. On the other hand, the combat sequences, though quite well animated, simply can't compete with dedicated arcade games.

The game is quite slickly programmed and enjoyable to play for a while, but I didn't find it all that addictive and getting to the end didn't really seem like a challenge that I wanted to spend much time on.

It might be that Throne Of Fire was an attempt to combine the strategic complexities of Lords Of Midnight with the more visceral thrills of games like Exploding Fist, and while that might be possible on larger machines I don't think you can pull it off with just 48K to play with.