Amstrad Computer User1st September 1989
Published in Amstrad Computer User #58
For many people, the 16-bit program of 1988 was Dungeon Master, which made a giant leap forward in fantasy role-playing games by making all the action happen in real-time 3-D. with manipulable scenery. All well and good but surely only of cursory interest to Amstrad owners?
Well, perhaps not, because the software house responsible for bringing Dungeon Master to the U.K. has signed Starlight Software and its fantasy game Bloodwych.
Starlight consists of Anthony Taglione and Pete James, whose previous efforts included the Red LED, and Deathscape, not really the record which inspires confidence in what is essentially a Dungeon Master-style game but with a split screen and two independent parties. Surprisingly they have pulled it off and produced what must be the best fantasy game ever for the CPC, if not the 8-bit program of the year - it is being programmed on all formats.
Bloodwych is set in the meandering tunnels of a large castle which contains the power to cleanse the world of all evil or plunge it into a nightmare world of depravity and horror. Four crystals hold the key to creating the spell which can be used for good or evil and they are scattered round the labarythine, secreted in naughty little places which are difficult to find. In pursuit of the crystals you will have to contend with a great range of humans who may or may not assist you and a plethora of foul beasties, all bent on your death and consumption, as well as mysterious artefacts and tricky puzzles.
You start with only one party member each if vou are playing a two-player game but have room to add another three and the sooner you get them the safer you are. The interaction with other denizens of the castle is a major part of Bloodwych as you get them to join your party if you flatter them sufficiently.
This aspect of the game goes far beyond anything Dungeon Master provided and is very welcome for me as I am tired of hacking everything which gets in the way.
Recruiting party members invariably involves introducing yourself, a smattering of boasting - after all who would join a bunch who explained their inadequacies from the start and a prodigious helping of flattery. It is all done under the communications menu which caters for insults and threats as well as bribing people. Even if you do not get them to join, or if you do not want them to, you will need to extract valuable information before the quest can be completed. Talk first is the idea.
Having done that, having milked them for all their worth, you are free to waste them. When playing the two-player game this despicable tactic is ever so good. Dead men cannot talk after all, especially not to the other player.
Each character has stats and a level, which increase with experience, as well as an ability to use magic. There are four basic character classes and divisions of magic user, which are colour-coded. It is best to get at least one person of each colour in your party unless you fancy taking a party of Conans or one of Candalfs.
The spells appear as writings in a book and can be selected by turning the pages. Although each spell has a basic cost and a percentage change of being cast which is represented by a bar, it can be pumped up to cause more damage, to list longer or affect a wider area.
Although a party of thugs may seem like a good idea it is essential to have one good magic user in the party, because if you have not and the other player has you will suffer. The action takes place in realtime 3D with each player, if two are playing, having his own display, one above the other.
Control is via the joystick and keyboard, which are used to manipulate a pointer which selects the movement icons and all the other functions. Like Dungeon Master, you can interact with the scenery by pointing and clicking to activate buttons, locks, and to collect things, though you cannot throw things and see them vanish into the distance.
When you get into a flight, Just click on the flight icon and everyone will wade in, giving you the time to select spells and prepare to cast them. You can also control the amount of autonomy in the characters by commending them.
A few words of glowing praise and they start to become cocky, launching attacks of their own. That can be counter-productive, so if you want to subdue them you have to tick them off and they almost sulk.
Scattered round the walls are tapestries which can either be merely decorative or contain vital messages and clues. The artefacts, weapons and the like are all there to be collected and it is essential that you collect them to progress without tears.
Though being a fine game as a one-player experience. Bloodwych really comes into its own when there are two of you round the CPC, as you can either co-operate, ignore, or go for each other's throats as you explore the castle depths.
Particularly nasty is the spell which sends a bolt of power along corridors, bouncing off the walls. If you get the other player in a section of tunnel with no branches, and no magic with which to counter, it can be horribly funny, though you might have one friend fewer at the end of the evening.
Bloodwych is an excellent game with truly excellent graphics, grey and green dungeon walls, and shows up most other CPC games for being the shallow garbage they are. If you want a game which lets you and a friend go adventuring together, if you want regular excitement and extra helpings of fun you are in the proper dungeon. No if you will excuse me, I have a particularly verbose character to assassinate.