Windows – 2001
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- Throne of Darkness
|Alt names||黑暗王座, Hei’an Wangzuo, 7 Самураев, 7 Samuraev|
|Theme||Action RPG, Fantasy|
|Perspective||Isometric, 2D scrolling, Bird’s-eye view|
|Publisher||Sierra On-Line, Inc.|
Description of Throne of Darkness
Throne of Darkness is the first title from Click Entertainment formed by two of the designers who worked on the original Diablo game. And boy, can you see the similarities. This is basically Diablo in Feudal Japan, Oriental hack ‘n’ slash with RPG elements, where the emphasis is heavily put onto combat. An evil warlord has formed a vast army of the undead and the countryside is awash with the blood of your people. You are the Land of the Rising Sun’s last surviving daimyo. You have to form an elite group of seven samurai (wonder where they got that idea?) to beat back the demonic horde and restore peace to the land. This is the first departure from the hugely successful Diablo formula. In Diablo 2, you were able to hire a single mercenary, but two people does not a squad make. Throne, however, incorporates true squad-based action. In the course of the first mission, set in the palace, you meet up with the other members of your team who each have their own complementary combat skills. The good all rounder Swordsman, the lighting quick Ninja, the Wizard, the Berserker, the long range combatant, the archer and the huge Sumo wrestler a.k.a the Brick, join the leader in the battle against evil. What follows are mission-based chapters where, as you progress more and more, quests are made available. You begin in the citadel and have to clear it of the demon army. Then you have to rescue some villagers and get to the neighbouring castle to request their aid in your quest. There are also side-quests, plenty of items to pick up and lots and lots of killing. You basically run around the map (no stamina bar to worry about here though), lopping off demon heads and solving all the world’s problems. The squad-based element is that you have seven samurai to choose from and can have up to four in your party at any one time. This means that you can really think about the situation and decide on your tactics for the fight. You can also teleport people in and out of the shrine if they need healing or to change tactics, such as using a more magic-based attack. You can also get ‘fatally wounded’ comrades resurrected by the daimyo, but you need ki (the Japanese equivalent of mana) to do this. If you have played Diablo, then the control system will be familiar, but the team has added some new features that raise Throne of Darkness above the status of simply another clone. There is the priest and the blacksmith, for example. One of your quests in the first chapter is to find these two immensely helpful bods and get them to return to the castle. Once there, their skills (which are varied and many) can be accessed at any time. No scrolls of town portal required to zip back to base camp here. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can click on the blacksmith icon and he will repair your items. But the really clever new innovation in the Diablo-esque gameplay is the ‘Make’ feature. Because enemies drop items all the time, you often end up with loads of silk kimonos and nowhere to use them. If, however, you give the items to the blacksmith, he can ‘melt them down’ and use the components to create bigger and better weapons and armour. Click has also taken the ‘socketing’ idea in Diablo 2 allowing you to add jewels to your items and expand them. Some items have up to 14 magical slots and everything from jewels, to Kappa claws (huge poisonous turtles), to blood and blubber can be forged into the item to increase its stats. The blacksmith also gives them really cool names, like the “Shark Sword.” Right: The portals are still there.* The priest is the man to go to if you need things identifying. He can also sacrifice items on your behalf to the gods. Each god has a magical school associated with it (four in all): the thunder god grants you lightning spells, then there’s water, fire and earth. As you pay them tribute, their favour towards you will increase. Eventually, if you’re pious enough (i.e. give the priests enough items), you’ll get spell points with which to advance on the spell tree. But it’s the battle aspect that is the mainstay of the gameplay. Consequently, this is not a game for the combat fainthearted. To help with the fighting elements of the game, you have “tactics,” which the Leader calls during combat (rather like a NFL quarterback but with less body armour). These are basically a preset series of party configurations, twelve in all and named after animals, although “Crouching Panda” was sadly absent. Characters’ positions are also changeable by means of the tactics editor, so you can tweak (and save) your ideal configuration. This is all very fine and dandy, but the combat is really so frantic that you will find all those best laid plans going by the wayside in the middle of a fray and end up madly clicking the mouse instead. Considering combat is such a large portion of the gameplay, this can get a tad frustrating. Right: Access the skills of the priest and blacksmith at any time.* Throne of Darkness looks attractive and detailed, with plenty of really nice death animations for enemies. The setting is certainly a very unique departure from the fantasy or sci-fi norm for this particular genre. Audio also contributes competently, with well implemented, atmospheric effects. While the game follows the trusted formula — engage the enemy, scan the vicinity for treasure and collect better items and more spells points so that you can kill faster and bigger enemies — it undoubtedly feels significantly different to its peer-to-beat, Diablo 2. In the latter, it’s you against the world, a sole warrior battling through hordes of hellish minions, seeking that perfect combination of skills, stats and equipment to get you through. In the former, you are a team, and your perspective is more distant – a little more like that of a commander than of a besieged warrior. It’s less, shall we say, visceral. Some people will favour the addition of a tactical element, the Japanese flavour and the emphasis on item creation. These are enough to make it a different game to D2, but not necessarily a better one. The tactical aspect could have been better implemented and allowed for more versatility, and the multiplayer mode isn’t as universally appealing as is D2’s. Still, while it may not unseat its bigger brother, Throne is a solid, rather than remarkable, title with some intriguing spins on the established formula.
Review By GamesDomain
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