Ever play a game where each session
scream past, where time becomes a blur because you are so wrapped up in the
challenge and intrigued by the game play?
Sierra and Click Entertainment have
released such a game for the PC, and it is called Throne of Darkness. At first
glance, Throne has some of the elements found in Blizzard’s Diablo and BioWare’s
Baldur Gate series. The game play is amazing similar to Diablo (with good
reason, some of the developers for Click worked for Blizzard) while
incorporating some of the tactical elements and treasure locations of the
What it all combines to deliver is a
wonderful gaming experience, full of quests, conquests and challenge.
The setting for ToD is ancient Japan.
The Shogun Tsunayoshi is punished by the gods for his excesses and he knows he
is dying. That is when a mysterious monk appeared, bearing an elixir that would
grant the Shogun immortality. The weakened Tsunayoshi drank the potion and
within minutes was restored to full health. But something had changed.
Malevolence burned inside the Shogun, and it was believed that from that time
forward he was no longer human, but rather was the demon Zanshin, the Dark
Warlord. Raising an army of undead, and abominations, the Dark Warlord begins
his conquest of Japan.
As the game opens, the troops of the
Dark Warlord have invaded a castle, and the daimyo has called his trusted
fighters together for a final stand. His orders are simple, repel the invaders
and kill the general leading them. The quartet – a leader, archer, swordsman and
the Brick (he’s the strongest) – begin the task. Soon the ranks swell as a
wizard, ninja and berserker are at hand, ready to be called upon to help with
the task. Free the castle, find the blacksmith and priest to aid in the fight to
rid Japan of the foulness, which threatens to destroy the Land of the Rising
The game play of ToD is unique in that
you have four members in the combat party, but only control one at a time. The
other three will act according to that character’s AI. If you are in charge of
the leader, the archer will stand back and deliver arrow after arrow at the
enemy. You can swap out any member of the party by teleporting them back to the
daimyo for healing, and pulling up a reserve character. If a party member dies,
teleport him back to the daimyo, and if the daimyo has enough mana at the
moment, he can resurrect the dead member of the party, who will begin to heal
and can rejoin the group.
The blacksmith, once located and
freed, though he does not travel with the party, is accessible throughout the
course of the game. He will repair, customize or make weapons for the war party.
The priest acts in much the same way. Accessible through the inventory screen,
he will purify cursed items, identify, buy items or accept offers to the gods –
which can increase elemental spell points.
This is a game incorporating the
Japanese weaponry and magic. Each character is capable of casting spells, and
each can – much like Diablo II – be equipped with two weapons, which the game
player can switch between with a keystroke.
The player interface is very simple to
operate, and the learning curve for understanding which hot keys will perform
what actions is perhaps 12-15 minutes. The only reason it takes that long is
because the combat is seemingly nonstop. From the moment your party leaves the
chambers of the daimyo, you will be besieged with all manner of foe. The game
ends when all members of your party are killed. If you are getting pummeled by
the enemy, but can get one character away and back to the daimyo, you can
rebuild the party and the game without having to start at the previous save
If you have played a game such as
Diablo II or Baldur’s Gate, you will have the basics down. The inventory
contains items that can be equipped or carried. You can only carry so much and
it is wise to spread around the wealth, so to speak.
The sound quality of Throne is
excellent. The music is well scored; the sound effects are, perhaps, not as
surprising but only because they deliver exactly what you expect to hear. The
game also is rich with the language of Japan.
Visually, this game is eye candy. The
environmental graphics and animations easily equal the best RPG games on the
market. Each character moves with a grace and ease that would befit a warrior.
The map isn’t quite the overview that helps game players, but the inventory
screens, and priest/blacksmith interfaces are very well done.
This game does not feature quite the
amount of blood of some other RPGs, but does have a lot of slice and dice
action. Then again, what would you expect when you have warriors armed with
razor-sharp katanas making precision cuts on the foe. The magical spells are
This game is well supported in the
multiplayer mode. You can play through an online or multiplayer option. Online
will go through the Sierra servers for people to play with or against, while
multiplayer allows you to hook up with someone else over a LAN for a game. The
multiplayer game is a ‘king of the hill’ style contest with up to eight people
playing, each aligning with one of four castles with the goal being to defeat
the Dark Warlord. The latter has seven lieutenants guarding him, which must be
This game is rated Mature for
violence, blood and gore.
Throne of Darkness is an intense RPG
that is sports excellent visual and audio elements. Combat-heavy, it nonetheless
asks players to use their brains in determining how to advance a party. Each
quest gets successively harder, the opponents nastier and the obstacles bigger.
When you only have four active members in a party, you had better plan ahead how
to level them up, and what attack patterns work in certain situations.
This is a terrific game, and clearly
one of the best RPGs of the year.
This game will take up a bit of room on
your hard drive – 923 megs for a typical installation.
This program moves along at a rapid pace
– even the game save option takes the blink of an eye. The only pausing between
elements is when you pause the party for repair, recovery or just to catch your
breath. You will have to make split-second decisions – and therein is the source
of a lot of the fun.
The animations are excellent, and the
environmental elements are exquisite.
The combat sounds are exactly what one
would expect, the music is wonderful and the whole audio feel of the game
supports the mood very well.
Learning to switch weapons, and swap
active party members on the fly is perhaps the biggest thing you will need to
learn. The cerebral elements are taxed when leveling party members up. Do not
expect a lot of mind-numbing puzzles.
The plot is the basic
evil-trying-to-overrun-the-world theme, but the setting gives it a new feel, and
there are some twists that make the evil even more malevolent.
The game tries to jazz up the ‘king of
the hill’ theme, and does so with some success. This game is well supported
There was a time when Sierra’s line of
Action/RPG titles seemed to wane. Nothing much was out there, but Throne of
Darkness is a proclamation that Sierra is back. This is a terrific title; it is
entertainment-rich, and one of those games that makes a mockery of time because
it will fly when you play.