In the Forums...
Posted: May 2, 1999
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
Westwood Studios has come out with yet another installment in the saga of Gladstone - Lands of Lore 3. It is supposed to be a glorious game of action and adventure, completed with an inspiring story, excellent graphics, and a brilliant, easy to use interface. Movement is supposed to be as easy and intuitive as possible for a 3D rendered computer game - a truly immersing experience. The question of the day, however, is - does it live up to the hype? And I'm sorry to say, the answer is no.
I was really looking forward to this game. I had actually LIKED LoL2 (despite its crummy graphics), and by all reports, this game was going to be all that, and more. But as far as I could tell, it was less, a lot less. The story behind the game is intriguing enough - you are an orphaned half-breed who's just become heir apparent to the kingdom of Gladstone. Unfortunately, the game just doesn't back the story up.
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Let's begin with movement throughout the game. There is a control lag of about half a second consistently, no matter what you do. I enabled Vsync, turned down the bit depth and resolution: hell, I even waved a dead chicken over the game, hoping a little voodoo would do the trick (uh...no that wasn't a pun on 3dfx). But the lag remained. It's not like the graphics are complicated enough to create the lag anyway.
The actual controls are a bit annoying as well - combat can be terribly difficult, particularly against an enemy that has enough intelligence to get behind you. Chasing after monsters is nearly impossible - I swear they could all be world-class sprinters. I think this is the first time I will ever complain about an AI being too good. It is actually one of the better parts of the game... monsters will run and hide, etc. However, with all of the control problems and the deviously bad graphics, it is nearly impossible to kill even the stupid cockroaches.
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While watching the cutscenes, you can tell that at one time they were beautifully rendered pieces of art - but whatever compression algorithm they chose to use destroyed the effect. I'm sorry, I've seen less blocky movies in the newer DOS based games. It's a little sad - because otherwise they were extremely impressive (particularly for a game that is so large it ships on 4 CDs).
Of course, I would have been willing to overlook all of those things if the storyline was good enough and everything else was done intelligently - but it wasn't. In the first area of Gladstone, I found over twenty items in a variety of places - most of them places that they shouldn't have been. Why would someone put coins in a storage barrel? And more importantly, why would someone put a magical item underneath a moving slab of granite in the middle of town? I am very much into things being where they make sense (weapons in weapon-racks and on dead bodies, etc.), but from what I could tell, that was not an objective of the developers of this game.
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The age-old concept of familiars appeared in this game, much to my glee. Thing is, the implementation of those magical creatures was barely acceptable at best. It also doesn't make a great deal of sense to give a magical familiar to a fighter, or a thief for that matter. Although it is a novel concept that I would like to see in other role-playing games, in LoL3 it sorely lacked any form of pseudo-reality.
Play and Re-playability
The game overall plays decently, and if you are willing to overlook its misgivings, there are four different routes to success (through the different guilds). Beyond that, the gameplay is fairly linear and limited; causing a bit of a deficit in any true replayability. If you ignore the control lag, the actual controls are simple and intuitive, and don't take more than an hour or so to get used to. Overall, the interface wasn't too bad.
Graphics and Sound
This game could use a serious graphics overhaul. Might and Magic VI, in its software rendered glory, looks better than Lands of Lore 3. The textures look like something out of the original Doom: pixelated, jagged, and just plain ugly. Most, if not all, of the animations look like a five-year-old with pixelated crayons drew them. Basically - it looks just a bit worse than Redguard does in software mode. Now take this into consideration - Redguard is using a DOS based, software renderer. LoL3 is using a Windows 9x based hardware-accelerated renderer. What's wrong with this picture?
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The inclusion of 32-bit color was very nice - and was playable in even the highest resolutions. Problem is, it doesn't look any different. It looks so similar, in fact, that I would guess that they use the same textures for both bit-depths.
The sound on the game was one of its high points. Although it doesn't include support for any 3D audio (something that would have helped the game immensely), the music tracks, voice recordings, and sound effects were definitely professional. Overall, it was probably the most impressive part of the game.
Unless you are a devoted fan to the Lands of Lore series, or terribly desperate for a new RPG to play, this game is a waste of your time.