RETRO – Westwood has created their third game in the Lands of Lore series, one of their most famous RPG franchises. After the wildly successful launch of the first title, the second game had high expectations from the fans, and it was released after much delay, and it was a mixed bag. So it was surprising that instead of the usual Westwood type delays, we got the third game in one and a half year. Were the skeptics right, and Lands III is a mess or were the fans right, and it is as good as the first game?
The protagonists of the series cannot boast with a happy childhood: The previous games’ protagonist was the mutant son of an evil witch, and in the newest game we control Copper, a bastard of a Gladstonian noble. His father is ashamed of Copper, and his brothers antagonize him regularly, but when finally it seems that the family is getting together nicely, hellhounds massacre them.
Only Copper is left alive, but his soul is torn from his body, by a hellhound, and only thanks to the power of Dawn, a mage can he survive. However even with a stolen soul, life in Gladstone is not life, so the boy needs to find his soul.
RPG Light or 100% pure RPG
A lot of fans did not like the second game because unlike the first game it was not a real RPG: there was barely any attributes to develop, the melee/long range combat was clicking frantically, and magic was only on a very basic level. The fans also did not like how we did not control a party of people, but only one person, and the story missions were a lot more linear compared to the usual RPG missions. While in the first game there were hordes of monsters attacking us, in the second game there were barely any aggressive monsters. Guardians of Destiny mostly was an adventure game – and this was a statement echoed by many RPG fans.
Booting up Lands of Lore III it seems like nothing has changed – the controls are the same, we can control only one character (who looks a lot like Luther from Guardians), and the gameplay does not seem like anything revolutionary. The combat is the good old smash and bash; the magic system did not change too much: at first, he does not even know one spell, later down the line we only got a few more to use.
Career counselor for beginner RPG characters
Luckily in Lands III there are more RPG traits, and better more complex gameplay compared to Lands II. Although we can only control one character – we get to determine how he evolves. At the beginning of the game, we can also select which alliance he join: thanks to Dawn’s interference the guild of priests, mages, warriors, and thief welcome our hero. Our choice also determines the gameplay as a warrior we will be mostly reliant on our strength, selecting the mages will allow us to freeze enemies from a distance – we are weaker in close quarter combat.
The priest can heal the most efficiently, and the thief – while not as pro as Garret from Thief: The Dark Project – can still picklock the most stubborn doors. If we wish to learn multiple skills, we can join a lot of guilds which can allow us to learn all four classes’ skills. However Copper learns much slower, and there can be individual skills that are only available if only one guild is chosen.
The games’ final objective is, of course, to get back Copper’s stolen soul (which reminds me of SSI’s old game the Curse of the Azure Bonds). Luckily the story is less linear than the second title. This is mostly because of the side quests that are given to us based on our class. Of course, the more guilds we are a part of, the more side quests we will get, but there will be special missions which can only be started if you are part of only one guild. The game provides high levels of freedom, as we can complete any of the objectives in any order.
The accepted missions can be checked in the journal – after a completion Copper will cross it out. This way we will not have to worry about forgetting a quest after a conversation, plus we will also get to see how many quests we completed. Also, this is where we get to check out all of the conversation’s descriptions which are extremely helpful especially since Westwood did not subtitle its own game.
As we get further into the game Copper gets more and more journal entries (new items, weapons, spells, notes, etc.). If there is an important item found, or an event, Copper will note it to the proper section. Certain items (such as weapons and food etc.) will put a comment after tasting them, so it is useful to try every item. This is where we will also find the map, which is entirely like the one in the previous games: the discovered locations are unveiled for us, and Copper marks the important locations for us automatically.
In this game food, potions, plants, and poisons have an important part. If Copper does not eat anything, he’ll comment on it that he is hungry. After a while he’ll be “complaining” about it and that he needs food, or he’ll die. If he starves more our hero will get weaker – his strikes powerless – and in the end dies.
Luckily you’ll find a lot of food game so Cooper will never have to starve. However, you’ll find a lot less of the magical potions, plants: these will have to be made by ourselves based on recipes, which get noted by Copper automatically in his notebook.
Gladstone has True Color dawn
The least change in the sequel was the graphical engine; it seems like since Lands II’s Direct3D feature the developers did not touch it. Due to this other than mushing some of the textures, a few reflections, and water effects not much has been added. As this is an RPG a lot of people would just ignore these lack of updates, but the angle of some of the geometry is weird and too wide.
The cutscenes are also very different compared to the previous games: While the old games had live-action scenes, here in Lands III there is only computer animation. Those who played Blade Runner will remember the Voxel 2 technology, which seems to have become a favorite of Westwood. There are advantages and disadvantages to this: the actor’s animation and mimicry are superb, but the main hero is pixelated, unfortunately.
In the midst of RPG stars
The ace of RPG is currently Baldur’s Gate, and the makers of Lands of Lore III did not want to try and challenge them. Copper’s Adventures are for those who like the classic adventure games, and the vast open world with an interesting story. It cannot compete with Return to Krondor since here the objective was to balance the story and the original adventure game elements.
Even though Lands of Lore III has more RPG elements than Guardians of Destiny, the “hard-core” RPG players, and Baldur’s Gate fans will not be swayed away from their favorite games. It will also cause a disappointment to those who wished that the third game returned to its roots. However, those who like an action packed adventure game with great animations will probably spend a few days in Copper’s boots on the dusty roads of Gladstone.
The former episode looked better
When I first saw the game, I was disheartened that the intro animation is less spectacular. A few people could comment on the game’s engine that even Quake I could do better. I can even admit that Westwood decided not to upgrade the visuals that much and just sat back and took the easier, more comfortable route for Lands III. I cannot understand why they did not buy a Quake II engine for this game just like how many other developers did it to enhance their game. No idea why Westwood did not do this.
Their engine is not only blocky but even seems mushy at parts. While the character’s animation look lifelike, they are gruesome and pixelate up close, and reminds me of Descent to Undermountain.
But the third one is still better
Besides these issues, Lands of Lore III is really good. The story is great, exciting, and has a lot of twists, while the RPG elements are not Baldur’s Gate, but are well designed, plus the side quests fit well into the main storyline. It was a very good idea to allow us to choose a guild – we can join any other of them during the game.
Although Lands III will probably not be mentioned for years as one of the best RPGs, it did become 1999s one of most famous RPG, with a great atmosphere it will be a game that many players will enjoy for hours upon hours.
-Bad Sector- (1999)
+ Story is rather interesting
+ Many missions, many possibilities
+ RPG elements are rather well done
– Looks worse than the second game
– The main character is a bit boring
– Some strange geometric anomalies
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Westwood Studios