Everything Quests: Games and Distractions
Potted description: Amiga fantasy RPG
with varied perspectives and environments. Point-and-click interface, mainly 16-colour graphics. (also released for PC
and Atari ST
, but those are not the versions reviewed here).
Description of the gameplay and experience of Dragonflight by my computer-games savvy brother who is thinking of becoming a noder, and helped me build this WU for the Quest - your comments, please:
Dragonflight was brought out around the end of the 1980s by Thalion
, a German
company. It took the form of a fantasy adventure set in a totally original world which was notable, firstly for having a continent
shaped like a dragon
, and secondly for being shaped like a doughnut
, although there was never any suggestion that the game's creators were aware of the latter. The map's opposite edges were simply identified
. The player was presented with four pre-designed characters and the task of finding the world's last dragons - if, indeed, there were any.
My specific interest in the game comes from its ability to display many of the trademark
s of a bad fantasy
computer game, whilst being captivating, genuinely enjoyable and even inspiring. The flaws were, in general, small and irritating inelegancies
. For example, in underground areas, there were teleport
ers and hidden doors in walls which dealt damage
to the group, based on the party members' maximum
health, however high or low they were. The exploration of urban
areas was frequently hindered by peasant
s who stood in your way, and this became particularly frustrating when a certain maze
area was encountered which relied on this means of creating moving obstacles. The trite
message about courtesy
which marked the labyrinth
's entrance did not exactly encourage, either.
At a basic and technical level, an obvious merit
was the flexibility of the game's interface. It had a set of nine buttons which would display a different set of icon
s, depending on the group's situation, which could be any of: the open country
, a town
, an underground
area (done through a first person view) or combat
, which was done on a turn based
system with a side-on view and tactical map
. The general rule was that when you had more interesting things
available to do, you seemed able to move in fewer directions.
The variety of possible situations gave the game the potential to approach and develop its setting from many perspectives. This was achieved very effectively, mainly because of the constant sense of mystery
, created partly by the manual's total ambiguity
in describing anything. The opening novella
seemed to have little bearing on the plot
of the game itself, moreover. This forced the players to do their own research through exploring the extremely detailed world which was available and make their own notes and maps. The detail on offer was different from that of modern games. Today games' 'secrets' are made for their fanatics and devotees to find and have quoted at them as a percentage
, but in Dragonflight even these form part of the game's carefully planned learning curve - which is all too closely linked to the world of marketing and target market groups. In this case, the target group was European
s. Dragonflight was at times so obscure
that you really thought the writers put things in purely for their own amusement, although it was a pity when these details proved to be vital to winning the game, which I feel I should add, I never came close to doing.
, a blond himbo
, a scrawny
, a sturdy
, a token female
The magic system was unexpectedly complex, with a potion-brewing engine and a light/dark magic split, with characters able to switch between the types of magic at any time, but at the cost of learning time. Temples could be used to regain magical strength, resurrect dead characters, and receive teleportation spells. The conversation system involved showing the NPC
s various items, and suffered a little from the Denglisch
translations. We also found that the learning curve was not pitched quite right: it was easier to obtain insanely good weapons, and stand a good chance against any creature, than it was to explore the plot satisfactorily.
There was an entertaining bestiary of monsters to encounter. Orc
s were the weakest normal monster, appearing in this incarnation as hairy, bestial humanoids, and balron
s the toughest. Balrons appeared in a form which their name will render entirely predictable
to most fantasy readers. There were also energyballs - weird green glowing things - and an assortment of other cannon fodder. Some creatures - such as the crystal guardian and the banned unicorn
- were undefeatable without the proper tools. Extensive travel by land, sea, dungeon
was necessary to find all the exotic locales and visit all the towns and cities, and it was quite possible to wreck your boat.
Fantasy clichés employed in the game included magic mouth
s, the inevitable dungeon
environment with monsters staying nicely in identical square rooms, monsters that would attack a superior party for no apparent reason, magic-item shops, and artsy-fartsy elves
. The game had a few Easter egg
s, such as statues of 'Anne McCaffriel
' and 'Girouar Tolkien
' in certain towns, and NPCs who said absurd things.
Similar games include FTL's Dungeon Master
, the Baldur's Gate
series, SSI's Gold Box
games such as Pool of Radiance
. It's hard to think of many games both as early and as varied as Dragonflight.
A Dragonflight website at http://www.cus.org.uk/~alexh/games/dragonflight/df.html shows that the designers were Erik Simon
, Udo Fischer
and Jochen Hippel
, that at least one version of the game had a release date of 1990
, and that it was Thalion's first release.