Computer Graphics Memory Disk Space Minimum 386 VGA 4 MB 15 MB Max/Rec. 486 Control: Mouse Sound: AdLib, Sound Blaster, Pro Audio Spectrum, PAS 16, MT-32, Microsoft Sound System, General MIDI Notes: Both DOS and Windows versions included (requires 640x480x256 under Windows) Reviewed version 1.1 on: 486DX2/50, 20MB RAM, SB Pro, DOS 6.2, Windows 3.1 Reviewer recommends: 486, 4MB RAM, SB or compatible
This is the fourth installment in the Quest for Glory series. SHADOWS OF DARKNESS, like its predecessors, combines a Sierra-style adventure game with some aspects of fantasy role-playing. The protagonist is an aspiring hero whose personality, skills, and style are all determined by you, the player. There are three different character classes to choose from and many personal attributes, ranging from strength to luck, that you can tailor to suit the hero you envision. You can also choose to import a character from a previous Quest for Glory campaign. Your hero finds himself in medieval Mordavia, an Eastern European analog and a pretty dreary place only made worse by the Dark One trapped nearby. Evil forces have turned the forest into a deathtrap and created a swamp filled with undead creatures, isolating the poor townsfolk from the rest of the world. It is your job to restore Mordavia to its former glory by ridding the land of the evil that dominates the Mordavian nights.
To accomplish this, your hero must think his way through different game sequences and solve logic puzzles. Many of the game sequences change depending on the hero's character class. Thieves, for example, can find their guild somewhere within the city limits while mages will discover the joys of dueling the faerie queen and her court. Here, more than in any other Quest for Glory adventure, character class determines how your hero accomplishes certain tasks, enters different areas, and deals with foes. One can finish the game and become stumped when trying to deal with a familiar situation using a different class.
It comes as little surprise that the logic puzzles are in the style of Sierra's DR. BRAIN series since Lori Cole, co-designer of the Quest for Glory series, also designed the Dr. Brain games. The puzzles are fairly straightforward mind games like word jumbles and are necessary to reveal the mysteries behind them. You can set the skill level to alter the difficulty if you prefer a challenge or get annoyed. Be forewarned though: the hardest skill level is really nasty!
Your hero will soon discover that staying alive is the first and most important step in smiting evil. The creatures in the forest are fond of eating human flesh and some just enjoy bloodshed. Either way, you must guide your hero through strategic or arcade-style combat.
The strategic method allows you to select the fighting style used instead of controlling the character directly. You can choose whether to use a lot of magic, defend often, attack like a cornered animal, etc. Strategy mode depends on your character's intelligence, so if your character is a real brain, letting the computer control him may keep him alive longer. In contrast, arcade mode gives you total control over your character during battle. The arcade sequences are somewhat choppy and unresponsive, which is really annoying when trying to dodge a fireball. Note that the strength and skill of opponents is determined by the same setting that controls the difficulty of the logic puzzles.
Besides battle, personal interaction is extremely important and is done through dialog menus listving topics to ask about or things the hero can say. Unfortunately, the other characters in the story seem more like information libraries than people. Those that get offended in one statement won't remember what happened after the mouse clicks away their last quote. There are also few characters that have any real effect on the hero, but at least all of them have quirks that make them interesting or help provide some necessary comic relief.
The graphics are good: the backdrops seem real and there is a great amount of detail in every scene. In the daylight, Mordavia's forest is alive with flowers, birds, and different types of shrubbery (some of which even talks back to you). At night, dark shadows appear in the starlit scene. Also, there are full-screen shots of each of the talking characters during your dialogs, not just pictures in a window. Unfortunately, the DOS and Windows versions are exactly the same in terms of graphics. (This is not the case with the background music. Unless your sound card plays MIDI well, the quality of the music will probably be better under DOS.)
Shadows of Darkness is Sierra's first attempt at a 32-bit game and there are some rough edges. Restoring late in the game takes forever, up to four minutes. In those situations, it is faster to quit, reload, and restore from the title screen. Other times, for no apparent reason the game either hangs or leaves all action the icons (and your character) disabled.
Other annoying things include the save game dialog box: there is no way to page down through the list to replace the oldest saved game, meaning twenty mouse clicks to the bottom. Each saved game slot costs up to 270K meaning a full complement of saved games costs about 5MB.
Documentation, however, is plentiful and helps give the player a quick start and a fuller understanding of what is happening. It consists of three manuals that describe the technical side, gameplay, and nuances of character classes.
Aside from its technical problems, Quest for Glory IV is a fun game that has a good mixture of puzzles and action with some occasionally clever humor thrown in for good measure. Though it does not have the depth of GABRIEL KNIGHT, Shadows of Darkness is a worthy sequel with promising graphics, a good soundtrack, and enough variation to make it worth replaying.This article is Copyright (C) 1994 by Steven D. Leung for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights Reserved.