Reviewed by Sir Launcelot du Lake

          Computer     Graphics     Memory      Disk Space
Minimum     386          VGA         4 MB          13 MB
Max/Rec.    486

Control:  CyberMan, mouse (recommended); keyboard
  Sound:  SB family, Aria, Soundscape, Soundman Wave, Wave Blaster, Sound
  Notes:  double-speed CD drive required

Reviewed v 1.1 on: 486DX-33, 16 MB RAM, Trident 8900 SVGA card, SB AWE32
                   + Wave Blaster, NEC CDR-84J, MS-DOS 6.2, QEMM 7.04,
                   Norton Speedrive 4.0

AD&D jumps into the 360 degree first-person viewing perspective with this title, joining the trend started by Origin's Ultima Underworld and Id's Wolfenstein 3D. Strahd's Possession takes place in the realm of Count Strahd von Zarovich's Barovia in the netherworld of Ravenloft. If you have a thing for the undead, you'll find them aplenty in this game.

The CD-ROM version differs from the floppy version in several aspects. There is full digitized speech throughout, additional cinematics, and more detailed renditions of the monsters. There is also an additional quest in the game - the paladin's quest which will send your party to the lesser catacombs beneath Barovia. Upon completion of the former, the party will be rewarded with some very nice items. All these features are not available in the floppy version.


The documentation is the standard AD&D format found in SSI's previous AD&D role-playing releases in the Gold Box, Legends, and Dark Sun series. However, since the interface is quite new, albeit with some slight resemblance to that found in the Legends (Eye of the Beholder) series, gamers are advised not to skip the manual and at least read through the chapters covering the game interface.

There are basically three interface windows. The adventuring window has the upper two-thirds of the screen showing the first-person view of the world, with the character portraits and status bars lined up below. The inventory window comprises nicely done paper dolls of the characters with their appropriate weapons and armour, with slots for items carried at the bottom. One can also flip between the inventory/paper doll display to the character attribute display by clicking on an icon. This can be done for each member of the party individually or as a whole group. The final window is the NPC encounter display, which has windows for the NPC portrait/animation, the text of the NPC's speech, and multiple choice responses for your characters.

On the whole, the game interface is fairly intuitive, but there are some annoying aspects which could have been improved upon. Picking up items and putting them onto the inventory display requires one to first pick up the item from the adventuring window, click on any character's portrait to go to the inventory display, then click on an available slot to put the item, and click on the portrait again to get back to the adventuring screen. This has to be repeated for every item one wishes to pick up. This becomes very irritating when there are a large number of things to pick up. What happened to just dropping the item on the character's portrait in the adventuring window and the item automatically finding itself an available slot in the inventory display? This would be a far more sensible way of dealing with it.

Another irritating problem concerns melee combat. Here, one places the cursor on the enemy in the adventuring window and merrily clicks away. Characters with weapons in hand will use them one by one. This is definitely better than the mouse gymnastics required to click on each weapon in the character portrait used in the first two games of the Legends series. However, since the characters have a go one at a time from left to right, and they take a varying amount of time to ready their weapon again after using it, depending on their dexterity, one often finds that characters who are ready to use their weapons cannot do so because the computer is waiting for the character whose turn it is to ready and use his weapons before going to the next one. Hence, one may be anxiously clicking away but no one is using their weapons. What happened to the M-^Sall-attackM-^T method used in Assault on Myth Drannor? At the very least, the engine could have been written to bypass characters who are not ready.

Spellcasting has been improved though. No longer is the holy symbol or spellbook required to be in hand. Spellcasters have the appropriate icons above the portrait and clicking on it will bring up the list of spells.


The voice acting is generally well done. The narrator has a distinct East European accent which adds to the atmosphere. However, I wasn't very convinced by the actor who played Strahd. The attempt to make him sound suave yet menacing (which is as it should be) didn't quite come off. Also, some of the voices are a little too soft and gets drowned out by the music. Luckily, the text of the speech is also displayed, so one will not miss out on important information.

AD&D and SSI have not been known for their soundtracks, the only notable one being Dragonstrike. However, since Shattered Lands, they have obviously put in a lot more effort in this area, and Strahd's Possession is no exception. The music superbly brings out the mood and atmosphere, and is reminiscent of those found in gothic horror movies, with the organ being the central instrument.

Playing off the CD is quite smooth most of the time. However, there is an inexplicable slowdown in the village of Barovia whenever one enters one of its houses. This appears to happen only in this village, as moving about the interior locations of other places like the cemetery presented no significant slowdown. Other slowdowns occur during the cinematics, when the speech moves far ahead of the lip synching, and thus one is left to wait till the lip movements are done before going on to the next screen. Other than these two quibbles, everything else went smoothly.

Play begins with the creation of two characters for your party, and I would advise players to ensure that one have them has clerical abilities, given the number of undead in this game. The plot begins with the symbol of Helm being stolen and your party tasked to recover it. After chasing the thief through a woods in your native Forgotten Realms world, you are transported to the realm of Barovia by a mysterious mist. From there on, the adventures in this netherworld eventually leads to your ultimate goal of escaping Ravenloft and returning to Toril. Along the way, you can add up to two NPCs to the party. NPCs whom you dismiss will drop all their gear so you can retain them and some of them will wait at a particular location and join the party again if called upon. This way, you need not fear any item running off with any NPC.

The plot is strictly linear, although one can explore most of the outdoor areas in any particular order. Places inaccessible will often become accessible after completing some other location first. This linearity doesn't stifle the game, but SSI left certain areas in the village of Barovia accessible to players when they shouldn't be. A common problem with a lot of players is that they enter the jeweler's house in the village and get one of the characters possessed by the jeweler's ghost in the process, who wants the party to avenge him in the cemetery by the old church. However, one is unable to get into the cemetery until the party has completed the scenario in the Ivlis caves and the old church itself. On the other hand, the ghost prevents the party from resting unless they do his bidding, so the only recourse is to go back to an earlier save before the jeweler's house (hopefully one is available).

The usual hunt the hidden buttons and curse the damn teleportals types of puzzles are found here. I still don't understand why game designers think this is fun. Such insidious puzzles abound in the elven tomb and Castle Ravenloft, and makes going through these areas rather annoying and irritating. The storyline in Strahd's Possession is rather interesting and intriguing, but these M-^Sbusy workM-^T additions only detracts from it.


Strahd's Possession is a mixed bag; the good storyline, soundtrack and full speech throughout makes it worth experiencing. Some aspects of the interface and the time wasting puzzles are quire irritating. AD&D players, already used to the insidious puzzles from previous installments, should be able to overlook it and enjoy the game. Hopefully DreamForge Intertainment, the developers, will take note of the shortcomings when they use the same engine to write their next game - AD&D Forgotten Realms: Menzoberranzan.


I would strongly recommend the following TSR novels for those who would like to find out more about the background to Strahd and Barovia. The significance of some of the characters mentioned in the game, like Sasha the cleric of Lathander, and Tatyana, can be found in these works:

Golden, C. (1991). Vampire of the Mists. TSR: Lake Geneva.

Lowder, J. (1991). Knight of the Black Rose. TSR: Lake Geneva.

Elrod, P.N. (1993). I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire. TSR: Lake Geneva.

his review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Sir Launcelot du Lake for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.