Lands of Lore III

4_1Lands of Lore III is more mainstream than any of its predecessors, having been specifically tailored to lure in new fans. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this return to Gladstone, but there’s nothing terribly right with it either, being a somewhat bland example of a CRPG. Copper Legré, the illegitimate son of Eric Legré, King Richard’s brother, loses his soul to hungry Rifthounds in the game’s opening. Over the next four discs he tries to get it back, while at the same time tracking down five mirror shards in five different lands of lore (from which the Rifthounds originated) to save the realm and prove his worth.

Side quests complicate matters; luckily the game keeps track of them all in a handy-dandy journal that even goes so far as to cross off the quests once they’re finished. Your journal also keeps tabs on monsters, treasures, spells, and items. Other helpful features in this extremely helpful game include an auto-map system, complete with colored pegs which you can label; blatant aural clues telling you when to eat and how to fight; customizable controls; three skill levels; no encumbrance (you can hold a limited number of different types of items, but as many of each type as you like); no character stats as such; shops that sell just about everything you’ll need, and so on. If this seems lightweight, remember the boast on the packaging: “Easy To Play. Hard To Resist.”

Accessibility is not such a bad thing, however, and some of the simplifying here works pretty well. The 3D graphics are fairly attractive, if dated, and never get too carried away with fancy tricks (which makes the exceptionally long load time for most levels particularly unforgivable). A clever guild system sidesteps traditional character classes; join as many as you want, but at the cost of never excelling in any given one. The game’s use of familiars is perhaps its strongest point. Choose one and it will help you out in all sorts of ways, depending on its specialties; wise players will complement their main “class” with a familiar from a different guild.

13The lands of lore themselves, on the other hand, are rehashes of ancient scenarios, and chances are you’ve seen them all before. You’ve got your volcano world, your ice world, your underworld, your alien-hive world, and your post-apocalyptic world, plus (of course) your requisite castle, town, forest, and dungeon. Sigh. They’re all respectably executed (except for the volcano world, which makes you run an unbelievably stupid gamut of Mario-style platform jumps over bubbling lava), but they still reek of familiarity.

The game aims for mainstream mediocrity and hits the target dead-on. A simple system of alchemy, manageable puzzles, and lots of helpful magic items ensure that novices can dive right in. If you are new to classic role-playing games but feel they are too challenging and unpredictable, then go with Lands of Lore 3 – you can’t go wrong with it.

System Requirements: Pentium 75 MHz, 8 MB RAM, Win95

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