ALL the best fantasy games have plots written by failed novelists. Bloodwych is no exception. This is a story of the Lord of Entropy, Zendick, and his quest to make life miserable for everyone except his friends. It is sort of forerunner to the Tory Party, with you playing the equyivalent of Neil Kinnock, the brave but witless adventurer out to stop the land from being subjugated for all eternity, including the weekends.
The objective is to storm the towers of Bloodwych and capture crystals from four of them before trecking on to the fifth for a final encounter with Zendick. Easy enough for experienced dungeon masters because, let us face it, Bloodwych is heavily derivative of the FTL game.
You start off by selecting one character from a selection of mugshots, if you go for the full game. There is the option to start off with four pre-selected heroes, but you will probably want to pick your own.
Supposing that you only have the one, you will need to recruit the other characters, but unlike Dungeon Master this is not quite straightforward - people can be dumped from your party and others hired at any stage.
Recruiting someone demonstrates the communications side of the game. Down the left side of the screen, under the pictures of the characters, are various menus. To recruit potential allies, you will need to praise them, to assure them of their worth, and then boast a little, because they are not likely to join someone who does not think very much of themselves. You can also insult people, should the fancy take you.
On top of these options for interacting with other characters you can ask their name, reveal yours, and inquire about artefacts, legends and rumours. You will need to, so do not go chopping everything that you encounter - the kiss-my-axe style of play is going to leave you floundering eventually.
The last of the communications options lets you praise and admonish members of your own party and shout to attract attention.
Operating a party in Bloodwych is complicated, which is one reason why, when it comes to combat, everyone is fairly autonomous. If you praise a character of yours too heavily, he or she will act more and more independently. This could mean that as you approach a shopkeeper to buy something, Butch the Barbarian will suddenly leap forward and chop him to bits. The counterpoint to this is that if you henpeck them too much they will never do anything independently that is useful.
Each character has ratings for strength, intelligence, charisma and agility, and belongs to a character class - fighter, mage, assassin, adventurer - and a magic class, which are based on suits of cards, each representing a different aspect of magic.
You get magic points according to your character class which increase on gaining a new level. Learning spells from a different branch is hardest for a warrior and easiest for a mage.
The magic system is interesting and totally unlike Dungeon Master's in that all the spells are contained in a big spell book, the pages of which flop over quite nicely. There is room in each party member's backpack for items such as keys, gold, food, and waterskins because, just like in Dungeon Master, you need to unlock doors, eat and drink.
Unlike DM, the gold can be used for buying weapons and information at the various shops and for bribing travellers you may meet in the towers. This all adds up to the enjoyment, and makes up for the small graphics.
Sound is pretty much a forgotten quantity, giving an almost library feel to the game. I keep expecting the monsters to say Hush everytime I scream Banzaii and attack them.
Bloodwych is obviously inspired by Dungeon Master, but it fails to emulate the 3D interaction and falls short of the standard of graphics and sound expected on the Amiga.
What really makes it is the two player simultaneously option. This lets you both have a party of four, who can help or hinder each other party turn and advance down a corridor. Best of all you can trade items, so if you both go off exploring in different directions, you can rendezvous later and swap goodies.