A funny thing happened on the way to Eris...

Damocles logo

IHAVE been late for appointments before, but four years is stretching it a little. Still, this is roughly the time that has expired since the president of Eris sent out a call for help, before you crash landed on Targ. Four years after the events of Mercenary and the Second City, you are back on course to Eris, answering the plea for help from the doomed planet. Of course you probably finished Mercenary a long time ago, and have to spend the rest of the time waiting in hyperspace for Paul Woakes to finish Damocles, the solid 3D polygon successor to Mercenary.

And now he has, but was it worth the wait, and is the game worth all those 90 per cent plus reviews that hordes of other magazines give to an unfinished game? Read on and see.

Travelling to Eris reaveals the same dull control panel used all those years agom, which is fine for continuity's sake, but scores nil points for style. Sadly, the very same squeaky sound effects have also been lovingly dusted off and represented for your dismay.

Never mind, once you land on Eris things start to look up, and not just at the stars. Landing at the spaceport reveals a solitary structure with a car outside. Your key is inside the building, along with directions to the president's apartment block.

A nice drive follows as you navigate down, a road towards the apartments and your long-delayed appointment. You can, of course, simply not bother going but head off in any direction you like, admiring the flat and barren landscape.

Obviously there were not any overcrowding problems on Eris because even the cities consist of great empty tracts rather than cosy suburbia or densely-packed and decaying innter city. This rather detracts from the game, giving it a lifeless and empty feeling. Of course there are not any citizens around either because they have all been evacuated or fled.

Why? You find that out when you converse with the president's voice in her office. The comet Damocles is heading this way, and in only three hours will impact the planet, utterly destroying it - well, what do you expect when you name a planet after the goddess of discord?

A timer counting down adds to the tension, but the fact that the spaceship you are given by the president is capable of interplanetary flight, making escape at any time, possibly tends to reduce it considerably. What you are doing is rescuing an empty planet from destruction. The president offers you a bagful of cash, and sends you off to a professor's lab, as he was working on a solution before you arrived. Apparantly, he had found one, and then disappeared without trace. One fast flight over pancake land alter, and you can investigate further, as clues are proferred, along with the method of destroying the comet. You want bombs and explosives, and are set on a trail to follow.

This trail will lead you through a mere 20 per cent of the gameworld, so there is plenty more to explore. It is not pointless exploration either, as there are apparently numerous ways in which to rescue Eris if you should chance to find them or think of alternatives. Either way, finding the teleports that allow you to travel from planet to planet without time-consuming spaceflight is essential.

While the flight aspects of the game are undeniably very fast, they are so because of the simplistic nature of the planet. No ther moving objects (save planets), flat and empty landscapes, and buildings which appear half sized rather than growing from a small blur.

Inside the various buildings it is Freescape time, with exactly the same lumbering movement, and exactly the same blank painted walls. This is allied to a message and document reading interface which can only be described as tedious.

So four years on, has it been worth the wait? Does Damocles deserve the rave notices it has attracted? Is it worth shelling out £24.95 for?

Well, if you like Freescape-style games, with an unfolding plot, a chance to try out alternatives that are not signposted but may work, and some very fast flying thrown in just to keep things moving, then yes it is worth buying.

I do not think Damocles is worth the 90 per cent scores though. I am not impressed with a product that has taken nigh on four years to complete, and with its barren and empty atmosphere, not interested enough to play it in my spare time either.

Damocles logo Amiga Format Gold

NOVAGEN £24.99 * Joystick and keys

You, the Mercenary, have just managed to get it together to blast away from the hostile world of Targ when a message flashes up on your computer terminal. "Distress call from Eris State President, Dialis Planet 5, Gamma system - the comet Damocles is on a collision course with Eris. Assistance required urgently. Large reward".

Those last words are particularly interesting... they involve money! After toying with the idea for a while, you think "Sod it, I want a holiday!" You send a brief reply to the President, then decide to cruise around taking it easy for a while. After a few months, the cash supply is finally beginning to dwindle... looks like it is time to check out the missions available. What about the Eris problem? Could be mucho moolah for that one, you think, so it is off to the Gamma system.

Benson, your computer, takes you in to land at Eris Spaceport, where a VIP limo has been thoughtfully left so that you can make your way to the President's office. The premier is a little miffed that you have taken this long to arrive and has, in fact, decided it is a good idea to leave the planet along with the other evacuees. Oh well, I suppose you will have to look for the clues yourself...

In Damocles, Novagen's long awaited follow-up to the highly-succesful Mercenary - you play the hardy soldier of fortune that rose to fame after his antics on the planet Targ. This time, as well as struggling for personal financial gain, the future of a planet is at stake. The comet Damocles is on a collision course with the planet Eris. You must follow the trail of clues in an attempt to find the mega-destructive Novabomb and the necessary triggers in order to destroy the comet.

Unfortunately, since the entire population of Eris has fled to safety, the only clues available by way of documents left lying around various locations on Eris. It is surprising exactly how much information can be gleaned from a discarded fax message.

The trail of clues leads you to the whereabouts of the bomb and riggers, but the post-office being as it is, they seem to have been... er... 'misplaced' somewhere along the line. You must use the clues and some pretty hefty lateral thinking to find your way around the Gamma system, picking up and making use of a variety of items along the way.

But do not worry too much about the outcome. After all, it is all for one - and every man for himself!


Damocles' 3D world has been superbly designed, using solid and smoothly animated polygons to build a believable world to explore. One point where solid 3D games often fall down is by the incompetent use of clipping - when sections of buildings and objects often appear and disappear at odd moments to save memory. Damocles manages quite happily to conquer this obstacle, so that everything you see approaches from a speck in the distance to full size in a very realistic way. Unfotunately, the sound does not match up to the quality of the graphics. All the effects are far too thin and synthetic to create any atmosphere, so the volume will usually end up in the 'off' position during play.


The sheer size of Damocles is quite remarkable (to use a famous sports idiom). The big cities lie on huge continents, which sit on massive planets surrounded by a vast solar system. Simply flying from place to place eats up an incredible amount of gametime. All the locations have their own specific atmosphere, depending on the planet and the purpose of the building, and even the trivial locations have objects lying around the rooms.

Leaping straight into the game and zooming from place to place won't get you very far, though. You really need to have your thinking hat firmly attached to your noggin to link all the clues, and it will still be a rather long time before you manage to get the Novabomb and triggers together, never mind stopping the comet. If you have a lot of things to centend with in life - kie work, eating and sleeping - then think twice before you play Damocles, as these things will almost certainly be ignored!


After the incredibly long wait, the inevitable doubts about how good the game would avtually be began to creep in. The original Mercenary and the Escape from Targ extension were hailed as ground-breaking games and managed to secure their place in the software hall of fame. So how does Damocles compare (doubts not withstanding)? You can all breathe a sigh of relief, since the answer is most definitely 'very well indeed'. Paul Woakes has included all the aspects that made Mercenary such a hit along more additions than anyone could have hoped for.

The solid 3D works brilliantly, the vast playfield is just begging to be explored and the puzzle element is conductive to long hours sat in front of the monitor. Even in this day and age, with a myriad of 3D adventure games vying for the public's attention, Damocles is a shining island gem in the software sea. If you are not convinced, then try it as soon as possible - here our case rests.

Damocles logo

Nun ist es aber tatsächlich angekommen, das meist verspätete Spiel der Galaxis! Anno 1986 sorgte "Mercenary" für wahre Begeisterungsstürme, es folgte die Zusatzdisk "The Second City" und dann... nichts. Erst jetzt heißt es endlich: Bühne frei für den Nachfolger!

Der Planet Eris steht kurz davor, von dem herannahenden Kometen Damocles zerbröselt zu werden. Der Spieler soll innerhalb der verbleibenden drei Stunden und zehn Minuten einen Weg finden, um die Katastrophe zu verhindern. Es gibt also viele verschiedene Lösungswege - einer davon wäre beispielsweise, den Unglücksbringer mit einer Bombe zu zerstören. Wie auch immer, auf alle Fälle muss man die neun Planeten und 19 Monde des Gamma Sonnensystems nach Hinweisen und Hilfsmitteln durchforsten.

Im Unterschied zum Vorgänger kann man hier von Planet zu Planet fliegen, praktischerweise in Lichtgeschwindigkeit. Auf den Planeten selbst läßt sich fahren, laufen, rennen, fliegen, ja sogar ein Skateboard steht zur Verfügung. Wegen des Zeitdrucks empfiehlt es sich natürlich, immer die schnellste Fortbewegungsart zu wählen. In den zahlreichen Gebäuden findet man dann alle möglichen und unmöglichen Gegenstände: Sprengstoff, Raumanzüge, warme Unterwäsche (!) und "Literatur" (Wie sprenge ich einen Kometen? Für Anfänger, Teil 1 und 2). Die ganze Angelegenheit ist ziemlich komplex, neben dem Durchsuchen der zum Teil mehrstöckigen Gebäude ist etwas auch Handeltreiben nötig, um an Geld zu kommen, oder sinnlose Gegenstände gegen nützliche einzutauschen. Für gelegentlich eintretende Notfälle ist man darüberhinaus auch bewaffnet. Bis man wirklich alles erforscht hat, dürften allerdings Monate ins Land gehen, nicht bloß drei Stunden und zehn Minuten...

Im Vergleich zu "Mercenary" fällt auf, daß die (schnelle) Vektorgrafik jetzt voll ausgefüllt ist, dafür aber auch etwas stärker ruckelt. Am Boden erinnert die Grafik stark an die "Freescape-Spiele", im Flug eher an "Starglider 2". Manche der Planeten bieten auch Eis- oder Wasserregionen, eine Landung im flüssigen Element hat sogar wirklichkeitsgetreues Geschaukel zur Folge!

Eine große Schwachstelle ist nach wie vor der Sound: Die Effekte sind immer noch so miserable wie früher, Musik fehlt gänzlich. Auch bei der Steuerung ist alles beim alten geblieben, Joystick plus Tastatur heißt die Devise. Trotz der vielen Möglichkeiten (verschiedene Geschwindigkeiten, Rückwärtsflug, etc.) ist aber die Kontrolle über das eigene Gefährt nicht immer optimal. Was mich ebenfalls gestört hat, ist die große Einsamkeit, die einen während der Sucherei umgibt - etwas mehr Action und Dialog hätten das Spiel sicher aufgewertet.

Somit ist Damocles zwar ein sehr ordentliches Game, aber eben nicht das "Überspiel", das sich vor allem die Fans des Vorgängers erhofften. Vielleicht haben Paul Woakes die vier Jahre Programmierzeit, die er darauf verwendet hat, nicht ganz gereicht? Vielleicht hätte er noch drei Stunden und zehn Minuten dranhängen sollen... (mm)

Damocles logo CU Amiga Super Star

Price: £24.95

When the sun Dialis slips out of sight on the far side of the planet Eris - an unsuspecting Erisian could be forgiven for believing that all was well with the universe - such is the beauty of the spectacle. The Oceanic world of Eris is populated by nine islands with the inhabitants living in single city states. Almost all of its surface is water - making it glow like a giant sapphire as it resides in the fifth position in the Gamma Galaxy. But a catastrophe is about to befall Eris. The comet Damocles is hurling towards it and will collide in a few short hours unless you can prevent it from doing so. But how?

Damocles is the sequel to the classic Mercenary - in which the player had to escape from the planet Targ. Damocles takes up the story after the player has succeeded in completing all the tasks and earned enough to purchase a ship to escape from Targ. You can enter this achievement, and anything you brought with you from Targ, into the sequel and continue with the adventure. If not, don't worry, as the game stands alone.

One thing Mercenary veterans will be ecstatic about is that Benson is back. Benson is a Ninth Generation PC, a helmet-mounted computer, who soon becomes more of a companion than a mere computer as you explore the nine planets and the nineteen moons that surround the star Dialis. Benson has a wry wit, but is no mere joker as he will provide you with lots of clues as to where to find certain objects that you will need to complete the mission.

Although, superficially, Damocles resembles the Amiga version of Mercenary - in the gameplay department it is very much more sophisticated. This has been greatly improved by the control you have over the objects that you can collect. You can actually use them to carry out tasks - rather than just placing them in the correct location, as you did in Mercenary. When you select an item it appears in the Damocles window at the centre of the control panel - together with instructions on how to use it. Novagen are not giving much away about these objects, as their selection and use is central to the main task of stopping that comet - by whatever method you can.

One of the items, however, is the camera. One of the neatest bits of design that this increasingly popular type of Amiga game has seen in a long time. You can control certain objects remotely. This means if you cannot prevent the comet crashing into Eris - stick a camera on one of its moons and watch the fireworks. Similarly, if there is anything else you want to keep an eye on - you should go get the camera and set it up.

A spin-off benefit that has resulted from the work that went into developing the camera is that you can also take remote control of the ship. There is no major benefit in terms of the overall objective of the game - but it sure is fun. Fly around buildings - under bridges - take a few pops at things, it makes for excellent light relief from the main business of attempting to prevent the demise of Eris. You can take remote control of the various land vehicles - speeding down the road networks in the Damocles cities. Again, not quite in the Continental Circus league - but as incidental entertainment it is unrivalled.

Intelligent life is found on all of the planets in the Gamma Solar System - and you will have to visit them all, and explore all of the cities, searching buildings for useful objects if you are to save Eris. Again these structures represent another great improvement on Mercenary. Many of them are vast, like the Space Station, Parliament building, Lawson's Bank (I kid you not, they charge 15% interest), or Hathaway's Wine Bar. A map room will provide useful information on getting around them but it doesn't tell you everything, and there is lots of good 'ol exploring for you to do. One of the neatest buildings is the shop where you can place an item in the shop window, walk out of the shop, around to the front and see that same object exactly where you left it in the window. Knowing the value of commodities is crucial in Damocles as trading is just as vital to success as it was in Mercenary. Don't expect to find everything you need - some things have to be paid for in hard cash.

A good deal of puzzling is required to destroy the comet - as is a close eye on the various timer controls. There is a lot to do to win, and not an awful lot of time in which to do it. A good deal of thought has gone into the timing in Damocles which adds to the overall feel of the challenge. Novagen have weighted the various speeds of travel (near-light speed between planets) against the real-time clock which is ticking down all the time the game plays. Real time on the control planet clock represents the time left before the comet crashes into Eris. Just a few short hours. This doesn't mean you have to play the game hours on end. There is a game for hours on end. There is a useful quite game and save option to let you pause and then restart whenever you like.

The heart of the gameplay in Damocles is in the puzzle element - the challenge of trying to prevent the catastrophe. Just as in Mercenary, any player worth his salt won't want to quit until they have escaped from Targ. The same is true of Damocles - but again just like Mercenary, there is stacks of fun to be had along the way, in exploring, using objects, and travelling through the graphical delightful Gamma Solar System. The sunsets on a variety of planets are splendid - and as well as this they are all performing mathematically accurate terms of their geographical relationships to each other. This all contributes to creating a world which is entirely plausible from which ever angle you choose to explore it. Sure this has been done before - in things like Dark Side and, to a lesser extent in Star Glider II, but it has not yet been done as well.
Amiga gaming at its very best.

Paul Woakes returns... need we say more?

Damocles logo Zzap! Sizzler

Novagen, Amiga £24.95

It's been a long time, in fact just over four years, since the revolutionary Mercenary touched down on the C64. After finally escaping from Targ you've arrived at your original destination, Eris, the fifth planet in the Gamma solar system.

Eris is the jewel of the system but within a few hours this jewel is going to be severely tarnished. The rogue comet Damocles is headed direct for the planet which, as it happens, you're to land on. Maybe it would have been wiser to stay on Targ.

As your ship glides downwards to the Eris spaceport you admire the planet's beauty - the vast oceans, the numerous cities and bases clinging to expanses of land emerging from the watery depths. Still, the solar system has eight other planets and nineteen moons. Aquick sandwich at the spaceport and you can be off to somewhere safer. Unfortunately while you begin searching for loose change, your ship is falling apart - this is its last flight and you're stranded!

Your personal computer, Benson, promptly orders you to go to the State Office in an antique car - A Chevy '99. Your destination, like most of the buildings around the city, has quite a few floors, packed with rooms. You find the briefing room in the basement, and it's here you're asked to save Eris...

You may want to explore the first city but the real challenge lies in getting a spaceship and taking off. There's many other cities to find. If you stay around long enough you'll see the beautiful sight of sunrise from Dyon, Acheron, Icarus, or any of the other worlds.

As befits a mercenary your primary concern is for financial gain, with the sideline of saving Eris to give you something to do between sales. In an emergency, poor capitalists can go to the Lawson Bank (!) for a loan.

To earn money you must trade objects - there are over a hundred - which can mean a lot of delivery runs in a big variety of ground and air vehicles; although there are other ways of getting from A to B - enough said. To help you out, you may load old Mercenary saved games, not that a Mechanoid leader is of that much use this time round!

As ever, things most certainly aren't what they seem with buildings holding their secrets deep down or high up in ten-storey office blocks. Was that Sphinx monument you just passed really just for show? How do you get to other planets? Where's the filofax? What about all those locked doors you passed an hour ago? And what use is the computer in the office block?

Most importantly of all, how on Eris do you destroy Damocles? To add insult to injury, what's Benson got so much to be cheerful about anyway? We'll you to answer these questions and unravel the game. Don't take too long though; Damocles draws ever nearer...

Phil King The original Mercenary was great - you could play it all through the night, and I did! Inevitably, though, I got stuck and gave up. Now we see its return and it's even harder than before. Like the original, once you're captivated by the game the hours just speed by. The fast 3-D graphics are some of the best I've ever seen, helping to create an incredible atmosphere - it's so real it's frightening! And there's just so much to explore, you'll be playing it for months on end. There aren't many games that can drag me away from the delights of Kick Off, but Damocles is definitely one of them. It's not quite football, Brian, but then what is?!
Robin Hogg A wave of nostalgia swept over me as I witnessed the sequel go through its start-up sequence and Benson return like a long-lost friend. The length of time we've had to wait is immense and even now I still can't believe it's finally here!!
The feeling of anticipation and desperation when first faced with the enormity of the task is wonderful. So too is the sensation of curiosity and wonderment as you explore the first city. It's like being a child again. Exploring buildings, gazing in awe at the superbly detailed structures all around , puzzling over the use of strange new objects, and generally living a new life is all just so enchanting you quickly become immersed in the world and its ways.
Once you get your first deal and its subsequent reward the feeling is tremendous, but this is nothing compared with the sense of satisfaction once you lift off from Eris, and anticipation when you suddenly have to come to terms with the fact that there's 27 other worlds to investigate! The graphics are brilliant in what they aim to achieve, the detailed polygon graphics creating a rich atmosphere with a surreal, high-tech, lonely and ominously silent feel to it all. Sound effects are well done and perform their task admirably. Welcome back Mercenary, you've been away for far too long.
Stuart Wynne Not since Starglider 2 has there been such evocative use of polygon graphics. Sunrise on a distant planet has never looked as good as in Damocles. The buildings are numerous and very individual, creating a great sense of reality which goes a considerable way towards keeping the player enthralled.
Just exploring is a captivating sensation in itself without thinking about the big task at hand or the many sub-missions. It's all a very surreal experience which moves fast graphically but adopts a slow pace in its gameplay. The heavy emphasis on adventuring and exploration will diappoint anyone looking for a quick blast - there's no acrade action here. But if you're prepared to put in the time needed, many weeks of long nights I suspect, then Damocles will reward you. This is truly a journey into another world or more accurately solar system. So although the only real changes in the Mercenary game-style are a massive increase in scale, accompanied by some great solid 3-D, fans of the original wouldn't have it any other way.