There was once a lot of magic. Now there isn't very much at all. There were once a lot of dragons. Now, ditto. You control four characters duty-bound to do something a bit it asap - a dwarf fighter, a wizard, an elven arrow mistress and the obligatory grunt - each with basic kit and a little money, but no weapons.
The party also has a Ring of Stasis each. Any character forced to shuffle off this mortal coil disappears into a ring, so while there is at least one character left all the original party may be revived (complete with possessions) by going to one of the character revival clinics (called temples) scattered across the gameworld.
The world itself is enormous. A complete map consisting of twelve parts can be hunted down but only one piece belongs to the party at the beginning of the game. Take a peep at this and you'll get some idea of how much landmass there is to explore. You're likely to cover every corner of Dragonflight's flat Earth before you complete the quest.
Towns are entered via an icon on the control panel that lines the bottom of the screen. You can talk to inhabitants you bump into, most of whom have something cryptic to throw into the conversation. If you have any treasure, then try visiting other characters at homes (though eliciting info from them is no mean feat) or, more importantly, equipping with supplies form one of the many shops.
But of course it's exploration and adventure you seek and of this there's plenty. The wilderness is normally traversed on foot but the more temples you discover the better. Each has a name which you learn upon entering and once you know the names of two or more, you can use a network of teleporters: simply say the name of your destination and away you go.
Sooner or later, carved into the side of some mountain, you will come across an entrance to one of the many dungeons, each uniquely designed and several levels deep. Enter a dungeon and you travel I first-
Features include trapped treasure chests, locked doors (you can listen to discover what they hide) and all manner of secret doors and devices. Most impressive of all, though, are the magic mouths found set into walls. These devices block progress and will only disappear should the question they ask be correctly answered.
Combat only occurs in rooms or the wilderness and for this the view changes again, to a profile of the party and adversaries. Moves are handled on a turn-bu-turn basis allowing for magic, movement and hack-and-slay. Its intricacy, combined with its elegant simplicity, makes the combative process a cut above the average. The icing on the cake is a grid displayed to the top-left of the combat screen displaying the relative positions of all the characters in the melee. Use it to out-manoeuvre opponents and the more fearsome monsters will be defeated instead of being fed adventurers.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Both are pleasant enough but they're straight ports from the ST and that is something of a disappointment to Amiga owners. However, they were of the highest quality on their Atari cousin, for this sort of game. Whichever way you look at them, it would be hard to deny that they're evocative and detailed.
You could keep going for ages with this one. The fact is that the game is so open-ended that it should suit most adventurers' style of play. The apparent lack of progress in early stages may put off the more impatient but that's almost a function of this sort of game. Some will persevere to the very end - but will a sequel appear first?
Dragonflight is an interesting and accomplished combination of some of the more popular adventure games to date and the dedicated approach of the designers shines through every detail. It's eminently playable despite a couple of weird operating commands. The manual is a wasted opportunity, though, as is the plot. If this effort had been applied to something more esoteric than standard swords and sorcery there'd be no hesitation recommending it. As it stands, however, a sense of déja vu and a price-tag of thirty-five quid could conjure up a Well Of Oblivion into which this game may well disappear.