SSI continue their series of AD&D releases with Dragons of Flame, an action game (like Heroes of the Lance, the first release) set in a mythical world. It's 300 years since the gods abandoned the people of Krynn and as a result, Takhisis, the Queen of Darkness, has awakened some dragons and created an army of Draconians. Once her armies are victorious, she'll be able to rule the land. All that can stop her is a bunch of companions - led by your very own self.
The battle against Takhisis has already begun, the Disks of Mishakal have been taken and one of your party (Goldmoon) has become a true Cleric. Unfortunately, your party have also managed to get themselves caught up in a Draconian army and have to reach the caves of Sla-Mori, sneak into the fortress of Pax Tharkas in order to free the slaves and recover the sword 'Wyrmslayer' so as to bind the forces of the resistance together.
Up to 10 companions comprise your band (you start with eight, the other two can be recruited as you travel) and the idea is to move through the countryside, find the caves, enter the fortress and do the business. There are two main movement modes: the first shows your party represented by a single, viewed from above, character that is controlled directly by joystick. The second is viewed from the side and shows only the party leader (you can switch party leaders whenever you feel like it) and any characters encountered - friendly or not. Encountering baddies usually means you have to fight them and this involves either pressing the firebutton and moving the joystick to one of eight positions, or calling up a spell menu and casting a spell (if the current character has the ability). Encountering goodies, though, usually results in a text message either giving you some helpful advice, such as "There is an arms cache to the north" or informing you that someone would like to join your party.
There are several helpful items lying around that can be picked up and used by members of your party, and these are indicated by blue squares on the overhead view. Once a character dies, his/her portrait at the base of the screen becomes blurred and once you've lost all the party, well, it's time to either start again or load back in that saved game.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The character portraits are all good and while the overhead and side views are basic, they're quite reasonable - at least the sprites respond quickly to key presses. Sound is limited to a few spot effects and these are nothing to write home about.
It's simple stuff so it's easy to get into. It's also easy to play and with a bit of application shouldn't take too long to complete. That said, it's not too easy and the difficulty tuning has been set about right. It's definitely an action game and the role-playing elements that creep in give it a nice bit of variation on a straight hack 'n' slash game.
Dragons of Flame is definitely enjoyable to start with, but the sheer number of enemies that have to be dealt with takes the edge off the excitement and the whole thing starts to get a shade on the repetitive side. Still, it's certainly a nice easy game to get into and works well as an introduction to the sort of things that happen in 'real' role-playing games.