THE powerful combination of US Gold, SSI and TSR has created a new computer gaming genre by taking the best elements from the most popular games on the market and combining them into a new hybrid.
At present there is no label to classify Heroes of the Lance, and being the forerunner of a new breed of computer game, it sets the standard others will have to better. And a high standard it has set - it will be a long, long time before this game is surpassed.
You control eight adventurers - Tanis, Raistlin, Flint Fireforge, Sturm Brightblade, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, Caramon, Goodmoon and Riverwind - all of whom are taken from the Dragonlance Chronicles series of books.
These brave creatures have agreed to descend into the dungeons beneath a ruined temple, Xal Tsaroth, face all the dangers that this evil place contains and retrieve the legendary Disks of Mishakal, which will enable them to eventually confront Takhisis, the Queen of Darkness.
The dungeon contains all kinds of vicious creatures who will stop at nothing to decimate your party. Trolls, wraiths and spiders abound, but these are nothing compared to Khisanth, the guardian of the disks. She is a huge black dragon who can spit acid and is also extremely hard to kill.
The eight adventurers are well equipped with an array of innate abilities which, if used correctly, will enable them to obtain the required disks.
Six of the team are experienced in various forms of combat and can use weapons that come in useful at differing times. As well as close combat weapons, Tasslehoff has a hoopak, a combination of staff and sling shot, which can fire deadly bullets, Tanis carries a bow, while Flint can use a very vicious throwing axe which can be used to kill opponents from afar, reducing the number of wounds the party takes.
The hard boys of the party, Sturm,, Caramon and Riverwind, all carry weapons that can kill creatures with one blow, while Raistlin and Goldmoon rely on magic-
Raistlin carries the Staff of the Magius. This allows him to cast eight spells, including a Magic Missile that delivers a series of blows to an opponent, and Flaming Hands, which lets sheets of flame pour from Raistlin's fingertips.
Goldmoon carries a magical blue crystal staff that allows her to cast more passive, but just as useful, crystal spells. These range from Cure Serious Wounds to Raise Dead.
Each staff has a number of charges which are used up by the continued use of spells. When drained they can be recharged by absorbing magic from spell-
Gameplay is simple. Your characters are pictured at the bottom right-hand side of the screen in the order that they are exploring. Next to each is a bar chart which shows their state of health. Death is denoted by a character's portrait turning grey.
The left-hand side of the screen displays the direction the adventurers are travelling. If they find an exit or passage, the direction it is located in flashed red, indicating that travel in that direction is possible.
The top part of the screen is where all the action takes place. Your party is represented by the leading character, who does all the fighting, although if someone with spell casting abilities is present in the front four places, spells can be cast at the same time as combat.
Heroes of the Lance should satisfy a wide range of computer games players. It is action-
Although every games player will appreciate the stunning graphics, tremendous scrolling and realistic sound that Heroes provides, they won't appreciate what it will take to finish the game.
You will need the reactions of an arcade ace, the forethought of a role player and the inquisitiveness of an adventure buff. Getting the combination right will keep you glued to your monitor in hours.