I don't know about you, but I thought Heroquest was a really good game. Then again, I've always been a fan of that kind of small scale strategy adventures, going back to Laser Squad and back even further to games like Rebelstar Raiders on my ZX Spectrum.
Games where you can take control of huge armies are all well and good, but there's something about controlling single characters that gives the game a more personal touch, turning it almost, but not quite, into a role playing title. It was a very simple title, to be sure, and doubtless that had a lot to do with the fact that it was Gremlin's first boardgame conversion. Just take a look at Space Crusade to see how they improved their game system.
BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER!
For the past 18 months, though, those likely lads from the ex-steel capital of the world have been busying themselves with a sequel to that original game. The instructions were clear - find out everything that could be improved with the original, improve it and then make it bigger and better still. When you're working with a tried and tested formula, surely making it better can't be the easiest thing to do? Don't ask me how, but they've done it!
Despite your lengthy training session in Heroquest, the vile plague that sweeps the land of Rhiā continues to sweep, leaving death and desolation in its trail. Even the Mystic Alamon, your lord and mentor, can do nothing about it. There is only one thing to do other than run away crying, and that's travel over the Shadow Mountains to the land of Kolchöth and collect two Talismans of Lore. Only these can save your once-delightful, now a bit of a desert, homeland.
OK, so it isn't the most inspired plot, but these things rarely are.
People already familiar with Heroquest will be mildly surprised by the layout of the game. Before, you were given your set and missions, and you could play them out in any order you wished. Legacy of Sorasil takes a more linear viewpoint, whereby you have to complete a set of missions before you can progress to the nest. For instance, to begin with only the first level, which is set in the lively location of the Barrow Mount of Yaserat, is available to you.
Complete that, and you are offered missions two, three and four. These can be played in any order, but all must be finished before you can progress to the next three, and so on until all nine are completed.
I WANT MORE!
My first thought on seeing the game design was that nine levels could never be enough. Perhaps I was spoilt by getting Heroquest complete with the Witch Mountain expansion, giving me a grand total of around 24 missions to play with. Once I'd actually played through half a level, I realised that nine is about all you need. They are huge; easily four times the size of the levels of the original game, and possibly larger.
Whereas the first level on Heroquest would take the average player 10 to 15 minutes to complete, I was wandering around the Barrow-mound of Yaserat for a full 45 minutes, and was still nowhere near the end. No, I'm not a lousy game player, that just shows you how huge the levels are.
One of the biggest improvements to the game is the introduction of more than four different character types. Instead of being lumbered with a dwarf, barbarian, a paladin and a wizard, you can now choose an elf, a cleric, a ranger and a mystic as well, giving you a total of eight different characters, from which you can pick up to four to take on your quest.
When you actually get into the game, seasoned Heroquest players will feel right at home. A similar set of icons lie at the bottom of the screen, and movement control works in exactly the same way as before - move to a point by either clicking on the square you want to move to, or by clicking on the direction arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Something that was always a little unclear in Heroquest was the difference between action points and movement points, which generally left you walking somewhere, doing an action such as a room search, and then finding that you couldn't move again. This time around, both are explained and both are displayed on screen.
Movement points simply relate to the number of squares you can cross in that turn, including walking. Every action uses up points, and as you move around, you'll see the action point clock ticking down.
Thankfully, you can now move, search and then move again, but only if you have enough points, that's the end of the turn, regardless of how many movement points are left. Item handling has changed drastically since the first game, as you now have an inventory to hold your weapons and treasure in.
Yes, the shop is still there at the end of the level, but this time you can sell to it as well as buy. You may wonder what the good in that is. Well, when you kill certain monsters, they will leave treasure and sometimes the weapons they were carrying.
These can be collected and sold for profit, or you can sell your old weapon and upgrade. Best of all, when one of your party dies, you can transfer the contents of their inventory to another player, so potions and weapons needn't go to waste.
One thing I always like about this sort of game is the ease with which you can slip into tactical play. In many games like this, you just seem to charge around in a large bunch, smacking hell out of anything you come across. Legacy of Sorasil just can't work like that.
For a start, there are too many routes through each level, so to get through you'll need to split up. Then you learn about defensive play (running away from heavy combat, in other words), along with constant security checks (looking for traps and treasure).
The simplicity makes it all the more involving. There's no need to refer to the manual once you've read it, so you can concentrate on what you're doing without intrusion from complicated game mechanics or obstructive menus and commands.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The characters are bigger than before, and far more detailed with a lot more animation. Unfortunately, this has led to less of the surrounding area displayed on screen than before, but that doesn't matter because the whole thing scrolls! No more flipping between locations, and believe me when I say that this makes the whole thing a lot more playable.
I've really enjoyed it, and am currently looking forward to playing it a lot more. As a role playing game, I don't think it has the subtlety of something like Worlds Of Legend, and is far more fun played as a tactical strategy game.
If you're after an RPG, there are a lot better, but if you want challenging gameplay and a game that's going to last, you can't go far wrong with this.