Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity logo Amiga Computing Silver Award

Tina Hackett dons her wizards hat, grabs her magic wand and stumbles in to the world of spells and sorcery to see what's conjuring in Ishar 3.

INTRODUCTION

Silmaril's Ishar games have earned a well-deserved place in most games players' collections. Renowned for their superb graphics which have their own unique style and their deep and absorbing plots, it's little wonder that they have become one of the most popular RPGs around.
And now Silmarils are set to stun once again with their finaly episode to complete the trilogy.

STORYLINE

The complete story of Ishar stretches right back over four games, starting off with the "Crystals of Arborea" where Jarel, Prince of the Elves, sets out to find the magic crystals which would oppose the power of the evil Morgoth, the black god. He succeeds and kills Morgoth. Jarel becomes ruler and the country is renamed Kendoria.

Ishar: Legend of the Fortress went on to tell of how the fortress of Ishar - which belongd to Krogh, offspring of Morgoth - was conquered by a group of adventurers. The powers of chaos were banished from Kendoria and it then became the 'in' place to be, so to speak.

A city was developed and was named "Zach's Island". A powerful figure emerged - the cities' bad guy, Shandar, monk of chaos - and he became your modern day drug dealer, selling hallucinogenic potions.

In Ishar 2, Messengers of Doom the "Messengers" succeeded in freeing "Zach's Island" from Shandar's influence. Shandar was killed or so everyone thought, but he devised a spell before his death that allowed his vital energy and consciousness to survive even after the death of his body. He now intends to return in the form of the deadly winged dragon, Wohratax.

Shandar's plan is flawed however, in that the reincarnation can only take place during the planetary conjunction of the two moons, the sun and the planet Ishar. You must destroy the dragon before this happens.


 

FLASHBACK

There have been many RPGs on the Amiga to compare Ishar 3 to. Ishar 3 is your more traditional role-playing adventure, both visually and in gameplay. It is superior to a lot of its counterparts in its superb graphics and web of plots and sub-plots.

Recently we have seen Thalion's Ambermoon, the sequel to Amberstar. This impressed and received a mighty 81% (AMC75). Ishar 3 is similar in the graphical style it uses which is that of 'traditional' RPGs. However, Ambermoon also employs an overhead, two-dimensional view.

A more obvious comparison to make would be with Ishar 1 and 2. ishar 3 compares favourably, both graphically and with the actual size of the game.
Ishar 3 will prove a classic RPG, rating among some of the classics of this genre.


 

ADDITIONAL INFO

The plot in Ishar 3 focuses on the idea that Shandar's soul can come back in another form. This belief, known as reincarnation, says that the human spirit can still live again in another human, plant or animal. It is also referred to as transmigration or metempsychosis.

Many religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism have this belief as a fundamental part of their religion. The Hindus, whose beliefs originated around 4,500 years ago, say that all living things are part of a divine life that transmute to one form or the other - sometimes a plant, an insect or human depending on its karma or past actions.


 

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task of life is to find reality.
Iris Murdoch, English noveli


 

SOUND

Unfortunately there isn't a great deal of sound to comment on, which may be a good thing compared to the sound that is actually used. For instance, the occasional bell tolls in the distance, or a brief if rather irrelevant tune is played when you walk into an inn.

The game starts with a moody tune which does conjure up the atmosphere and it's a great shame that some other music couldn't have been used throughout the game.

In a title of this nature, things could have really been enhanced by a good choice of tunes or effects.

41%

 

GRAPHICS

One of the most outstanding aspects of the Ishar series has been the graphics. They create the rich atmosphere that always seem abundant in the Ishar games. This third offering is no exception and continues the high standard set by its predecessors.

The many different locations provide variety and the vast attention to detail that has been paid to each scene is amazing. Outdoor locations include everything from towns, jungles and fortresses to caverns, while indoor settings range from libraries, taverns and temples. Each one is full of intricate detail and really make the game.

However, while a great deal of atmosphere has been created by using night and day time sequences (i.e. the scene goes from dark to light) it has been done at the expense of practicalities such as being able to see where you are!

This results in having to lie low until dawn breaks and is rather frustrating when you are just in the middle of getting somewhere.

Characters have been nicely animated and add realism to the game and the sprites are imaginative and well created.

80%

 

OPINION80%

Despite some of the grumbles I may have about the night-time effects and the sound, Ishar 3 is one of the most absorbing and atmospheric adventure around. There are many characters to meet, plenty of beautifully created locations to explore and tonnes of puzzles to solve.

There are a massive 100 characters to make your team from, all having differing skills and personalities. Each has a character which can affect the action in the game. One may lie or may have murderous tendencies, for example.
You'll need to choose your actions carefully. Say you wanted to assassinate a member of the party and another character has sympathies with the victim, he may then kill the murderer. This psychological aspect works well and provides much of the intrigue.

On your quest you will meet bad guys as well as the good. A tactical element has been added to the fight scenes and by means of a tact-grid you can place the stronger characters in the front line for fighting.

The plots and sub plots in Ishar 3 are cleverly set around a series of time gates. These allow you to access other lands in the past or future. Past events can change the present and future and you'll need to pick up key plot points found throughout the history of Ishar.

Inns play a vital part in the game and offer the opportunity to rest your team, eat, listen out for information and to enroll new members. At the inn you'll find some great animations with characters that will impart important information.

In typical RPG style, the use of spells is an essential and fun aspect of Ishar 3. There are about 30 spells to choose from, ranging from attack and defence spells to 'telepathic reconnaissance' and teleportation.
There is an unlimited game saving facilty which, believe me,you will definitely need and also the facility to re-load teams from Ishar 1 and 2. There is just so much to do in Ishar 3, apart from the overall objective, that your mind will be continually boggling over specific puzzles and problems.

Even for the most experienced role-players this will be a tough game to crack, promising lasting appeal. This is a superb addition to the Ishar series and fans of the previous games will not be disappointed. It really is a top quality, atmospheric adventure.

Silmarils have excelled once again in their aim to create, "the computer version of a Tolkien adventure in dream-like images, colour, sound and plot."



Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity logo

It has an even more convoluted plot than the first two Ishar games (Ishar 1 & 2). But does it improve upon them?

It does not matter whether you are a paragon of saintly goodness or the personification of demonically malignant evil. If you crave security, you need some form of insurance policy. Especially if you happen to be in the business of malicious wizardry and have set your twisted mind on getting the fair of people of the mightiest kingdom in Ishar under your ghastly thrall.

You never know, pesky adventurers might pop up at the most inopportune moment and spoil your best-planned strategy for oppression. That is what happened in Ishar 2. Shandar, the malevolent sorcerer anti-hero of the piece, was defeated and banished to the netherworld reserved for failed malignant tyrants. Unfortunately for Ishar, the kingdom of Kendoria and its misbegotten inhabitants, Shandar took out an insurance policy in the shape of a third party planetary fire and conjunction clause.

Yes, as soon as two of the moons, the sun and the planet Ishar align, Shandar can cash in his policy and transfer his spirit to the body of a Black Dragon with a name that sounds like Weetabix (wohratax). If this happens, the land of Ishar will be blighted.

Of course, this horrible scenario can be thwarted if you turn up at the right place and time - time travel features heavily throughout the game. Seven different eras and key plot points await visitation.

The engine driving the game is the same as the previous two Ishars - lots of mouse clicks and traipsing around to gain money, arms, armour, spells, character interaction, combat and stuff. Several changes have been made to the chassis however.

The most noteworthy of these is at the start of the game. Aside from the ability to load in your favourite party of characters from previous Ishar excursions, you can also create a brand new party. All of the major features - race, class, appearance, strength, constitution, agility, intelligence and wisdom are under the RPG'ers control and the abilities can be adjusted in order to capitalise on the class chosen for that character. Creating a party from scratch helps to speed up the game.

Other changes include location flagging on the main map - if you visit a tavern, from that point onward it is pinpointed with a flag on the map. Each location, be it tavern, shop or armourer has a colour code. This is pretty handy even though the map inevitably ends up looking cluttered and messy.

The last of the changes worth noting is the inclusion of photo-realistic townspeople and assorted characters. The addition of these background characters means fewer U-turns, wrong turns and less general directional disorientation.

Oh, and the other reason for the characters being there is to enhance the atmosphere But it does not quite work. Leather-clad fetishists rub shoulders with cider-swilling country bumpkins - the effect is ludicrously laughable rather than atmospheric. Worse still, these characters cannot be interacted with, conversed with or fought with. It is a flaw and spoils the role playing flavour.

Gripes aside, Ishar 3 is still recommended. Especially if you are a fan of either of the previous incarnations. The same criticism applies to the actual mechanics of the gameplay - most of your time is spent traipsing around looking for fights to gain money before you can access the meat of the game in the form of puzzle solving and evil monster beating. But, if that is the sort of thing you like, then Ishar 3 delivers brilliantly.


TOOL UP AND HIT OUT

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
Anyone familiar with the Ishars of old will recognise the inventory screen. Anyone else is going to have to take our word for it that they're the same.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
Combat and control panel. Again, it's the same fare as of old.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
Arrange fighting positions with this tool.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
You start with about two spells. This guy's lucky.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
The character interaction screen. From here you can hire, fire, hot wire and heal fellow adventurers. It's debatable whether this is a good thing or not.



Aller guten Rollis sind drei?

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity logo

Was "Eye of the Beholder" recht war, kann der französischen Abenteuergilde von Silmarils nur billig sein: Zum dritten Mal in Folge ruft man nun die Recken ins ferne Fantasyreich Kendoria.

Voriges Jahr trieb um diese Zeit der ruchlose Shandar sein Unwesen, bis ein tapferes Heldenquintett ihm schließlich die letzte Ölung verpaßte. Vermutlich war es aber bloß Salatöl, denn zumindest der Geist der Chaos-Mönchs hat überlebt und will nun vom Körper des Drachen Wohratax Besitz ergreifen. Der Rachefeldzug kann im Augenblick der "Großen Konjunktion" beginnen, und diese spezielle Sternenkonstellation steht kurz bevor. Eile tut also not, und auch ein paar Zeitreisen könnten der guten Sache dienlich sein...

Offenbar hatten es jedoch auch die Programmierer eilig, was zumindest den ersten Exemplaren der Verkaufsversion nicht eben dienlich war: Mit unserem A600 wollte das Spiel partout nicht zusammenarbeiten, und die Install-Routine ist trotz eines entsprechenden Passus im Manual nur ein nutzloses Relikt der Arbeit an der kommenden AGA-Version!

Es kann also nur von Diskette gespielt werden, was aufgrund der häufigen und langwierigen Nachladerei weitere Sympathie kostete. Zwar haben die Hersteller für die A1200-Besserung versprochen, doch werden wir um ein paar Punktabzüge wohl kaum herumkommen - so viel Schlamperei kann und darf nicht durchgehen. Schade, denn grundsätzlich hätte das atmosphärische Game Besseres verdient:

Wie von den Vorgängern gewohnt, rekrutiert man seine Party aus dem vor allem in Tavernen eingelagerten Heldenpool, kann hier jedoch erstmalig auch eigene Schlagetots basteln. Schlagetots (ersatzweise auch fähige Zauberer) sollten es allerdings schon sein, denn die Feinde zeigen sich diesmal gleich zu Anfang von einer ausgesprochen rauhen Seite.

Gut, daß man seine Jungs und Mädels taktisch geschickt aufstellen und dann per Icon-Klicks bequem durch die Echtzeit-Fights lotsen kann - weniger gut, daß die Magier beim hektischen Spell-Prügeln schon mal etwas ins Schwitzen kommen. Die knackigen Rätsel sind gleichfalls in mehr als einer Beziehung eine Herausforderung, mangelt es ihnen manchmal doch ein wenig an Logik.

Die 3D-Optik aus Partysicht ist auch so eine Sache. Zwar kann die Amiga-Grafik nicht mit der PC-Version konkurrieren, doch gefällt sie ein ganzes Stück besser als im bläßlichen "Ishar 2". Die meisten Bildbestandteile wurden digitalisiert und dann geschickt nachbearbeitet. Den feinen Sounds kann man wie bei Silmarils üblich nichts nachsagen, und auch die Maus/Keyboard-Steuerung steht weitgehend jenseits von kritik.

Die erwähnten Mankos lasses es für AGA-Amigos dennoch ratsam erscheinen, auf die Spezialversion zu warten; allen anderen muß halt ein Probelauf vor dem Kauf genügen. (jn)



Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity logo

Thrice upon a time sounds just a bit daft, doesn't it?

So Ishar 3 is an RPG then. For those of you who missed the first two (Ishar I and II), it is all set on a distant planet in the kingdom of Ishar, which is all a bit sword and sorcery based and not really ripped off from Tolkien books at all. Nope, no way.

The bad bloke is some old gadgy called Shandar, but if you were successful in Ishar 2, you will have killed him. Unfortunately for the good people of Ishar, death simply is not a big enough stumbling block for Shandar, who now plans not only to reincarnate himself, but to use the body of the immortal Black Dragon Wohratax, the last of his species and the hardest hombre on the face of the planet. But as we all know, reincarnation can only take place when the planets are in alignment, which gives you a short time to thwart his evil plans.

ZZZZZZZZ
Fantasy plotlines huh? They get me every time. What is wrong with going out on a limb occasionally? What is wrong with steering away from the typically sad, jaded, overused clichés of the fantasy genre? Ishar 3 features time gates which hurtle you into the past, but since the past just consists of jungles and forests instead of mediaeval cities, it is hardly groundbreaking stuff. From the very start, Ishar 3 is packed with generic, non-specific fantasy pap, from orcs and elves to dragons and cute girls in leather bikinis. Oh dear.


Use the body of the immortal

You can attempt to stop Shandy turning into Weetabix in several ways. If you have played the previous games and got attached to your team, then you can use them. If you fancy bursting into pubs and shouting "I am going to save the world! Who will aid me on my quest?" then you can generate a single character and pick up the rest en route, but if you fancy an easy life, you can conjure up an entire team of five adventurers from the very start.

Despite the torrent of criticism that is about to erupt from my word processor, there is no getting away from the fact that Ishar 3 looks great. From the deepest dungeons to the streets of the city and the paths of the forest, it all looks gorgeous. The streets look lived in, the jungles look jungly and all the incidental characters pout and pose in perfect digitised glory. I will say it once again so you are left in absolutely no doubt - Ishar 3 looks great.

GRRRRRR
However...
I hated it from approximately 20 minutes after I started playing it, and for each and every minute of the long and tortuous hours that dragged by afterwards. For a start, going into any building in the city involves disk swapping, and the game does not recognise a second drive (Instant arbitrary percentage penalty - Kangaroo Court Judge). To add insult to injury, you have to press Return once you have put the disk in, which I found out after I'd wandered off to make a cup of tea and came back to find I still had to sit and listen to the drive whirr away. You cannot install it on the hard drive either. Grrrrrr.

The game is certainly massive, but also for the most part empty, resulting in miles and miles of fruitless wanderings. Quite often you bump into characters who do not speak, do not move and don't do anything at all really. You cannot buy things off them and you cannot hit them, so what is the point? They are just scenery.


Stop shandy turning into Weetabix

The city forms only one of five giant locations, but it takes literally days of game time to get from one side to the other. This could be blamed on the control system (coming up in a bit) but it is mainly the stupidly compressed day/night cycle. Every few minutes real time, the sun sets and the night begins, and of course all the interesting places to visit are shut at night. Terrific. It is sort of like battling great hardship to arrive finally at the library in Alexandria (intellectual centre of the Hellenic empire from 323BC) and being told it is half-day closing.

You view the action from a first person perspective, which in many cases is a good idea. It works for Battlezone it works for flight sims and it even works for Trick Or Treat, our coverdisk game from AP 39. in my humble opinion, it does not work for Ishar 3. Or rather, the view works, but the movement does not. There is not any animation involved, so you jump from one static shot to another one 25 feet down the trail, and if you turn you get a completely new view. With your direction shown only by a small compass, it is horribly easy to get lost even with the map.

The combat is equally dire. You just click on an icon to make a team member swipe and watch splots appear on you or the enemy. Since your attacks are a curious yellow, it looks like some kind of flan fight to death, only not as interesting.

You will have guessed that I am not particularly taken by this one then. Adventure games are all about immersion in a strange and alien world, and this one does not do it for me. There is all manner of stuff that could well excite a hardened adventure gamer, but it is implemented so boringly and with such a creaky old game engine that I find it hard to believe myself. Certain team members won't get on for example, and if you decide to kill them off, this could well lead to further internecine strife, but to get this kind of interesting in-fighting, you have got to be enthralled in the game world, and I never got that far.

Ultima Underworld and Doom on the PC - now they are adventure games. Flashback, Worlds of Legend and Monkey Island on the Amiga - top adventure games each and every one. Ishar 3 does not even come close.


LEANING ON A LAMP POST AT THE CORNER OF A STREET

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
Here's a typically gorgeous looking street from the city. Let's hang around and see what happens shall we?

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
Blimey. Time marches on, and the setting sun plunges everything into a world of pink. Night time's a coming.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
It's pub throwing out time, but where are the drunken revellers? Where are the bawdy 'women of the night'?

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
And so we reach another glorious dawn, after possibly one of the longest and most boring nights of your life.

PICK A TEAM
Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity
You can start off with up to five in your team and choose them from every fantasy cliche imaginable, from orcs to wizards.

Ishar 3: The seven Gates of Infinity logo CU Amiga Screen Star

"Ishar tea all right?" as they say up North. Or perhaps not. Whatever the case, Silmarils have created yet another in the mighty trilogy of adventure games, and Tony Dillon has finished all his greens, so he gets to review it.

I absolutely loved the original Ishar games. The lush forests and busy cities of Ishar and Ishar 2 generated the kind of atmosphere and environment that made me want to keep playing over and over again. So, I just couldn't wait to get my hands on the latest Ishar game.

THIRD COURSE
Ishar 3 is the third and final part of the mammoth French trilogy, and some may need a little recap just to set the scene so far. In the original Ishar, you had to fight to keep the Kingdom of Kendoria safe from the evil wizard who was trying to overthrow the king and rule the land. If you made it through that one, then in the second one you took part in a daring raid against the Wizard Shandar, in a perilous adventure over land and sea which eventually destroying the Wizard in his own castle.

Or did it? After all, if he did actually die, then surely there wouldn't be room for another sequel, would there? If you haven't already heard, Shandar is alive and well and waiting to wreak his revenge, albeit without an actual physical presence to carry it out with. Long before he passed away, Shandar created a spell that would allow his vital energy and consciousness to survive and adapt after the destruction of his original body. Now he has found a new body to inhabit, one that will make him the biggest threat the world has ever seen. He has chosen to inhabit the body of Wohratax - the last surviving Great Black Dragon.

According to local legend, the Black Dragons were used by the evil armies when they challenged the white knights some 2,000 years before this game. The battles got greater and created more and more casualties, until the great war itself happened and all the Black Dragons were destroyed, with the exceptions of Wohratax himself. In reward for his victory, Wohratax was crowned Lord Of Sith, and given the gift of Invincibility. No wonder that Shandar wants to get his hands on him really!

There is a tiny flaw in the plan, however, and this is where you come into the game. You have to step in and destroy the dragon before Shandar can take over Wohratax's mind. This changeover of minds between Shandar and Wohratax can only happen during the planetary conjunction of the two moons, the sun and the planet Ishar. So you have to make sure that you destroy the dragon before this happens.

If there is one thread that has carried through the Ishar games since Crystals Of Arborea, it is the fact that in each successive adventure, Silmarils take the travelling element a little further. In Ishar, you were restricted to walking around a single large island. In the sequel, you travelled around all the islands on the planet, sailing between each whenever you had finished the puzzles and problems each island had to give you.

In this sequel to the sequel, you travel in time between the islands, popping backwards and forwards through time gates to be in the right place at the right time. As you can well imagine, this adds a lot of variety to the game, putting you in all sorts of strange locations against all manner of unusual opponents, from oversized spiders and bees to tigers, zombie guards and, interesting enough, real people!

You will have already noticed from the screenshots dotted around this review that Silmarils have really gone to town on the visuals for Ishar 3. Coming on six disks, there are far more graphics in the game than ever before, and as a result the realistic effect the previous two have generated has been increased ten fold.

Take the major city, for example. In most games of this ilk, all locations look more or less the same, or if you're lucky, certain parts of the city will look different to others, if only because the buildings are a slightly different shade of red. In this game however, every single location has its own flavour, and the city actually looks and feels like a real city. You can actually recognise locations fairly easily, and once you've walked around it couple of times, you'll know your way like a native.

THE CAT ON THE MAP
Ishar 3 contains an extremely useful map facility, enabling you to cut out all the usual aimless wandering and lets you get on with just solving the adventure. When you arrive in a city, you can view a complete street plan of the place, with absolutely none of the major buildings and locations marked. As you visit places, coloured arrows appear to show you where taverns, inns, shops and other important places can be found. Carry out a thorough search of the city and you'll never be more than a couple of streets away from the equivalent of a Seven-Eleven shop.

Going back to the graphics, one of the major enhancements is the use of actors to make up the inhabitants of the city.

Although the well-drawn fantasy figures of the last couple of games did the job perfectly well, Silmarils have gone a little further and actually photographed people in costume, which just makes the game look all the more realistic. When you enter someone's house, you actually watch a real person talk to you, instead of another 32 colour barbarian or wizard.

Of course, to do this those loveable French rogues have had to try and define the dress fashions of the city, and I can't honestly say they've done the best job they could have. Muscle-bound barbarians stand next to what can only be described a woman dressed in Elizabethan garb, and the image just doesn't quite work. The dogs and horses work well though.

As far as the game itself goes, there have been few enhancements from the last one. Anyone who can play Ishar 2 will feel instantly at home with this as it contains all the same controls and icons as the last. There are some who will say that this is just more of the same, but as far as I'm concerned Ishar 2 was such a great game, there isn't a need to change anything about the controls. Why fix what isn't broken?

At the end of the day, this is a great game. All the right elements of the last two games have been kept, the plot has been improved and the game looks simply incredible. I'm sure that adventure nuts will go just as mad over this one as they have done over the last two.


WHERE'S THE PARTY PEOPLE?

Unlike the original two Ishar games, Ishar 3 gives you a lot more control over who you have in your party. Instead of starting with a single preset character, and then having to search the local inns and taverns to create your crew, you can just step into the party designer at the beginning of the game and create the team you want to have. You can define almost everything about your party, from character classes and professions, to how good each character is at various actions by splitting up a number of points between different characteristics. The only thing you can't define is their personality, and as the Ishar games are very much based on team spirit and personality, it is quite possible that you will create a team that just doesn't get on with itself!