Death or glory

Onslaught logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

RABID TVophiles may recall a weary rice-opera which used to pop up occasionally on BBC2 going by the name of The Water Margin. If you don't, it doesn't matter - actually, even if you do it doesn't matter - all I wish to allude to is a section of monologue which used to appear at the beginning of the show, and which went something like this:
"Do not despise the snake because he has no horns, for who say nay he will not turn into a dragon. So may one just man become an army..."

There in essence you have the plot of Onslaught. No, nothing to do with snakes and dragons, but the bit about one man becoming an army. For in the land of Gargore there is a mean son of a tank whose strength is of 10 and whose ambitions include travelling the world and meeting people, shortly before he cuts them up into little pieces and stamps on them.

This land is no sceptred isle of kings. It is strewn with the countless dead (and undead) of a thousand sieges. The only way to bring peace and harmony to the blighted soil is to kill everyone. Ho hum - what must be done must, I suppose, be done.

Strategy is the first element of the game. Upon first embarking to his duty the player is confronted by a 16 x 16 grid of the land. He may then elect to invade territories neighbouring his own. The indigenous troops come in several flavours, from bog-standard hill-men with clubs through board-riders to kamikaze monks.

There are 14 types of tribe in all, each with their own peculiar characteristics and preferred strategies.

Enough of all this strategy prattle though, all you have to do is follow the worms to the field of dishonour and wade in gore. Destroying everything that comes your way is not always the best policy. You can kill 50 to the right of you and 50 to the left and not think it too many, but unless you advance pronto on the enemy banner you will be awash with wave upon wave of demented avengers.

Once the enemy standard has been captured, it's off to lay siege to their castle. This is much the same as before but with a nicer backdrop. Finally we come to mind control. This is where you take on a thing with lots of arms throwing stuff at you. Easily the most forgettable part of the game.

If the enemy should capture your banner first, you must go back a stage until either you have won or one side is vanquished. Talismans picked up in combat can be used to flit across the less accessible terrain in order to broaden the range of combat. Occasional crusades and plagues may result in loss of territory, but these things usually pass.

The land may be edited to your own design, to make it easier I suggest. Of course, this means that you can also save your current character - up to 10 on the disc. Throughout are strewn Hewson-class graphics and sound building up an atmosphere for diabolical devastation. Gameplay is fast and addictive but very tough. If you should manage to conquer the land at one sitting I would be very surprised.
Another Hewson game with ingrained excellence.



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HEWSON £24.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

You are a Fanatic, an extravagantly or unreasonably zealous person, especially on religious matters. No, it's a game about football supporters: it's about warring kingdoms trying to conquer the land of Gargore. Axes, arrows, bombs, demons, maces and lots of violence... then again, maybe it is about football.

Gargore is a 16x16 grid filled with various types of terrain and many warring tribes. The player starts off with just one location and has to conquer every single enemy site, which is no easy task because there are three different stages to complete at each place. A different enemy general and warband inhabit each location and a status screen gives information on the cult they worship, the type of warband, strength of the wizard lord and the kingdom's population.

The first stage of an attack is the field battle conducted on a horizontally scrolling play area. The Fanatic starts at the far left and has to fight his way to the enemy banner on the right. The enemies that await depend on the type of warband in the kingdom: spear throwers, swordsmen, cannons, exploding monks and lumbering war machines are just some of the dangers. Every hit from one of them lowers the power level, which is most severely affected by treading on mines.

The Fanatic starts with just a mace but can get weapons along the way by killing enemies. The weapons vary in strength and range and include bows, bombs and homing demon blasts. There are also spells to collect that replenish power, destroy all enemies and freeze them as well. All these objects can be picked up into the inventory list and in the heat of battle will be used up very rapidly indeed.

While trying to battle through to the enemy banner you ave to watch how many of the enemy you allow past because it too many go off the left of the screen you will have to perform a defending action. This works just like a field battle but if you should lose it an area of territory is irrevocably lost.

If the enemy banner is reached it stops the bad guys appearing, leaving just a few to mop up before moving on to the siege section. This is also just like the field battle, with a banner at the top of the castle on the right. Reach that banner and mop up the enemy and it's on to the final mind duel with general.

The mind duel is a single screen battle against a fourarmed monster in the middle of the display. You control a hand moving around the edge and have to blast the monster with enough homing shots before his hands shoot you. Succeed and the territory is yours, fail and you are taken right back to the siege stage.

The mind duel also takes place when entering temple locations. While fighting the temple guardian, talismans can be picked up that allow freer movement on the map over forests, swamps, water, mountains, plagues, crusades and rebellions. Unfortunately it is also all too easy to use a talisman in field combat and not be able to move around so much.

The plagues, crusades and rebellions occur randomly: the first two make conquering a territory harder, while a rebellion takes one of your territories away.

One essential feature is the ability to save the game. It's essential because it's so hard to stay alive. From the same editing screen the game map can also be altered, allowing you to set up your own game worlds.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The map screen is basic but functional, while the in-game graphics are very good indeed. Detailed backgrounds, lots of colourful, well animated sprites, levels that extend upwards as well as scrolling horizontally and many a fine explosion. The music is of the 'atmospheric' variety and is very appropriate and pleasing.

JUDGEMENT

This is not a game to be approached lightly - it is tough. Conquering just one territory is hard enough and getting control of the whole map is a massive task. Despite being difficult, it is also addictive: you may beat the table with frustration, but you will also have another go.

Without the save game feature this would be an impossible game to play: with it is just difficult. It's a lot of fun but has just too high a frustration level to be top class.



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Was bei Horror- und Actionfilmen schon längst an der Tagesordnung ist, kommt jetzt anscheinend auch bei Compuerspielen in Mode: das Kürzen! Erstes Opfer war das neueste Ballergame von Hewson - da mußten wir natürlich gleich mal nachschauen, ob etwas Wichtiges fehlt...

Fangen wir zur Abwechslung mit der Vorgeschichte an: Irgendwo ganz weit draußen hat man eine vergessene Androiden-Zivilisation entdeckt, die sich im Lauf der letzten tausend Jahre höchst bedenklich entwickelt hat und deswegen ausgelöscht werden soll.

Die Jungs dort oben durchleben gerade eine Art Mittel-alter - sie glauben an Arduck, den Gott ohne Haupt, hängen allen möglichen teuflischen Sekten an und sind auch sonst recht unangenehmen Zeitgenossen. Deswegen wird jetzt ein todesmutiger Streiter losgeschickt, der mit dem wild gewordenen Haufen aufräumen soll.

Der Spieler darf sich auf der Gefechtskarte ein Androiden-Königreich herauspicken, das er zerlegen will, dann geht's auf zur Schlacht: Man muß sich von links nach rechts zu gegnerischen Fahne vorkämpfen, wobei es sich empfiehlt, alsbald nach Extrawaffen Ausschau zu halten, denn allein mit der Keule (Anfangsausstattung) kommt man nicht weit.

Wenn die feindlichen Truppen aufgerieben sind, tritt man gegen den Obermotz persönblich an, der von der Bildschirmmitte aus auf einen feuert, während man ihn, ebenfalls ballernd, umkreist.

Die Ausstattung von Onslaught ist schon beeindruckend: Es gibt eine riesige Gefechtskarte mit 256 Feldern, 14 verschiedene Armeen von Wildschweinreitern bis zu Untoten, 16 Androidentypen vom Speerwerfer bis zum reitenden Skelett und die unterschiedlichsten Waffen.

Dummerweise spielt sich trotzdem alles ziemlich gleich und - lahm! Schade, denn die Programmierer haben sich auch noch etliche Optionen einfallen lassen, wie zwei wählbare Schwierigkeitsstufen, drei Spielmodi, ja selbt die Karte läßt sich editieren und abspeichern,

Auch die Grafiken sind schön bunt und gut animiert, die Musik von Maniacs of Noise ist sogar Spitzenklasse! Das Scrolling ruckelt zwar ein wenig (5 auf der nach oben offenen Ruckel-Skala), aber mein Bildschirm hat schon schlimmere Stotter-Partien gesehen. Über die Effekte kann man auch nichts Schlechtes sagen, aber es hilft halt alles nichts, wenn's mit der Spielbarkeit nicht stimmt!

Das Game ist zwar höllisch schwer (und ab und zu ein bißchen unfair), aber dennoch eintönig: eigentlich nur geeignet für strategisch veranlagte "Hau drauf"-Fans, die vor schweren Spielen nicht zurückschrecken.

In puncto Kürzungen ist gar nicht so viel passiert, die Hintergrundgrafiken weisen immer noch reichlich Kriegerleichen auf. Die auffälligste Änderung ist, daß sich die Blutstropfen in Sternchen verwandelt haben. Die Todesschreie klingen nun anders, und aus lauter Angst vor der BPS sind die Gegner ganz grün geworden.

Auch bei der (im übrigen hervorragenden) deutschen Anleitung hat die Zensorenschere zugeschlagen und ein paar Bildchen von barbarischen Göttern weggeschnippelt. In dieser Hinsicht könnt Ihr also beruhigt sein: Wenn Euch das Game nicht gefällt, liegt's zumindest nicht an den Kürzungen... (mm)



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Hewson
Price: £24.99

Onslaught is a pretty strange game. Combining strategy, arcade and Dungeons and Dragons, with the odd Cybernoid-style element, it makes for a somewhat disjointed, though enjoyable experience.

Your life is a simple one - kill, conquer, then kill a bit more. In effect you are a one man army who is suddenly struck by the idea of ending all the wars that ravage his homeland. Basically you do this by jumping off people who do not share your point of view.

The opening section displays a map with the enemy territory marked. Opposing groups worship separate gods, and they act accordingly, for instance worshippers of the boar ride on the backs of hogs. Choose who you want to attack and you are transported to their stronghold. Now all you have to do is kill as many people as possible and collect the enemy's battle standard, which is located at the end of the level. It is a bit like playing a mediaeval game of skirmish.

Because it is only you against an army you do receive some magical help and extra weapons to collect. Naturally there is a catch, and each weapon has only a limited number of uses, and only eight can be carried at any one time. This leads to a lot of confusion and delay as you run out of one weapon, then waste a couple of seconds fiddling with the joystick selecting a new one, only to get murdered before you can use it. Fortunately there is a trainer mode which instructs the computer to select weapons for you.

When you have captured his land, do battle with the opposing leader. This involves you (now in the shape of a hand) spinning round him blasting him from all sides. Then you can plan your next move and proceed to take over the whole of the country.

The colours in this game are grossly over the top. A few of the explosions look like the ones in Cybernoid, but it does not seem to matter and along with its Maniacs of Noise soundtrack and its lasting gameplay, Onslaught is furious fun and addictive. Check it out.



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Onslaught is an 'invade and conquer all the squares of the map' strategy game combined with a selection of vertically and horizontally scrolling hack 'em ups. Choose a 'square' on the map screen and plunge into battle. Winning a battle allows you to take possession of the square and so progress. But some territories are harder to occupy - this is where the strategy comes in. Filling the map with your 'colour' is the object of the game.

Amiga reviewJonathan: Onslaught is a bit on the epic side. It's set in the land of Gargore, where dozens of warring kingdoms are at each others throats and armies of 1000s are being slaughtered by the minute. You're cast as a Fanatic, a solitary warrior with the strength of a whole battalion. Your aim is to beat up as many people as possible and nick all their land. Study the map-screen, decide where to have a crack at the enemy and the game flips into scrolling mode.

The idea is to clear the battlefield of enemies but before this can be achieved, you have to capture the enemy's banner to prevent more troops appearing. The battle then continues through a couple more stages, culminating in a Mind Battle - broadly similar to the 'mega alien' found in the majority of games these days. Defeat this and you win the campaign.

Onslaught wouldn't be complete without the many add-on weapons available. They appear as shields in the wake of your defeated foe. Up to eight can be carried at once and they come in very handy for supplementing your standard issue mace.

The baddies have a few tricks up their sleeves too though. Not only are you fallen upon by mere foot soldiers, but you also have to be wary of the larger, nastier assailants which come in a variety of guises. Mines are also a problem - try not to step on them.

The graphics are so detailed and so many baddies pile onto you at once, that it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly what's going on. The graphics make imaginative use of the Amiga's palette - if anything they may be slightly overdone. Practically everything's a different colour and there are some breathtaking backdrops. The music is lump-in-the-throat-inducing.

Another point worthy of note is the Editor. Not our own (although he may be very noteworthy indeed), but Onslaught's map editor which allows you to alter the state of Gargore at will.

Although initially Onslaught's appeal seems to lie in its adventure game setting and the pseudo-strategy bit with the map, it's really a shoot 'em up through and through. And a darned good one too. Hewson has once again come up with a cunning interfusion of violence, variety and graphical fabness which, while it hardly breaks any moulds, certainly looks different.

Above all Onslaught is a fun game to play and should certainly fend off Old Father Time admirably.

Atari ST reviewDunc: Here's a mildly interesting fact - I actually own a suit of armour. It dates form about 1200 AD, which means it's, um, (gets calculator out and presses totally wrong buttons) 430,000 years old. (800 actually. Ed).

The reason I mention owning this medieval piece of kit is this: every time a 'knights to battle' type game comes up, I don the metal garment before playing. Firstly, it helps me 'get into the atmosphere' of the proceedings and secondly, it lets me know how accurate the in-game 'clang' effects of steel against steel are. When the computer goes 'clang', I quickly pick up a hammer and strike my leggings, comparing the two notes.

So how do the in-game clangs of Onslaught ST match up to the real McCoy? Rather well actually, which for me is always a bonus - ad it ups the total score by one point. But what about the rest of the game though?

Onslaught is a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up (well, a series of horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em ups actually). And, my word, what a shoot 'em up it is. I haven't been attacked by so many things in such a short a space of time since I rather foolishly entered the local Mosque wearing a pair of muddy Doctor Martins and an 'I know where Salman Rushdie's hiding, but I'm not telling you lot' T-shirt.

There's an almost infinite number of sprites in Onslaught, and they're all trying to kill you. Luckily, you can obtain power-up icons (to help you fight back), which come I the form of different coloured shields and scrolls. Aha, colour. The game has been crammed with every single colour known to man. This, along with the way everything moves rather speedily, makes for some confusion and that's on the flashy office-monitor screen. If your ST happens to be attached to a ropey old TV set (like mine is at home) then things are going to be even more bewildering.

Confusing colouring aside though, it must be said that Onslaught has got absolutely tremendous graphics, and they're animated nicely too (plus there's brilliant sound). However, the arcade action is actually too frenzied and cluttered, and the 'weapons-select system is a bit awkward. I may not have the quickest reactions in the country, but I'm not totally useless. (He is actually. Ed.) Basically, Onslaught is too hard. Much too hard. Slow the pace down (or remove 20 per cent of the sprites) and you'd have a really decent game - but as it stands not all of you are going to get very far.

Gripes aside though, it's not at all bad - but then you don't expect bad games from Hewson. Right, now to get out of the bloody suit of armour. Got a tin-opener anybody?



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Hewson, Amiga £24.99

Gargore is the appropriately named land where the rivers regularly run with blood from the battles of warring kingdoms. The armies fight under the banners of no less than 16 cults, worshipping gods and leaders such as Rimog, who collects human heads.

But there is hope in this divided land. Even the most insanely brave army is afraid of a 'fanatic'; solitary warriors who live to carve a place for themselves in history by skill in battle. Thanks to magical powers a fanatic can have strength of an army... and you're one such mighty hero.

Once you start the game a 16X16 map screen is shown. Many of the locations are scenery - mountains, rivers etc - and can only be crossed if you have the correct talisman. To earn a talisman you must visit a temple and beat the guardian. This is a Mind Duel, and the guardian is represented by a head with four long arms - as it spits bullets you move your hand around the edge of the screen firing back, shortening the arms until it dies.

The majority of locations, however, are occupied by enemy troops. These include normal armies, Crusade armies (with improved enemy morale and firepower) and Plague armies (the undead). Once an army catches a plague, it rapidly spreads to nearby locations.

There are fourteen different types of army, each with their own main attack weapon. Ballistic types have cannons, knightly-types have cavalry, and cauldron ones have men with pots full of boiling oil to pour on you.

Field Battles start with the player on the left on the screen, beside his glittering blue banner. Your objective is to fight through the enemy army and capture its banner. But if you let too many troops past you they might capture your banner, forcing you into a defensive Field Battle. To help you, various objects can be collected: weapons, spells, talismans, and bonuses. Weapons include crossbows, bombs, and various smart bombs. Six spells include 'restore energy' and 'freeze enemies'. The ten talismans can help clear plague and crusades - besides transporting you across scenery.

If you win your battle you lay siege to the enemy castle; essentially a Field Battle but with some towers to climb up. Capture the banner here and a Mind Duel begins. Win it and you've captured the location.

If it all seems too hard, there's a comprehensive edit mode to create your own worlds, plus a save/load option.


Robin Hogg What great music there is to this game! The Maniacs of Noise have done yet another great soundtrack - there's even a tune that's straight from some Indian restaurant! Onslaught the game is one of the toughest I know of with some really long levels to hack through, supported by some beautifully detailed sprites - the skeletal riders and warriors in the plague lands are great. Though I was a little concerned about a lack of gameplay variety there's certainly a lot in there with plagues and crusades to counter, the problems of terrain, and the different cults to fight against, each with its own methods of attack.
Stuart Wynne After much oohing and ahhing over the graphics and tune, Onslaught initially seemed a little shallow - run around bopping baddies. But once you read the extensive (yet still too small) instructions, the great variety of enemies and weapons becomes apparent. The cavalry and flying carpets are great; the skin-and-bone plague armies even better. Conquering a map is a formidable task, especially with just one life. But any sensible person will save before every battle. The actual arcade element hasn't got that much variety in how it plays, but the ability to design your own challenge more than compensates.