SOLSTICE is almost upon us, and as we peer through hermetically sealed windows at the ever expanding gloom perhaps we should apre a thought for the residents of Albion where the shadows last all year round and the man from Everest hasn't been seen in living memory.
The Queendom is under threat from the malevolent Shadowlord and his merciless minions, intent on destroying the sacred temples, robbing the land of magic and supporting Millwall on Saturday afternoons.
Your quest is to do something about it - nobody is quite sure what - aided by a brave band of merry men. This is where Swords departs from the regular plot for role-
Now you to can invite a few mates round and enjoy the quarrels, bickering and sabre-
Alternatively you can elect the computer to control the other two characters and play on your own. This is still not quite like a solo role-playing through because the computer will act under the personalities of the characters it is playing, so they can be just as unhelpful and prone to sulking fits as your mates.
The characters are all chosen from a field of 31, comprising champions, knights and mages. Champions are just knights who are better at knighting, whereas a mage is a generic term for a follower of one of the five brands of magic currently on the market.
Knights come in all skill levels from the belligerent Britomart at sixth level to the lowly Kodak who is still developing. Be careful in your choice though, some weapons are only effective in the hands of a complete novice.
Control is by a sort of men affair which is activated by pressing the fire button. The options are all pretty basic, pick up and drop stuff, apart from the talk option. This is by far the most important as it handles all the interaction between you and anyone or anything you should meet.
The computer will intuitively flavour your speech depending on how wary or friendly you are at the time. If you are suspicious, comments about your name or mission will be more guarded.
It is worth noting that other characters will react depending on how you treat them. It is quite possible to charm even the most depraved of slavering hordes by giving them little gifts and saying how pleased you are to see them.
Reputations will be built from all that you spite and everyone you fight - how you treat people can easily decide your fate. Travel to the other kingdoms, which will be necessary to complete your quest, is via the ancients' alternative of arterial highways, the Rainbow Road. Ths is actually an excuse for some gratuitous colour-
The answers to your problems lie in the distant realms, but your first task is to find your way about.
The graphics are more than adequate for this type of game but the painfully grinding Ring movement will have Wagner turning in his urn. It certainly isn't how George Solti used to play it.
The only real criticism of Swords could equally well be levelled at many of the games in this genre - the incessant and aimless wandering about seems to have been overdone a bit. The plot itself is complex and interesting as it unravels, but if the tedium gets to you before the ogres do, then you'll never find out.
This is a brave attempt at properly reproducing the atmosphere and style of true role-playing. Although not quite perfect, it should find its way into every serious role-