From the shimmering heights of their awesomely fearsome tower, the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse heeded the call of AMIGA POWER. Flew down in fury upon the earth did they, shattering the illusions of software developers hoping to make a quick buck. Cringe in terror at the truth and power of the words unleashed against Black Legend's role-playing game Tower of Souls, did lesser beings. Cringe in terror, yea, and hide themselves.
"It transgresses against all the values our representatives on earth, the mighty beings of AMIGA POWER, deem worthwhile," boomed the First Cyclist, who really should have known better, but didn't, due to an enduring megalomania complex for which there was no known cure other than death by lethal injection.
"RPGs are for pretentious sentimental control freaks with more spare time and imagination than sense," hissed the Third Cyclist of the Apocalypse reinforcingly, promptly tucking into yet another bowl of Weeta Flakes as if to prove his judgemental credentials.
"Perhaps it is so," countered the Second Cyclist, divine mighty being of justice and humanity to all - even Big Issue vendors - "but do not forget that many of our favourite games are RPGs and that several of them now reside in the reverent annals of the AMIGA POWER All-Time Top 100."
"Be more thoughtful in future," commanded the Fourth Cyclist, "for if you do not pull your sinister cloak up, we will be forced to resort to four disks on the cover to attract readers rather than relying upon superior editorial content."
The Third Cyclist dipped his hood in shame. His condemnation of RPGs had indeed been ill-considered and out-of-hand. He resolved to play Tower of Souls in depth, looking specifically for some kind of saving grace which would earn the game clemency from a damningly poor final score. He put aside his bowl of cereal and, after a time, was ready to pass judgment.
The copy of Tower of Souls sat quivering upon the Cyclists' infernal device of judgment. To each side was a balance on which the evidence for and against its damnation would be weighted. The others waited in silence as the Third Cyclist turned to the Balance of Doom.
"You have only to read the snazzily-animated introductory tale behind Tower of Souls to realise that it is a pile of crappily-clichéd, stinkingly-stereotypical fantasy roleplay excreta," he commenced. The scale creaked ominously.
"The story is so unoriginal, it feels as if the writer has taken a degree course in unoriginal RPG plots and picked up a first in mediocrity. Demons, crystals, milking the essence from a fair land that used to be free and nigh-impenetrable tower fortresses - all have a place in a plot that has toto many credibility gaps, even for a fantasy romp."
The trap will smother
"For is it not written that, with an RPG such as this, the plot should drive the game so that the player always feels as if they're involved with something at least half-relevant to the on-screen action? It is. And yet this is not so with Tower of Souls. Te plot exists solely to justify plainly ridiculous anomalies such as the orphaned lone champion hero finding himself gifted with not only a sword but also a well-equipped backpack. A backpack, I add, that doesn't even appear on your animated figure, becoming fat with collected objects without even slowing your hero down."
"The plot speaks of two major obstacles to your success. The first is a legion of undead creatures conjured from the bodies of the victims of the blighted land. The other is a series of locked doors," The Third Cyclist gestured in the manner of a nativity play shepherd. "Oh no! The locked door's coming to get me!" The Four Cyclist chuckled appreciatively, but was silenced with heavy looks from his companions.
"This, I fear, is what the game comes down to," continue the Third Cyclist. "Your first task is to switch off all of the pump systems throughout the tower. This translates into exploring the whole construction, opening every chest, checking every well adomment so as not to miss any secret doors, and picking up every object in case it is vital to the creation of a magic potion."
"The game feels as if you are engaged in tedious housework, or worse, playing Valhalla without the saving grace of the annoying speech or puzzle element. For example, some chests can only be opened using lockpicks. You have four such tools, and open the chests by jiggling the mouse around and trying each lockpick in turn, it is time-wasting and tedious in the extreme, and adds absolutely nothing to the atmosphere."
"And that apart, from some crap fighting and avoiding mechanical tricks and traps (a wearisome process involving seeing which part of the path the trap will smother, and then carefully walking around that part), is all there ever is to do in Tower of Souls. It plays like the introductory level in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and is tedious, dull, pedantic, systematic, clichéd and unoriginal. Even the most stupid, die-hard RPG fan will turn up their nose at this offering. It is an insult to their intelligence."
The Third Cyclist turned to face the Balance of Mercy, already pressed against the floor, its hinges squeaking. "But in its favour," he added, "its graphics are fairly luscious, and its execution competent." The scale shifted a fraction of a micron. With a heavy heart but a clear conscience, the Third Cyclist pulled on the lever that opened the portal direct to Game Hell. The Cyclists watched Tower of Souls plunge in without remorse of fear of reprisal.
"Justice is done," concluded the First Cyclist as the Third once more took his place beside his brethren. "Let our representatives on earth have no further need to call upon us, for next time we shall not be so generous." (Welcome back, Steve. - Ed)