Westwood Studios‘ 1993 RPG Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos is a Dungeon Master-like first-person, real-time action game with spells and combat and plenty of monsters out to end your life.
Las Vegas-based Westwood, coincidentally, were developers of the first two Eye of the Beholder games, but dropped the franchise in favour of developing Lands of Lore, their own IP.
Neat hand-drawn graphical cut scenes intersperse the hacking and slashing to create a decent fantasy atmosphere, although the corny voice acting does hold the game back somewhat (this is an American interpretation of British ‘lore’, and as such is quite laughable – even Patrick Stewart‘s bits are lamentably over-the-top).
The interface is similar to Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master. Throne of Chaos is easy to play, but difficult to master. It does have some significant differences to EoB and Dungeon Master, though. Like, for example, the fact that characters can ‘die’ and can be brought back to life with heal spells. Only when all your party are dead does the game end, so you can turn things around with some quick thinking and clicking if you’re getting hammered. It’s also good that you don’t have to worry about providing food and water to your characters, which is something that arguably holds back its aforementioned genre rivals.
Also – unlike DM and EoB – the monsters constantly re-spawn. And I mean quickly. The first major dungeon, the Draracle’s Caves, are terrifying because they contain a number of different hostile creatures, and they come at you relentlessly. Thankfully the ‘rest’ engine is quite forgiving and you can still recuperate while you can hear monsters nearby. You can, however, be woken from your rest if a monster is stood right next to you. In a nice touch, the character portraits all show visible alarm when this happens!
As CRPGs go, Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos begins rather meekly, then grows stronger and stronger – into quite a mature adventure. The main character is deliberately made to appear very naive initially, and slowly comes of age, probably as his companions die around him. Party members come and go relatively quickly and don’t tend to stick around for the whole game.
Personally, I think this first Lands of Lore game is the best in the entire series. It is the only one that uses a ’tile-based’ movement system – later LoL games use ‘free movement’ in a pseudo 3D environment, and in my opinion, don’t work quite as well.
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos is still available to buy today – on GOG.com, along with its sequel – for a few pounds/dollars, and it is well worth investing the time/money in.