My dad loved Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D)…especially the games that Strategic Simulations Inc., put out. Eye of the Beholder, was much different from prior games put out by SSI, it was done through the perspective of a first person explorer (shooter style). The storyline starts out with the Lord of Waterdeep needing brave adventures to seek out the evils that brooding beneath the city and vanquish it.
Game play starts out the same with each of these games, with the player creating a party of four characters. The exception to this being for Eye of the Beholder II and III (Which I will get to in a future review), if you owned this series for the same computer system, you had the ability to import your party from an earlier version. This is traditionally how you start any D&D game. For those not familiar with what is playable in the Forgotten Realms world of AD&D or D&D in general, you need to chose the following: Sex, Race, Class, Alignment, and Stats.
Your characters can be of the Human, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Gnomes, and Halfling races. Race is not so important in this game, but important to the politics within D&D. In this game, it really is used to define what classes your character can play. For example, Humans cannot multi-class (be of more than one class). Elves, on the other hand can be fighters, mages and clerics all at the same time (with great disadvantages), Dwarves can be both fighters and clerics or fighter/clerics but never mages.
Then pick your class: Paladin, Rangers, Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief…and based on your race a variety of combinations there of. Paladin’s are the Holy Warriors, similar to fighters but have the ability to use healing spells and “turn” or dispell evil. Rangers are your typical Robin Hood type character. Good fighters, but prefer ranged fighting over melee combat. Fighers are usually the strongest members of the team. They carry heavy armor, heavy weapons and prefer swords to words. Mages (or Magic User) use magic spells like magic missile, fireball, lightning bolt, etc to fend off monsters. Clerics are the healers of the group. Clerics in D&D, unlike most other games can wear heavy armor, but prefer to use blunt weapons like hammers and maces (always found that strange). Finally, Thieves are the silent assassins using small swords, daggers, and using leather armor. Their strongest skills are that of picking locks (a very important skill to have in this game).
Then chose your alignment (Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, (True) Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Evil) Side Note: Alignment had little to no baring in this game or it’s game play, and for those not familiar with alignment, it is essentially your personality and how you would react to certain scenarios if your character was put into the situation. I think the only issue I found was if you played with a Paladin in your party and you had either made another character or had another character join the party that was of any Evil alignment.
Now on to Stats or statistics, this is called rolling your stats: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma. If you were honest, you did your best to roll stats that would make sense for your character. For example, if you were a fighter you wanted a high number in Strength, and Dexterity, and a Mage would need Wisdom and Intelligence, and Thieves would need a high Dexterity and Charisma (as example). Of course, based on your race, and your class, these stats could be higher than others of similar class of a different race. Depending on how high these stats were, it could award you different bonuses. Without going into a great deal of detail…let’s just say as a kid, given the chance to manipulate your stats to your hearts content I maxed everything out. Looking back…you kind of had to. So all characters max out at 18 at all stats, except fighter classes (Fighter/Paladin/Ranger) who could have a strength higher than 18 (18/100).
Of course, I am explaining this looking back…as a kid, I didn’t know any of this. On to the game.
The Lords of Waterdeep have asked your party to explore the sewers and vanquish the baddies down below. Of course, one should never trust politicians. As soon as the party enters the dungeon, the entrance collapses and your party’s fate is now sealed within the deep, dank, and smelly sewers.
I have played a few of my father’s AD&D computer games, this was the first I played that offered a first-person perspective. Combat in the game was determined by how your party members were configured. Those in front could attack with melee weapons, those in back had to have some kind of range weapon. Which means you wanted your fighters up front…and your weakest characters (those with low hit points) in the back of the party. Movement throughout the dungeon was done either with the keyboard arrows, or by clicking on the arrows on the user interface. Combat was done by clicking on the weapon, the player held.
This game series did a real good job at capturing the D&D feel. Characters abilities are determined by their race, level, and class and they have their own inventories. Depending on their class could determine the weapons and armor they were allowed. Since you were trapped in the sewers, the only way you could upgrade your armor and weapons was “if” you found them through combat or just lying in the dungeons. There was an assortment of slots available for weapons and armor and as you found things you simply put them into the appropriate slot. This game also incorporated the need for players to eat, something I think more games need to take into account. Mages and clerics could learn spells as they leveled up, but only if they found scrolls to learn the spells, it’s not just assumed.
In this game, you meet kobolds (little rat-like (later found to be lizard-like) monsters), skeletal knights, Dwarves, spiders (shudder), gelatinous cubes (Giant green jello monsters that can easily kill an entire party by drowning them in their sludge), drow (Dark elves with black skin and silver hair…with few exceptions these are just absolutely EVIL elves), driders (half drow, half spider…double shudder), displacer beasts, golems, and all sorts of other baddies. To help kill these monsters you pick up two random allies (either through stumbling upon them in a prison cell, or resurrection (a spell that brings dead people to life…sans Zombification)).
Completion of the first Eye of the Beholder, is by the death and destruction of a Beholder monster (Xanathar) with visions of world domination. Beholder’s for those that don’t know is a large floating monster with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. On it’s body rests one large eye, attached to it’s body are multiple eye stalks. Every eye can cast a deadly spell…very deadly monsters.
These were long games, and required a great deal of strategy and understanding of the D&D mechanics. For example, in order to learn or relearn spells, and rest in general, you need to Camp. You can’t camp if you are in combat. Resting also can create a chance for a random encounter. In order to rest completely (full heal and relearn all your spells) you need to be a safe secure spot…something that doesn’t happen very often inside a dungeon. I kind of wish SSI was still around, these were great games and required a great deal of programming. D&D has a lot of complex rules and I think SSI did a great job designing software that took these rules into consideration.
All of SSI’s computer games came with a very clever anti-pirating tool. During certain parts of the games you were required to enter a certain phrase found somewhere within the game book or found by moving a puzzle wheel so that certain characters lined up. To this extent you can’t play these games for any length of time without these items. I’ve played and successfully beat all three of these games. You cannot beat these games though without the strategy guides. It is also due to these games that I have a sever case of arachnophobia *shivers*. One thing I never could figure out though, was how dragons and ice giants fit into a dungeon passage only big enough to fit two party members.