Legacy of the Ancients (LotA), while a little light in the role-playing, brought a lot of innovation to the table. Different perspectives based on location, a unique ability score advancement system, multiple games within the main game, mini quests, linear storyline with non-linear game-play, multiple unique cities, different terrain bringing different challenges, and atmospheric sounds. All that and it is fun, as well.
The story starts out in the Tarmalon Museum. You, the intrepid adventurer, are viewing exhibits on the world of Tarmalon. Where will you go first? It’s up to you. Fortunately there is the Museum Caretaker to give you useful advice as needed and grant you promotions (levels.) The game is open ended for most overhead map exploring, but you are restricted from entering dungeons or areas that aren’t on par with your abilities.
Through coins to view exhibits, the game keeps you from getting ahead of your abilities. At certain points in the game you find coins or are offered coins for sale from random encounters or shopkeepers. Although it may sound contrived, I have played the game many times and the coins seem natural. When you need one, you’ll buy or find one, but it never seems forced. This feature is nicely integrated. Certain coins are only found at the bottom of dungeons, or are only available to higher-level adventurers.
There is no assigning of skill points – LotA uses an ingenious method of adding to your ability scores: to gain Intelligence, you must master the game Stones of Wisdom. To gain dexterity, you must master the Weapons Academy. To gain endurance, you must master the Armor academy. All fun little games in themselves, but when combined allow a player multiple enjoyable ways to spend their time. With save states and the ability to slow down or speed up your C64 emulator – it changes the skills required to master these games, but getting the perfect score to boost your dexterity to 50 was one heck of a feat in the day. One drawback is that there are no classes in the game. You are what you are and can’t choose a class or profession.
The spell system is limited to six spells. While the effects are nice, it is pretty limited. Most creatures are susceptible to some spells more than others, which brings some variety. Spells are more useful in dungeons than in overland encounters, in which creatures seem to shrug off the effects of spells with amazing frequency.
Encounters, while many, are not always bad. There are multiple ways random encounters can be worked out. Sometimes you hear the opponent coming and can avoid the encounter, you can be surprised, the opponent can offer something for sale, or other choices. Opponents are each vulnerable to some manner of attack and less vulnerable to others, albeit bludgeoning, slashing, piercing, or spells – it makes a big difference in damage output. You can also choose to eat most opponents after you are done fighting, but you risk getting sick.
There are about four dungeons in the game, all 3D and on par with Ultima 5 for graphics. The standard “what you need to retrieve is located in the most inconvenient spot in the dungeon” applies. There are traps and creatures, but the dungeons are set – so you can search for traps at any time to reveal any dangerous traps, also there are very few random encounters in dungeons – usually there is a set amount of creatures per dungeon level (thankfully so.) There are also healing potions and treasure chests to make it worth your time. There is NO auto-map feature so pen and paper is needed, but not required until the final dungeon. In most dungeons it follows to keep going down until you find what you were sent for, and then go up. The last dungeon loops around on itself so you will probably need to map it out by hand or find a download site.
There are also indoor dungeons – castles that need to be stormed or the occasional city with a bank you wish to rob. These retain the overhead 2D perspective and can be very fun.
The sound for the game is very nice. One of the first games I’ve played where when walking on the map through a swamp, your feet squish and when walking through plains or desert the wind blows and appropriate creatures attack. You hear a thump when clubbing opponents, a fizzle when your spell doesn’t work, and a slashing sound when hacking on opponents. They can get pretty redundant though when fighting 3 opponents in a row but for the most part are acceptable.
The music is mostly in the Tarmalon Museum and introduction melodies. Limited, but that’s not a bad thing.
The graphics and game play are very similar to Questron II – and that’s no coincidence! The game was designed and written by the same Dougherty brothers that produced Questron II and other titles. LotA is the superior of the two, IMHO. If you are not familiar with Questron, the game used standard 2D tiles for outside and animated sprites for the creatures/npc’s/hero. Inside dungeons are on par with Eye of the Beholder – with nicely done wall graphics and some ambient sounds.
One heck of a game for one floppy disk – it can be found around the clock from E-bay and other auction sites. It remains a classic, and if you enjoy this game, make sure you check out it’s successor: Legend of Blacksilver, which is every bit as fun.
|GRAPHICS - 9/10|
|The graphics are a nice colourful 2D tileset which ads flavour to all towns and the world map. The dungeon graphics are a good 3D step based.|
|SOUND - 8/10|
|Ambient sounds abound, but not much music. |
|PLAYABILITY - 10/10|
|There is a lot to do in the game. Lots of little in-game games, as well as gambling, and robbery - if you are into that.|
|OVERALL - 9/10|
|A very fun, polished game from EA - combined lots of different genres into a winning combination. Stands up well to time, also!|