Komoda & Amiga plus
Commodore computers users’ magazine

Eye of the Beholder

This article was published in issue 10 of Komoda & Amiga Plus.

Neverwinter, a.k.a. The Northern Gem, is a terrific city located in the north-eastern Coast of Swords. However, even more north-east from the city there is even more important city, The Northern Crown. Waterdeep is one of the most important and most influential cities in the North, maybe even the whole of Faerun, but due to strange events it’s not as wonderful as Baldur’s Gate. A mysterious Evil, slowly spreading across the city, is responsible for the current troubles. The source of this panic and unrest is located in the sewers and underground dungeons. The City Council must work fast if it wants to settle the situation and beat the mysterious evil forces dwelling in the Underground.

The City Council has a meeting in one of the tallest towers in Waterdeep. Eight mysterious people sit at a great oak table, dressed in hoods like priests and acting suchlike. The Guard Commander enters the hall. His face is solemn. He approaches the gathering at the table and then halts. They cease their discussion. All look at the Guard Commander. One of them raises his hand.

– Tell us the news.

– One from the team you sent to the Underground has returned.

– One? What about the rest?

– The gnome has returned alone. He spoke about terrifying spiders and Drows. From what he mumbled, we understand that the rest of the team is dead. Himself, he looked like a ragged corpse.

– We cannot take the risk anymore! Another party has been doomed and failed to reach the goal!

– We need to deal with this menace somehow, while we still have a choice – added another chairman. The captain bowed his head and left the hall.

– Gather another team

– Another one? What can we gain?

– This time you will personally select the team, and when they enter the sewers, you will destroy the entrance so they cannot turn back. We can’t take any more chances. Time is running out. Assign the best adventurers to this task. If they fail, no one else can deal with this problem… They will have the right to keep all of the loot they collect, if only they manage to clean up the sewers. The team needs to be chosen carefully, since this will be the last journey to the Underground of Waterdeep…

Grab the diskette!

After launching the game, we see a cut scene introducing to the current events. We need to enter the sewers with our party, find the source of the Evil and destroy it. We can’t change the starting equipment. It’s a modest selection but, with time, many precious items can be collected while exploring the dungeons and the Underground. As the intro goes by, the options for loading the game and starting a new campaign will appear. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons will be satisfied, since the game is based on AD&D rules. In the beginning, your own four-member party must be created. Many races are available, such as dwarves, humans, elves, gnomes, or half-elves, and each of them has unique advantages, weaknesses, bonuses and penalties. A team can consist of maximum six members, and each of them should have its own character, just like in AD&D. The characters of Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic are available, supplemented with another part: Good, True Neutral, and Evil. Then, the class of a team member is chosen: Thief, Cleric, Mage, Paladin, Ranger, or Fighter, depending on the chosen race. It is worth spending time creating the team, as this will influence how our “cleaning crew” will survive in the sewers. In the end, the proper posters of our characters are to be chosen, which was not possible in the prequel – Dungeon Master.

Get your swords and axes!

When our party is ready, we face the entrance to the sewers. Once we set forth, the ceiling falls right behind our back and blocks the returning path. There’s no way back. Long struggles on twelve different levels await. We wander through the sewers, stone labyrinths, and catacombs. We’ll face four different regions of the city in all.

Eye of the Beholder is a typical first-person dungeon crawler. The whole interaction works with the point-and-click of the mouse. We can use a mouse to lift items from the ground, put them into backpacks, throw them and use to press buttons and move levers. Fights are performed in real time, what may cause some trouble, especially in deeper levels. Also placement of team members plays the crucial role. Rows can be occupied only by a limited amount of specified types of units.

The very beginning is not hard. Difficulty is, however, not well balanced. Till the sixth level, the game goes smoothly. Difficulties start no sooner than on the seventh level. It’s not so happy there, and survival is quite a challenge. We face opponents, like; cobolds, zombies, toad-like creatures, were-wolves, poisonous spiders, skeletons immune to critical hits, sorcerers immune to kenk magic. Paralyzing drows and panthers close the list.

The authors of the game gave at your disposal a wide variety of cold, magic, and distance weapons, different sort of items and riddles that require them. It is worth mentioning that even corpses we find can be kept and resurrected at the appropriate moment. Along the way different traps, levers, teleports can be found, captions appearing from time to time describe the feelings of the team. Characters met during the journey will give us various tasks, and in the Amiga version even quests. All this builds a pleasurable and unique adventure atmosphere.

Only clerics and mages can use spells and revelation magic, how-ever, a spell list is required to use them. Spell books contain spells al-ready known by a character. However, a spell can be cast only if it’s remembered or prayed. A mage can remember only a limited number of spells (depending on the level of intelligence and experience). A spell can be cast only as many times as it was remembered. For every other ‘remembering’ of a spell the team needs to rest. This should be not be performed too often, as the ‘food indicator’ decreases drastically each time, and food is limited in the Underground. Yep, our party has to eat to live, and without food they starve.

Summary

The only thing that makes the game difficult is the lack of a map and the only navigation aid is a compass, so a pencil and a sheet of paper is a necessity. For the A1200 (AGA chipset) edition, things look a little different with better graphics and the precious map displaying the party’s location.

Many people, when talking about this game, compare it to Dungeon Master. Few remember that it was Eye of the Beholder that made the system of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons famous and that two sequels were released. The success of these games contributed to the creation of many new games, including the Baldur’s Gate series, better known by modern gamers. Eye of the Beholder, as with every game, has its advantages and drawbacks. I’ve already mentioned the lack of a map, but another inconvenience is that there is only a single save slot. The sounds are, unfortunately, quite humble. Except for the theme played back during the intro and the character selection screens, the game has no music, and the sound effects are poor. Hissing and the patter of foes is almost the full range of the sound effects. It’s always possible to play some film music in the background, for example, from the Dungeons & Dragons movie.

Thanks to the plot and playability, this production is addictive, and doesn’t let the player go for long hours. I passionately recommend this game for all players who haven’t experienced it yet. I think that this game as a mandatory play for every Amiga user. The PC version can’t match the Amiga version. It’s poorer, without side quests, and PC players will be disappointed after completing the journey. The only reward for completing the levels, assassinating hundreds of enemies, many hours spent in front of the screen, and finally beating monster Xanthar is a blue screen with message that the Evil was beaten, a feast for your glory had been given and you had been declared heroes, nothing more.

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