Review - AD&D Slayer

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Review - AD&D Slayer

Post by 3DO Experience » Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:27 am

AD&D SLAYER by Lion Entertainment/Strategic Simulations Inc.

Reviewed 1994 by Doug Erickson for Game Bytes Magazine.

How many gamers out there have played Nethack? Angband? Let's see some hands. Moria? Dungeon Hack? In the average life of the die-hard CRPG player, it is inevitable that you will cross paths with a game of the "take a single character through the depths of a randomly generated multi-level dungeon" variety. Slayer, for the 32-bit 3DO, is Lion/SSI's take on this subgenre of RPGs. What elevates it above the aforementioned titles is the fact that this theme is worked into a smooth-scrolling 3-D world, with a complexity somewhere between Wolf-3D and Doom. And how does it fare, as such? Well, I have my share of both kudos and complaints to deliver.

Players of this game, especially die-hard RPG types, will dislike the most glaring omission in the game: plot. This will, inevitably, turn off those accustomed to having a story spoonfed to them, and has led to a great deal of questioning if it is a RPG at all. Slayer only gives you the barest minimum of "role-playing" elements to work with - a character, a dungeon, and your imagination. Character development, is, as expected, in the standard AD&D style, with you generating a set of attributes defining certain aspects of your character. You then pick a class, a race, a sex, and yer off!

Dungeon development is a slightly different matter. The dungeons themselves are created by a "seed" chosen by you. This seed is a set of characters, from 1 to 9 letters in length. Also, you are asked to select a number of levels, from 10 to 20, for your random little creation, as well as choosing the amount of traps, poison, treasure, and potions you encounter. Monster types (Bug, Undead, Magical, Mundane, etc...) can also be specified. This work complete, you descend into adventure! Graphics in the dungeon are, as previously stated, a mixed bag. Each level has a specific texture "type," ranging from marble walls, to wood, to mines. Of particular note are the varying heights of the floor and the ceiling, removing much of the "planar" feel found in games like Wolf-3D and Monster Manor. To add to this effect, one can also look and down - a useful effect when fighting ceiling blobs or the tiny slime pools. One may also crawl, although I have yet to see how this is useful, except perhaps when fighting above ceiling dwellers. All of these 3-D effects are smooth, lending to the illusion of "being there." Lion/SSI has also added a feature for you to choose between "Speed" and "Detail" when playing the game, where Speed decreases how far into the distance you can see, while Detail imposes a marginally slower framerate in return for a more convincing illusion of depth. Personally, I prefer the 18 or so fps of the "Speed" setting over the 12 or so fps of "Detail."

Monsters are of the hand-drawn, bitmapped variety. They all look very nice, especially in 16-bit color. Here, though, the animation could use a little work. The Goblins have a stilted, silly gait that make them look like they've just received a wedgie. Another minor annoyance is the pop-up behavior of the burrowing creatures (Bulettes, Ankhegs, etc), where they, regardless of your position, "pop up" directly in front of you. Also, each level appears to be confined to only 2 monster types. While that isn't so bad, it can add to the perceived monotony of the game. Also, many monster types appear to be similar, with only minor pallette changes, the addition of horns (Goblin Leaders), or a transparency effect indicating the difference. Monster levels also scale as you descend into your dungeon, with "weak" creatures like Slimes and Goblins on the upper levels, and Death Knights and Ettins on the lower levels. The levels themselves, are, for the most part, random in layout. I've noticed repeating room types, like the fireball trap rooms, but overall, place ment of walls, pits, and doors is seemingly original with every seed. The "repeating" rooms are, I'd assume, implemented out of convenience; however, it would be nice to have EVERYTHING randomised. A random texture set is chosen for each level as well, to add to the variety. Traps are simple and are of the "find the off switch" variety. Switches may also be employed to raise floors, and teleporters are scattered throughout each level. Also interspersed throughout each level are fountains, the larger of which require a coin to operate, and impart such pleasant effects as Cure Wounds and Hill Giant Strength.

While in the dungeon, you have access to a full-screen map, as well as a small partial one in the lower-left corner. I found it to be rather useful, although at times it was hard to distinguish between the dot indicating a monster and the dot indicating a fountain, these being so much similar in color. Also, throughout the dungeon, you will encounter silver and gold keys, the former unlocking certain mundane doors and the latter unlocking the door to the next level. Much of each level is a "find the gold key" hunt, as a result.

Combat is a real weak point in the game, with the only evidence of you striking the creatures is a sword-swish sound, and an oof accompanied by a bloody spot with a number indicating how much damage was done. Not particularly satisfying or impressive, especially if you are used to the onscreen weaponry of the Underworld series or Arena.

Throughout each level are scattered various weapons and armor, ranging from the normal to a magical +4. Magical weapons are vital to your success, as many cratures, including the end-of-dungeon bosses, can't be hit without them. Also to be found are potions which impart healing, orbs which cast a variety of spells (only if you are a Mage, though!), wands to grant the nonmagical classes the use of potent spells, and scrolls to invoke a variety of effects. If you are a Mage or a Cleric/ Paladin, you don't need any of these mystical items to cast spells. While each level of spellcasting/clerical ability only encompasses about three spells each, those that are available (such as Ice Storm) are fairly impressive to use, and effective. Playing a Paladin character the most frequently, I found the "Lay On Hands" spell (a minor healing cantrip) to be most invaluable.

Finally, when you've cleared the last level of your dungeon, you enter the bosses domain. Bosses are randomly chosen per dungeon: I've fought a Dracolich, a Greater Demon, and some sort of fire-breathing monstrosity as shown on the back of the box and in the ads. I can't tell you yet if there are others, I've only beaten 4 of the dungeons I've designed. Of all the ones I've seen, the Greater Demon is the most impressive: He's so enormous, you must look UP to fight with him. He towers about 3-4 times your height, and brandishes his scimitar while roaring loudly. It really surprised me when I encountered him - a testimony to the bitmap handling abilities of the 3DO. A little hint to preparing for boss fights - look at the picture above the door - there is a bas-relief representation of the mien of the boss you are about to face. Plan your strategy accordingly.

Sound, overall, is very good. Well sampled instruments and fairly catchy tracks for the opening segment set the theme, and the level music is appropriate and mood-setting, if a little repetitive. Sound effects are pretty good as well, with some nice loud roars heard from the Ettins and a cool "scrabbly" sound from the Carrion Crawlers. Sound effects appropriately fade with relative distance.

Control is, at best, mediocre. When turning left or right, the control is not especially precise, with your character turning far more than you want. I'm not sure if this is the game or the poor Panasonic controllers I have. Inventory is conveniently located at the pause/play button, and options are instantly accessible with the stop button. A, B, and C are to attack, cast spells/use an item in the second hand, and open doors/activate switches, in order. L and R are used for looking up and down, crawling, and activating the map.

Overall, this reviewer, being a BIG fan of Angband, Moria, and Dungeon Hack, really enjoyed this game. However, if you are looking for an RPG with a plot and NPC interaction, then this game is not for you. Make no mistakes, this isn't an RPG in the traditional sense of the word; in fact, SSI does not advertise it as such. It's essentially a "first person dungeon crawl" more than anything else. However, if you have a little imagination to spare, and like an endless variety of dungeons and encounters, then you might like this game. I know I did.

As a final note: Rumor has it this game was merely a vehicle to test the 3-D engine for a future *actual* RPG under design at Lion Entertainment. Supposedly the engine will have added features, and incorporate a storyline into the game. Can't wait to see this.
"Wait. You don't have a bag of charcoal in your gaming room???"

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jesus 666
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Re: Review - AD&D Slayer

Post by jesus 666 » Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:23 pm

3DO Experience wrote:Control is, at best, mediocre. When turning left or right, the control is not especially precise, with your character turning far more than you want.
Thats because you're not using the smooth look, which happens when you hold down the L button I believe.
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Edi (FZ2D)
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Re: Review - AD&D Slayer

Post by Edi (FZ2D) » Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:36 pm

I tried to play Slayer, but actually found this game very mediocre. It's too bad, but this is a karma that games with the Dungeons & Dragons seal load! :x

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