|Eye of the Beholder
Year Released: 1990
Review by David Rudge (January, 1996)
Eye of the Beholder from Westwood Studios is one of my all-time
favourite games. Set in one of the mythical lands of the Advanced
Dungeons & Dragons realm, you and three companions are commissioned
by the Lords of Waterdeep to venture forth into the dank sewers
below the city to seek out and destroy whatever is causing a plague
of monsters to terrorise the townsfolk above. So you and your team
depart using the only entrance, which collapses behind you ... sealing
your fate ...
After the above introductory sequence has been played out (or skipped
by pressing ESC); you will be presented with the title screen which
allows you to load a pre-saved game, start a new party or quit to
DOS. If you are playing for the first time you may select start
a new party, although you can use a ready-made party by selecting
load. If you choose to start with a new party you will need to create
your own band of alter egos, after all this is a role playing game.
Character generation is a simple yet comprehensive task, allowing
you to set up your party however you like. First you are given a
choice of six different races and your character can be either male
or female. Then you must choose the class of your character which
depends greatly upon the race you choose to begin with, but you
still get to pick from fighter, ranger, mage, cleric and thief,
or a combination of two or three of these. Your next task is to
pick the alignment of your hero/heroine. There are three to choose
from (good, neutral, evil) and each alignment has a sub-alignment,
but after playing the game a few times I still fail to see what
effect these have.
Once you have set up your character you can choose a portrait from
a variety of images. Then comes the statistics. You can modify any
of these (except armour class and level); or tell the computer to
re-roll. If you are happy with your character give them a name then
repeat the above steps for the rest of your party.
Playing the game
Moving around in the game is quite simple, just click on one of
the directional arrows or use the cursor keys. Movement is restricted
to 90 degree turns or moving one game square at a time in any direction.
Although this method is not as realistic as in Ultima Underworld,
it is easy to use and makes available some clever puzzles and optical
Interaction within the game world is limited to fighting monsters,
pulling levers, pushing buttons, picking up/dropping or throwing
objects and talking to Non Player Characters (NPCs). Actually, 'talking'
isn't quite appropriate as the NPCs will either give you clues or
just ask if they can join your party. Monsters come in a nice variety
ranging from giant slugs, ants and spiders to the typical AD&D
denizens such as zombies, skeletal warriors and goblins. Some of
the later creatures you meet in your travels are quite nasty, so
you'll need to adopt the classic 'hit and run' tactic if you want
Access to each character's inventory is just a mouse click away
and here you can arm your character, put armour on them, feed them,
etc, or examine their statistics. One major stumbling block is the
lack of an automap feature which may put some players off. But there
is no reason why you can't draw your own maps. So although it will
make it a bit more difficult for beginners, it will be all the more
rewarding when you finally finish.
Combat is simple enough but there is no 'all attack' option so you
have no choice but to manually select each character for attack,
which can become a little hectic in some situations. Attacking a
monster is just a case of right clicking on your character's weapon
hand and the game will tell you if the attack missed or hit the
mark (and how much damage you did). If, on the other hand, you wish
to cast a spell just right click on a spell book or holy symbol
and a list of spells will appear. After casting a spell you are
treated to the appropriate pyrotechnics and, although the sound
effects leave much to be desired, you still get a feeling of satisfaction
when the monsters disappear in a flash of white light. (Incidentally,
all enemies just disappear in a flash when vanquished, no blood
or guts in sight anywhere).
The third element of the game is the puzzles, and this is where
it truly excels. They start off fairly easy but they soon become
quite fiendish. Although experienced players will probably coast
through them with a little thought, beginners may find it tough
going in the later stages of the game.
The puzzles range from the simple find a hidden key or pull this
lever type, to complicated variations where several actions must
be performed (and not always in the same area). While exploring,
fighting and solving your way through the game, each character will
earn experience points. When a sufficient amount of points is attained
your characters will go up a level, making them more powerful, which
in turn gives them extra health -- very handy if you wish to avoid
Rest for the wicked
Eye of the Beholder also features a very useful 'Camp' button. When
you click on this you, in effect, pause the game. Whilst 'camped'
you can rest your party, (the only way to gain spells) restore health,
memorise and pray for spells and add them to your spell books. The
other two options lead to sub-menus which allow you to turn sounds
and music on/off, load/save your game, drop a character from your
group or quit. The most annoying thing about this title is that
you can only have one saved game. This isn't too much trouble if
you can handle copying the save file to another directory or renaming
it, but it is a total pain if you save a game after a serious mistake.
Though not fantastic -- animation is practically non-existent --
the graphics are quite good and the game oozes atmosphere so the
clumsy two-framed attacks made by the monsters can be forgiven.
As I mentioned earlier the sound isn't quite up to expected standards
and, although this problem can be levelled towards the age of this
product, even in it's prime the sound would have only been considered
average. This, coupled with the 'only one save game' problem, reduces
its overall appeal, but ignore those minor blemishes and it is in
no way sub-standard compared to other titles available today. In
fact if you're new to RPGs (or you want to lose yourself for a few
days) and you want a good place to start, then look no further.
Also, watch out for Eye of the Beholder part 2, it's even better
than this one.