Do you speak Soptus Ecliptus?
is the final one in the trio of adventure games made by Microprose
; in my opinion, it is also the best one.
There is a lot to like about Dragonsphere
. The most noteworthy point is that it looks so ordinary on paper yet manages to deliver a very deep adventure experience.
Everything in Dragonsphere
is presented with good taste and style. The first impression is perhaps that this game is yet another imitation of Sierra
classic adventures. In fact, the puzzle design and the logical story development remind of LucasArts
, while the interaction with characters and objects is more Sierra
style. The result is a true traditional adventure, perhaps not strikingly original, but one that delivers everything a fan of the genre needs.
The story might appear pretty banal in the beginning, but somewhere in the first quarter of the game there is an awesome plot twist that will for sure break any monotony the story could have been having before. Still, even if it were a simple "good king must defeat the evil wizard" kind of thing (which it is not!
would remain a fine game.
The game has fantastic writing. The dialogues are cleverly written, with great attention to detail that enhances the gaming experience enormously. Having a classic SCUMM-like interface with many possibilities to try, the game encourages exploring and experimenting. Even in many LucasArts
games most "wrong" choices usually lead to sentences like "I can't do that". In Dragonsphere
, there are many things you can do which are not necessary to advance the story. Almost always you'll receive some interesting, often humorous remark from the game if you try such stuff.
You can also really get attached to the main character, and to many others you'll encounter on your quest. The characters are colorful, often to the point of being exotic, but never too over-the-top. Somehow the game manages to have a serious narrative, stay true to its fantasy setting, yet also become cleverly humorous sometimes, without resorting to techniques such as anachronisms or breaking the fourth wall.
The puzzle design is excellent. The puzzles can get very tough sometimes, but are nearly always strictly logical. Many puzzles will require serious thinking, but I didn't encounter even one that was out of place (except the vines' questions, which was most probably copy protection). At one point, you'll even have to learn phrases in a different language. This is one of the rare games where I really enjoyed solving tough puzzles.
Finally, the game's graphics are marvelous, the digitized character animations are terrific, and the music is strangely appealing, being somewhat different from what we usually hear in medieval-themed adventure games.
The CD version adds full voice-overs which are bad to the point of being "so bad that they are good".
This has little to do with the game itself, but I found the copy protection (the questions the vines ask you near Sanwe's tower) pretty irritating. I thought it was some kind of a puzzle, but as a puzzle, it makes no sense at all - you have to answer correctly three questions in a row, otherwise you'll die; however, you don't get any hints from within the game for the correct answers. The point is, I did buy an original CD version, but I bought is for a budget price without box and manual. A similar thing happened to me in Space Quest 6
with its datacorder puzzle which is in fact also a copy protection. I think they should have at least inserted this copy protection right in the beginning of the game, so that the user would immediately know that his copy probably lacks some important documentation.
Maybe it's a strange complaint, but I think the game's creators could have "marketed" it better. The point is, it came out in 1994, when the genre was already heading into its "romantic" epoch, with all kinds of experimenting, full-motion video, Myst
-clones, and other stuff on the horizon. Dragonsphere
does everything right, but it doesn't necessarily do anything new. The gameplay mechanics are pretty standard, and the game doesn't have anything that catches your eye immediately.
The Bottom LineDragonsphere
is an underrated adventure game. With clever puzzles, excellent writing, and interesting plot, the game delivers everything fans of genre could expect. Not to be missed by anyone who still has a soft spot for this type of games - which has, sadly, become obsolete now.