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Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness (DOS)

80
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Eurythmic (2610)
Written on  :  May 16, 1999
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful

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Summary

Sierra really snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, didn't they?

The Good

I really think QG4 had the chance to be the best in the series. There are lots of things to love about it. I find Mordavia to be a very cool setting. There's quite a bit to discover in this game (especially if you're a Paladin), and the character design is good. Mordavia's citizens are fun to interact with, and you can watch their attitudes toward you change as you begin to make a name for yourself in the town. The fighting system was totally redesigned for QG4 (as it was for every game in the series). In this game, instead of seeing the action from behind your hero, all of the action happens in a side-view. This gives the fights a more arcade-like feel. You can also fight in a "strategy mode", but I doubt that many people use it since the fights are so easy. QG4 has very nice graphics. The beautiful portraits of the game's characters are also a nice touch. There's also a great soundtrack; probably the best in the series up to that point. Those of you with wavetable soundcards will be especially pleased - this game was one of the first which treated the gamer without a Roland MT-32 to high quality MIDI. The voice acting is pretty well done. You'll probably recognize the voice of John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) as the narrator. Everything is fairly solid, and mostly recorded well. There's one scene which I found especially funny; you'll have to play the game to find out, but let's just say that the townsfolk in the Inn at night take some pretty huge liberties with the script. :) So. In the good points, I've mentioned the story, the characters, the fighting system, the graphics, the music, and the acting. Sounds like a game you should just rush out and buy, right? Well...

The Bad

You may have heard that the game has a few bugs. Well, let's put it this way: I've bought the game twice, and tried three times to win it since 1993. In fact, the most recent time was just a few weeks ago (with the game's most recent version), and I still haven't beaten it. THAT'S buggy. I'll explain...

First of all, version 1.0 of the game had literally hundreds of bugs. This was, of course, back when Sierra made adventure games, and new games found their way to my house almost right away. I played as far as I could, before the bugs stopped me in my tracks. By then a patch had been released, so once it arrived in the mail (this is how we got our patches in the old days, unless we wanted to spend a couple of hours calling long-distance on our 2400 baud modems :) ), I installed it. I was now playing version 1.1, I believe. I was, ahem, _thrilled_ to find out that I now had to restart the game because my saved games were no longer compatible with the new interpreter. I played the game again, but I was again stopped by the bugs. My patience had run out by then, so the disks got thrown back in the box.

Fast forward to 1999. I've just purchased the Quest for Glory Collection Series, looking forward to playing the CD-ROM version of QG4 for the first time - and finally finishing it. Unfortunately, rather than finally fixing the bugs in QG4 (and the few that hamper gameplay in QG3), Sierra decided to leave it as-is, and provide pages and pages of absolutely pathetic walkarounds for the many bugs that they didn't feel the need to fix. As you can probably tell, this doesn't make Sierra look too great in my eyes. It's actually BUGGIER in 1999 than it was in 1995 (I believe) when the CD-ROM version first came out. The reason is that the speed of many events in the game is dependant on the speed of your CPU. I can't understand why Sierra would do this. Their AGI and 16-color SCI games were coded so well, that they run at exactly the same speed on my Pentium as they would on an XT or AT. That's solid. You'd think that by QG4, Sierra would know that faster computers would come along, and that many people would still be playing their older games. Or, you'd think that they'd at least alter the programming of QG4 slightly, realizing that most people aren't running 486's anymore.

Don't try a software slowdown utility to get around the speed-based bugs. It won't work. If you're running a Pentium/75 mhz or faster, you'll probably need to go into your BIOS setup and disable your internal cache. If you don't know how to do that, I'm afraid it's not likely that the game will run on your computer.

So you've disabled the cache, and played the game happily since then. And you've saved your game every five minutes (because it can still crash without warning, due to problems with the 32-bit DOS extender). You're now on the game's day 40, and nothing new has happened in forever! Why could this be?

Ah, you've discovered my next big problem with QG4. It suffers from a little something known as the 'Dead End Fallacy'. You have to meet a certain someone, in a certain location, on Day 5 or 6. Not before, or after. And if you don't, you can't win the game and you won't figure that out until later. You're led down the long path to a dead-end, and you'll have to restart the game.

I have other, smaller, problems with QG4. But these are the main things. They make the game very difficult to enjoy.

The Bottom Line

I _want_ to love this game. I _want_ to reccommend it to everybody. It had all the potential to be a really great adventure game, but it failed.

If you're willing to perform all kinds of tricks to make QG4 run, and you understand the fact that you'll have to read some of the hints before you even start playing (if you don't want to risk the dead-end), then pick this one up, by all means. If you're the more impatient type and flawed execution bugs you a lot, move on.