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Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness (DOS)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168584)
Written on  :  Feb 03, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars

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A game close to perfection

The Good

This game occupies a special place in my heart, and belongs to my absolute top favorites. The reason for this is probably the fact it has such a strong personality, while still being a typical QFG title. Since Quest for Glory is a series I admire and love, you can imagine what a joy it was for me to discover such a game as "QFG 4". It manages to combine all the elements that made the series so great and to add to them its own unforgetable flavor.

What is unique by "QFG 4" and what makes it different? Well, for starters, there's the setting. All QFG games had "ethnic" settings, but they were always taken more humorously than seriously. In this game, however, the "Russian" setting brings something that we haven't seen before - a melancholic, even tragic feeling, that accompanies the game from the beginning to the end. "QFG4" is serious because no part of its story is taken lightly. Sure, in previous QFG games there were always large portions of conflicts, dramatic situations, sad and touching events. But no other QFG game ever possessed this wonderful mixture of sadness and soft melancholy. No other QFG game ever dared to tell us a poetic love-story that was more than the usual Larry-like light-hearted eroticism. It touches some very important and profound matters, such as tolerance and racism (the story with the gypsy). It grotesquely combines the natural with the supernatural, the usual with the unusual, the trivial with the poetic. The story of "QFG 4" is wonderful. But I won't spoil it for you. Rather play the game yourself and become immersed in this world of lost hopes, despair, courage, and kindness.

Now if you are familiar with the series, but never played this particular game, you'll probably ask: "But what about humor? Did the series lose its charming sense of humor in this game because it is so serious"? Hell, no! "QFG 4" is at leastas humorous as its predecessors. The bunch of hilarious characters greet you, as in every QFG game, with jokes, puns, and gags. Alone Doctor Cranius with his theory about the five elements - air, water, fire, earth, and pizza - is guaranteed to amuse you. And the brilliant Gnome is just another example of typical QFG humor. Wait till you hear his performance, and your last doubts about this game not having humor - in case you still have those by then - will eventually disappear.

Graphically, "QFG 4" is a proof a game doesn't have to be 3D in order to look beautiful. The hand-drawn backgrounds of this masterpiece surpass even the gorgeous graphics of the third game. During the dialogue, the animated character faces appear in large windows. "Quest for Glory IV" also has wonderful music, a mixture of Nordic and Slavic melodies, that fits the setting perfectly.

The atmosphere in "QFG 4" is so dense you'd sometimes swear there is a Domovoi hiding somewhere in your appartment, especially if you play the game at night. Try wandering in the forest when it's dark, and after a while you'll start having a strong urge to climb over the city wall, to go to your inn, and to warm yourself near the fireplace, while watching the taciturn Yuri smoke his pipe. The swamps, the trees, the wooden houses, the caves, the Borgov castle - everything is made with such a great attention to detail that you begin to think it all really exists somewhere. There is a good deal of "macabre" elements, the overall feeling of horror and suspense is present throughout the entire game, and certain images, such as the vampire girl, can be almost described as creepy.

The gameplay of "QFG 4" is as perfect as are its story and atmosphere. There is a bit less combat and more puzzle-solving here compared to other QFG games, but the puzzles are never as tough as in QFG 2, and are quite versatile and interesting (I enjoyed a lot the animal identification by Dr. Cranius or gathering the stuff for Baba Yaga). There is a good deal of solid traditional puzzles, so any fan of adventure games will probably be more pleased with this game than with the earlier QFG titles. Some puzzles involve finding correct pattern or placing objects in a correct order, but they are usually not very hard and are never as tedious as they are in so many other adventure games.

The role-playing system of "QFG 4" is fairly standard, and as in all other games of the series, it mixes a fantastic, light role-playing with adventuring. It enriches so much the otherwise straightforward puzzle-solving adventure gameplay. You can spend your days training in the city, increasing your strength and fighting monsters with easy, or you can decide which side-quest to complete and which to leave out. Some puzzles require upgrading your abilities: for example, there is a puzzle where you have to throw a stone on something, but if your throwing skill is not high enough, you won't be able to hit the right object, so you'll have to upgrade your throwing skill by going into the woods, picking stones and throwing then at trees. I find this kind of puzzles a very refreshing and realistic alternative to the usual inventory-based gameplay.

The combat system has been re-made from scratch in "QFG 4". Instead of having a menu of various actions to choose from, you stand here on a platform opposing your enemy and fight him in Street Fighter style: you can approach him or step away, you can jump or duck to avoid his attacks. The system is simple, but works marvelously, and adds a cool element of action to the game.

Finally, the CD version of the game comes with full voice-overs, which are simply great. Even the narrator's remarks are voiced. Be sure to get the CD version, if only for those voices.

The Bad

It is a well-known fact the floppy disc version contained many bugs, but I must say that the CD version I played was almost entirely bug-free - with the exception of CPU-related problems. The point is, you can't play this game properly on a newer computer without making it slower before. There's a plot-stopping bug (occurs when you fight two wizards in a swamp) that can't be bypassed, no matter what you do. The only solution is to disable your external cache (can be done in BIOS menu). I did this, and the dreaded wizard-fighting bug didn't appear. So don't fiddle around with the floppy version, just get yourself a CD version and play it on older machines or with cache disabled, and everything will be fine.

The Bottom Line

Best QFG ever? Maybe. One thing is sure: in "Shadows of Darkness", the series ascends to a level that was never reached before. The intensity of emotion is higher than ever, and the artistic quality of the game is unparalleled. The game shines in everything it does, bringing gameplay, atmosphere, and story to a nearly perfect blend - an involving, dark, tragic, touching masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and play it.