aka: Darklands: Heldenhafte Abenteuer im mittelalterlichen Deutschland, Darklands: Heroic Role-Playing Adventures In Medieval Germany
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(prices updated 9/29 8:35 AM )

Description official descriptions

Darklands is a role-playing game set in 15th century Holy Roman Empire, which at that time encompassed today's Germany and several surrounding countries. Unlike most other role-playing games, it is set in a concrete historical environment that is accurately depicted, including geographical outlines, social and cultural backgrounds, authentic establishments and items, and so on. The game's supernatural elements are strictly based on the popular beliefs of that time and region and include fantastic creatures such as kobolds or dragons, curses, witchcraft, alchemy that actually works, etc.

The player controls a party of four active characters, though any amount of them can be created and swapped in the town inns. The player can begin by either selecting a pre-made party (quickstart) or by creating their own characters. In the beginning the player selects the character's social background. Afterwards, when they are ten years old, the player can choose an initial career path for them. Careers may include diverse occupations such as soldier, peasant, bandit, etc., which may eventually become more specialized (e.g. a student turning into an alchemist).

The more time the player invests in a certain career path (in five year periods), the more experience points the character receives, which can be manually allocated to improve their skills. Career choices affect main attributes such as strength or charisma, as well as skills, which involve weapon proficiencies, stealth, virtue, speaking Latin, healing, riding, and many others. Though there are no class definitions and each character can theoretically achieve excellence in any skill, character builds in the game can be seen as warriors, clerics, and alchemists. Religion-oriented characters may learn about various saints during the course of the game and pray to them for different benefits. Alchemists gain access to formulae and have to procure ingredients to mix potions with various effects. Skills in the game increase through repeated use: using swords in combat may increase the edged weapon skill, successfully conducted conversation may increase the character's common speech skill, etc.

The party chosen by the player begins the adventure in the inn of a randomly chosen town. The main plot eventually involves confronting a powerful demon and its cult, but it is unraveled only under specific circumstances achieved in the game. The game has a vast scope and can go on indefinitely. However, characters would age, grow weaker, and eventually die, requiring the player to create new ones. The main goal is to collect as much fame for the party as possible to obtain higher-ranked quests with better rewards, which also includes the quest that leads to the completion of the main plot. The player is completely free to roam the vast map of the Empire, accessing towns, castles, villages, and other places of interest. Towns and castles are navigated via text menus, with background images representing various locations. The travel screen is a map of the Empire with a lone figure representing the player-controlled party.

Most settlements of the same type have nearly identical options, though actual results may vary depending on the characters' skills, their local reputation, as well as unique traits found in different locations. For example, different towns may have wares of vastly different quality for sale; villages may engage in devil worship, and the player may attempt to prove that, etc. It is possible to increase local reputation (for example, by taking on cutthroats bothering the citizens) and overall fame by making virtue-increasing choices and vanquishing foes. It is, however, also possible to become outlaws by attacking guards, killing priests on the roads, and so on.

The game has several large isometric dungeon-type areas, most notably mines of different types, which contain generic quests as well as puzzles to solve. Areas unique to the main plot are also built like dungeons with particularly dangerous enemies and treasure to loot. However, much of the activity in the game takes place either in towns or in the wilderness, through various types of random encounters. The player is always given the option to avoid combat either through diplomacy or other means, the success depending on the character's corresponding attributes.

Combat takes place on separate isometric screens and proceeds in real time, but the player can pause the action to give orders to the characters at any time, giving it a pseudo-turn-based flavor. Characters can be ordered to attack, search for the enemies' vulnerable spots, use items, etc. Different types of weapons may have different effects depending on the enemies' armor: for example, blunt weapons are more effective against plate armor than swords. Depending on the enemies' intentions, player-controlled characters may only be knocked down or wounded mortally in case of defeat. Dead characters can not be brought back to life and must be replaced with new ones.

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Credits (DOS version)

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Average score: 78% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 61 ratings with 8 reviews)

Most original RPG ever.

The Good
The game is trying to be as realistic as possible in some critical areas no other game did before.

Character creation and experience system has no class limitations - any character can train any skills and do anything. There are no character prototypes you need to stick to. This is something no AD&D licence game can achieve, very fresh approach.

There are no magic and cleric spells, but alchemy and saints. Another new idea. And it works well. Due to the great game engine you can use them in almost every place to solve problems.

Lots of varying sub-plots gives much to play.

Music is guite good, giving a nice atmosphere, added to nice pastel colour pictures.

The Hint Book, which just can't be found anywhere anymore, gives loads of information about everything that goes inside the game. It tells you e.g. what each saint gives, stats for equipment and what facilities each city has. With this book you could almost run conventional face-to-face RPG campaigns!

The Bad
Only a few things to complain.

Going through all the screens over and over gets quite frustrating in a while. Especially as that gives a feeling that every city is similar.

Also, due to the unlimited nature of the game, it contains numerous bugs corrected mostly by many patches.

And the game was huge sized at the time, taking about 20 MB to install and installing from over 10 floppys. Plus applying the patches. Installing it was a lengthy process.

The Bottom Line
One of the best computer RPGs ever created. Very free character developement system added to huge game area gives you much freedom and hours and hours of playtime.

DOS · by Shogun (3) · 1999

Wow, Darklands is an RPG that would kick the living day-lights out of today's games!

The Good
History. Reality. Scope. Skill. Saints. Detail, detail and detail. This is the most serious RPG game that I have ever encountered. If you hate history class, than this game would definitly change your mind! I even think I read the manual more than I played the game...;) The gloomy gothic like graphics were excellent, hours of reading those saint profiles gives you an inlook to the Catholic Mythology and Legend. Battle witches and demons, obtain rare relics, fight on God's side with the army of heaven backing you up! This is a new twist of RPG, whereas most RPG's are fiction, this is the most educational RPG ever. Rarest of the rare!

The Bad
Although as much as I liked this game, there are a few irritating things about the game. Although it is realtime, there are some real-time issues that I'd like to get rid of: 1. Getting older. Boy did this suck, the older you get, the wearier you character. I'd personally get over it if somewhere along the game you'd become an immortal or something...but no. Although you could create new characters to join your group, hey it wouldn't be the same! 2. Save games. I don't know if its a bug, but manual save gaming is enough already! Prepare to be irritated. 3. Real time exploring. No problem accept you can't save the game while doing it. (those dwarves are hell on earth!)

The Bottom Line
If you appreciate depth in a game, this one is rock bottom.

DOS · by Indra was here (20635) · 2004

A realistic historical CRPG that could've revolutionized the industry.

The Good
The singular most likeable thing about Darklands is that it broke the mold. In an industry of CRPGs that all seem to use some variant on the classic AD&D rules, Darklands wanted to be, and succeeded, in being different. There are no classes, no wizards, no levels, no spells, etc. Instead you get a much more original game system; alchemy, praying for saintly blessings, open ended skill sets, a semi-linear plot, and one of the earliest functional realtime/turn based combat systems. Want to avoid the main story and just run around Germany? Feel free. Although the game doesn't really do much as far as adapting to the way you're playing, you can go about your own business as you see fit.

The character creation (which is similar to ones used in games both before and after [notably MegaTraveller and Twilight 2000]) is wonderful, as you quickly run through your character's histories and watch as the functions they've served in their past affect their stats and skills sets. This is a wonderful way of doing things, because you can create the young, strapping guy who's physically fit, but untrained, the veteran knight, or the aged woman who's very knowledgeable, even if old age is creeping up on her. Characters have history and aren't just 'Bob the first level fighter'.

The world is a medieval Germany as the more superstitious saw it. It's 'historically' accurate and Celtic folklore, witches, and German faery tales all combine into a wonderful tapestry of culture. The game may teach you a few things about Germany of the period and the creatures drawn from Terran mythologies are every bit as wonderful as one from a complete fantasy world.

The main interface art imitates water color and, while muddled, is very attractive and fits the mood, even if the images are all static. Even though you'll see the same image hundreds of times, you'll rarely grow tired of most of the imagery. The combat graphics are clean and functional, if everyone moves rather stiffly.

Anyone who's played Pirates or Sword of the Samurai will recognize the 'choose your own adventure' text interface for most options. Unlike the previous games where the options were limited, Darklands gives as many options as you have abilities. Want to get into a castle? Bribe the guard, con your way in, bust your way in, try to climb in, or call upon a saint for a heavenly solution. Granted, in most cases, one learns the 'best' solution, but there is some randomness, so what worked last time may not work another.

Again, Microprose comes through with another superb manual that not only runs through the game, but also gives a history lesson on medieval Germany.

The Bad
The biggest problem for someone who finds an early copy of this game is the very thing that caused this game to never be as popular as it should have been: BUGS. This was perhaps the first major game to be shipped long before it was ready and for over a year and half after its release Microprose was sending out patch disks every few months. Until at least the second one, the game was virtually unbeatable as a few set encounters would almost always crash the machine. If you pick this up, look for patches and make sure you have latest version (.07?).

If the repeating menu screens in Pirates! and Sword of the Samurai bug you, perhaps you should avoid this game. You'll spend a great deal of time staring at similar screens and choosing similar options. In many people, the game inspired enough imagination to get around this flaw, but not everyone can stand the redundancy.

The combat engine, while inventive, becomes repetitve very quickly as you often wind up performing the same tactics again and again against enemies that lack in variation (every thug looks the same as another thug, every soldier looks like another soldier, etc...) in areas that all start to look the same. I must admit that while there was nothing new about most of the battles, they didn't wear on me in most circumstances (though some dungeons and castles can get tiresome).

The sheer amount of saints (realistic, mind you), many of them performing similar functions, sometimes makes it difficult to keep track of who does what. While there's no problem as far as the option menus, sometimes you want to pray to a saint or two before battle to get some combat benefits and you'll find yourself referring back to the manual to determine what saints are good for what.

The Bottom Line
One of the few realistic role-playing games ever created, featuring a wonderful skill-based system and an open-ended world. It's a cult classic for a reason and would have been more popular had it not been plagued with game stopping bugs in the earlier versions. Anyone tired of clerics, mages, elves, and dwarves should take a look.

DOS · by Ray Soderlund (3501) · 2000

[ View all 8 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Uh-oh... Unicorn Lynx (180491) Sep 9th, 2013
Wrong Platforms? Señorita Kathryn (615) Mar 5th, 2012


Cancelled Amiga version

An Amiga version of Darklands was considered, but the game was judged as too large to be played from floppy, and the potential market of hard-disk equipped Amigas was apparently deemed not large enough, going by a chat log with Arnold Hendrick.


Darklands is based on history (whether true or not) of the influence of the Templar Knights, a powerful monastic order during the crusades which were eventually crushed by the Church (Pope Clement V) and the King of France (King Philip IV) based on their allegations with Satan, specifically Baphomet.

Intended Sequels

From the Designer's Notes in the Game Manual: "Darklands was designed to permit sequels. It is possible to have some additional adventures in Germany. More importantly, it is possible to create entirely new games elsewhere in Europe. The system not only allows moving "saved game" files back and forth, but also allows you to load multiple games onto your hard disk and move back and forth between the nations, in a sort of giant adventure. Let us know what you enjoyed in Darklands, what you would like to see in a sequel, and what setting you prefer. There are plenty of possibilities: the Emperor in Germany has many political problems and intrigues, England and France are busy finishing the last half of the Hundred Years War, after which England falls into civil war (the War of the Roses). Meanwhile, Italy is at the peak of its warring city-states era, Vlad the Impaler appears in the Balkans (the historical figure who ultimately became Dracula), Tamerlane is conquering Central Asia, and much more.What's your preference?" ~ Arnold Hendrick, 1992.

Sadly, they must not have received enough feedback to pursue this any further.


The game needs over 600K of free DOS memory to avoid crashes. In fact, the MORE lower memory you can free up, the better the game runs, something that is barely addressed by all the later patches.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #10 Least Rewarding Ending of All Time

Information also contributed by Игги Друге and Indra was here

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Brian Rubin.

Windows added by Picard. Linux, Macintosh added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Kasey Chang, Indra was here, Jeanne, Glen Henderson, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger.

Game added August 30th, 1999. Last modified August 28th, 2023.