Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny
Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 84% (based on 18 ratings)
Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 63 ratings with 3 reviews)
Westwood is fondly remembered by many as a developer with plenty of passion and creativity, though hardly always with impeccable design logic. Guardians of Destiny, the follow-up to their "light RPG" Throne of Chaos, is in many ways a typical Westwood game. It may not be the perfect representative of its genre, but it has so much warmth and charisma that you stop caring for that.
Guardians of Destiny attempts to combine RPGs with the fast-growing FPS genre, opting for a 3D world with free camera rotation and action-oriented gameplay. It also takes queues from adventure games, with several tasks that resemble inventory-based puzzles and an amount of items that play a key role in the plot. In fact the game can be considered a hybrid, since the RPG elements are decidedly downgraded, leaving only a few core elements. However, this can hardly be seen only in negative light. The fast, smooth gameplay harmoniously combines the different genres and prevents fixation on a single aspect that has plagued so many games. It is one of the few games where exploration and combat are served to you in nearly perfect portions, without either overloading you or lacking in quantity.
The RPG concept is quite simple, but although you won't expect too much in the beginning, the game gradually uncovers its customization possibilities. You become stronger by repeatedly executing same types of attack, and it does pay off in the end. There is a plethora of weapons and armor with different properties, as well as all sorts of exotic items that can either modify your parameters or enhance your equipment (such as, for example, an ingredient that makes your sword poisonous). There are diverse magic spells which can be leveled up, and scrolls you must discover to learn them. Much of this stuff is optional, and the game greatly encourages exploration if you want to gain the upper hand.
The exploration here is among the best I have seen in a small RPG with a fairly linear structure. Even though there is no continuous world you can explore from the onset, each level offers plenty to discover. You can spend many hours in each of the game's main locations and still not map them to the full or find everything they have to offer. There is an abundance of secrets, ranging from powerful weapons and items you'll certainly want to acquire to entire vast optional areas. You are always driven forward by the desire to venture around the corner and find out what lies there. You eagerly anticipate an introduction of a new area to sink your gaming teeth into and get to all those hidden goodies. Despite its modest size, Guardians of Destiny is packed with content, which, in the end, is what really matters most in role-playing games.
Even though the engine shows its age and is technically behind the most advanced first-person shooters of the time, the game's world is beautiful and detailed. In a way it is an antipode of Daggerfall: whereas the other game has a huge world with mostly the same stuff repeating itself many times, Guardians of Destiny is small but exquisitely varied. Every single location is interesting and memorable. From the haunting Draracle Museum to the lush jungle, the lovingly decorated Huline Temple, the awe-inspiring City of the Ancients - you'll want to explore every nook and cranny of these locations and re-visit them again and again. There is so much individuality in each area, and everything has been designed with great care, each level being integrated into the game and serving a purpose. In this respect Guardians of Destiny resembles an adventure game as well, and again in a good way.
I love the game's presentation and its visual style. I generally have a weakness to live action cutscenes, particularly because they represent a long-lost art within a creative, prolific era of game-making. Of course they are also associated with poor game design and all those "interactive movies" that began flooding the market once the CD ROM assured its dominance. But there is something in live action performance that no graphics will ever be able to replace. In 1997, this was surely state of the art compared to the blocky 3D that could hardly be used for dramatic purposes. Yes, the acting is cheesy, but isn't that part of the nostalgic delight? They don't make them like this any more, and I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to crawl through an early sprite-infested 3D dungeon so that I can sit back and enjoy a goofy cutscene with real people. By the way, the integration of live action and computer graphics is among the best I have ever seen. The equally nostalgic MIDI music is moody and excellent as well.
The story is fairly generic and harbors no surprises, but it is refreshing to play as the hapless and somewhat dorky Luther, who is cursed with weird shape-shifting and is being hunted just because his mother went berserk on the populace. There is something mildly comical in the way the character is presented, though the optional evil path, besides adding to replay value, casts a dark shadow over him that reminds us of his heritage. Dialogues are sometimes interspersed with subtle humor that sets the slightly campy, off-beat tone of the game very well. In a typical Westwood fashion, the game doesn't take itself very seriously, and its nonchalant lightness constitutes one of the chief reasons for its unique charm.
Guardians of Destiny is a role-playing game in that there is player-controlled character growth and some customization in it. However, it is to Daggerfall what alcohol-free beer is to Chinese baijiu. Many customary features are conspicuously absent, including such fundamental elements as damage feedback and levels. Character attributes are reduced to a minimum and do not affect the gameplay in a major way. Growth is handled in a simplistic fashion, with only two broad proficiencies - physical combat or magic. In short, the game doesn't even feel like a proper RPG at times, shifting instead to a medieval first-person action game with adventure elements. The action, however, is rarely exciting, with limited targeting system and primitive mechanics that amount to little more than pressing two different keys for attacking and casting spells.
The transformations are undeniably cool, but they were nearly ruined by the player's inability to control them. You'll be spending most of the time in your human form, with the game suddenly turning you into a lizard or a beast sporadically, reverting you shortly afterwards. You never have enough time to explore anything in those forms, rendering their advantages next to useless, and for the most part the morphing becomes a nuisance you want to get rid of. Sadly, even if you manage to moderate the shape-shifting by yourself by finding the appropriate control items, you'll garner little satisfaction from it. The lizard form is way too weak to compensate for its magical prowess, while I fail to see any positive side in a slow-moving dimwit who can neither wield weapons nor cast spells.
My personal pet peeve is the absence of large populated areas in the game. The Huline Village is pretty much the only place that resembles a normal RPG town, but even there you can scarcely meet a handful of NPCs. After the bustling cities of Daggerfall this looks rather pitiful, and certainly further diminishes the game's role-playing value. I also didn't like how the continuous 3D world was broken by converting some locations into pre-rendered images. Granted, they looks beautiful, but they don't mesh well with real 3D and cannot be explored properly, reducing your interaction to shallow and unpleasant Myst-like screen-hopping.
In accordance with the dubious Westwood legacy, Guardians of Destiny contains obscure tasks leading to irritating stretches of clueless wandering. There are unfortunately also instances of dead-end design, where an item needed to complete an objective much later in the game can be unknowingly discarded by the player in an earlier stage. I wonder why such things do not get play-tested with scrutiny.
The Bottom Line
Guardians of Destiny is one of those games that has little convincing evidence in its favor if you try to analyze it objectively, but can win your heart over if you succumb to its caprices without expectations or comparisons. In other words, it is certainly not a great RPG, but it is a great game thanks to all the love and attention to detail poured into it. You can find many examples of better-crafted role-playing games, but this one is loaded with irresistible quirky charm that beacons you to the nostalgic era of goofy live action.
DOS · by Unicorn Lynx (180476) · 2013
Ever since switching to PC platform, I let Westwood be my guide towards the unforeseeable future. Basically, that summed up to real-time strategy genre. But being great as they are, main menu almost always featured some sneak peaks of their other titles, and so, Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny was spotted. Never being too keen on any type of role-playing games I was reluctant to give it a try at first, but the better side of me pleaded to give it a go. If words could only describe, it was a priceless journey.
Due to coming out in late 1997, graphic was still pixelized as it was the dawn of new age set by the graphics accelerators (though WS released support for some general cards soon after, the game was plenty rewarding even without it). But neglecting the fact this game was roughly four years under development, it was bound to keep something from forgotten age. On the other side, it was to be expected that details stretch above and beyond anyone's imagination. Worlds are so beautiful and rich to explore you never know what you'll see next, who you'll encounter, and what all can you interact with.
Cinematics are breathtaking and literally priceless, as is the soundtrack which was elevated to a whole new sphere of enjoyment with new age style and dynamic music change. 'Tis the first time WS brought another composer to make the music even more versatile. David and Frank did a pretty mighty duo considering music composition which was just as glorious in the trilogy's finale.
Live actors did great job, if sometimes funny, and along with pre-rendered characters and beasts it was something pretty original at such a quality. The main character was amazing. Not only was he funny (I remember I couldn't believe as he was whistling all the way down in that elevator, lol) but put quite a nice performance being either good or bad, aurally and visually via facial expressions. Oh, and that Dawn (Paige Rowland), she's something alright ;))
The story is awesome putting you in a role of Scotia's son, Luther, who was imprisoned only for the crimes of her mother. Still, she left him a gift (or a curse) which contains immense power but makes him shift into lizard or a beast at random, at least until you learn how to control that curse. And everyone seems to be in the game to get it... goodguys and badguys equally and it's pretty hard to set the limits of trust, giving you the possibility to be good or real bad which will eventually affect the ending.
Out of the three, this was the best LoL game, imho, and the only one to be just perfectly balanced, although final battle seems a bit mysterious to say the least.
The Bottom Line
From box cover design to complete game interior, this game is a sight for all the senses. Intriguing to explore while following immense and captivating story until the end, this is an experience that very few RPGs can compete with.
Windows · by MAT (238621) · 2012
The sights and sounds. While the graphics are a bit dated, this game did come out in 1997. This was state-of-the-art stuff at the time. It is sort of a hybrid between two and three dimensions. Certain scenes look kind of weird, especially when viewed at a slight angle, and there is pixellation. For someone who used to own and love an Atari 2600, I can overlook this. Unless you pick more nits than a family of snow monkeys being followed by a National Geographic crew (Dennis Miller), you'll find the game beautiful. The sights get better and better as the game progresses (although there seems to be an inordinate amount of time spent in the two jungles of the game). And better than the sights are the sounds. The soundtrack was written by David Arkenstone, and while I'm not familiar with his other works, the soundtrack exhausts the dictionary of superlatives. It's incredibly good, very moody. The track in the temple is my favorite, followed by the track in the city of the Ancients. It's inspiring! How many games have inspired you? The reason I still own the game is simply to walk through this world and listen. Fortunately, skill levels are earned at about the same rate whether or not you fight any monsters.
Luther. You play the character of Luther, a wise-cracking wanderer in search of a cure for the curse his witch mother cast upon him. Sean Masterson does the voice talent and he's good. I still find myself saying "that's...strange", "eeaghhh", and "oh".
The cut scenes. I've always been baffled why some gamers don't like cut scenes. The argument is that they wish the time and money were spent on gameplay instead. Actually, in the case of this game, that's a very valid point. But the cut scenes are beautifully rendered, and since the most appealing aspects of this game are the sights and sounds, the cut scenes are priceless.
Raising the tower. You have to play the game...
You can get this on eBay for a few dollars.
Gameplay. When it comes to using weaponry, be it swords or bows, there really is no gameplay as such. It's not much fun fighting or using ranged weapons, and beasties are nearly always better left alone (unless one is holding an important item), as experience is gained for making discoveries and solving "puzzles".
Quests. Some of the quests are unsolvable unless you get help from the internet. I fancy myself a pretty smart guy, and some of the quests simply made no sense. I would recommend getting a walkthrough, since this game will just frustrate you, otherwise. Some parts are rewarding when you figure things out for yourself, but have a walkthrough waiting, you'll be glad later and you'll save time. Some hints are based on things people say only once, and the sound dynamics are problematic. Sometimes the music blares over what characters say. That's another thing not to like. Time is precious. Have a walkthrough.
Compatibility. This game doesn't play on XP, at least not well. I always get hung up in the huline jungle. The game won't let me see Daniel's mother, who has his sword, without which you can not advance to the savage jungle. Fortunately, I have an older machine just to play programs that don't work on XP.
There are two game endings that I have seen, and they're rather anti-climactic. In fact, let me share them with you. Based on critical decisions in the game, you either end the game as good Luther or evil Luther. The good Luther ending shows the Draracle opening a door to reveal Luther, in bed with Dawn. It's PG-rated at worst, but it's dumb. The evil Luther ending shows Luther from behind, reigning destruction on the land now that he's a powerful sorcerer. It's fairly cheesy as well. Thankfully, both of these endings are brief, and they're followed by the credits, which have some nice music and some "outtakes", sort of. There are short films of the game's developers, and several of the actors in front of green screens.
The Bottom Line
This game is a guilty pleasure for me. By most measurements of what makes video games good, this game rates pretty low, although a gaming magazine (GamerPro?) gave it an 89 of 100, where Diablo received a 91 of 100 in the same issue, if memory serves. And yet, it really is one of my favorites of all time. It was truly a labor of love and Westwood Studios put a lot into this game.
Windows · by Thohan (17) · 2003