Lands of Lore III
Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 67% (based on 27 ratings)
Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 29 ratings with 4 reviews)
Throne of Chaos and Guardians of Destiny established a non-mainstream RPG series known for its light design and plenty of charming quirks. For better or worse, Lands of Lore III is a typical representative of the series, with its own neat gameplay ideas and old-school charisma most fans of Westwood would find hard to resist.
After its predecessor was criticized for losing some RPG elements in transition to smooth 3D action-oriented gameplay, Lands of Lore III brings a lot of stuff back on the table. It is decidedly a deeper and more involving RPG than the second game, and I also find its system superior to that of the first.
The main attraction here is the non-linearity in character development. The previous games were light on customization, and stats didn't really matter that much there. Lands of Lore III takes character growth more seriously, which results in a more pronounced RPG angle and ultimately more rewarding, richer gameplay. The half-dracoid protagonist starts without any discernible strengths or weaknesses, but eventually begins to evolve according to the player's decisions. There are four classes he can opt to belong to, and doing that goes beyond just improving a particular skill. Rather, he is given the opportunity to join any of the four guilds and work his way upwards, shaping his abilities as the game progresses.
The cool part is that you can alternately decide to do all the quests, which, naturally, takes time and patience to achieve. The quests for each guild are completely different until you become a master in any of them, essentially meaning that you'll be playing through different scenarios in the first half of the game if you so wish. This flexibility of growth makes the simple process of vanquishing enemies to gain experience and complete quests much more interesting. You can take a break from whatever discipline you are trying to master at the moment and try something entirely different at any time.
In general, Lands of Lore III offers more content than its predecessors. There are more complex skill sets, more abilities, more ways to experiment. Each guild assigns familiars to you, acting like semi-controlled party members, each with their own skills that complement your chosen career. These companions reduced the overwhelming feeling of loneliness that was so prevalent in Guardians of Destiny, and provided a basic and effective method of tactically managing fights without compromising the action-based system.
Combat certainly feels smoother and more satisfying than in the earlier games. They ironed out awkward elements and fleshed out ideas the previous game attempted to build upon. The interface is clearly better, and this time you are provided with a helpful journal and a fantastic compendium of all in-game things, including monster information and detailed items descriptions. In short, Lands of Lore III definitely feels like a more no-nonsense, professionally crafted role-playing game. Instead of toying with certain functions it gives them to us in their completed state.
The game world is also somewhat bigger; more importantly, Lands of Lore III has a real city, a "hub" location you periodically return to, a sort of a home base where you can receive quests and review your progress. This is still a far cry from the bustling towns I've come to expect from great RPGs, but at least it's a step forward compared to the disappointing rural nature of the previous installments.
Lands of Lore III shares with its predecessors a strong sense of atmosphere. Lovely music accompanies the exploration, and location variety certainly does not disappoint. You'll travel through familiar countryside as well as exotic worlds, including a bizarre Command & Conquer offshot. Locations get increasingly sci-fi-themed, which certainly refreshes the standard medieval fantasy setting and makes us curious to find out what the next area will look like.
The story is sparse, but the initial premise is stronger than in Throne of Chaos and on par with the personal initial quest of Guardians of Destiny. The half-dracoid outcast is, once again, a reluctant hero, which is a type one can identify with much easier than with generic barrel-chested mercenaries or adventurers who must save the world simply because they can. You'll meet familiar characters, among those a brand new version of Dawn, who, alongside with Gabriel Knight, appears to be the only video game character incarnated in the three dominant visual styles of the nineties - hand-drawn, live action, and 3D. There is also a nice twist in the middle of the story that makes things less predictable than they appear on the surface.
Timing was the main reason for this game's virtual disappearance below the radar. End of nineties was a revolutionary epoch for Western RPGs, and age of revival heralded by Black Isle and Bioware and crowned by the gigantic hybrids System Shock 2 and Deus Ex. On that background, Lands of Lore III mostly looked like a harmless experiment of humble proportions, a relic of the past trapped in the wrong era.
The series was conceived as a lighter, semi-humorous version of dungeon crawlers, and by its third installment things really haven't changed that much. Like its predecessors, Lands of Lore III is a "lonely" experience, lacking the vibrant NPC scene of contemporary RPGs. Consistent with its heritage, it has no dialogue choices and precious little interaction with characters in general. This type of RPG design contradicts some of the most cherished principles of the genre and was already out of date when Throne of Chaos was released. Effectively, the series was always heading towards a dead end, sustained only by the talent of its developers. Despite its attempt to introduce heavier RPG elements, Lands of Lore III was still unable to find its own voice and failed in the turbulent competition of the time.
Irritating artificial borders is something I particularly dislike in games, and sadly Lands of Lore III is full of them. They become even harder to conceal in a full-screen 3D game, and the attempts are sometimes nearly painful. When I walk through a forest I want to go left and right and see what lies there. Instead, I'm forced to stare at laughable textures decorating invisible walls that contain me to a narrow path. Granted, there is still exploration and the game world feels reasonably open compared to, say, Japanese RPGs or Westwood's own Nox, but immersion suffers when you are shown exactly when and where the designers ran out of space or perhaps willpower to create a larger world.
I missed those live action scenes from Guardians of Destiny! By that time I felt they had become a staple of the series. Unfortunately, that charming style was replaced by admittedly well-executed, but fairly generic pre-rendered CG movies. Also, the in-game graphics themselves are anything but cutting-edge. Early high-resolution textures have something distinctly blocky and almost sterile in them. There is little warmth in the graphics, which further impedes immersion and makes the game look pale and almost pitiful compared to the visual marvel of its contemporary Ultima IX.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Lands of Lore III is an interesting and rewarding game released at the wrong time. With the imposing shadows of Renaissance RPGs towering over its back, it could hardly avoid annoying comparisons to the more polished and focused products of the time. But those who have a soft soft for Westwood's unique RPG-making style will find plenty to love here.
Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (180476) · 2013
It's more playable, more interesting, more spectacular than the second game. (It doesn't mean that it was bad). Graphics: The screens are very colorful, and the sprites are nice. Spell effects are really nice. The in-game videos are beautiful, just like in any other Westwood title. Music is good, Westwood-quality, it adds a great feeling to the scenes. Interface: You have the opportunity to customize all the controls, but the game can be handled easily anyway (mouselook, spell shortcuts, etc). Gameplay: There are a lot of cleverly hidden secrets, items, buttons. There are 4 guilds you can join. These add some replay value. To explore all secrets, you will have to join all 4 guilds, but you will develop very slowly. However, you can train at the local fighting arena, even to the maximum. The journal system is really great and necessary, description of all monsters, items you encounter, the texts of previous dialogs/videos (especially for people whose native language is not English), automap, pharmacopia items, etc. The storyline shows some non-linearity: if you complete a quest first then another, you may not get the third quest, but a fourth one. The mirror worlds don't have to be completed linearly, but there's some kind of sequence. There are a lot of reference to the previous LOL titles: characters, items, storyline. Draracle's chambers is from the first and the second LOL!!! And finally, I was very surprised, that in the last mirror world, I had to explore the Temple of NOD! (after a nuclear war... maybe after Command & Conquer: Tiberian Twilight?) And you will have to defeat Cabal... Should I say more? C&C fans should check it out.
You almost always have to change disks when you enter a new level. Since you repeatedly have to return to the starting 'hub' levels, it seems to be irritating. Graphics: The engine is a bit outdated, it's Doom-like so-called 2.5D, however the sprites are rendered from a lot of directions, so they almost look like 3D. It isn't true 3D however. Gameplay: You roam lonely in most of the game. You may choose a familiar to join you, but it's not the same if you had a whole party. The control over the familiar is very limited, you can tell her/him to collect items, fight, stay, but that's not too much. Unfortunately, some bugs remain, even with the latest patch (1.07A). Completed quests NOT always get crossed out; graphical glitches; and sometimes the game freezes/hangs.
The Bottom Line
If you liked LOL: Guardians, it's a must for you. Otherwise, it's a nice game, but consider it before purchasing.
Windows · by ^LutheR^ (116) · 2002
When I first realised LOL3 is coming up next I was totally on the edge of anticipation, knowing what Guardians of Destiny did to me. The graphic was now up to full usage of 3d accelerator and lighting and spells were clearly enhanced, but the game also remained fair to those who still had older cards with no accelerator support. The background story during installation gives you a nice idea of what's to be expected, as the game casts you in a role of young Copper, part human part dracoid, but prince nonetheless. Alas, king's "real" sons do not fancy the idea of having the bastard brother, but they don't live long enough to do anything about it as the Draracle's departure opens mysterious portals spawning rift hounds who take care of them and cost you your very soul. Now, with the king and your brethren dead, you are the only heir to the throne whether anyone likes it or not. The game does spawn a rather intriguing story with new and familiar worlds and characters, you get to meet Luther, Dawn, and other familiars. Soundtrack is twice as brilliant as of prequel, but alas, no soundtrack was released like it was the case with Guardians of Destiny. The cool new part is that you get to have companion on your journey as you join one of the five guilds, which will also play role in your character profile and abilities. There's also a cool part that takes place in the Hand of Nod which was as a small overture to an upcoming C&C Renegade.
The game seems a bit rushed, spawning across four discs yet being released in about a year and a half after LOL2. The side-effects are that graphic had some problems and game was slow no matter the cache, often forcing you to exit the game and start again.
The Bottom Line
First one was Westwood's first attempt on reviving the glory days of Eye of the Beholder with their own title, and they did one heck of a job there. Second one was a true masterpiece setting the new limits for the word 'journey', while the third, and the last one, was great for LOL and WS fans, but as standalone might not be the best choice to enter the realm of such RPGs. It may not have provided cutting edge tech for the time being, but the journey was more than accepting with breathtaking cutscenes only to be expected from Westwood Studios.
Windows · by MAT (238622) · 2012
There were a number of innovations that should have made the game better (but they didn't, necessarily). The familiar you can choose, the guilds you can choose. The obstacle course in the warriors' guild was really cool. The pharmacopoeia system is interesting, although, like LOL2, it is rather expansive and the inventory capacity is not. The cutscenes, the hallmark of Westwood games, were nicely rendered, although Dawn just looked stupid. What happened to hottie Dawn from LOL 1 and especially 2? You get to eat rat meat of the giant walking rats you kill, if you like that kind of thing.
The music was pretty good. The score was done by David Arkenstone, again. Not as good as LOL2, but good.
It will be necessary to compare this game to LOL2, as that is the point of view I come from. A parallel between LOL 2 and 3 would be between Star Control 2 and Star Control 3.
Where to start? The storyline. Let me sum up the game: The draracle from LOL2 has left this world, leaving Jakel to watch things. Jakel was the annoying ghosty-guy from LOL2.
You go into some NOD base toward the end. Kind of dumb. Let's just turn the last half of the game into an advertisement for our successful C&C franchise, shall we? I have no problem with capitalism and product placement if it does not distract from the game. This did distract from the game.
The graphics are better in a technical sense from LOL2, but there is little worth looking at. There is no video capture that really endured me to LOL2 and the C&C games. The resolution may be higher in this game, but it just wasn't made with the love and creativity, the way LOL 1 and 2 were. Some of the scenery and buildings were nice, but the NPCs and enemies just looked like poo.
Like LOL2, fighting was entirely non-fun. This is a point that maybe they should have improved upon. There was no noticeable improvement in the "3-D" engine. Also like LOL2, you get to enjoy hours of disk-swapping fun!
The Bottom Line
There are some interesting things to see, but this is a game strictly for fans of the other LOL games, if just to satisfy your curiosity. It's not very good. It certainly seemed to drive the stake into the series' heart. I don't blame the writers, developers, and other talent. I expect it has more to do with lack of resources and other upper-level decisions.
It's hard to make a really good, memorable game. Westwood just didn't do it this time.
Windows · by Thohan (17) · 2004