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SummaryThe Quest For Glory series gets more mature
The GoodShadows of Darkness is the fourth instalment in the Quest For Glory series, and it was released at the time when Sierra started dropping roman numerals from sequels to some of their franchises for a number of years (Some other examples include Police Quest: Open Season, Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!, and Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh). It also employs an Eastern European setting, much like the second game having a Middle East setting, and the third having an African setting.
The game follows right where the third game left off, and it caters for new players that are introduced to the series for the first time. You don't get a recap of what happened in the finale, nor do you read a text description of it You wake up in the cave somewhere in the land of Mordavia, wearing the same clothes as before. You have no idea of how or why you got there. All you know is that you need to get out.
You start each game by selecting one of three classes – A Fighter, Magic User, or Thief – and assign different stats to that class, and these stats affect your performance throughout the game, which characters you can talk to, and how easy the game's puzzles are. If you played a previous QFG game and saved your character to disk, you can also import him and modify the stats if you wish. I imported a thief that I used in the previous game, but Shadows of Darkness detected that I was a magic user. Luckily I was able to choose the correct one and had plenty of points so that I can beef up my character a bit more.
Assuming that you manage to get out of the cave at the start of the game, you can explore your surroundings and battle monsters. You can also visit the town where the locals are hostile toward you, but their trust in you will be gained as you do more and more heroic things. Four characters that appeared in other QFG games make a comeback, and two of them are Baba Yaga and Ad Avis. Shadows of Darkness also operates in real time, and it runs on a day/night cycle. Some events only happen on specific days, so it may be necessary to rest for a bit or improve upon your skills.
The monsters you fought in previous QFG games were relevant to its theme. Here, it's Batters, Necrotaurs, Wraiths, and Wytherns. The combat system is a bit unusual as the view is side-on, rather than isometric. During the battle, you can alter your aggressiveness, your ability to use magic, how easy it is to defend yourself, and whether you can use any special attacks. After you defeat the monster, your hero flexes his muscles as if he is a little boy saying “Yeah, I'm a big, strong man”. You can then proceed to search the corpse for a chance to gain more money and other stuff.
Also different aside from the combat system, is the way that conversations take place. Clicking the talk cursor on a character in previous QFG games cause the "conversation tree" to appear, and the character portrait is shown along with their dialogue. Here, the screen clears and a huge version of the character appears on the left, while the tree/dialogue appears on the right. I don't have a problem with this, and it's something you can get used to quickly.
The soundtrack for Shadows of Darkness is brilliantly composed by Aubrey Hodges, who plays a multitude of instruments and works in a variety of styles. He decided not to include the famous QFG theme music that we were all familiar with in the first two games. Actually, you hear a snippet of it as you head into town the first time, but that's about it. I enjoyed listening to this game's theme as it was struck into my mind for the first five minutes of me hearing it.
The CD-ROM version of the game was released at a time when Sierra dropped the idea of using its own employees to portray each character to make way for well-known Hollywood actors. In Shadows of Darkness, one or more characters are portrayed by the same actor. The game is narrated by John-Rhys Davis, who reads the script from the bottom of his heart, and one of the highlights is listening to him perform the rituals near the end of the game.
The humor in Shadows of Darkness is on par with any QFG game out there. As well as Dr. Cranium believing that pizza is one of the elements (alongside air, water, earth, and fire), for me much of it comes from the interface itself. All the cursors in the game are animated as you move the mouse around the screen, and the animation itself stretches about ten frames. You can use these animations to your advantage by hovering them over a character on screen and pretending they have big eyes or are miming some words out. Also, one of the monsters you fight during daytime is a cute little bunny rabbit, and I find that pretty funny.
Shadows of Darkness is much darker in toner than previous QFG games, and therefore the game is aimed at a mature audience. Two examples come to mind. The innocent peasant girl that has eyes for our hero throughout the game turns into a dominatrix who whips him while he's being chained up; the Resalka, a half-naked woman in the lake, turns in to something grotesque after you do something for her. Then there's the sexually-explicit language coming from the same two women.
I like the way the developers pay homage to the Castle of Dr. Brain by letting the player solve a series of puzzles to unlock his laboratory, including the “Simon Says” puzzle when you try to open the front door. You can then proceed to get an Antwerp through a maze and complete a jigsaw, and even change the difficulty of these puzzles.
The BadThe combat scenes can be automated so all you have to do is watch your hero fight whatever monster stumbled in his path. But since QFG is supposed to be a RPG/adventure hybrid, I think this defeats the whole purpose, as I have never seen a feature in the previous games.
Also, runtime errors happen if you attempt to run Shadows of Darkness on anything greater than a 486, and the first set of these occur when you are traveling down a slope at the start of the game. And the first lot of these happen when you try to travel down the slope at the start of the game. Something totally unexpected also happen as well. In his Let's Play for the game, YouTuber LateBlt was throwing the spear at Ad Avis after telling “the ultimate joke”. Ad Avis gets killed only to be resurrected and kill our hero, triggering the scene where Avoozl comes out of the volcano and starts terrorizing the town.