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Though Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance was something of a novelty when it first came out, it wasn't a very good novelty and disgusted many fans back in the day. Why anyone would want to try to port this when there were a few other D&D games more worthy is beyond me, they could have perhaps, you know, fixed it instead of using the awkward arrangement that caused problems originally. Even more disappointing is how much the programmers sidestepped the NES' capabilities and let loose something that looks and plays so terribly, especially when one considers that this was the heyday of some really important titles. Surprisingly, this game has a cult following of weirdos that talk in old english and pretend they take it seriously, but there's a reason they started to do so and if you play it you'll find out why. Serious gamers stay away, but anyone who's in the mood for a laugh may want to check it out. I'm not being serious.
Make no mistake, this is bad game – this is a terrible game – but it’s also playable, and that’s enough to make it a step up from a lot of other crap on the NES. It’s certainly a considerable improvement over the one on the Master System, which looks a lot nicer but manages to be the digital equivalent of laying your hand flat on a table and then repeatedly striking it with a hammer. The final boss in particular is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen unless you somehow lost the blue crystal staff, in which case you’ll find yourself forced to start over from the beginning. Ah yes, it’s the perfectly villainous conclusion to a villainous tale of torture and deceit! But don’t feel too bad; after all, the maze is so pathetic that if you actually bother to map it out you’ll find that you can finish this game in less than twenty minutes – thirty minutes tops. There, you see? That’s another thing in its favor. If something can’t be any good, I figure it should at least know when to quit.
Simplistic as it may seem, the battle system is one of the worst aspects of the game, as the hit detection is so poor that it’s nearly impossible to inﬂict any damage. Even worse, the controls are extremely dodgy, making it difficult to position yourself correctly to attack. Furthermore, the graphics lack any sort of variety, consisting of the same indistinct gray corridors throughout the game, while the music and sound are both bland and repetitive. One of the worst games of its kind.
You know kids, being a JGR reviewer isn't all giggles. I mean it's true, you get to review games and make sarcastic, biting comments about them, and then people will come along, read your stuff, and laugh with you. But we here at JGR also do retro gamers a big fat favor sometimes, almost like community service. Those are the times when it's not so fun to review games - times when you have to hold your breath and dive right in to the toxic sinkhole that makes up a large majority of released games. And somewhere, in the middle of that sinkhole, atop a throne of pain, sits Heroes of the Lance, surveying its kingdom as one of the worst games ever made.
The graphics are of an Atari standard, which isn’t something one would expect for a NES game published in 1991. Music is tolerable, surprisingly, but it doesn’t soothe your soul when you’re trying to slay some old curmudgeon because he’s kicking your Achilles tendon and draining your Burrfoot blood. Heroes of the Lance is suited for the patrons of the late-night S&M bars in downtown L.A.. If you enjoy code words and pain, Tasslehoff will be waiting.