Nov 1, 2012

Game Review: The Legacy of Darkgold (1989)

I finally found disk images of The Legacy of Darkgold, a roleplaying game released in 1989 for Commodore 64. It’s another Questron-type game that is surprisingly complex for its day and takes a good 24-36 hours to beat.

Fortunately, this game is actually worth spending that much time playing.

The object of the game is save the kingdom of Oestros from the armies of Malakia, ruled by the evil Count Malakas. Princess Oralia comes to you in a dream to beseech you for aid:

You sit up, wide awake, realizing that it was just a dream--or was it?! Princess Oralia, daughter of the king of Oestros, had asked you to save the kingdom.

“Count Malakas has unearthed darkgold from under the mountains,” she said. “Darkgold was the source of ancient evils, and legend says that it can split open the ground and boil the oceans. In Malakas's evil hands, it will be the end of the world!”

She goes on to talk about her father disappearing into thin air in front of his advisors and the wizard Kinaedos advising her on how to defeat Malakas with your help.

You find an intricately decorated steel rod, a little larger than your penis, in your hand upon waking thats proves the dream was real. You then set out with your (naturally) low-level armor and farmer's sickle to Princess Oralia's castle and begin your first round of fights and puzzles along the way.

Unlike Darkgold's predecessor, Legend of the Ancients, you do more than fight and kill monsters for food and random items. You also engage in games with humanoid creatures and can gain buffs as well. One game in particular, called “Beg or Peg,” uses your steel rod for a chance to trade hitpoints for increased endurance.

The world monsters are fairly typical of this genre. The Kinkler Freak appears as a masked humanoid monster with a tail and the Phistor has oversized fists. The Rekcuflluks sports a human skull on the body of a serpent and can blind the player for several turns, decreasing defense.

World monsters are rendered in 2-bit mono-color glory, mostly identical to those of Ancients. A little disappointing in an age where new games mean upgraded graphics, but that's not a concern to retro-gamers.

Princess Oralia's castle becomes your headquarters for the first half of the game, allowing you to increase fighting stats with the castle guard in the steam rooms or train in the mystical arts with the nude priests. You can also visit the princess or Kinaedos after completing certain challenges and they will increase your stats, give you gold, and/or hints about your next challenge.

After several game-weeks of monkeying around in Oestros, you are captured by agants of Malakas and jailed in an island town. This part of the game is inevitable and allows you to progress into the second half of the game. You basically lose all of your inventory, including armor and weapons, and are tortured by Malakia Brutes.

The Brutes take turns putting you in various torture devices like ball weights and scrotum clamps or force you to sit on spikes. They even rape you if you try to fight back with your bare fists.

After several game-days of this, when you're hovering near death, the Brutes are called away by a messenger from Malakia. Princess Oralia's men free you and take you back to the castle, where Kinaedos restores your health and says that, in order to defeat Malakas, you must go after him in Malakia itself.

Kinaedos spirits you away to the far western wastes of Malakia where you essentially start the game over from scratch except that you have 800 HP and keep all your buffs and skills. Eventually, you get new weapons and level up some more, then encounter the dungeons.

There are 12 dungeons in Darkgold, very similar to those of Ancients, complete with richer graphics and different gameplay from the surface world. Strange creatures abound, like the Cockitaur, a half-man, snake-like creature that tries to rape you. Machine, a character naked except for a leather mask and chains, is impervious to spells, and the Stench Suckler will drain your body of blood and other fluids if you don't kill it within three turns.

You find gold in chests and from defeating monsters, but there are also dwarves and gnomes with no clothes on running around the dungeons that you can shake down for potions, herbs, and spells. They usually go down with a single blow.

The dungeons are tense and thrilling, but get boring after the fifth or sixth repetition of descending into, fighting through, and ascending from up to eight levels per dungeon. Shit, put a spell on the bottom floor that just returns you to the surface!

The special items you collect from each dungeon offset this somewhat, and the game introduces new creatures as you visit new dungeons, but it's ultimately a tedious and time-consuming part of the game.

During and after the dungeons you can explore the rest of Malakia, which is the other continent that has its own towns in addition to Count Malakas's fortress. The towns are mostly there so you can stock up on healing herbs and spells and do some banking since you've probably got all the skill increases you're going to get by this point. The fortress is probably the last quarter of the game and it's a toughie.

First, Count Malakas is hidden somewhere in the fortress, which you discover after fighting your way to the upper levels. Thankfully, fortress guards don't regenerate until after you leave and come back, so you can go exploring for chests that contain more gold, potions, and herbs.

The guards typically try to gang up on you and, if they can block you in, will rape your butt and cum on you until you look like a glazed donut with a giant hole in the middle. Your best bet here is to use spells and projectile weapons, so make sure you stock up on those and get your intelligence and dexterity up so the spells won't fizzle.

Count Malakas ends up being in a hidden dungeon built into the side of a mountain, where he has been practicing magic with his new-found darkgold. Unlike the fortress guards, he can attack you with his own spells and floating weapons, so be prepared to go through several different sets of armor.

The battle with Count Malakas is simple stats and attrition without any surprises. If he kills you, you're ressurected near a random Malakia town and have stock back up on armor, weapons, spells, and herbs and fight through all of the fortress guards again.

If you win, you rape him with your steel rod, which turns out is made of darkgold. With your rod up his ass, the raw darkgold ore in the mine dungeon glows brightly and a servant appears to tell you that darkgold can be used for good. This servant is actually the king who has regained his memories and asks to be escorted back to Oestros.

Overall, Darkgold is another fun Questron-style game that, while offering few new game mechanics and no audio-visual improvements, does have a richer experience with about a third more content than its predeccesor. (It ought to, since you have to switch between six double-sided 5.25" floppies.)

If you're an 8-bit RPG gamer, fire this puppy up and enjoy some retro fun. If you're just a casual gamer looking for something different, this game will probably push your interest in the genre to its limit but is worth checking out.

The Legacy of Darkgold
Rating: ★★★★½
Genre: Roleplaying, single-player.
Platform: Commodore 64.
Format: 5.25" floppy disks.
Developer: Quest Software, Inc.
Publisher: Electronic Arts.
Release Year: 1989.
Ages 8 and up.

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