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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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Ups: Engaging story and clever level design; lots of humor keeps things interesting, improved interface.
Downs: Graphics are uneven; it's an easy game--good for beginners, but hardcore Baldur's Gate fans may find it unchallenging.
System Reqs:
Pentium-166, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, SVGA w/ 2MB, 3D card recommended.
lol1.jpg (4273 bytes)Lands of Lore III is a role playing game produced by Westwood Studios. The player assumes the role of Copper LeGre in a quest to regain his lost soul and redeem the kingdom of Gladstone. Many different enemies stand in the way, but with the aid of a stalwart familiar and the sanction of one or more guilds, victory is nearly assured. Nonetheless, the trials are enjoyable and the level design is excellent.

Rather than complicating the gamer’s life with thick manuals and a detailed character creation system, Westwood Studios chose to incorporate the manual and class system within the game itself. Copper must find the different guilds within Gladstone and make a choice to join one or more of them. The guilds include the Iron Ring (warriors), the Talamari (mages), the Order of the Finch (clerics), and the Bacchanal (thieves). Each guild offers various skills to the character, as well as access to guild stores and libraries. My own incarnation of Copper was a fighter/mage/thief, which was a worthy combination despite the division of experience amongst the three classes.

lol2.jpg (3940 bytes)To offset the loneliness that is inherent in the single-player first-person-perspective RPG, a different familiar is offered by each of the guilds. The familiar will aid you in any manner that its capabilities will allow. It is even possible to choose a familiar from a guild in which you are not a member—in fact, it is advisable! A mage would find the golem, Lig, to be an indispensable damage-absorbing asset in the field, while the warrior would appreciate Goldy’s healing abilities. The familiars add humor and provide advice, and are a particularly welcome addition to this RPG.

Copper’s diary forms the real manual for the game. As Copper meets new enemies, finds new items, and explores new areas, the information is inscribed within the diary. The familiars also help flesh out the diary with "stories about monsters" and information regarding particular items in Copper’s possession. While I enjoy being able to read a well-constructed paper manual, I found this method to provide greater continuity and "realism."

lol3.jpg (5173 bytes)The basic story is rather familiar: the protagonist must travel through different dimensions to seek different components of a broken mirror in order to save the realm. This is almost exactly the same story line as in Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity (another excellent game). However, there are many plot twists to the basic story that make it more than just another rehashed plotline. The different dimensions often have their own mini-plots, and the character interaction is intriguing.

The different portal worlds that Copper must face include a world of fire, a world of ice, the underworld, an alien homeworld, and a post-apocalyptic futuristic world, reminiscent of the Fallout universe. My particular favorite was the underworld, which was actually a haunted Victorian manor. The butler was a ghost, and the puzzles included finding the dismembered head of headless gardener and preventing the ghost of a young girl and her sisters from eternally reliving their fiery demise.

lol4.jpg (8252 bytes)Unfortunately, Lands of Lore III is far from perfect. I did not find it to be terribly visually appealing, especially in regards to the monsters and the forest. The monsters sometimes appeared to be little more than angry, amorphous collections of pixels. This was particularly obvious in the world of fire. The forest was constructed of intermittent polygonal tree trunks connected by flat panels (with "distant" trees on it). After playing for more than a day I came to ignore these problems as I became immersed in the story. Even punctuated by the occasional crash and occasional struggles with the controls, it was a difficult game to put away. My final problem with the game is its relative ease. It didn’t necessarily feel too short (although I beat it in five days), just too easy. I had the sword that I chose to use for the remainder of the game after beating the second portal world. I never died, even once, except by falling off of a cliff, and even my familiar never died until the very end of the game (whereupon I promptly resurrected him). In some ways, despite the constant battles, the level increases, and the search for more powerful items, this made the game seem almost more like an adventure game than an RPG.

Nonetheless, I haven’t enjoyed an RPG (played from this perspective) this much since Might & Magic VI. While this game is not a Baldur’s Gate, it does afford an enjoyable story and an excellent role-playing experience. It has something to offer everyone: the hardcore gamer will appreciate the level design of the portal worlds, while the weekend warrior will appreciate its ease of play despite the uninspiring graphics quality, even with a 3D accelerator. Lands of Lore III is definitely a worthwhile experience.

--Jeff Peterson