Genre: Beat 'em up
Platforms: XBLA, PSN, WiiU, Steam
Release Date: 06/13
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is in fact two games in one. The first game – Tower of Doom, was first released in 1993, with its sequel - Shadow of Mystara released three years later, in 1996. Interestingly, this is not the first time both games have been bundled together, way back in 1999 both were released as one package on the Sega Saturn. Having never heard of either game before, I was interested to see whether the mixture of Dungeons and Dragons and beat ‘em up would be pure genius, or sheer madness.
As I said, Tower of Doom is the earlier game, and in one or two ways it shows. The enemy AI feels a little cheap at times, and the graphics aren’t quite as crisp as the second game. That said, it’s still an enjoyable game to play, with the easier difficulties ensuring it never gets too frustrating. There’s four characters to choose from; Dwarf, Fighter, Elf and Cleric, and they cover the kind of basic classes you’d expect to see in a Dungeons and Dragons game. The plot line may be a touch too high fantasy, but at least it’s more imaginative than most games of this type; there’s no kidnapped girlfriends to rescue for a start. Comparing the two games, Tower of Doom is marginally the weaker, but it’s still a fun romp.
Shadow of Mystara is my favourite of the two; it looks better, the enemy AI feels more balanced, and there’s two more classes to choose from. In addition to the four characters from the previous game, SoM includes a magic user class, and a thief class. Of the two, I enjoyed the magic user the most. Yes it’s the most squishy, but you get to use a selection of bad ass spells to crush your enemies with. Many of the basic enemies from Tower of Doom return for this game, which is a shame, but there are all new bosses to destroy.
From a side-scrolling beat ‘em up point of view, both games are fairly standard faire. You make your way through the level, wailing on everything in sight until it falls down and doesn’t get up. At regular intervals a boss turns up to give you a hard time. In true retro game style, beating them is all about learning their attack patterns and choosing the right time to strike. Pleasingly, if you get the timing wrong the boss kicks your face in. In general, the combat is more tactical; there’s a variety of strong attacks to master, plus a healthy sprinkling of blocking and dodging.
As with many other games, this modern-day re-release has had a HD wash and brush up, and I have to say they look rather good. Like many of these older titles designed to run on much smaller screens, these HD versions don’t fill the screen entirely, so there’s a nice Dungeons and Dragons themed border running round the edge. I was pleased to see that Iron Galaxy have put that border to good use, using it to display your progress in various challenges. The in-game UI in both titles feels a little archaic in places, given the age of the source material I guess that’s only to be expected.
Both games occasionally offer you a choice of paths to go in. The choices don’t radically alter the story, but they do add some variety for repeated play-throughs. There’s plenty of chests to loot, and hidden caves to find, and there’s a levelling system too. In fact, there’s a surprising amount of D&D-type mechanics in both games. I know, I know. It’s a Dungeons and Dragons game, what was I expecting?
In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. Turning a classic IP like D&D into a side-scrolling beat ‘em up sounded like a terrible idea to me, but that was before I’d tried the game. I played through both once, and loved them. So much so in fact, that I immediately played them again. The added D&D flavour raises this package of games just above the other side-scrollers I’ve played, and I have a suspicion I’ll be playing this for a while.
- It’s punching baddies in the face.
- It’s two games in one.
- It’s an old skool game, with all that entails.