SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES
SSI perfected its AD & D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) game system with the release of Champions of Krynn. The first two games in the series, Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds, were too difficult to play because of the combat system and vast numbers of monsters the games threw at you.
Champions of Krynn revamped the game system to make the adventure easier to play. The result was exactly what gamers were looking for. This game system has been transferred to Secret of the Silver Blades, the newest role-playing epic in SSI's AD & D line.
A long time ago, two brothers named Eldamar and Oswulf lived in the town of Verdigris. Eldamar succumbed to the dark side of human nature and practiced evil studies. Oswulf condemned his brother's practices and managed to overpower him and his minions. Oswulf refused to kill his brother; instead he encased Verdigris and the evil ones in a glacier. In recent days, however, the glacier receded and miners began reworking the mines. They've renamed the town New Verdigris and turned it into a thriving business.
Recently, evil members of the community, known as the Black Circle, suggested that the miners dig deeper for even greater riches. Unfortunately, the miners opened a passage that released the monsters from the glacier. The town was ravaged. The citizens took all of their wealth and threw it into the Well of Knowledge, hoping for a savior. Your party in Secret is charged with ridding New Verdigris of its evil threat.
The Silver Blades of the title was the name of Oswulf's group that defeated his brother. Your party must become like the Silver Blades of old. It isn't hard to ease into this role because of Secret's game system. Most commands are entered using menus and lists. Movement in exploration and combat is controlled using the joystick. Together, the joystick and keyboard effectively control the game. You will be up and running with Secret in 15–20 minutes. Most commands are intuitive, and those that aren't are explained very well in the manual. The system adheres closely to the rules for the AD & D board game and is approved by TSR, creator of AD & D.
As with other AD & D games, the graphics are highly detailed and colorful. The fluidity of movement is reflected in the views from which you see the Secret game world. You see mazes, dungeons and such in 3-D, while general areas, outdoor travels, and combat are seen from an overhead perspective. The characters and monsters are depicted in great detail in all views. It's almost as much fun to watch Secret as it is to play it. The AD & D games from SSI are the type that you might record with a VCR and show as background video for parties and gatherings. Graphics are captivating and pull you into the story. Full-screen pictures and in-between scenes accentuate normal play. Secret boasts of having the largest 3-D terrain of any of the AD & D games. You'd better believe it!
Once again, SSI has proved why its game manuals are considered the finest in the industry. In addition to the data card that explains how to use Secret on your particular computer, SSI packages a rule book and an adventurer's journal. Both booklets are easy to read and include illustrations or screen shots where necessary. These manuals are organized very well and also act as copy protection. The game refers directly to entries made in the Adventurer's Journal, and these add to the atmosphere and mystery of Secret. I have always found this technique effective in keeping the game fresh and not requiring the gamer to stare at a screen for hours without an occasional diversion.
Although it isn't needed to finish the game, I strongly recommend buying the clue book for Secret. It offers all of the hints you need to finish the game: maps, monster weaknesses, and important game events. It was indispensable for my getting a good distance into the game to do this review; it was much quicker than relying on my wits alone. It adds the final touch to a complete game experience that will wrap you up for weeks on end.
Once again, SSI has proved why it is a consistent leader in the role-playing game genre. Instead of just offering the same rehashed AD & D gold-box game in a different environment, SSI has added new things to keep gamers happy. New monsters and spells and higher character classes are part of the refinement. The best new feature is the combat LEVEL command that allows you to make combat easier or harder. The down side of this feature is that experience points are scaled to reflect the difficulty. This feature should make Secret accessible to newer players as well as offering a stronger challenge to veterans.
Secret is the finest gold-box AD & D game from SSI to date. I think SSI should wait awhile before releasing another game in this-series. Champions ofKrynn was set in the Dragonlance world. Without changing the interface, SSI should come up with a game that has a lot of new features to make it more attractive to gamers who have already played one of the gold-box games.
Until then, pick up Secret of the Silver Blades if you're between games. I was considerably impressed and look forward to future products. Happy adventuring!
Commodore 64 or 128, joystick—$39.95