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Spellshard: The Black Crown of Horgoth vs. Uncommon
Spellshard: The Black Crown of Horgoth This proved to be a </i>very<i> interesting battle...
Kenji Murasame
Download: 267 KB
V.S.
Uncommon
Play Time: 4 hours and 0 minutes
Review # 14 for Uncommon This proved to be a very interesting battle...
Them's Fightin' Words
    Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Ultima. Everyone has some game that comes to mind when they think of oldschool RPGs. A lot of people started with games like that, or, more likely, one of their sequels. Spellshard: The Black Crown of Horgoth is a game that was created to emulate that type of feel, and to use that as a launching point for something you'd never expect from an oldschool RPG. You see, Horgoth has a story.

Graphics
   
Pure 8-bit. Every sprite, tile, and backdrop is very minimal in its colors. The most colors you'll see are in the cutscenes at the beginning. Every walkabout also has a flip-style animation (except for the knight, if you notice). The tiles are rather blocky and all of it looks very oldschool. For what the graphics are supposed to be, they're great.

Now, don't let me forget to mention that Shiz's extremely super-deformed style shines, perhaps better in this game than in his previous ones, as it fits very well with the game's oldschool style. All of the enemy sprites are very well pixelated, and the bosses were amazing. The CorpseKing (see screenshot) was particularly impressive.

Very pleasing graphics overall. No real problems come to mind here.

 
Storyline
    As I mentioned earlier, unlike most oldschool RPGs, Horgoth has a story, and it is not based around saving princesses, collecting crystals, heroes chosen by destiny, or anything of the sort. In fact, it makes a note of parodizing that last point.

Unlike Tilde and the Mask of :P, Horgoth's story was not blatant Heroist propaganda, which is a definite plus. I'm sure some parts of it may have been affected by the Heroist beliefs of Harlock Hero, but it was much more subtle. I appreciated not having propaganda shoved down my throat while playing this game.

As the story goes, the world was once nearly swallowed up with lethargy and depression under a time called "The Dark Age" until seven heroes rose up and defeated the Lords of Decay (some folks who were powering the darkness) and inspiring everyone to live their lives productively. Now, some 70 or so years later, the world is on the brink of a second Dark Age. All of the technological advances the world had made since the last Dark Age have disappeared, and the towers of the Lords of Decay have risen again. The king has ordered the seven heroes' descendents (who end up being no more than common villagers with no battle experience whatsoever) to investigate a certain Dark Tower and fight off the Lords of Decay, but they have not been heard from since.

This demo includes chapter 1: Dogma.
In an attempt to find out what happened to the seven descendents, the king has called for a group of nameless adventurers to go into the Dark Tower to investigate. But first, to avoid the previous mistake of sending a bunch of incompetents to their deaths, he has them prove their merit by investigating other disturbances in the area, all of which turn out to be connected to the same Dark Tower, which you are finally allowed to investigate.

I won't spoil the details of everything that happens in the Dark Tower, but I will say that you do in fact find the seven (well, they've become six by this point, somehow) descendents, albeit a bit late. You won't fully realise what you've done until after you kill the six Voodoo zombies, who cry for your help as they attack you. The only reason I mention this point is because it was one that stuck out to me. I was, of course, in the middle of a battle with these six zombies, but the fact that they were crying for freedom from the slavery of undeath (is that a word?) at the same time, although it was a little thing, really was something that grabbed me.

Biggest problem plot-wise is that the seven descendents that were sent into the Dark Tower at the beginning become six by the time you actually go there yourself. I mean, what happened to the other one?
 
Gameplay
    Horgoth presents more of a challenge than most OHR games. You may have more trouble than you're used to when trying to buy equipment, and you'll be hard pressed to find a game that requires you to keep so many Herbs in your inventory. I often had 50+, most of which were gone by the time I was through a dungeon. Money comes in a little slowly, but once Thief learns his second steal, a money steal, you can get it a lot faster. You may, in fact, run out of things to buy, in which case, Herbs and stat-ups are definitely reccomended. Also, Wizard is considerably weaker than the other three, so you'll have to be careful, or he'll die quickly.

 
  Battle
    Some of the battles are, in fact, terribly hard. Unless you're familiar with your characters and their abilities, you're not going to fair too well, not even in random battles. Also, don't be ashamed to use the run key, 'cos sometimes you just won't be able to take it. I'm not sure, but I think the Spiders had a bug in their Web attack, as it said that it damaged Agility when it was actually damaging Health, and not a small amount of it, either. Levelbusting is almost completely necessary in this game, as well.

As for the bosses, they are very impressively done. None of them are typical; instead, each has it's own little quirk. For instance, when you physically attack the first boss, a mummy, a Cockroach falls out, as if there's nest (although Cockroaches aren't known for building nests) undeneath his wrappings. The CorpseKing, when alone, will call for help in the form of five zombies, and won't hesitate to eat each of them when hungry.

A funny thing happened to me while I was fighting the CorpseKing, though. I had only Wizard, as the CorpseKing had already killed everyone else, but he was weak, so he was on an endless cycle of drain attacks. Unfortunately, his drain attack always missed my Wizard, but my Wizard was out of magic, and only did 1 damage with his normal attack. What resulted was a laughable thirty-minute battle, and the buggiest boss battle I have ever seen. Still, it as a nice loophole, as I prolly wouldn't have survived the battle otherwise.

Toward the end, the battles become more disappointing. Don't get me wrong, they don't get any easier, it's just that they stop giving you EXP and money. A few of them give you items, but the random battles in the swamp and the Dark Tower are, for the most part, completely pointless. I don't know if it was deliberate, or if they just forgot, but I was rather put off by it.

And the level-ups that weren't there certainly would have helped, because the third boss is by far the hardest. I tried about five times before I just barely beat him. I certainly wouldn't have if I hadn't collected 20 Ginsengs (magic/magic defense up for the rest of the battle) and given them all to my Wizard during the course of the battle.

To make a life-restoring item usable only outside of battle, to me, seemed like a generally bad idea as well. By the time the important battles are over, you won't really need to revive your fallen heroes with items, after all. I might've been able to manuever better in a few tight spots if I could've revived heroes in the battles.

Also, the CryptSlimes, though they were incredibly annoying, were a nice touch.

 
  Map Design
    Oldschool map styles, of course. One interesting part of the crypt was a few staircases that looked exactly the same. I was afraid that the authors had put me into an endless loop (I had just finish Walthros, after all), but, luckily, that was not the case. Speaking of the crypt, the battle frequency was a bit high, being one ever four or five steps.

 
  Balance
    Well balanced, but hard. After fighting a few formations in each dungeon, you will know which ones you'll want to fight and which ones you'll want to run from. Level MP means that you'll have to conserve your magic, so be careful.

 
Music
    I really ought to get a sound card one of these days...

 
Enjoyment
    Yes. The nostalgic feel and great presentation, the challenging battles, and the thoughtful story all fit into a very pleasant experience. Toward the end, the battles seemed to go from enjoyable to tolerable to annoying to sickeningly difficult, though, but the first two dungeons are rocking. I know it wasn't available when this game was first released, but I'd like to see hero-naming in a future update.

 
Final Blows
    If you've got some time on your hands, give this game a whirl. If for nothing else, then to see the oldschool style used in an original way, to tell a more original story. I'd certainly like to see an update.

Also, for those interested, the file also includes a SeptaWeekly interview of the creators, as well as a poster type thing with art not seen in the game.

Wait, you married a robot?

Wait, you married a robot?
Final Scores
Graphics: 8.5/10.0
8-bit and awesome.
Storyline: 7/10.0
More original than most OHR games.
Gameplay: 6.5/10.0
I was really disappointed with it toward the end. That almost ruined the entire experience.
Music: 5/10.0
Can't hear it, sorry.
Enjoyment: 7/10.0
Do something about the battles in the last two dungeons, and this is a very solid game. Right now, though, it's only 2/3 solid.
Overall Grade: B
Final Thoughts
    Oldschool role-playing at it's best.  


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