Vengeance of Excalibur. (computer game) (Evaluation)
by Rebecca Rohan
The spirit of Excalibur lives again! You can even bring Spirit of Excalibur characters back to life in Virgin Software's Vengeance of Excalibur. If you weren't around to defeat the evil sorceress Morgan Le Fay in Spirit of Excalibur, there are plenty of new knights to accompany you through medieval Spain and its surrounding in Vengeance.
The 256-color Vengeance opens with a pan shot of a breathtaking castle, but a large logo with dripping blood foretells the dangers that lie ahead as you pursue the demon lord, fight off mercenaries, and try to lead your knights to victory. You really need a mouse to navigate the program with any speed, since you choose tools from icons at the side of the screen and then apply the tool to a character, object, or list of choices.
The Crystal Ball icon gives the status of characters; the Map icon leads to your map of Iberia. The Hourglass icon offers slow, medium, and fast movement at the map level, while the Magnifying Glass icon zooms to the scene level, where you'll examine and acquire objects, get information from locals, and make key decisions. The Rider icon moves characters at the map level, as long as they are loyal to your cause--enemies, for example, aren't forces you can control. The Scroll icon saves and loads games so you don't have to start from the first scene every time you boot or die, while the Gauntlet icon brings up actions like Pick Up, Search, Seize, Drop, Trade, Give, Talk, Request, Bribe, Use, and Attack.
Vengeance explains the situation you and your knights are in, as well as how to navigate the game and handle combat and magic. There are descriptions of each episode, hints, a historical backgrounder, and an advisory on the roles of faith and nobility. Knights will refuse to do many evil deeds, like attacking friendly characters. If you make them do too many unethical acts, the knights can die.
The game also allows you to snoop around the map and zoom into scenes without bringing characters to that point in the game, but you won't be able to spoil surprises, since doors are most often locked to voyeurs. You'll be forced to rely on brawn or brain to gain entrance to exotic scenes and reap the rewards hidden there. To gain entrance to the game at all, you'll have to supply a ward from somewhere in the handbook--a very mild form of copy protection. But there's no red plastic decoder required as in Loom, nor any complicated code to decipher. You just find a word that's x words past a given subheading.
I enjoyed the graphics in Vengeance and asked a couple of unsurpassed experts from the local BBS what they thought. The two teenage boys agreed. However, neither of them seemed interested in finishing the game and abandoned it in about an hour. We all felt that our characters were killed too often to sustain a sense of involvement, and had I not been reviewing Vengeance, I would've abandoned it myself. But if you enjoy games that catch you off guard and challenge your life at many turns, then you've got the right stuff to lead your knights to victory in Vengeance.