GDR Masthead


MicroProse Software, Inc.

Reviewed by Dimitriy A. Levin

Price: $45 (in the US)

	     Computer       Graphics	      Memory	   Disk space

Minimum      386            VGA               2 MB RAM	   15 MB
Max/Rec      486-33         VGA               8 MB RAM     15 MB
Sound: IBM speaker, SoundBlaster, AdLib, Pro AudioSpectrum, Roland
Reviewed on: 486DX2-66, SVGA, SoundBlaster 16, 8 MB RAM
Reviewer recommends: 486-33, VGA, good soundcard, good mouse.

The plot:

The game does not really have a plot. You simply control the actions of a group of adventurers in Medieval Germany, and do anything you want to. The goal of the game is to get as much fame as possible. You earn fame by doing various things which range from fighting thieves and Robber Knights to combating witches, worshipers of demons, and even dragons. The length of the game is limited only by how long you wish to play it.

The gameplay:

Despite the lack of the plot, the game is very nice. The graphics are good and the sounds are decent. The interface is nice, but mouse is almost a must. The game gives you a ton of choices - always. For instance, you don't just have a choice of entering the city - instead, you can pay toll, talk your way out of paying, sneak in the crowd, climb the city wall, or attack guards. All and every action you do affects you reputation and fame, and hence your chance to get missions. Of course, you can just wander around the Germany (the whole Germany exists in the game including a plethora of cities, towns, villages, and special places, i.e. Castle of Apocalypse, etc). You also have a choice of 3 difficulty levels. All this and high realism make the game a lot of fun.

The details:

The game is very detailed. From the manual which very well describes all entities you can meet, all weapons (and there're quite a lot of them), all chemical potions, and all saints, to the cities in which city halls, inns, and churches have names which are the same as in the real cities. Unfortunately, the game is VGA only and this takes down the level of graphics detail a bit.

The realism:

The game is very realistic. When you create your characters, you can pick the family background which will affect you character's ability to learn things and to improve attributes. After the character is created, you can pick an occupation for him/her for the next 5 years. Occupations range from noble heir to peasant and affect future choice of occupations and improve only certain skills. This means that if you work as an alchemist, you will improve your character's alchemy skills, but you will not improve the streetwise skills. Some attributes (such as virtue) might even decrease if you choose to be thief. While traveling, the amount of time which you need to get from one place to another depends on the terrain, time of year, and the kind of horses/mules you have. If you have a fast horse and you're on the road, you will travel faster than on mule through the mountains in the winter. Rarely you get to travel without adventures. In winter, you can often get caught in the blizzard. Robbers and wolves will attack too. And while the game is not really fiction, all of Germany's mystic characters are there - gnomes, witches, demons, giant spiders, hellhounds, cobolds, elves, and even dragons. Weapons you can use are realistic for the time period too. You can find a wide range of swords, pikes, bludgeons, bows, arbalets, and even guns. Weapons have different weight and do different damage. When you look at your character, you can tell which weapon he/she has. Weapons also have different quality which affects their price and effectiveness. The same thing is the case with armor. It ranges from clothes to plate armor. Different armors have different weight and offer different protection. Weight is crucial since the character can wear (or be armed with) a certain number of things. Put too much on him/her and he/she will be slow and will not fight too well. Magic potions and saints are done very realistically too. To prepare potion, your character needs good alchemy skills (they affect success and danger level) and all the necessary ingredients, such as phlegmatic base, gold, etc. Also, there's risk involved in the preparation of chemicals. If the character who's making the potion is not skillful, an accident may occur which can hurt your character(s).

The interface:

The game has several interfaces. All can be used with keyboard, but I highly recommend a mouse. When you're in the city or the game requires you to make a choice, a corresponding picture is displayed with text layed over it. When traveling, you control a little person who wanders through map which reminds that from Civilization - little mountains, rivers, cities, forests, etc. While travelling, you may set ambush or camp. Another interface is the Combat Mode. This mode is activated when you fight. It represents a magnified landscape (including buildings, rooms, trees, river) which can be explored. All of your characters are displayed with corresponding weapons in the their hands. The enemies are drawn too. The combat mode resembles that of X-Com: The UFO Defense.


The graphics are not photo quality. They're hand drawn, and are actually pretty nice. You characters have different dress and hair color (you get to pick it) and the weapons are seen in their hands. The only animations I saw in the game were in the introduction, and if you died. There're small animations such as lighted torches on the walls and running water in the river, but there're no animated cutscenes. The graphics are 256 color VGA and in my opinion pretty well use the advantages of VGA resolution - they're smooth and colorful. In general, the graphics are typical for MicroProse - good looking and detailed.


The game sounds pretty good. It's not as soundtrack and sound effects packed as other games, but it's OK. The game supports major sound cards and IBM speaker, and I had no problems configuring it.

The manual:

I loved the manual. It's one of the best I've seen. In addition to detailed descriptions of the game, and everything you might meet/use in it, the manual is full of hand-drawn sketches of different people/monsters. They are not of any help, but they're so neat! =) In addition to that, a quick reference sheet comes with the game.

The installation:

The installation was painless and fairly quick (as quick as it gets when you install something that takes up 10 disks). The game ran the first time I tried to run it.


I didn't notice any bugs. The only problem I had was when I was exploring huge mazes (in the Combat mode) and the game was crashing me to DOS after couple of hours because the whole maze is loaded in the memory at once, and as I open more rooms, it takes up more RAM, until it doesn't have any left.


In general, I love the game. The only annoying thing is that you cannot save in the combat mode, which means that if you're exploring a maze (and it's always done in Combat Mode and might take 3-4 hours), you have to finish it before you can save. Other than that, the game is bug-free and pretty much trouble-free. I consider this game a forefather of X-Com: The UFO Defense. There's a lot of similarities between them, but X-Com has better graphics, although not as much variety (couple of terrains vs. huge Germany) as Darklands. I recommend the game to everyone who likes games like X-Com. A fast computer is not really a must. A fast 386 or a slow 486 are fine.
Copyright © Dimitriy A. Levin for Games Domain Review, 1995

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