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I start this review with a warning to the reader: Doomdark’s Revenge remains my favourite computer game, and so this review is in no way impartial. I have been terribly excited ever since I learned the conversion was a reality, and have been counting the days until the game’s release.
So what is it?
Doomdark’s Revenge is a strategy game that has you attempt to wrest control of the land of Icemark from one Shareth the Heartstealer. Shareth is well-named, as she recently stole the heart of Morkin and took him out of his homeland of Midnight to an ‘undisclosed location.’ At the beginning of the game you control three characters; Luxor, Morkin’s father and saviour of Midnight, who has arrived at the head of 1,000 men. Rorthron the Wise, the Gandalfian wizard-councillor. You also control Tarithel, Morkin’s bride, who has run ahead of Luxor and Rorthron to get Morkin back on her own.
Your characters begin at the southern end of the map, with the notion that Shareth and her allies control the northern half. The land is filled with lords who belong to one of five factions; the Giants, Dwarfs, Icelords, Fey, and Barbarians. Each of these lords must be either recruited or defeated if they cannot be won from Shareth or other loyalties to Luxor’s banner.
Many A Lord
There are over 100 lords in the game to be recruited. Some are easier, some are harder. However the only character you cannot recruit is Shareth herself. Rorthron is probably your best recruiter, and Tarithel is good at recruiting Fey lords as a Fey princess herself. Two points to remember: within factions there are ranks of lords. Recruit higher ranked lords, and those lords can in turn recruit others, creating a positive snowball effect as your forces grow each day; also lords that you have recruited can still be recruited away.
Lords can only be recruited when they are alone. Knowing this, its best to move your own lords in pairs (this isn’t necessary for your starting characters as they can never be recruited away). Within the game, it’s a simple case of drag and drop to have one lord follow another.
The map is quite larger, featuring plains, vast forests and great mountain ranges. If you don’t want your lords to get tired out, keep to the fields and hills. Exploring the map is vital to finding wandering lords. These lords don’t all stay at their home castles; they are quite capable of wandering the map on their own, usually to seek out their liege lord, or to settle scores with their foe. This independent movement makes each game of Doomdark’s Revenge quite different from the last. To make things trickier, Shareth has unleashed enchanted mists that move across the landscape, hiding armies and making landmarks difficult to spot.
Each lord in the game has a weapon, and all those weapons have been lost and scattered through the land thanks to Shareth’s magic. Reuniting a lord with his weapon will make that lord more effective in battle, and there are many battles to be fought.
Land battles and sieges are likely to be a fixture of your games. Where recruitment fails, fighting is often the only alternative. Shareth is also mustering an army and heading for Luxor. All lords have a home fortress or fortified city. These cities continually produce soldiers as a garrison. To successfully siege one of these takes a while, but can be worth it; they don’t change hands quickly, and give you a reliable spot to send lords back when they need to recruit to cover their losses in battle. Control of the landscape is as much a consideration as recruiting the right lords.
Chris Wild, the programmer of this remake (the original game was released in 1985) chose to keep the look and feel of the original game. It’s a design choice that will delight fans of the original, but will jar with today’s gamers. While alternate graphic sets exist, there are none available for this release as yet.
If you are a fan of emergent storytelling; games that weave stories from the decisions that you make, then Doomdark’s Revenge is a good choice for you. Each game will play very differently. The only similarities from game to game are your objectives and your starting characters. How you achieve those objectives is always up to you, and will be affected by how unrecruited lords behave.
I strongly recommend this game on PC and iPad; you are likely to loose many hours playing it.