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My review is currently a work in progress... In the meantime, here are links to the game and the official strategy guide:

 

... And here's a link to the official strategy guide:

 

Lionheart Review (c) Scott M. Baker, 2003

I've been anticipating the release of Lionheart for a long time. Other Black Isle Studio games such as Fallout and Baldur's Gate have been among my favorite games of all time. There were rumors that Lionheart was originally called "Fallout Fantasy", so I had quite an expectation of the knock-out game.

Unfortunately, Lionheart breaks the tradition of most of the good Black Isle games. It's been dumbed-down quite a bit, and plays more with the complexity of Diablo-2 or (god forbid) Dungeon Siege than Baldur's Gate. Not that Diablo-2 isn't a good game (I enjoyed it much myself), it's just not a very complex game. The dumbing down of RPG games seems to be a trend these days and I'm not really sure why. Nevertheless, once you get into it does develop into a fun experience.

Movement/Interface.Lionheart uses a point and click interface (as does everything these days). You walk your character around the map by pointing on a location, and your guy walks there. If you click on something of interest, such as a chest, your character will try to unlock it. Left-clicking a monster attacks with your weapon, and right-clicking fires your spell.

One significant drawback in the movement system is that your character is unable to auto-navigate beyond trivial sections of the map. Although you can pan the map to as far away location as you desire, your character simply won't walk to a destination when you click on it. This is in contrast to games like Baldur's Gate that had a fairly good autonavigation system. The result is that you have to micro-manage your character -- clicky-click-click all over the screen to get him to walk from one side of a city to another.

The city map (Barcelona in particular) I found to bit a bit dreary looking. It's kind of dark an unexciting. It's hard to remember which building hold what kind of shop -- for example, who is the blacksmith and who is the magic dealer. Pop-up context hints when you hover your cursor over a location would have been a great help here, it's surprising that the authors didn't implement it. In my opinion, everything really looks the same inside of the city. The characters kind of all look the same too.

Combat. Your characters handle combat pretty much automatically. Like Diablo-2, I had no problem watching TV while playing the game at the same time (IMO, this is not a good thing...). If you have followers or summoned monsters, then you can let them fight for you when you walk into a new area while you pelt the monster with spells if that's your style.

After you kill a monster, sometimes a red dot will appear that can be used to recharge your health, or a blue dot that will recharge your manna.

Spell System. You only get one readied spell at a time -- selecting another spell in combat is a complex clickity-click-click manipulation of submenus. Fortunately, you can pause the game at any time by hitting the spacebar if you need to do something tedious. I felt the restriction of one readied spell to be very limiting -- I would have much rather had a couple of quick spell slots, or a bar of available spells similar to baldurs gate. Spells are generally of the rapid-fire nature; Just hold down the right mouse button on a bad guy and you'll keep firing your readied spell at him.

Party Manipulation. One of the funnest things about RPGs are putting together a party. Unfortunately, the game is a little bit lacking in this repsect. The most you can do is to find some friendly characters and get them to tag along with your quest. They'll follow you and attack any monsters automatically when they see you attack, or if they are attacked themselves. I haven't found any way to give my "followers" new equipment, or to control them in any sophisticated manner. Your followers behave much the same way that a summoned zombie would -- it follows and fights.

Quests. Any decent RPG has a good selection of quests, and Lionheart seems to have its share. So far, the quests have generally been of the "kill person X" or "get item Y from person X and give it to person Z" variety. There's not a whole lot of thought involved. This is good for those people who like combat and exploration and don't like to get bogged down trying to figure out some obscure puzzle.

Story. You probably already know the premise -- normal history proceeded according to the history books until the "disjunction" took place and introduced magic into the world. You are in the fifteenth century and you get to mingle with the likes of William Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and many other historical persons. The premise is interesting, although so far it doesn't really offer anything unique. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic offered a similar premise, but had a much better implementation of it.

Summary. So far, I'd rate the game 3 orcs out of a possible 5 orcs (hey, an 'orc' is a perfectly valid unit of measurement...) The game is above average, but it just doesn't distinguish itself from the pack. If you like diablo-2, then you'll probably like Lionheart. If you were a fan of Baldur's Gate or Fallout, then you'll probably be a bit disappointed, but you'll still have fun.

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