Legend of Blacksilver is the superb sequel of Legacy of the Ancients, one of the most underrated 8-bit RPGs ever made. As usual, Andrew Schultz explains in amazing detail why this Apple II/Commodore 64underdog that was never ported to PC truly deserves our Hall of Belated Fame status: |
"LoA, along with its ancestors Questron and Questron II, was a bit heavy on the dungeons, but the main action in LoB is in the castles, where you do more than just kill everyone, sack all the chests, and escape--as opposed to the dungeons, where you may be able--and need--to avoid monsters while sacking all the chests. This also applies to the endgame, and that action aside, LoB even has potential for marginally different endings.
The story behind LoB is that you appear to the princess of Bantross in a dream. She explains that Taragas, an evil baron from the land of Maelbane, has enlisted the help of a local baron named Mantrek and has possibly found some ancient magic material called Blacksilver, which is deadly in the wrong hands. She entrusts a falcon feather to you and tells you to visit her brother, the prince, at the castle(it's a 90% friendly one, unlike in previous installments) in the hopes that you can help rescue his father. Once you see him, you are informed of a currently off-limits section of the castle where the wizard Seravol is trapped and that maybe a special hero can visit; an earthquake, one of many affecting Thalen, has blocked it. But in the meantime you will need to look around Thalen, the continent where you start, in an effort to pick up gold(gamble, win fights, collect bank interest, or get paid for services) and clues.
LoB shows the sort of refinements that a fourth game in a series should have, with getting sick on food you make from certain monsters' carcasses being of the kind I didn't immediately appreciate. The many different people and places to visit to improve your attributes help round out the game, especially since some are now side quests, and overall three people to visit who improve your strength five points trump the old version--one way to jump it fifteen. Monster interactions outside are complex as you can stalk, threaten, attack, barter with them, or flee, and if you are trying to move quickly around the continent you're much less likely to take a few hits because you pressed the wrong keys, which was a major bugbear in LoA. You also wind up needing to use more of the towns in LoB than you did in LoA. There's the usual gambit about having to buy sails at a town facing an inland sea, but now there are two different types of spell shops, and not every town has a bank or a gambling place where you can win big, which sure beats thumping monsters. The store names are still very cute, and none are re-used from LoA. Each town has a separate industry where you may be able to work for a day for gold(there are still packages you may be paid to deliver,) and with other realistic details such as the guards taking a little time before they discover the body of a merchant you've killed and robbed and the relatively fair gambling, LoB is wonderfully real.
The puzzles also feel like real puzzles. Yes, there are still keys to find to unlock a door and find more keys before you get that special item, but an example of the game's depth is a comparison of a castle segment in LoA where a path is clearly marked out and a secluded room in LoB with shifting colored tiles. The LoB puzzle isn't a backbreaker but actively inserts a time element into your puzzling. Perhaps the best example of puzzling is the labyrinth-castle. It has teleporters in about twenty compartmented areas, and instead of the usual hack/slash through, you have to map out routes and determine where to go when the path forks. With many one-way portals that force you to start over, the castle is far tougher than previous versions.
Games to increase skill or riches are a staple in the LoB series, and you certainly have some interesting ones here. To increase your intelligence, you play a strategy game called Trist where you have twelve pits, each with four stones; you can move any of the six pits on your side by placing one stone in each following counterclockwise pit, skipping your own if you've twelve or more, and you get points if you land in an opponent's pit and it contains two or three stones; for each consecutive two/three stone pit behind it you can also get points, and a draw occurs if you have no legal moves, i.e. stones on your side of the board. You can also increase dexterity(frequently mislabeled agility by the game) and endurance with some surprisingly fun video games, one being a skeet-shot recycled from Questron and the other a sort of Mad-Bomber game where you collect falling gold pieces and deposit them at the sides while avoiding everything else. Gambling also is more varied; Flip-Flop from LoA, with its 120% payout, was lucrative and fast-paced, but Heigh-Loagh is a clever game where you are given five cards face down and asked to determine, as each is turned over, whether the next is higher or lower. Dragon Wheel is a sort of slot game where you can lose a multiple of your bet, and if you can't cover, the guards will be after you. Blackjack is also a reliably standby but you'll find cheating at it tougher in LoB.
Finally, LoB even has humor. In a part of the game, you can give a bribe, and an imprisoned jester has a litany of clever poems he recites to you as part of a quest to find an item. There's also an imprisoned giant I liked. And if you needed further proof that prisons are a hoot in LoB, Seravol the wizard, who remains where he was imprisoned after you rescue him, and his similarly-minded apprentice have occasional wisecracks, and guards are more deferential as you gain rank. The unintentional humor of ''You found a shoddy leaded club!!!'' (random item found after defeating a monster) remains, but having the real thing complement it helps make it funnier.
At the end I felt like I'd just completed an exhaustive adventure. The general melodramatic feelings I'm prone to at 4 AM probably had something to do with this, but there is no denying that for old-school games, LoB is fantastic enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Ultima IV or V or Deathlord. It has a great story, a dash of poetry, sophisticated character operation that is still easy to control, and visual appeal."
Reviewed by: Underdogs