It's the Middle Ages: After many years fighting in the Holy Wars, the Iron Lord returns home to France. But, nom de dieu! Things are not what they were! His father, the king, is dead. Murdered by his evil uncle, who now rules through tear and torture a land of misery. Parbleux! The Iron Lord decides it is time for a better world! An army must be raised and the evil uncle despatched forthwith!
Iron Lord is an arcade adventure played from a beautifully realised overhead view of the land with roads, hamlets, towns and castle. Mounted on his trusty steed, Iron Lord rides from location to location, which on arrival is shown in more detail ready for exploration. The land is populated, of course, and meeting and communicating with the locals is the name of the game: some will trade information, others will provide items essential to your mission (the odd weapon would not go amiss).
First of all he must win the support of the people: by completing skill testing arcade sequences, like archery, arm winding, dice games and sword fighting.
Archery finds the brave knight on the firing range wanging great arrows at a target, of which there are five. Icons on screen bottom allow him to increase and decrease shot strength, and alter angle of aim. Wind speed and direction (changing constantly) are found here too. Just to make life difficult, the targets keep moving as well. No easy task to get a hit!
Arm wrestling and dice throwing in the taverns are also similarly controlled, with neat graphics of opponents adding atmosphere, and joystick waggling physical exercise! Unfriendly knights are a hazard, and only clever swordplay and nifty footwork will save iron Lord.
Once he has raised an army, its time for our hero to turn his attention to the home castle. Ensconced on the top of the tower Iron Lord directs the climactic battle with his uncle's army. Turns of aggressive action are taken, and depending on the strength of the forces, the vile despot will hopefully be beaten.
But even then the fight Is not yet quite won. The uncle flees for his life into a mazelike labyrinth and turns into a demon (!) in one last attempt to destroy Iron Lord. Whether he does or not is entirely up to how nifty you are on your pins. Both adventure and joystick wielding junkies are well catered for in Iron Lord, and Ubisoft haven't done too badly in attempting an 'epic' type game. Sadly what at first glance seems to be a game of great depth, reveals rather less body than one would like, Graphically its great with a nice mixture of monochromatic and colourful sprites. Pity.
MARK ... 72%
'Iron Lord looks good, but sadly falls short of expectations due to the fact that only a couple of things can be done in each town on the first level, okay - there are the arcade sections archery, gambling etc. But things would have been livened up a bit if there were a few more tasks to perform, or more people to visit. If you ever dreamed of becoming a Knight on a white charger take a look at Iron Lord anyway.'
NICK ... 65%
Enfin, mes Spec-amis. Ironlord est arrive! After having been Future Shocked way back in June, French software house Ubisoft's newie has finally arrived in Angleterre.
It's set in a medieval world of swords and sorcery. You play Monsieur Ironlord himself, fresh back from the Crusades and looking forward to the huge 'welcome home' street party in his honour. But, wot, no bunting? Nope, looks like your evil uncle has taken advantage of your absence and nicked your bloomin' throne! What a villain, eh?
Your aim then, is to regain it and live happily ever after. Needless to say, this isn't as simple as it sounds. The game has three main parts, the largest being the first, which also features four sub-games! Read about the component parts, then I'll come back to tell you how it plays...
Right how does it play? On the whole I think it works well. The individual sub-games are well executed though some are simplistic. The sword fight is nice, especially with 128K sound. The archery is like a sports sim in itself, and I can see it will take a lot of practice to master. (But you'll have to if you want to get the maximum number of armies!)
The adventure game relies mainly on large, colourful, graphical representations of the towns or scenes therein. Then you get a cursor arrow. Click, say, on an important character and the computer will give you a picture of that character plus a menu from which you can choose to 'talk', 'give', 'buy' or summon a description of him (or the barmaid! ). The game map appears small and there are only about a dozen key characters, but since they interlink and do things like offer you puzzles to solve there are sufficient for playability.
The wargame's a novel part - it contains most of the strategy elements in complete wargames but isn't of the size and complexity that I know put many people off this type of game.
Finally, the labyrinth game has large and colourful graphics, but the actual playing area is small and monochrome. Mind you, at the end of the day, the sprite is no worse than those in Gauntlet, and the size of the playing area means that the extra memory can be devoted to really smooth scrolling. Lastly I found that the fact you cant see around the next corner nicely conjures up the feel of being in a gloomy corridor.
So, a massive, colourful game, with something in it for everyone. Some component parts are small as a result of the overall size but no less playable for that. Although you can enter the wargame section you can't win (and therefore see the third part of the game) without having completed all or most of the adventure components! But the choice is yours! If you can't solve one or two of the ten problems, then you can still go to war with eight armies. A harder task but not impossible! ironford is an innovative treatment of a familiar scenario that manages in incorporate elements of many different games.
THE ADVENTURE GAME
You start in an adventure-type game in which you recruit up to ten armies to do battle with your uncle's forces. You're presented with a main map scene on which you can move a cursor to travel an visit the local towns. You can then move about each scrolling town plan and find the important inhabitants. These people hint at things they would like, and by performing your tasks you can convince them into giving you their armies.
THE ADVENTURE SUB-GAMES
In order to achieve the tasks set by the inhabitants you have to, among other things, enter an archery contest, an arm wrestling match, and defeat several of the knights who attack you at random. These sub-games can be fairly comprehensive in themselves. Arm wrestling is a joystick waggler, whilst archery is a sort of leaderboard-type simulation on its own. Short on cash? Then try your luck at the dice gambling game!
All the action takes place on one screen where your armies are represented by square icons. Passing your cursor over these tells you their size and strength, and also enables you to give them movement orders. Clicking on the 'next turn' icon initiates the first movement section. When armies overlap a combat sequence is initiated. The info on the units involved appears in the top left of the screen, whilst in the top right there's a little battle sequence. Resting units increases their strength, and supply icons often appear on to which you can move fatigued units. After you've defeated his armies, however, you still have to find your uncle. Can you guess where he's hiding?
The final section, the labyrinth. See it? it's that small bit in the mouth of the skull! It's a sort of Gauntlet-type, dungeon exploring game. Collect keys to open locked doors and find an arrow indicating the way to the next level. Oh, and you also need to pick up a sword on each level too. Did I say this game was massive or what? Yep, that's right... but there's more! At the end of each floor of the labyrinth you go into a simple arcade Shoot about a dozen or so bats and you then get on to the next level of the maze! Six levels and arcade sequences in all - beat the lot and you've got your throne back.
Cest formidable! That's the only way to describe the latest game to cross the channel and we have it hotfoot (or hotwing), all the way from la belle Paris courtesy of UBISOFT. In Ironlord, you take the role of a young French knight who, upon his triumphant return to his homeland after long crusades, finds that things are not quite the way he remembers them and a few changes have taken place. We're not talking a few Wimpey starter homes that have suddenly sprung up - Ph no siree! We're talking BIG family trouble. His father, has been deposed from the throne by none other than his crafty old uncle. This is a fairly serious state of affairs as it puts our poor hero right out of the family business.
It's all too much! All our hero's job opportunities are dashed and he frms a plan of action based upon his current skills. He will raise an army from amongst the massed, unwashed ranks of the local surfs and depose regain his former standing by giving him a good going over.
And so the scene is set. The die is cast. The plot unfolds (GET ON WITH IT! JD). To raise an army he must travel the kingdom and stir the locals into a fever of rage and honor as they rally to his cause. Unfortunately, the locals couldn't be stirred with a five foot teaspoon as they all have their own small problems and you must direct the knight's actions so as to gain their trust and respect by helping them in their particular needs.
IRON LORD unfolds as an adventure/strategy/arcade game and as you travel around this countryside, you will interact with key members of the various communities and from time to time get drawn into one of the four arcade sequences that consist of an archery contest, arm wrestling, gambling with dice and just having a jolly good fight.
Each of these sections is masterfully handled with line graphics and plenty of colour (there's a novelty).
Although it's been a long time in the making Ironlord has made the cross-channel trip successfully. We're just glad there weren't any sub-titles.
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
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