Picture the scene: it is the dim and distant past, an age when the land was ruled by High Kings and Sir Clive was still dreaming up the ZX81. The present High King has disappeared, and the deputy appointed to look after his kingdom in his absence has the nation on the brink of collapse. The only way out of this depression is for some suitably heroic person (like yourself) to get three ancient wizardly artifacts (the Foretelling Stones, the Tablet of Truth and the Medallion of Power) together, and dig up (hopefully not literally) the old King from wherever he's hiding.
Starting in the Frothing Slosh Tavern, in Eralan, you receive a task from a helpful prior. He tells you that you must retrieve the Foretelling Stones from the thieving raiders of the north. Once you've reclaimed the artifacts you must return them to the prior. And the rest you'll have to find out for yourself!
Times of Lore is icon driven. You can converse with other characters (assuming they're willing to talk to you!); examine items; get an inventory; pick up/drop things; use an item; load/save games; and offer items to characters. Pressing SPACE brings up an icon selector - unless someone is trying to strike up a conversation with you, in which case you talk automatically. To get on in the game you need to converse with loads of people - some of them have very interesting things to say. And there's an awful lot of walking around to be done, too, so a pair of magic boots wouldn't be a bad idea.
There is one more thing which is of paramount importance: DON'T HIT ANY VILLAGERS!! Smash away at orcs and archers to your heart's content, but be very careful of hacking up members of civilised society. Should you let the ol' sword 'accidentally' slip into someone's stomach, then everyone in the game ignores you (or tries to kill you), and it becomes very difficult to make any progress at all.
To save a game, you have to spend the night at an inn, which has the useful side-effect of replenishing your energy (represented by a candle). Times of Lore is probably the best arcade adventure I've played. The documentation and packaging are excellent. Graphically, it's brilliant, and there is a wide variety of music in the introductory sequence. I have no hesitation in recommending it to all but the most dedicated arcade player. Well 'ard!
'There is only one word to describe Times of Lore: enchanting. You get so involved in the game, thanks to the strong atmosphere and the excitement of achievement, that you really feel as if you've gone back in time. The all round presentation (both on screen and in the literature) is excellent, with a super, illustrated title sequence telling the story of the High King of Aralan. The game itself is set out in Gauntlet-style with ample colour in the towns, forest and bridges that make up the landscape. However, due to the control method, it's all too easy to pop off some kind of serf with whom you were conversing. That aside, Times Of Lore is simply brilliant, buy it to believe it.'
They don't get much bigger than this (fnar). Or harder (phwooargh). But enough of this innuendo, 'cos this is perhaps one of the longest, most absorbing games you can get for your Speccy. If you like your game playing in short, sweet bursts (like me) it mightn't be quite your cup of tea, but otherwise read on.
The story - and this is a very sawn-down version because it takes up many, many screens to explain - involves you as a lone warrior trying to whip your decadent kingdom back into shape. It's a bit of a problem 'cos barbarians are attacking from one side, various dangerous monsters on the other and there's plenty of internal feuding going on between the local nobles. You play one of three characters (a valiant Knight, powerful Barbarian or nimble Valkyrie) though it seemed to make precious little difference which one you chose.
The games takes place on a huge four way scrolling map, of around 5,000 screens by 8,000. So it's big. But amazingly enough it all works on a single load - no drive access needed even on the cassette versions!
So, off you go. You begin in the bedroom of an inn and must run around (with your feet making a nice little slapping sound on the flagstone floor and the four way scrolling working very smoothly) until you find the stairs, at which point you descend into a sort of bar. Here you'll find a few characters spread around eating and drinking, and can begin a conversation (or a fight) with any one of them. Depending upon who you talk to, you will end up with one of a few possible sub-quests which make up the game, such as recovering an important lost artifact or defeating a powerful villain. A candle on the right of the screen shows your power slowly dying down, but it can be replenished with a good night's sleep.
Graphically the game is very nice with its massive play area, tiny (but clearly defined) sprites, smooth scrolling, and nice little touches (like the roofs of buildings disappearing as you enter them). It would take weeks - perhaps longer - of pretty intensive playing to complete it, which puts me in the rather weird position of having to review a game when I've only really scratched the surface.
What I can say is that what I've seen has been fascinating, and lacks much of the aimlessness that I've felt about some similar games. It's still possible to walk off into nowhere, get lost and simply run out of energy, but if you keep whatever subquest you're involved in at the front of your mind you shouldn't go too far wrong. Not a cheap game, but if you've the time and the inclination, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Anybody will tell you that, when Times of Lore was released ion the C*mm*d*r* 64, just before Christmas, it leaped instantly into my top ten fave games of all time, and I couldn't wait to see how it would come out on the Spectrum. To me, it had all the makings of a perfect game, and indeed, it still does.
One thing Origin have done incredibly well, especially when you consider this is their first Spectrum game, is capture all the best elements from three genre of computer game, and put them together to create a game that requires a bit of thought to play, but still has enough widespread appeal to make it an instant hit.
Times of Lore casts you an an adventurer (you choose which: Knight, barbarian of valkyrie), who, at the start of the game, as with so many of Origins earlier products, has no aim. This is soon rectified as, when you stagger out of bed and walk down to the first floor of the tavern where you have slept the night, you bump into a local priest, who gives you your first job. Rescue a treasure from a band of orcs, who are camped north of the city. You accept this task, and set of instantly.
There are really two ways to play TOL. Firstly, you can play it as a straight arcade game, just running around the 13,000 (yes, you read correctly) locations, killing everyone in sight. Fun though this may be, it can get boring. Alternatively, you can start taking advantage of the real game.
Part arcade, part RPG, part adventure, TOL is full of puzzles, but never confusing or illogical. Most of the game has you following orders, completing tasks and not getting killed. This may sound a little dull, but there's a bit more to it than that.
Conversation is the key to gaining information, and words are the key to winning the game. You can chat with everybody you meet, via the icon system at the bottom of the screen. Click on the icon of the mouth, and a menu will appeal with a number of options. Select 'Ask Question' and another menu will appear. This contains all the things you can currently ask people about. Select one, and if you are talking to the right person they will tell you something of interest. The original topic now dealt with, it disappears from the menu to be replaced by a new keyword.
The graphics are fine. Large, well drawn sprites walk around realistic looking scenery that scrolls quite well in four directions. Colour has been used to excellent effect, and it basically looks a lot better than I ever expected.
An incredibly competent conversion. Still, more or less a perfect game. Wonderful graphic, sound and playability and enough game hidden away in there to keep anyone going for weeks. Looks like Origin are going to have a good time in the Spectrum market.
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
The search for Albareth's lost king continues with these two nicely done conversions. Well-drawn Spectrum introductory screens lead into neatly designed in-game graphics with colour carefully (if unimaginatively) used to avoid attribute clash. Initial static screens are weak on the Amstrad but on the whole the graphics are up to the colourful, lively standard of the C64 original - though blocky in places. The soothing Amstrad title music is the only notable audio. Both suffer with the same jerky scrolling problem as the earlier versions - distracting at first, but after a few plays the game becomes absorbing enough for this not to matter.
All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB