Review by Sane Jake

"The Real Adventure Begins!"

If you ever played the first Dungeons and Dragons arcade game, Tower of Doom... don't worry, this one is actually good.

''Good'' is an understatement. D&D2: Shadows Over Mysteria is like comparing Streetfighter and Streetfighter 2. It's that different. It's almost as if someone played the first one, then not only told Capcom that it stank, but also how to fix it. Everything that was good about the game stayed, almost everything bad about it was quite effeciently removed.

Both visual and audio-wise, the games look the same. The cast has more than doubled, but the style's the same and some graphics (like the red dragon's death) are reused. Who cares? The gameplay rocks!

First off, let's start with the whole combat system. The first game was pathetic; they just swung their weapons for the most part and hoped for the best. In SOM, there's a COMBO SYSTEM. That's right -- you can combo! With the use of two simple street-fighter like motions -- a quarter-turn and a down-up motion (no charge time) -- you can slam into an enemy, smack him around, knock him into the air, and then wack him as he falls down, inflicting heavy damage and looking very, very cool.

Secondly, let's talk character balance. There's not a single throw-away character in this group! Every character has a unique ability, from the fighter's ability to use two weapons at once (ya need a short sword if you want to try), to the elf's infinite arrows, to the magic-users ''critical striking dagger o' death''. Every character has some sort of real edge in the game; so when players come together you get a really diverse selection of skills that come in handy. To top it all off, each of the six types available (fighter, dwarven fighter, elf fighter-magic user, magic user, cleric and thief) has a second version so you can have two of the same type in a party... and for a change, it's not just the same character in different colours.

Third, there's all the cool tricks and secrets in the game. Secret paths, secret weapons, special tactics and even a way to get someone to kill a boss for you... it's all here. That's not even mentioning your fully selectable array of inventory and spells.

Probably most interesting of all is the fact that I hate D&D despite how much I love this game! This game doesn't care about D&D rules... which is probably why it rules and the first one, which more stringently follows them, is pathetic.

Graphics/Audio: 6
The graphics and audio do the job, and that's it. This game's strength's not eyecandy any ways, its...

Gameplay: 9
If you love a good beat'em up, you'll LOVE this game. Not only because are you given a whole set of options with an inventory, spells and a diverse cast, but you also have a really solid fighting system that allows for various combos and really nasty little tricks. (Like Large Burning Oil... and watching the thief jump on a little goblin's back and stab it. Uh, lady -- you don't need to stab it, light as you are, you still just broke the thing's back)

Replay: 9
I can't think of too many games with a higher replay value (except perhaps Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment, but that's different territory) Alone, you have a lot of options between 6 types of characters and several different paths. Toss in a second, third or forth player, and the combinations really become staggering! The teamwork that can be used can make short work of even the nastiest of bosses... even the dragons!

Difficulty: 7
It's got a perfect level of difficulty. Not too hard, not too easy, depending on who you use and routes you take and the people by your side. My best game with a friend of mine (Cleric & Magic User) we beat the game with only one of us continuing (me)... but we know almost all the tricks and had a few really close calls. Results may vary.

Overall Score: 9

Definitely give this game a try. If you don't like beat'em ups, then it may not be your cup of tea but it's got a lot more depth than other games have to offer!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/19/01, Updated 03/19/01

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