Interplay recently re-released 13 of SSI’s old ‘gold box’ games for the PC under the name ‘GameFest’ with a bargain basement MSRP of $10. Infogrames will be taking one of these classics to the Game Boy Advance for a new audience. Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder will receive a slight visual upgrade for its GBA port but will still be sold at full cartridge price. Are players willing to purchase a dungeon crawler that’s over 10 years old just for portability when the entire collection is available for a fraction of the cost on a different platform? Infrogrames hopes so.
Players looking for the overhead view of modern GBA RPGs such as Breath of Fire and Golden Sun may be disappointed with this remade classic. Those who enjoy crawling through dungeons in a 1st person view a la Might and Magic will feel right at home with Eye of the Beholder. Despite initial similarities, the game’s combat system does not follow suit with the M&M series, shifting to a 3rd person isometric view during battle instead. Visually, things haven’t fared quite as well as SSI would have hoped. The VGA era is over and Eye of the Beholder’s graphics aren’t just nostalgic, they’re ancient. What has yet to be seen is if Pronto will use the animation present in the Sega CD version of the game or stick with the text windows of the dated PC original.
Even though the game carries the Dungeons and Dragons name, the story does not appear to be the strong point of Eye of the Beholder. The plot simply calls for a party to enter the sewers under the city of Waterdeep and kill the Beholder crime lord, Xanathar. Of course there is a good deal to do in between entering the sewers and fighting Xanathar. Most of it just happens to be killing anything and everything in sight.
Eye of the Beholder was originally built to be played with a mouse and it has yet to be seen if Pronto can pull off controlling the characters with a joypad. One of the more promising aspects of the game can be seen during player character creation. Just like the old pen and paper role-playing games, including the more recent Baldur’s Gate and Infinity Engine games, you can roll your character up any way you like. One of the most interesting portions of the game is how you can recruit new members into your party. For example, if you find a skeleton in the middle of the sewers and you have a cleric in your party, just cast a resurrection spell and you have an instant party member. No problem! The gameplay engine works exactly like the rules found in Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition.
Eye of the Beholder is a prime example of an excellent, yet simplistic, game in this genre. Gamers who grew up with the PlayStation instead of the 386 may be put-off by the game’s ancient graphics and limited plot, but those who can truly call themselves ‘old-school’ may enjoy the nostalgic romp. Eye of the Beholder is set for a Winter 2002 release on the Game Boy Advance courtesy of Infogrames.
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