Times of Lore

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Box art.

Times of Lore is an action adventure game developed and published by Origin Systems and first released on the Commodore 64 in October 1988, and later ported to several other platforms. The game was sold as a role-playing game, but it's far more an action-adventure.

Personal

I first played Times of Lore after renting the NES version in the early mid-1990s. I didn't get too far in it before having to return the game, but I found it to be quite interesting. About 15 years later, I replayed the game and beat it. I later found that it had been released for several other platforms, and, while each usually had better graphics, I found their interface and audio to be far worse. After learning more about the computer ports of the game, I found that the NES port, even with all its flaws, was vastly superior! The game has an interesting mechanic set, but the developers should have spent a couple more months honing the game.

Status

I do not own this game, but I have beaten it on the NES.

Review

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2 3 5 5 3

Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • The game world is enormous and seamless, a very impressive feat for 1988. And the game's quests do a pretty good job of sending you all over the land.
  • Martin Galway's composed a couple nice tracks for the game and impressively used a randomizer in the title music. Katsuhiro Hayashi nicely arranged his songs for the NES and added some good tracks of his own.
  • Denis Loubet made some pretty impressive full-screen graphics for the game, and the title sequence of chiseling out a mold and filling it with molten gold is pretty great.
  • The appearance of the icon-driven interface was a good idea, too bad it functions terribly.
  • The day-night transition and hunger factor really makes you feel like you're on a real journey.
  • Almost the entire map is open to you from the beginning making the game, so it feels less like following a script, and more like real exploration.

Bad

  • Overall, the game has some novel features, but it has a lot of faults that could have been fixed without much difficulty, and, had these been rectified, the game would have been much more enjoyable.
  • The graphics are pretty dull, and the top-down perspective makes it difficult to identify what you're looking at.
  • The map, though it is enormous, is very repetitive and empty which makes travel boring and navigation difficult.
  • In every version except the NES, music only plays at the beginning and end of the game, never during the game, and the sound effects are pretty bad.
  • There are only three weapons in the entire game, you start with one, you get the second shortly after starting, and the third can be bought fairly early in the game, so you're stuck with it until the end.
  • Most of the enemies in the game exist simply to damage you. They don't drop items or increase your power in anyway.
  • The usable items are uninspired. They're just scrolls and potions of differing color that have basic effects.
  • You're given the option of choosing a class, which is nice, but it's pointless because they all function identically.
  • The game allows you to attack non-violent NPCs. The story could have taken advantage of this with a mystery where a non-violent NPC is secretly evil and should be attacked, but it never does. What actually happens is you often accidentally attack an NPC and the guards attack you, so this is merely a hazard with no benefit.

Ugly

  • The controls for the whole game are awful and should have made better:
    • The menu interface slows everything down. For example, there is never a time in the game when you wouldn't want to pick up an item left behind by a monster, but, rather than adding it to your inventory when you walk over it like most games of this type, you have to stop, open the menu, choose "pick up," and finally select the item from the list. The other menu options are similarly tedious. Talking could have be initiated by simply walking up to an NPC and hitting a button, etc.
    • Movement begins painfully slow and takes too long to get up to speed. At first I thought this was a neat feature, but I quickly became annoyed with it. The magic boots fix the movement problem, but, unless you already know about them, you will spend most of the game very slowly building up speed.
  • Combat is also tedious. Enemies have different graphics, but they mostly fight in the same way. Other than a handful of special items, combat is just button-mashing without any strategy.
  • Other than the NES release, every version of the game, especially the DOS port, has a tiny display window to see the action. This makes bumping into things a common problem, and, with the sluggish walking speed, an extreme annoyance.
  • Most ports have some realistic, but tedious, "features" that should have been cut.
    • Every time you throw the dagger, you have to find it and pick it up using the slow menu system every time.
    • If you throw the magic axe and it hits a tree, it will lodge itself into it requiring you to pick it up with the slow menu system.
    • If you have the magic boots, every time you sleep, you have to re-equip them.
  • The game maintains a score, which doesn't fit with the theme, and, as the score increases, enemies appear more frequently and become harder. Since the games doesn't level you up at all, it becomes necessary to avoid combat as much as possible to prevent the monsters from becoming to hard. This is basically the opposite of most RPGs.

Media

Box Art

Every release uses this box art with minor layout differences. I really like Dennis Loubet's work here. The axe-wielding barbarian walking through the doors of the dark castle into the bright world outside gives a perfect indication of what you're going to experience in the game, and the molten gold logo is very nice.

Documentation

Maps

Videos

Longplay - NES.
Longplay - ZX Spectrum.

Titles

Language Native Transliteration Translation
English Times of Lore
Japanese タイムズオブロア 失われたメダリオン Taimuzu Obu Roa: Ushinawareta Medarion Times of Lore: Lost Medallion

Links

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