Times of Lore
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 described as a role-playing game, but it doesn't really have any of the character-building aspects of the genre, and is more like a top-down Metroidvania with a fantasy theme.
I first played Times of Lore after renting the NES version in the early 1990s. I didn't get too far in it before having to return the game, but I found it to be quite interesting and saved my password on the unlikely chance I would rent the game in the future. 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 various computer ports of the game, for the VGMPF, I found that the NES port, even with all its flaws, was vastly superior! Overall, the game has some novel features, but it has so many faults, it's very difficult to play. This is a shame because, many of the faults could have been fixed without much difficulty, and, had they been rectified, the game would have been much more enjoyable.
I do not own this game, but I have beaten it on the NES.
Best Version: NES
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The game world is enormous and seamless, a very impressive feat for 1988. And the game's quests do a good job of sending you all over the land.
- Martin Galway's composed a couple nice tracks for the game, even employing 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, instead of simple dull text menus, 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, so the game feels less like following a script, and more like real exploration.
- The graphics are pretty dull, and the top-down perspective makes it difficult to identify what you're looking at. The NES color palette is especially ugly with the over world consisting almost entirely of brown and olive green.
- The map, though it is enormous, is very repetitive and empty which makes travel boring and navigation difficult. Forest travel is especially dull (although the NES port fixes this problem).
- 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 for the rest of the game.
- Most of the enemies in the game exist simply to damage you. They don't drop items or increase your power in anyway. In fact, in most ports of the game, killing enemies actually hurts you in the long run because it means more enemies will show up.
- The usable items are uninspired. Most of them are just scrolls and potions of differing colors that have basic effects.
- You're given the option of choosing a class, which is nice, but it's entirely 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. Instead, you'll find yourself frequently attacking an NPC accidentally and having the guards attack you. This is merely a hazard with no benefit.
- The controls for every aspect of the game are awful and should have been fixed:
- 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, but, rather than adding it to your inventory simply by walking 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 the first time you play the game you probably won't find them until many hours later.
- If even a single pixel of your character collides with a solid object, you will stop moving. Most games of this type will nudge the player around the solid object to aide movement.
- Combat is 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. And, again, for the sake of realism, half the monsters don't drop anything. If they at least gave experience, this would be something, but half of the battles in the game are totally useless.
- Other than the NES release, every version of the game, especially the DOS port, has a tiny display window which you must view the action. This makes bumping into things an even more 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 game doesn't level you up at all, it becomes necessary to avoid combat as much as possible to prevent the monsters from becoming too hard. This is basically the opposite of most RPGs.
Every release uses this box art with minor layout differences. I really like Denis 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.
ZX Spectrum map by Denise Therrien.
|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|