Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Dragons of Flame", 1989.

"Gentlemen of the TSR board, we've been receiving letters of complaint from our customers that our game products are featuring too many dungeons and not enough dragons. To address this concern, we introduce: the Dragonlance campaign setting." (STANDING OVATION)
DRAGONS OF FLAME

CAN YOU STAND THE HEAT?

Set in the legendary DRAGONLANCE game world, DRAGONS OF FLAME explodes with red-hot action.

You control up to ten Companions, one at a time.

Your quest: rescue slaves held by the ravaging Dragonarmies in the foul fortress of Pax Tharkas.

Your wits and reflexes better be sharp. In this game, you're either quick... or you're dead.

Each Companion possesses specialized skills. Use these skills to evade evil Draconian patrols. Keep one step ahead of the Dragonarmies while battling scores of deadly monsters.

All the terrors of the journey, however, pale in comparison to the horror of your destination. The fortress of Pax Tharkas looms before you, crackling with vile energy.

Can you stand the heat?

[screenshot]
Tanis confronts a troll before the throne in the Hall of Ancients.
[screenshot]
Traveling through the wilderness, Sturm encounters a Draconian.

"Set in the legendary DRAGONLANCE world" -- are you sure you aren't confusing "legendary" with "fantastical"? "... explodes with red-hot action." Translation: the box artwork depicts a red dragon, whose breath weapon is fire. "... up to ten Companions, one at a time." But don't you think it would be an exciting, bold new gambit to publish a game wherein players control ten characters simultaneously? One per finger! "rescue slaves" In a world of magic and magical animal labour, what's the case for coerced human labour again? Pure cruelty? "Your wits and reflexes better be sharp. In this game, you're either quick... or you're dead." Is this a Western with dragons? That would be kind of cool, or at the least, novel. But what about the wits?

"... battling scores of deadly monsters." Dragons are just about a guaranteed party-killer. Draconians only slightly less so: these pain-in-the-neck opponents, depending on their particular breed, do charming tricks like explode or turn to weapon-entraping stone upon dying. You thought losing a combat was no fun, now we've found a way to make winning it also onerous. "The fortress of Pax Tharkas looms before you, crackling with vile energy." This is the first time that the word "Pax" (Latin: peace) has ever been conflated with "vile energy". (I have no idea what "Tharkas" means.) "Can you stand the heat?" See our initial remarks re: red dragon.

For a fire-breathing monster, that dragon sure has a lot of fluid in its mouth. Due to some regrettable foreshortening, the cruel dragon's master appears to have a stubby arm emerging from his armpit. (Just who does he use that whip on, anyhow? Surely not his mount! Whip a dragon at your peril.)

Just why did Dragonlance end up with the action-adventures while the Forgotten Realms setting got the tactical RPGs? (And why, for that matter, did Greyhawk get left in the dust?) The full answers may never be known for sure, but the outcome is that they are still making computer games set in the Realms today, while it's been a dog's age since Dragonlance appeared on a computer. Coincidence?