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Preview: Dungeons & Dragons Heroes

Dungeons & Dragons Heroes

Platform: PlayStation2, Gamecube, Xbox
Developer: Infogrames
Publisher: Infogrames
Rated Pending: Mild animated violence

Remember the days when stats were written on paper? The days when monsters didn't exist on television screens, or even on playing cards, but in players' heads? The days when it took eight full days to learn a new spell? Oh wait, that was yesterday. While still played actively today, the pen and paper RPG, Dungeons and Dragons, is arguably the grandfather of the RPG genre. Since then, it has taken various forms, from table top, to numerous electronic incarnations, and even a short foray into film. This summer, Infogrames is going to take a stab at the license with their new game, Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes.

Based on the 3rd Edition rules of the legendary game, Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes takes place 150 years after the destruction of Baele Castle and the defeat of its lord, Kaden, by the original Dungeons and Dragons heroes (who were dragged into Hades along with the nefarious being). The game opens as a mysterious cleric chants at Kaden's crypt in an attempt to raise the foul being and control him, but something goes horribly wrong, and Kaden begins wreaking havoc once again. Enter the four heroes, raised from the dead, and ready to regain their legendary powers to put an end to Kaden's evil once and for all. Dramatic, eh?

Players take the role of a fighter, wizard, cleric, or rogue; and explore a new and ominous floating castle in place of Baele's Palace, along with portals, which lead to frozen undead lands. These worlds will be explored with a combat oriented system reminiscent of Midway's own Gauntlet, with four-player capacity, mind-altering magic spells, and plenty of treasure along the way. Many of you may remember that Capcom pretty much started the trend of combat oriented versions of Dungeons and Dragons with Tower of Doom, which saw much success in its day. Now it looks as though Infogrames is out to do the same.

While, at least aesthetically, Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes may seem like nothing more than the standard hack and slash RPG, Infogrames has presented a few innovative features which allows the player to enjoy unique and easy gameplay. The first of which is a button-mapping feature, which allows the player to slow down the action around them as they map spells, attacks and other commands to the various controller face buttons. To say the least, this would address the problem of switching spells in a frantic battle, without halting it completely.

Another feature, although hardly an unexpected one, is that each of the available character classes has their own abilities and attacks, and cater to a different style of play. If you enjoy bludgeoning foes, the fighter is the way to go. If you would rather sit back and watch them fry from flame spell after flame spell, the wizard is for you. And while this kind of customization in play style is hardly anything new, Infogrames has implemented a level up system, which accentuates it ten fold.

Level ups are handled in a manner similar to Warcraft III, or even Treasure's old Guardian Heroes game. Upon receiving a level up, players will be able access a menu from the pause screen, which allows them to upgrade various spells and attacks at their discretion. This feature in itself caters well to an individual playing experience for every gamer, and has the added bonus of carrying your final character into an endless randomized dungeon once the game has been completed.

In addition to player level ups, the designers have also confirmed that the game features weapons levels. Dubbed the "Excalibur" system, hero weapons morph and change through the course of the game, adapting to the player's style of combat. This effectively eliminates the pesky tendency of weapons becoming useless once a new one is found. However, weapon upgrades are not simply "given away, and if players want to see the full destructive power of their armaments, they will be required to find cleverly hidden runestones.

With 7 unique environments, a twisting storyline, carefully refined game play, 4 player support, and the rich D&D world to back it up, Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes is shaping up to be a promising game. Scheduled for release in June, Infogrames latest effort will provide D&D enthusiasts with a grand new visit to their favorite realm, and will likely attract the attention of many “soon to be enthusiasts”.


by Matt Chan


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