We’re going to start this PC game review with an introduction to The Dark Eye franchise. It began when Ulrich Kiesow created the role-playing game (RPG) as a board game. Eventually, Droemer Knaur Verlag and Schmidt Spiel & Freizeit GmbH launched it in 1984.
It outsold Dungeons & Dragons in the German Market, becoming a popular tabletop game in the country and then within Europe soon after that. However, Droemer Knaur left the franchise in 1989, with Schmidt Spiel going bankrupt in 1997. Fantasy Productions took over the license until 2007 when Ulisses Spiele acquired it.
When it hit the English world, it was known as The Realms of Arkania. Fantasy Productions couldn’t get the trademark from Sir-tech Software, Inc, as the company had become defunct at that time. Hence, the franchise name The Dark Eye came into being.
With such a history behind the name and so many novels that have since entered the paperback industry, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes came into being. Today, we’re going to look at how it plays and whether the lore remains true to The Dark Eye fantasy series.
|Release date:||9 June 2020|
|Price:||£23.79 / $29.99 / R175|
|Genre:||RPG, Strategy, Adventure|
|Players:||Up to 4 players|
|File size||3.1 GB|
|Publisher:||Wild River Games|
Surrounded with so much Aventuria lore and fantasy story-telling elements, the RPG developer went out of its way to ensure that The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes has a compelling story. The game’s main plots and side-quests are rich with content. Furthermore, the depth of the tales grows more entertaining the further you progress.
The RPG starts off with character creation. True to the tabletop game, you can choose between different races and professions. You can be an elf assassin or a dwarf mercenary. With twelve careers and four races, there is a large variety of combinations at your disposal.
Your character selection sets the stage for the rest of the game. You will only be able to perform specific tasks in Aventuria based on your choices, such as alchemy or blacksmithing. Furthermore, you’ll need to choose a main storyline in the end. There are eight individual storylines altogether.
The story of The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes starts in the Black Boar Inn. You can approach the notice board to accept side quests in the land of Aventuria. Moreover, you can hire up to three henchmen to join you if you’re going solo. Alternatively, you can play online with up to 3 other players.
Strangely, the main story gives you small quests at first that ties in with your side-quests. For instance, I had to kill three red wolves in the forest. There was no option to start this quest. While running around in one of the Aventuria forests completing a side-quest, I killed three red wolves and completed this main objective.
As the story progresses towards the end, the main story develops further. You’ll receive personal quests towards the final showdown. Overall, it’s this integration of main plot with side-quests that made The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes really amazing to play.
When The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes started, it felt a bit like the Diablo games. You have the top-down isometric view, with instant combat and number menu for powers. There is also indicators for magic and health.
You also have a handy inventory screen for armour and weapons. However, it’s a bit limited; it’s more akin to Diablo 1 than any of the later RPGs. Nevertheless, it has a large inventory to hold all the extra goodies you’ll find during your quests.
Movement and actions are effortless. Click to move around, press a number button for a powerful ability. You can also right-click on an object to see other options. For instance, you can listen if there are enemies on the other side of the door. This feature is something sorely lacking in other RPGs that stands out in The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes.
You can craft items based on your initial selection at character creation. For example, I selected alchemy and could create potions at the Inn before starting quests. It helps to have different friends playing with you who have different traits so you can help each other out.
Where The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes fundamentally differs from most RPGs is in the combat system. The developer wanted the fantasy game to be like the tabletop game. Therefore, dice throws determine the outcome of your battles.
Small dice icons appear above your head and your opponent’s heads when battle commences. If you have any card power-ups on you, it will count in your favour. The dice throws will continue until one of you run out of health completely.
Since I have more experience in real-time action, this feature was definitely an odd choice for a video game. I do understand that The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is based on the table game, but I feel that it could have been left out of the video game mechanics. Fans of dice battles will enjoy it, though. It’s similar to the combat system in Risk: Global Domination.
Fortunately, if you die, it’s not the end. Your henchmen and friends can revive you if they aren’t engaged in battle. There was one moment where I was lying prone on the floor for almost five minutes, waiting for revival.
If you ever get stuck in The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes, then you can access the help guide. For an intense RPG fantasy game like this, it’s necessary. There are also tutorial windows that pop up when you encounter something new during your quests. You can go back at anytime and read through these again in case you missed any or have forgotten what to do.
Where The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes gameplay really shines is in its replayability. There are eight different storyline to unlock and 12 different professions with which to do it. As you enter each dungeon or mission on the map, you should have the best combination of races and skills to complete the level.
There is no linear playability. From the moment you start in the Inn, you’ll access the map and choose a dungeon to complete. Moreover, you can replay missions at higher levels later on.
The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes has rather impressive graphics. It isn’t outstanding, but it hails to the retro-style isometric view that we enjoy. The colour tones of the message panels blend in well with the environment.
The game also features fantastic card and ability designs. It’s undeniable that the design team put some real effort into creating scenes and beasts for the game. However, some imagery isn’t as refined as some of its latest counterparts, such as Diablo 3.
Somehow, that’s alright. The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes doesn’t need to be. It plays perfectly well without it and creates a pleasant experience with some spectacular dungeon scenery. The one area where it really stands out is the map design, which is something Blizzard could learn a thing or two from.
Another area where The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes excels is the sound. We’re always fans of voice narratives instead of long texts to read through. While you’re running through the quests, you’ll also head a beautiful female voice guiding you through the story.
There is also an amazing soundtrack in The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes. It’s no surprise really, as Winifred Phillips is the mastermind behind the stunning music. He’s won several awards for his music scores in other games. If you enjoy the music in this fantasy game, you can download it on Soundcloud.
The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes brings the tabletop Aventuria lore to the PC, including the character creation and specifications. You can buff your character with cards you win after each dungeon, but it will hamper your combat with dice mechanics. We prefer winning by power and skill, but it suits tabletop fans who prefer beating opponents by chance.
While the graphics are acceptable, sometimes stunning, the sound is the sales point of the game. It has an outstanding fantasy soundtrack with an enjoyable voice-over narrative. If you’re an RPG fan who loves dice combat systems, then this game is for you. Moreover, even with the dice system, we do believe that The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is worth buying.
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