Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
Growing old sucks. This isn’t just the blatantly obvious ramblings of an aging nerd realizing he’s just a few short years away from graduating from being “young” to being “middle-aged.” You notice many things about yourself and the world around you. You step on the scale and realize that you no longer suffer from that being underweight problem. Nothing works the way it used to; your joints start to creak every now and again, you start taking multivitamins to keep up your energy, and you start getting up in the middle of the night to take a piss. Sure, I complain, but I’m still a “young” man. I’m not giving up on youth completely until Ensure becomes a regular part of my diet.
It’s not just the physical things, either; You start to dread your own birthday, most of your favorite music is considered “the classics,” and when you’re in public, people stare at you because you jumped off the fashion train when the Miami Vice look was still en vogue. You start to feel out of place, like you’re part of a bygone era; or perhaps part of a Dr. Who prank in which you were drugged and dragged into a TARDIS and the “random” button was hit, and now you’re marooned in a different time. Even your hobbies have “evolved” (and I use the term loosely) with the times, leaving you to be that cantankerous old geezer with a shotgun sitting in his rocking chair on the porch yelling at the young’uns to “get the hell off his lawn.”
Enter Dungeons & Dragons, or role-playing games in general, as my hobby for well over twenty years. I’ve seen it go through the transition from AD&D to 2nd Edition, and from there to 3rd Edition to 3.5…and finally to the atrocity I consider 4th Edition. I should be happy that my beloved D&D lives on to this day, but the damn thing is so unrecognizable that I sit and wonder where things just went so awry, and I become that aforementioned old goat complaining about the young blood.
I could go on a rant about where D&D went, (Believe me, its time is coming) but instead, I feel like taking a trip in the WABAC machine to those halcyon days of heroes and heroism; of might and magic; of chivalry and sorcery; of CLASSIC Dungeons & Dragons! Hell yes! These are the days when men were men, the damsels were in distress, and the dungeons were deadly. The magic-users weren’t pre-teen sex bombs; they were manly men of magic with pointy hats and bitchin’ beards. In those days, we worked for our set of plate mail, and we had to travel miles through caverns with no food or sleep to the dragon’s hoard, with nothing more that a handful of hit points, four feet of steel, and a single memorized magic missile spell! We didn’t need no Base Attack Bonus or +5 Holy Keen Flaming Thunder Bastard Sword of Ogre-Decapitation. We knew what THAC0 was, and that’s how we rolled, baby!
Back in the days of the SEGA Genesis, there existed a gem known as Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun. Oh, there have been plenty of D&D titles in the library of video games, set in the worlds of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for the PC and the Nintendo Entertainment System, but even with the advent of this next-gen (for its time) system, we took a step BACK into classic Dungeons & Dragons. This is what hardcore D&D was, and by God, it was glorious!
Set in D&D’s Hollow World setting, Warriors of the Eternal Sun is everything great about the old first edition of D&D in 16-bit glory. The graphics may be only par for the course for a SEGA Genesis title with its minimalist animation frames and not much in the way of portraits for characters, but it’s slightly invocative of the old tabletop terrain maps and movable miniatures.
The sound has the odd issue of being both mind-numbingly awesome…and ear-splittingly annoying. You’re not sure whether you’re supposed to love it or hate it. The love? The Soundtrack. The soundtrack, even though it utilizes the 16-bit synth of the Genesis, pumps out some hardcore rock. You’ll experience the pulse-pounding low bass rhythm of the deadly swamps, evocative of the “dark, dank, and dangerous” atmosphere. The range of that atmosphere turns frantic in the fiery volcanic fields with its wild frenzy of electric guitars and sharp percussion. The combat is the icing on the cake, because the music is not only variable by the region you’re in, but it it’s also never a boring track. The music of this game is some of the best I’ve heard on the Genesis.
That brings me to the sound EFFECTS…this is where the sound team really dropped the ball. The sound effects make your ears bleed. They would have done better recording electronic microphone feedback for their sound files, because the shit they cobbled together isn’t much better. Hearing the entire package together is kind of like listening to your favorite song while some tone-deaf asshole with the vocal talents of a dying cat decides he wants to sing along. The single most awesome sound effect is when someone in your party achieves a new level; which consists of a balls-dropping manly “YEAH!!!” This is, however, a bit disturbing when you hear it out of your pretty blonde FEMALE Cleric.
Our game opens with a cinematic telling us about the Goblin Wars, which has thus far lasted a good 13 “moons” (or months, as the case may be), and Duke Hector Barrik is forced to retreat to his castle. He gives a last stand speech, as the outcome looks grim. He prays that the bards will one day sing of his men’s courage, and on the night of the final battle, there is a terrible earthquake, and man and goblin alike are sucked into a void in the sky! When everyone awakes, they find that the castle has been transported to a valley with impossibly high cliffs. A red sun flares, circled by floating continents. The horizon appears as the bottom of a basin.
As soon as you select “New Game,” the nostalgia floods back. You create a party of four intrepid heroes, and if you’re as old as me, you may notice that there is only four classes: Fighter, Cleric, Thief, and Magic-User…but there are three “Demi-Human” classes; Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling. Oh yes, folks. This is D&D back when non-human races were called “demi-humans,” and were classes all of their own! This is first edition, folks. THIS is old school! You’ll spend about an hour tapping on the random re-roll button to twink out your character’s statistics, give ’em a color palette and a name. Off to adventure! Wealth, wine, and wenches await thee!
The game proper starts with a conversation with the Duke, who has recently conscripted all of you into the “go find allies” search party. Well, what gives, Duke? What’s it worth to you? Do we get a reward? Well…no. You see, the Duke’s a cheap bastard, and like any good fantasy king, he sends his indispensable heroes; whose success is mandatory for the kingdom’s survival, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, a stick to beat things with, and enough cash to stop at Ye Olde Quick-Stoppe for a bottle of Aquafina and a Slim Jim for the trip. Well, THAT’s just wonderful. We’re the only four muttonheads for the damned job, and the only hope for the kingdom against an approaching madness and a barbarian horde, and you’re too much of a tight-ass to spring for a couple of healing potions or a magic weapon or two? Well, fine, you tight-fisted old scroop; I happen to know where you’re squirreling away your magic items throughout the castle, and I’m going to help myself before I go out risking my neck for you feckless ingrates!
After wandering the castle for a bit, and relieving it of some items such as a set of +1 Chainmail, a +1 Axe, potions of healing, a friggin’ Wand of Lightning, and a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Strength, you’ll set out on your way, wandering the wilderness, gaining levels, and progressing further and further into the wilderness. The first stop on the trip is to the Beastman caves. Beastmen are a lot like ants, with their little beastman holes in the side of the mountains, with their labyrinthine tunnels…hell, some of them keep ants and beetles as pets! Inside the beastman caves (and any underground, for that matter) our game switches to a first-person dungeon-crawling perspective not unlike D&D favorite Eye of the Beholder. However, this is all done in real time, so you spend most of the time in the dungeons spamming weapon strikes until the enemies disappear with their signature obnoxious reverse-looped bow-firing sound everything makes as its death-throes cry. When you find the leader of the beastmen, you get one look at her snarling face before you bludgeon her to death and steal her goodies. You find a doorway in the caves covered with impassable vines. Well, that was quick, we’d better head our asses back to the castle for a report.
So, the party has been gone for a few days, battling savage beastmen, bears, wild boars, and flying snakes, and what do we get from the Duke? A tongue-lashing. That’s right, Duke Dickweed has the balls to tell you you’re doing a shitty job! Oh, WONDERFUL assessment, Solomon! Why don’t you lend us your aid, or perhaps cough up some gold for our ever-increasing cost of keeping ourselves adequately equipped each time we’re berated for our suckage and thrown to the wolves again! This isn’t the first time you’ll be treated like crap for your hard work, either. In fact, if you visit this asshole too many times over the course of the game, he kicks your ass out of the castle and doesn’t allow you back in!
What? Bleeding to death? Need resurrection? Sorry, assholes. You should be doing your job and getting us some allies! What’s that you say? You’re poisoned and the cleric already used his magic? Sorry buddy, better start looking for a resurrection fountain, because we’re not letting you in to buy stuff. We could care less how much money you have! It’s like when your parents kicked you outside because they thought for some reason you needed to be there; like being outside a few times a week is going to magically transform you into a varsity football champ.
Your only friend who doesn’t treat you like a mobile leper colony is the court wizard, Marmilian. He’s the game’s obligatory “we don’t know what the hell we’re doing” information booth. He always has a good idea of where a lost player needs to go next, and gives some useful advice about the road ahead.
Each time you return from a venture to find allies, you should stock up on all of the new overpriced goodies the stores become stocked with whenever you reach a quest milestone. You may notice a slight change in the attitudes of all of the townsfolk. A madness is stirring amongst the townsfolk. It seems that everyone is contracting a serious case of Keith Olbermann’s disease and start berating you for the crime of existing and not pulling new allies out of your ass every time you come back. By the time you’ve come back for the third time, the townsfolk are spouting more crazy than a castle full of Scientologists, and the shopkeepers are treating you like you’re a fast food employee.
Past the Beastman caves, you find a vast smelly dinosaur-infested swamp. Surely, THIS is where we find allies, right?! Sure, the LAST swamp ate our horse, Artax, but that was a fluke! Let’s see if we can’t find Morla, the Ancient One to help out with our need for allies. Perhaps we can get picked up by a luck dragon and fly back home by sunset!
That goes about as well as that sounds, and the party ends up kicking over a lizard man nest, and understandably pissing them off. Fabulous! It looks like our enemy tally ticks over to two. This goes over with the Duke about as well as you’d expect, and he treats the group like a bunch of ginger stepchildren and tells them to get the hell out.
Marmilian sends you off to the another cave that leads to a Jungle. Surely, in the jungle we shall find allies! Wait. Is that Chichen Itza I see in the distance? Well, we’ve been beating the hell out of feather-wearing natives that LOOK like Thuggee warriors; mayhaps we’ll be granted the services of Dr. Jones to fill our ally list? Again, no. See, this here jungle is the home of the vicious Azcan warriors. Now, we enter the Azcan temple and pillage its riches! …because that’s TOTALLY the way we make friends!
It is inside the temple that you start to see a flaw in the game. This temple has more traps in it than inhabitants. It has pits to fall down, gas to choke you, darts to sting you, rocks to crush you, fire to scorch you, and at a painful frequency that feels about the same as having a bunch of marines throw you a blanket party. To make matters worse, you can only rest in a dungeon if there are no nearby monsters…to which the game’s retarded logic considers a trap to be a “nearby monster.” I don’t get this. Do the traps get bored and start to wander? Are they union traps and have to get an hour lunch and have to clock out? I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if I make a stationary camp, that trap fifty feet away is going to stay where it is…unless one of the party is a sleepwalker. For those masochistic bastards that make it through the temple, you get to fight Azcan warriors, and their Wokan Shaman. Wait. What the hell is a Wokan? Is an Azcan Wokan a second in command to a Christopher Wokan?
After making new enemies, you raid the Temple of Doom of its treasure, which nets you Rings of Fire Resistance; and conveniently, there are four! Imagine that! What grand clue does this give? What arcane knowledge can be gleaned from the four Golden McGuffin Rings? I wonder if it has anything to do with that fiery mountain I passed on the way to the Beastman caves?
At this point, if you even bother talking to Duke Dickhead of Jackassia, you win the idiot award, because it is this point in which he tosses you out on your ass, locking you out from the castle and any hope of resupplying yourselves. At this point, gold becomes officially worthless. The people in town are seven shades of useless, and at this point are nuttier than squirrel shit.
Off to the Fire Caves! Your newly stolen Rings of Fire Resistance protect you from the blazing heat of the Fire Caves, and it even makes you immune to your own fireballs, but for some strange reason, it doesn’t make you immune to a dragon’s breath. Yeah. Don’t dick around with dragon’s breath…even at high levels, that shit will tear through your entire party like tissue paper, and in seconds, you’ll be sitting there slack-jawed staring at your four character portraits staring back at you with their greyed-out silent-scream “O-faces” of death.
Of course, there are plenty of fire creatures to be had in this dungeon; Fire Beetles, Fire Giants, Hellhounds, and Red Dragons. However, this is also the dungeon in which you wish you had a Cleric if you did not have the common gamer foresight to have one, as there are a lot of undead down here, like wights who can paralyze, and Spectres, who can drain levels from you, as well as forcing you to keep reloading saves, and tossing the game cartridge against a hard surface.
Well, damn. D&D was HARD back in the day! I can’t wuss out now, or I’ll have to turn in my D&D Man Card™!
At the end of this long and harrowing dungeon, you are greeted by a four-hundred pound lump of sentient cholesterol in a toga stuffing her face with grapes. She claims to be a merchant of the Oltec people, and gives you a medallion and promises the Oltec nation’s alliance with your people for securing a new trade route…through a burning inferno. Okay, I won’t question that, but our sole allies are the Hutts? I don’t like it, but I’ll take any success to report to the Duke! Quickly, friends, let us return home and celebrate! The good food and wine shall flow, and the bitches shall be in rare form tonight! We will feast upon the suckling pig and drink the Duke’s finest vintage in golden goblets, and sit upon a phat stack of loot like so much Scrooge McDuck…
…but again, the DM cock-blocks you with the latest news…
…everyone went batshit insane, the town went tits-up, and everyone went and joined the Xenu cult in the wilderness. No one’s left. No stores to gear up. No priests to heal our comerades. No silly old bastard asking if you’ve seen his cat. The only sign of life is from Marmilian, who survived a brutal beating by the Duke.
You see, apparently there is this creature called “The Burrower” that is worshipped by the Dark Elves that drives everyone on the surface nuts. Looks like the quest shall take us to the Shattenalven (German: “Shadow Elf”) Caves, for the biggest pain in the ass dungeon this game has to throw at you. Before you go, Marmilian shoves a “Deus Ex Machina” spell scroll into your hands, telling you that you’ll know when to use it.
Hollow World’s version of the Underdark sucks the root. You’ll spend the next several hours navigating the caves until you reach the Ancient Dark Elf City.
After you’ve reduced Menzoberranzan’s (Go ahead, tell me it’s not!) polulation to zero, you find the Immortal Caverns, where you will eventually find The Burrower. All you have to do is approach it. There’s no boss battle. No sir, all you do is whip out your PokeScroll and shout “Immortal KA, I choose YOU!” and the battle begins!
The giant T-Rex puts the hurt on The Burrower, and tells you that you’ve done well, and that you can return to the Castle because he’s cleansed everyone of Scientology and has converted everyone to KA-tholocism. Huzzah!
Indeed, the Castle has been restored, and you are given a heroes’ welcome. You parade proudly down the streets, and speak with the Duke, who apologizes for being an ass-hat. Your heroes are made the leaders of their respective Guilds, and you spend the rest of your days as Big Damned Heroes. The End.
Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, was a wild ride. It felt like the old Red Box Edition of D&D; my very first D&D game given to me by my uncle when I was a lad of the age of seven. This was the D&D I grew up on. This was the D&D generation I was grandfathered into. This will always be MY D&D. The young’uns can have their Dragonborn and their daily powers and their level-restricted magic items. Sure, the graphics in this game were little more than middle of the road when compared to games like Sonic the Hedgehog, and it was First Edition D&D rules (if that’s actually a bad thing) in the middle of AD&D’s golden age, but it gave a solid performance as a D&D title.
OVERALL: 7/10 (sound effects don’t ruin the game)