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RELEASE DATE (NA): 1994 GENRE: Adventure
// review by Beverley

The Dragonsphere stirs, my lord...

Dragonsphere is a point-and-click adventure from Microprose featuring a story of an impossible quest, strange lands, treachery and deceit. Many years ago, a powerful wizard named Sanwe was restrained in a magical slumber, but the Dragonsphere, a magical orb, predicts that wizard will soon escape his imprisonment, so King Callash is sent to face him... mano-a-mano! However, he must first make a journey through four realms, making diplomatic connections with four different peoples in order to ensure the stability of his kingdom and gather materials for his quest.

The graphics of this game might not be very crisp, but I still enjoyed the creative landscapes of the different areas. The sound was also fuzzy, and voice acting was touch and go depending on the character. For example, some forgettable side characters had monotone voices, but other characters, like the Caliph of the Soptus Ecliptus, had voices that enriched their characters and made them memorable.

One common turn-off about point-and-click games, I find, is that there are so many items you have the option of collecting that you could strip the wiring out of the walls, and it is impossible to sift through the plethora of items to find what is actually useful. Happily, that was not the case with this game. I usually had a clear idea of how to use almost every item I was able to pick up. I did, however, have to use a walkthrough for a few things.

I also profusely enjoyed the plot twist halfway through the game. I am not one for spoilers, so I will keep my mouth shut, but I will say I really thought it was surprisingly sophisticated and really enhanced what I was afraid would be a very poor plot considering how much character development had gone into the game.

Fight, King Callash, for everlasting peace between the different races!

Speaking of character development, this was definitely my favourite part. The designers of this game took a great deal of time developing not only individual characters, but cultural nuances for the people of each of the four lands. The Soptus Ecliptus, despite having the appearance of zombies and living in the hostile desert lands, were actually a warm people with a complex spiritual culture and their own language. When I first saw a member of the Soptus Ecliptus, I was disgusted by his face, but their culture actually came to be my favourite. The fairies were also very interesting. They subjected poor Callash to a logic puzzle, which I found enjoyable, but they also had their own strange, playful way of reasoning about the world which I only wish I could decipher. The Slathan people are terribly misunderstood and blatantly discriminated against, kept imprisoned in their own lands. Why would the Slathans be met with such hostility? Because they are capable of shape-shifting and of healing. Since the Slathans have these powers, humans rebel against them by repressing them. So clearly, Slathans prefer to keep to themselves rather than have anything to do with humans. The Shak, however, are more malevolent; when Sanwe was sealed away, so was the mountain he lived on, as were the Shak, a culture of birdlike people. As a result, the Shak are malevolent to everyone, especially King Callash.

Despite the gritty graphics and echoey or muffled audio, I still really enjoyed this game. Not only was it fun to play, but it also had fantastic story development. I only wish this game was remade for a recent console and sold as a budget title on some network. With updated graphics and sound, this game would be perfect.

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