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Monday, July 19, 2010

Retro Review: Legends of Murder 2: Greyhaven

Greyhaven was one of my favorite games as a child, I was so happy to find that my old 3rd or 4th generation floppy of it still functions after 20 years, especially as it's not available for download anywhere on the Internet. We currently have this game available for download.

Introduction

Greyhaven is a fantasy murder mystery RPG published to Big Blue Disk magazine in 1991 (though the game itself was apparently made in 1990) which was a computing magazine solely for DOS games. It wasn't one of the most notable games to ever by published in Big Blue Disk (Like Apogees Kroz series, or ID Software's Catacomb series) But it is the one I remember most fondly from my childhood.


Rest of the review after the jump...




Overview



Controls are pretty simple keyboard controls arrows and simple keyboard controls (IE G brings up the game menus, S searches/looks etc.). They're pretty standard for a dos game of this type. However, the controls are clunky it's easy to get stuck on things and you sometimes have to search around a stationary object 10 times before you find an item you KNOW is there.

Graphics aren't great, graphics while you're moving around the map and interacting with things are quite sparse. graphics on the closeups are better, but really nothing fantastic. Honestly though the graphics are a bonus this game easily could have been a text only.

Sounds are nonexistent. I suggest listening to something like Midnight Syndicate to set your own mysterious murder fantasy mood.


Gameplay

You start the game with text explaining why you've come to the sleepy little town of Greyhaven which you've apparently been to before. You are the inspector, a crime solving mage, who's continuing mission is to seek out new life and new civilizations, to investigate the murder of a wizardry School apprentice. You make your way to the local tavern to meet with the headmaster of the school. On the way there you can investigate the town or run straight to the Tavern. Honestly though if you just want to dash through and not read and/or explore this probably isn't the game for you, as it's pretty much the entire game play. When you do investigate you'll notice that things in the town are...a little off. Boarded up businesses, abandoned homes, deserted streets and naturally some unhappy creatures bent on killing you. Eerie! After you've gotten all of your exploring out of the way and hopefully not gotten yourself killed in the process you met up with Baswik the Wizard headmaster for more detailed info on the situation. You adopt the guise of a new apprentice so as not to arouse the suspicions of the other students (and likely murders) and start your investigation.

The entire game is basically you wandering around the map searching for clues, fighting in encounters, leveling up, and reading a lot of text. Without actually going into to everything you do in the game and how you solve the crime, there's not too much to discuss here. Though there are some things for better or worse that set Greyhaven apart from other games from this period.

First you can examine just about everything. Personally this is a big bonus for me. If there's painting on the wall (in this case a couple of blue pixels) I want to know what it looks like, if there's a shelf I want to know whats on it even if it's not useful. However this can get you in to trouble because you figure out the crime pretty organically, you don't take special note of the things that are important (or take notes at all) so actual clues can get a little muddled with random information.

Second the encounters are completely set. You can walk up and down the same patch of empty street 500 times and you're never going to encounter an enemy. But if you walk into the same rigger corner of a house and you haven't killed the enemy there it will pop up with the same text every single time. this kind of convenient in that when you're week or simply don't feel like fighting anything you can avoid the encounters until you're ready for them. But annoying because later in the game you'll find that you're too weak to take on the enemies that are left to trigger, but you've already killed the ones you were capable of killing.  Very frustrating.

Third you can only carry a 9 items, this seems like it ought to be enough but it's really not. You find way more stuff than you can carry and have no real way of knowing what you're going to need to hold on to and what you won't and when you drop something it's gone forever. Not being able to pick-up stuff you've dropped is probably the biggest issue with the game play.

Third as I said earlier you figure out the crime in an organic manner, the game doesn't hand you anything. This is both awesome and annoying. The clues aren't obvious and unless you have a completely photographic memory of everything you read, examine, say when you walk in a room and/or hear from someone, you're going to have to write some stuff down and sift through it. Even then though it's tough, when I got to the final showdown it was some trial and error for me to guess the name of the killer (which is a necessity). On the other hand, it's nice not to be treated like you're stupid and makes things more of a surprise at the end. Which is way better than other games where blatant clues often tell you the whole story from the beginning.

Once you've gotten all your information and drawn successful conclusions you'll have your necessary items, and can find the killer. Assuming you're strong enough take them out and not only solve a murder, but save a town in the process. 





Conclusion
I love Greyhaven, I really do but it does have a few flaws. It's short, I'll say generously an hour of gameplay if you know what you're doing. It's got very limited replay value, encounters only happen in specific areas under specific circumstances and there isn't a lot you can do to alter or change your conversations in anyway. Pretty much the only time it's worth playing again is once you've totally forgotten everything that happens. That being said it's really a shame more people haven't played this game. It's really a great game considering the time period and that it was a 1 man effort. If you're a fan of the genre Greyhaven is definitely a game worth seeking out.

4 comments:

  1. I loved this game. I'd pay to get a copy of it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. For real though, M_neph_S@yahoo.com if you can hook me up with this game.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is the first review I've seen of my game. Reading it made my day. Back in those days there was no way to know if anyone ever even played it. - James Schmalz

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great game, James! IT would be great if you or someone could publish some tips. I'm stuck at the graveyard.

    ReplyDelete

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