|Morkin takes a last look back at his companions before a lonely trek north in search of the Ice Crown.|
It can’t be very often that a game crammed in to 48k of memory can be called epic but The Lords of Midnight certainly is. It is a turn-based strategy cum wargame set across 4,000 locations. Mike Singleton used a scaling technique he call Landscaping that allowed the player to look in 8 directions from each location. This gave a total of 32,000 unique views which was a revelation, not to mention a big selling point, back in 1984.
The aim of the game is to defeat Doomdark the witchking who controls the northern half of the land of Midnight. He has cast a spell of cold over the land and defeating him is the only way to free it. You start the game at the Tower of the Moon initially controlling 4 characters including Luxor the Moonprince and his son Morkin. The game world is seen through the eyes of the character you currently have selected.
Doomdark can be defeated in two ways. Firstly Morkin can be sent north to the Tower of Doom to destroy the Ice Crown which is the source of Doomdark’s power. Morkin is half human, half fey and by virtue of his ancestry is immune to the Ice Fear and is the only character able to get close to the crown without detection. The Ice Fear is a power that emanates from the Ice Crown and will sap the strength and morale of friendly armies.
The second way to defeat Doomdark is by taking his home Citadel of Ushgarak by force. You can send out your characters to friendly citadels and keeps across the land of Midnight recruiting armies to fight for your cause. Not all Lords can be persuaded to join, for example starting character Corleth the Fey is the only one able to persuade the forest dwelling Fey to join your quest.
|The newly recruited Lord of Gard in the far south is not yet affected by the Ice Fear.|
For Doomdark to win the game he must defeat the armies of the Free by killing Luxor or taking Xajorkith, the citadel of the Free. He must also kill Morkin for as long as he is alive the game can still be won.
All your allies (apart from Morkin) are controlled via the Moon Ring which is worn by Luxor. The Moon Ring also radiates a warmth that lessens the effects of the Ice Fear on anyone close to it. Unfortunately, because of this, Doomdark can sense the location of its wearer. If Luxor should die you will lose control of the armies of the Free. The only way to regain control is for Morkin to retrieve the ring from the location in which Luxor fell. This will mean Doomdark will know where his is, making his own quest that much more difficult.
Dotted around the landscape are features including ruins, henges, magical lakes, liths and caves which can help or hinder the player. For example a cave may provide shelter, but it can just as easily be hiding a monster such as the dragons, wolves and ice trolls which roam the land.
|Searching ruins can prove fruitful.|
This game can’t be criticised for its sound because there isn’t any. The graphics, while obviously dated, are still quite effective. What is unchanged is the game play which is as good and as challenging as ever. It’s not a game I have completed and not one I am likely to complete in the near future. However my 15 year old self did map the land of Midnight using pages liberated from my maths exercise book (I still have it) so I will probably give it another go at some point.
|At night your opponents make their moves.|
The screenshots and review are for the Spectrum version. The game was also converted to the Amstrad CPC (1984) and Commodore 64 (1985) and plays more or less identically on these machines.