Friday, 22 May 2015

Death Knights of Krynn - Commodore Amiga - 1991



It was with much trepidation that I approached Death Knights of Krynn, the fifth Gold Box game on my short list.  The series started well with the excellent Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds.  Next up was the predecessor to this game, Champions of Krynn, which while good, I criticised the linearity and a lack of varied opponents in combat.  Then came Secret of the Silver Blades.  Oh dear.  The designers were now capable of creating areas much larger than the 16x16 zones we had been accustomed to.  Sadly they didn't put anything interesting in them.  Rather than a decent RPG, SotSB was a boring, linear game where most of the time is spent in random combats.  I'm going to play through Death Knights of Krynn whatever, but will it be able to buck the trend?

Unlike previous Gold Box games, the PC and Amiga conversions were released in the same year.  Despite some PC games now coming with VGA graphics, Death Knights of Krynn was stuck with only 16 colours.  The graphics on the Amiga version were upgraded to 32 colours so this is my pick.  Things did not get off to an auspicious start when the game wouldn't read my Champions of Krynn disks so I was forced to recreate my party from scratch.

I rebuilt my party with the same names, classes and stats as before.  In Death Knights of Krynn you can now create a character as a paladin - this class was missing in Champions.  Starting equipment was plate mail or Solamnic plate mail and either +1 swords or +1 maces depending on class.  These had to last some distance into the game as it turned out better magic items were not found until a fair way into the game.

The game starts a year after the events in Champions of Krynn.  You are invited to celebrate the anniversary of the demise of Myrtani (which is just as well as we defeated him practically single handedly) and to attend a memorial for Sir Karl Gaardsen.  The memorial is disrupted when an undead Sir Karl flies in on the back of a Death Dragon.

The general plot involves thwarting the evil Lord Soth who is bringing fallen heroes back from the grave as Death Knights in order to take over the world (what else?).  His ultimate goal is to resurrect the legendary warrior Sturm Brightblade whose body has been laid to rest in the Clerist's Tower.  Soth can only be defeated using the Rod of Omniscience which was stolen from him by his former cleric Sebas Astmoor. It is up to your party to retrieve the rod before facing Lord Soth himself.

I will note my thoughts below.....

  • For Death Knights of Krynn the Gold Box engine has been improved in several respects: 
i) Character names have been colour coded so you know when they are ready to level up without consulting the tables in the manual.
ii) The game now remembers the spells your characters had previously memorised so you can (K)eep your favourite spells without having to choose them every time you rest.
iii) Combat now ends when all the enemies are defeated - it is no longer necessary to complete all of your characters turns.
iv) Some of the magic spells have better animations - a fireball now looks like a fireball. 


  • The engine has also taken a couple of steps back in my opinion:
i) The main annoyance is that, instead of just using the cursor keys to move, you have to press the M(ove) key first.  This is particularly annoying during combat when you have to do this each turn for every party member.
ii) Not a major point but the static graphics are more scarce and of a lesser quality that the ones I praised in Champions of Krynn.
Compared to Champions of Krynn the cut-scene graphics look rather crude.

  • Yes! This game marks the return of an overworld map similar to the one in Pool of Radiance.  Exploring the map leads to one non-optional and several optional side quests that break up the main plot.  Each is in a self contained area and provides treasure and XP.  Only some of the quest locations are marked on the map - others need so be discovered...
...or you can find hints to them on the road.
  • At the beginning of the game there were some odd role-playing choices and several more throughout the game.  The following screen resulted in nothing happening whatever option I took.  They seemed pretty pointless to me and a waste of code.

  • I don't know if the game was written by a different team but it had a different 'feel'.  There were several scripted events that I can't recall being in the series before.  For example, when I disturbed Sir Karl's grave I was attacked by worms.  My party took damage but it was all done in the text; there was no battle screen or chance to defend myself.

  • The game featured one thing I absolutely hate and that is maps that don't make sense.  The town of Vingaard has several 'exits' at the edges of the map that wrap around to the opposite side.  Step through one of these at the north end of town and you end up at the south end - they act like the tunnel in PacMan.

  • Exploring the overworld map offers up a number of side quests.  One of these involves liberating the slaves from a Kuo-Toa slave ship which you are compelled to complete whether you are ready or not.  I came across it early on, roundly got my arse kicked and had to reload.  I returned to it a couple of levels later and with a Solamnic Knight, Sir Durfey, in tow.  I managed to complete the quest, but still had to reload several times as Kuo-Toa are immune to most magic and their clerics can cast the poison spell which instantly kills any character.

  • As with all the Gold Box games, the economy is broken.  Money is only really needed to identify magic items and can be mostly ignored after combat.  Shops don't sell anything better than your starting equipment and useful magic items are only found on quests.

  • Draconians appear in this game as they did in Champions of Krynn but have been toned down.  They each have 27 hit points and none of the special traits they had in the previous title. 


The End* (spoilers)


The end game where you face Soth takes place in Dargaard Keep.  After some epic battles at the climax of previous games, Death Knights of Krynn was a tad disappointing.  Soth appeared flanked by four Death Knights with a handful of Iron Golems off to one side.  All are immune to magic.  My buffed, hasted and invisible (not that it made any difference) party managed to weather a volley of fireballs cast by the Death Knights.  Grout and Carraway were both affected by 'fear' - I cast dispel magic on Grout in the same round and Carraway in the next after he decided to hang around and cast a hold person spell instead of fleeing.  After that it was just a case of going to toe to toe to finish the fight.  My only mistake was that Lumley's sole weapon was a Mace of Disruption which was fine against the undead but useless against the Golems.  After the battle, using the Rod of Omniscience opens a vortex to another dimension.

With Soth out of the way, Lenore who pretended to be a defenceless widow and followed our party for protection, grabbed hold of the rod.

You reappear in the Clerist's Tower and are escorted to the Knight's Council.


Overall I really enjoyed Death Knights of Krynn.  My one main criticism, which also applied to Champions of Krynn, was a lack of variety in encounters.  As well as seemingly hundreds of Skeleton Warriors, there was an over abundance of groups of Black Wizards and Evil Warriors.  The Skeleton Warriors are immune to turning and spells and can only be harmed by magic weapons, so any straight magic users would potentially be left twiddling their thumbs in combat.  I'm glad I multi-classed.

It is good to see SSI getting back on form.  I have another two Gold Box games to play in 1991 so let's hope they can keep it up. 


* On completion of the main game a short quest called Dave's Challenge becomes available.  I only found this out when consulting a walkthrough after finishing the game.  I didn't attempt it as it didn't look very interesting and I would never have been aware of it anyway.

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