Given my previous experience with first person dungeon crawlers of the 1980s, I didn't have high hopes for my time with Eye of the Beholder, which sees a game like Dungeon Master officially flying the flag of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license.
Now I like D&D. I've played a fair bit of it, across a couple of versions and mediums, from tabletops to Baldur's Gate and the like, and it just so happens that after quite a lengthy period of time, I got back into tabletop RPGs (albeit with Pathfinder) just yesterday, so my head is there or thereabouts in terms of the mechanics at play here - but will Eye of the Beholder be there or thereabouts too?
A lot of games have claimed to transport the D&D rules from paper to 'puter, but sometimes those rules should stay on paper. Will that be the case here?
Eye of the Beholder starts simply and seemingly expectedly. You create a party from the races and classes available, allowing for all kinds of possibilities from the start. A short cutscene later and you're tasked with trawling through the sewers looking for an exit. So far, so dungeon crawler.
Navigation is done through clicking on various arrows as well as directly clicking on items you find in the world, be they weapons left on the floor or buttons and levers on the walls. Again, this seems natural enough. Not perfect, but we're used to it from other games and it works for these grid-based first person affairs.
But when we're face to face with a Kobold, and clicking on it does nothing but throw our weapons down the floor, well, we've got a bit of an issue. I had a manual in front of me, but it didn't actually list the controls, so that was fun.
To hit something is to right click (assuming you're using mouse controls, by the way) on the weapon you wish to use, at which point the random number generator Gods awaken from their slumber and decide whether you missed or hit. Then your weapon enters a cooldown period before you can use it again. If you're at the back of the party, you're most likely out of range with everything you've got, so don't even bother trying to attack with a weapon right now, not unless you can throw it or shoot it.
Oh, and all of this happens in real time. You know, like the turn based Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. This is an interesting decision. It certainly makes for a lively game with action coming thick and fast, but if you're going into action thinking you'll have time to plan, think again.
Speaking of planning, do remember to actually set up your spells so that your spellcasters are actually of some use during your adventuring. Once I remembered - after combat, naturally - it was time to heal up. With spells? No, because my spellcasters need to rest to get them. Better rest.
After one encounter with a single Kobold, my party had to rest for 5 days at the bottom of the cities sewer system - and they didn't even moan about being hungry after it. Good job, guys. That's my kind of adventuring party...
For as much as I might sound negative up there, I actually wasn't annoyed by this. I sure wasn't playing wisely, and my sense of direction was nonexistent in these sewers, but I was more or less happy to just roam around, swatting away Kobolds and Giant Leeches whenever they looked at me menacingly. I even managed to successfully cast spells, including Magic Missile. That might as well mean I can die happy.
What I was happy about more than anything was how better Eye of the Beholder is than Dungeon Master. It's to be expected, I guess, with a few years of progress having taken place, and the backing of AD&D requiring a polished product at the end of the day. They are practically the same game, but I know which one I'd rather click around in.
I didn't click around in it too long, however. I don't know who long and/or sprawling the story is, though I read it ends on a bit of an anticlimax, needing to be revised in later versions and ports. If you're a fan of D&D though, especially the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, then you can't go too wrong with Eye of the Beholder, no matter how far you get through it.
It's not the greatest example of D&D via video game. It's not even the earliest, but so far on our journey through 1001 games, it's the best. If that's a good enough reason for you to check it out, then you can do so over on the Internet Archive, as I did. If that's not a good enough reason, then rest assured that I don't think I got damaged by walking into walls. In fact, I can't remember even walking into many walls this time around.
Maybe that should be a tag line. "Eye of the Beholder: You won't walk into as many walls as you did in Dungeon Master."
I don't know why I wrote that either. Must have encountered a Mind Flayer recently.
You can recruit additional party members through chit-chat or by resurrecting their boney corpses. Charming.
Eye of the Beholder, developed by Westwood Associates, first released in 1991.
Version played: DOS, 1991, via emulation.