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Overview: The Deathlord has begun to destroy villages and threaten the safety of the world of Lorn, and only seven word, six items ("and your incompetence"--the Deathlord) stand in your way. 
Story: in this game, which could be considered an Ultima IV imitation, you can go through 16 continents in your efforts to find the items, various dungeons, and Skull Keep. It's got a Japanese flavor to it. The character classes and even some of the races are not your usual classes and races. There are pyramids and towers(although you descend them) and mines and guilds beneath towns and castles as well as regular dungeons. What's interesting is that each dungeon has its own sort of theme, and the puzzles are carefully set up. This game exceeds Ultima in its use of dungeons; while Ultima had neat rooms, Deathlord has dungeons up to 16 levels of 32 squares by 32 squares. Owners of dungeons often leave funny notes(in a dungeon with undead, there is a message on the wall by a graveyard saying "nursery," and in the middle of fire in another dungeon, there is a sign describing sauna rules) and there are lots of blind alleys--frustrating when you find them. There are also nasty tricks--just because you find a clever way to get to a square or because you walk through fields draining you of 3/4 of your hit points doesn't mean there's anything there(or that the sign won't be a mean joke!) This game requires a lot of mapping skill and persistence to win, as there are many mazes and chutes dropping you down a level. One dungeon is packed with a grid of stairs up and down. Mapping can be a little too taxing. Especially with the monsters that you have to fight. The game keeps you honest, too, saving itself when a character is killed. 

Controls: keyboard. Some of the commands are a bit arcane(O=Orate is a stretch, and the sub-commands are not very sophisticated. F=Find is a stretch, too) but macros are very nice for traveling across the sea(set a macro to make 15 moves west or search a wall several times, for instance, and it speeds things up quickly). Sometimes you can lose a move if you hit the wrong key, which is irritating, especially in combat or when you're trying to run from monsters. Casting spells can be a nuisance, too, because they all have Japanese names, and it is easy to mis-type something--or if you type a spell to cast, then go back on it, you lose the spell points, which are perhaps a little too hard to come by. On the bright side, for combat, you can hold down the "A" key against hopelessly outmached monsters, which helps speed the game along. 

Graphics: pretty neat. Character icons are often fun to look at for all eighteen classes. Only the Kosaku(peasant) which no-one uses anyway is a dud. You always move about on a grid, and the terrain has a realistic feel to it. The dungeons are often laid out well, and some of the monsters are very well done, like evil trees. Towns are well thought out--only villages are boring--and there are often neat designs made with fire or water squares. There are temperate zones, desert zones(with cacti and more dust around the vegetation areas) and polar zones(with a snowy feel, with tundra, snow-swamp, and snow-scrub) that make the game believable. 

Replayability: lots of it. The main problem, I found, was that it was hard to get into the game, to figure out what to do--it took me forever to find secret doors/illusory walls with any consistency. Many rules seem arbitrary at first but the experienced player sees that they really do make sense. Although the process of mapping a maze and looking for a secret door gets a little repetitive, finding something neat there usually makes up for it. And the programmers' surprising sense of humor in the messages and conversations makes it fun to visit the towns you'd forgotten about. Re-building characters is a pain if you go to the wrong dungeon(a few too many monsters drain your level some places for you to build yourself up!) 
Reviewer's Score: 10 / 10 

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