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15 June 2024

Dark Sun: Shattered Lands

Dark Sun: Shattered Lands gameplay screenshot.
Dark sun is set in a different place than your average RPG...

Platform/OS: MS-DOS
Game developer: Strategic Simulations
Game genre: RPG, Turn-based, Top-down
Release: 1993

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Dark Sun: Shattered Lands

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Dark Sun: Shattered Lands screenshots
SSI released many rpg's based on the advanced Dungeons and Dragons rulebook (AD&D) like the pool of radiance series and the dark queen of Quinn and it's followups. All of them were based on the same engine with a small 3D screen at the top showing the current location and the rest of the screen showing your party and the main dialog box. Dark sun uses an entirely graphic engine where you can move around the screen with the mouse or the keyboard. The story of dark sun: shattered lands starts with a band of prisoners who are forced to fight as gladiators for the amusement of the people. You are the leader of a group of four of these prisoners but you do not intend to stay a prisoner for long. The idea is to escape the arena and the city first after which you can travel along the desert rallying troops to your cause and finally to battle the forces of Draj whom have pressed the people for far too long.

Dark Sun is set in a different place than your average RPG so there are no elves and dwarves instead you find you can play as halfgiants and tri-keen, an insectlike race, as well as the regular humanoids. The tri-keen look a lot like cockroaches except the size of a man but having four arms is a definite advantage as they allow you to have more attacks per turn than any of the other races. Coupled with the halfgiants who have the obvious size advantage these should be your main combat characters while the other two members should be skilled in magics, healing or maybe thievery. You can start the game with a premade party or you made up each of your four party members by yourself but unless you have plenty of experience with AD&D rules you'll most likely be overwhelmed with the amount of options and statistics. After making up your party you are sent into the arena where you must fight for your life.

Life as a gladiator doesn't last very long so the most important thing is to get out and gain your freedom. You can get help from fellow prisoners depending on how you interact with them and doing anything successful will gain you some experience which helps you to level up. The main screen is a tilted top-down view and your groups is shown as a single character whoever is the leader at that time. You can change the leader of the group because sometimes characters will react differently depending on who is talking to them. Talking with others is done by a number of questions presented to you and new choices will become available once something interesting is said. Be sure to question everyone because they may hold vital information to your progress. Whenever you are wandering around you might encounter enemy creatures, they can be seen but they can go into combat from a large distance so often you can't outrun them. When combat start the game switches to turn-based mode and it will display all your party members on screen and you can give commands to them individually. You can move your entire party before your end the turn and the enemy takes over.

Dark sun: shattered lands is quite different from what SSI released before it in terms of RPG's and the new graphics engine has quite some faults in it. First off the animation and movement is very jerky so I ended up disabling animations which smooths it out a lot but looks rather sad with a static character sliding across the screen. Also the birds eye view never changes and it's possible to place objects behind scenery at which point you will never be able to pick it up again. I haven't had any tabletop experience with the Dark sun realm and the amount of options available to the caster classes is huge. Each level there are tons of spells to choose from like mind control and fear for a psionisist and it follows the leveling procedure from the AD&D rulebook well with a maximum level of 9. This coupled with the vast amount of spells might be good for the enthusiast but it makes the game less accessible for more casual RPG fans. Along with the interface problems that makes this game more for fans of the Dark sun series but I enjoyed it quite a lot being fan of AD&D games a long time so for those looking for a different type of RPG away from the elves and stuff might want to try this one as well.
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Dark Sun: Shattered Lands Screenshots

Top-down view. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands
Turn-based dungeon crawler. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands
Dark Sun: Shattered Lands. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands
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