The First 100% QuickBasic Game Review Magazine
Updated November 20, 2004

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Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands

"Five Soldiers Battle a Dark and Terrible Destiny!"

A man with neither body nor skill, Tellin used the Dark Teachings to amass great physical strength and magical power, and used that power to begin a conquest that takes him to the Kingdom of Issia.

Hired by the King of Issia, you proceed into the Northlands with the King's best men, to cut off whatever force is decimating the nearby kingdoms before a full-scale war escalates. The journey to unlock the secret of the Northlands begin...

Game Review
Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
A mixture of screen-by-screen demos and well-tiled graphics, Kentauri does a fairly good job of giving Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands a sort of early EGA/VGA professional PC game feel. The game's in-game menu gives you easy access to the story of the game, but doesn't force you to know much about it. People who miss the game's storytelling will be at a loss though, as the drawings featured in the storyline are pretty well-done.

As for the in-game graphics, animation and scrolling is done successfully without a flicker, even when you try casting spells in split-screen mode while the other player battles some enemies from the other side of the map. The tiles are well-done but the Dark Quest universe looks a little too bland. It would have been nice to see more than just open terrain, and a more involved mix of plant life, towns, or other sorts of environments.

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
N/A There is little light in Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands, but there is even less sound in Kentauri's latest QB game. Dark Quest does not have any sound effects or music.
Gameplay (n.)
The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe
(Very Good)
Dark Quest has two game modes, Sheepz Gallore and Quest Mode. In Sheepz Gallore, your mission is to kill a pre-set number of sheep as quickly as possible, and try to get the best time. This is a very straightforward game mode and is a good way to get used to the game's controls. Sheepz Gallore also features a two-player mode, where you and a buddy can compete to see who can beat up the sheep in the fastest time.

In Quest Mode, you start with four troops. It's important for your troops to survive during the game's six levels, because they're your only protection when you're overwhelmed by groups of enemies. However, you can't rely on troops fully because you earn special bonuses if you kill the enemies with your blade. These bonuses are the only way you can restock on magic or recover HP between each level, making it critical to find a balance between hand-to-hand combat, ranged attacks, and using your soldiers to defeat your enemy.

Besides the one-player mode, Dark Quest also features a very well-orchestrated two-player simultaneous Quest mode, a rarity among real-time strategy games that don't hook up to the Internet. Players are divided via split screen; while one player controls the hero of the game, the other controls one of the game's mercenaries. Kentauri achieves this mode effectively, with the AI of the game adjusting very well to who attacks them.

Unless you're a hardcore real-time strategy game player who uses the keyboard more often than the mouse, most of your issues with Dark Quest are probably going to involve the game's controls. Six separate buttons alone are required to order troops to attack, defend, or retreat as you deem necessary. In addition to that, three buttons are needed for casting spells, and five additional buttons are used to control the main character. While it's easy to remember exactly what these buttons do during simpler battles, coordinating troops and button presses against multiple enemies is a strain.

Two-player mode is equally cumbersome. Because of the funky control scheme, the best way to play the game effectively is to divide the controls so that one of the players is in charge of the spells while the other player is in charge of moving troops.

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
Nice job. Kentauri unravels a thought-out story that pans out as a classic good versus evil battle. Dark Quest's storyline doesn't disappoint, and at the same time doesn't go deep enough to leave people thirsting for more. The pictures that complement the game's storyline also enhance the plot.
Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
The game's controls can be discouraging at first, but once you develop some basic strategy, making it through the world of Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands can be an enjoyable adventure that can be played more than once. The thrill of trying to get the high score lasts for a bit, and the two-player mode is also fun. The "Sheepz Gallore" is also a relatively nice extra but it really doesn't add to the replay value much.
Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
Average. The two main skills that have to be mastered in Dark Quest is good hand-to-hand combat, and learning how to manage your troops. If you use your troops abusively, it will be far too expensive to recharge them. If you rely on yourself too much, you're going to be overwhelmed. The best way to find balance between these two factors is to learn the different ways the AI can be tricked (this will vary because there are different kind of enemy units), then using that plus your fellow soldiers to trick Tellin's army into positions where you and your men receive the least amount of damage.
Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
Dark Quest is one of those games that work but needs work because of it's game modes. There is a lot of potential here for a very strong two-player mode and Kentauri shows in this game that they have the technical skill to really execute such a real-time strategy game beautifully.

Overall, Secret of The North Lands is like a good horse that needs quite a bit of getting used to. I'm not sure how to make a better control system than the one they've provided using the keyboard, but it must be possible using the keyboard or some other medium. This is one QB game that can be enjoyable, but will be most enjoyable for the strategy game fans among us.

Dark Quest: Secret of The North Lands Reviewed by Vance Velez

Players 1 player Genre: Strategy Game
Rating To solve: 2-3 hours Final Rating: 17/35

To download Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands (258KB), click here.
wIf you're unzipping this program in DOS, you may have to use the -d option.
wTo play Dark Quest: Secret of the North Lands, unzip the file and run "DARKQ.EXE".

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Game Summary
Coding Group
Homepage URL
Final Rating
17 out of 35 points

The Highs: Two-player split screen real-time strategy game for QB. Yahoo!
The Lows: The game's scattershot control system could have greatly benefitted from mouse compatibility.

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