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Eye of the Beholder

Amiga game review, ADF downloads, screenshots, ratings and insights



Eye of the Beholder, released by SSI in 1991, is a first-person dungeon crawler created in the same style as the innovative 1986 masterpiece Dungeon Master. In fact, it’s so exactly similar to Dungeon Master, I can’t help but wonder if some folks walking into a Babbage’s or Software Etc store back in the day thought they were looking at highly overdue Dungeon Master 2 before realizing this game was an entirely “new” franchise. Eye of the Beholder is a straight-up clone.

Albeit it’s a clone made five years later. As such the designers at Westwood Studios had plenty of time to really learn and exploit the Amiga’s strengths. And exploit it they did indeed. Holy crap this game looks and sounds great.

At a high level the visual advancements of Eye of the Beholder (EotB) remind me of one of those old illustrated encyclopedias of the human body where the first base page is a skeleton. As you flip see-through plastic pages you add layers of nerves, organs, and so on until you build a whole person. EotB provides a gorgeous new layer of color and detail to the ethos Dungeon Master invented. It is without question fun to look at and listen to and most importantly to play. Beyond the obvious graphical upgrades, though, it doesn’t exactly innovate. But it does do a lot of little things very well while also taking a few steps back.

It is worth noting right off the bat before we get into the nit-picky details that the Amiga version of Eye of the Beholder is the best version out there for any platform. Period.

While the designers only worked with 32 colors per level, they did a remarkable job with the tools at hand (the DOS version had far more colors with 256 total, but you probably won’t notice much of a difference). If we did the Pepsi Challenge between the Amiga and DOS, most would likely lose or simply get lucky. But if you manage to finish the game only the Amiga version offers a very cool animated outro sequence to reward players. The DOS version? Gamers get a few sentences of text before being dropped to a DOS prompt. Congrats, yo!

Back to Dungeon Master which stunned the gaming world five years earlier in 1986/87, five years in computer terms is a figurative lifetime. By the time Eye of the Beholder hit store shelves Amiga still had a technological advantage over most DOS machines, but the gap was finally starting to close. So while EotB looks completely dazzling, when compared to the DOS version the differences are subtle except for the fabulous ending if you’re playing the Amiga version.

Also worthy of note is the excellent sound effects in the game. There are some cases - especially the giant spider levels - where the creatures can be heard through the walls and really can get creepy.

What Eye of the Beholder does much better than Dungeon Master is how it conveys shreds of the in-game story. With Dungeon Master the story is entirely found in the manual, and at that level it’s pretty thin. With Eye of the Beholder you are given a minimal story in the manual, too, but during the game you encounter side quests constantly.

If you want to skip the manual, here’s the gist. There is an evil presence below the town of Waterdeep. Please explore the dungeon and get rid of the evilness. The end.

There is at least one optional quest per level of the dungeon. They aren’t necessary to complete the game (and some are so vague I could never find them all), but they do make the game a lot more interesting from a story perspective when you run into them.

There is also a lot more interaction with NPCs (non-player characters) so you can build your party up to a whopping six instead of just four.

SSI had the glorious Advanced Dungeons and Dragons license at their disposal, which Dungeon Master borrowed heavily from for inspiration but completely re-wrote since they didn’t have legal access. Ironically, this likely led to many of their innovative creations.

Bringing Eye of the Beholder into the 2nd edition D&D universe, though, is very familiar and looks and feels fan-freaking-tastic. For those already educated in the ways of D&D, this makes character creation a lot more straight forward at the beginning of the game and makes the world feel alive in a very thrilling way.

Like Dungeon Master you can start the game with four characters and organize them into a 2x2 grid depending on the need. However you can’t rotate your characters like you can in Dungeon Master. The spell casting system is also not nearly as immersive as DM, but it is very easy to use if a bit clunky if you have more than one magic user that you want to use during battles.

And now onto the nit-picks.

The monsters in EotB are incredibly easy to defeat. If you can “do the attack dance” or simply attack, retreat, rinse and repeat, you’ve really got nothing to worry about in this game.

Other than being poisoned by giant spiders or possibly having half of your party get paralyzed by a Mind Flayer, there isn’t a single enemy in the entire dungeon that offers much of a real threat.

Out of all of the dungeon crawlers I’ve ever played, this was by far the easiest.

I set my party up in typical fashion - two fighter types in the front row for melee combat, magic users in the back (a mage and a cleric). I very rarely ever needed to use magic spells during combat. In the beginning of the game I created a Thief, as it was my favorite class to use back in the day. But it was pretty much a waste of a slot in this game. I think I might have picked the lock of a single door in the entire game before all of my lock picks broke. At that point she mainly became a pathetic mule to shoot a retrieve arrows. I did find myself collecting a ton of arrows that I only used on occasion (and then retrieved after a battle like Golum scrabbling around for his Precious).

One thing EotB brought to the table that I really loved was the large compass at the bottom of the screen. This UI element was a giant breath of fresh air for sure. The movement arrows are still on the screen as found in DM. I do wonder if anyone ever used them, though, like, ever?

The puzzles in EotB are also on the easy side, but for me personally I appreciated their logic. So many other dungeon crawlers put puzzles in the way that seem to be made entirely to frustrate and confuse. EotB felt much more logical and straight-forward.

That being said, there are a few places where you have to backtrack through the higher levels in order to go lower that were really confusing. But they were at least doable if annoying.

All in all, I loved this game. It was so refreshing to get to the final boss and not want to bash my keyboard in frustration. It was really quite easy (and there were multiple ways to beat it). If you have the patience and the will, Eye of the Beholder is not going to disappoint. It’s really a lot of fun. And be sure to play the Amiga version. It’s awesome.

--intric8

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Ranked by the team at AmigaWorld in November, 1991, as one of the year's 10 "All Star Games".

From the Nov '91 issue:

"The first release in SSI's new Advanced Dungeons Dragons Legend series of first-person. WYSIWYG role-playing games, this gorgeous adventure is set in the labyrinths beneath the Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep.

The Lord of Waterdeep has commissioned your band of adventurers to find and eliminate the source of growing evil about the citv. You and vour band of up to five other characters must light your way through 12 tortuous levels of monsters, traps, and tricks. The graphics are excellent, and the game is exciting.

“Out-performs Dungeon Master with its superior graphics and storyline. An excellent example of the right way to port an MS-DOS product to the Amiga, Eye of the Beholder is must-buy for any fantasy role-playing gamer.-Jeff James

"The you-are-there graphics and eerie sound is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat."—John Ryan

"I didn't have to read the manual to play and understand it."—Leah Wesolowski


Hints:

Selection of well-balanced party is essential to success. I've found that a party consisting of Human Ranger, Dwarf Fighter, an Elf Magic-user/Thief and a Human Cleric works well. —Jeff James

Keep your eyes open for odd-colored patches on the walls—usually a good indicator that the wall is not as solid as it seems. —Peter Olafson

On Level 2. (here are four horizontal runes on the walls of different chambers. Place a dagger in each to open a secret chamber. —Leah Wesolowski

A thief is nearly useless late in the game. Map carefully and bump into every wall to discover secret doors. Don't stand in one place and hash it out with high-level monsters—slash and move instead. —John Ryan

Original Retail: S49.95

Back of the Box:

Explore AD&D Computer Fantasy Like Never Before!

- Forgotten Realms -

Jurri the Rogue fingers his lockpicks and deftly slips one into the lock. It's trapped, but Jurri is skilled... with a soft click, the trap is disarmed. The door creaks open, revealing a dimly lit corridor.

Without warning, skeletons leap from the shadows and slash at the party! Swords flash, spells sizzle, then... all is quiet, and the corridor is littered with bones.

Legend has it there's a criminal conspiracy hiding in the Waterdeep sewers. Is this true? These locks and traps are too good, and someone sent those skeletons. Well, if someone's hiding down here, we're going to find them... and destroy them!


So begins the quest that heralds the first graphically based AD&D® computer fantasy role-playing saga - the Legend Series!

In Eye of the Beholder, you control four PCs and two NPCs of six character races and six character classes. You and your party may aspire to become High Priests, Lords, Paladins, Ranger Lords, Wizards and Master Thieves!

Easy to use "point-and-click" commands and 3-D point of view create that "you are there" feeling!

Experience AD&D® computer fantasy role-playing like never before as you and your party of adventures explore the dark, slimy underside of Waterdeep!
4.4
5 total votes

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Comments

User avatar
SEADRIVE

Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:09 pm

The first game like this was experienced with Dungeon Master from, I believe FTL, on the Atari ST back in 1987. I previously owned an 8 bit Atari, so something with Dungeon Master's caliber was simply mind blowing. Eye of the Beholder came out quite a bit later, but with much updated sprites, colors and a compass...truly fantastic memories and still an incredible game to play.
4.4
5 total votes
Developer:
Westwood Associates
Publisher:
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
Music:
Paul S. Mudra
Genre:
Role-playing (RPG_
Perspective:
1st-Person
Theme:
Adventure, Fantasy
Player mode:
Single-player
Origin:
USA
Release date:
1991

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