War of the Solstice is Book I of the Lords of Midnight trilogy and the new game uses the
same storyline, game map and characters as the very first Lords of Midnight game.
The original game was a unique blend of strategic wargame and
adventure-style exploration, with navigation relying on a full 360° 1st person
view of the landscape from any point on the map. Quite deliberately, there was no in-game
map the player could refer to, forcing him to use the panoramic landscape views to steer
This gave a tremendous feeling of being there in a real place.
Instead of seeing enemy armies as icons on a map, you could see them arrayed across the
hills and plains in the distance, their flags flying. You were not a general leaning over
the map table in your office, miles behind the lines, you were a warlord on your horse, at
the head of your troops, leading them to battle.
The War of the Solstice takes that same concept of being
there and gives it the audio-visual power of late 1990s game technology.
The aim throughout is to make The War of the Solstice look like a film but
play like a game.
There are no interactive map screens, no god-like look-down views of
the battlefield, no inventory screens, no pop-up menus of weapon or magic selection. All
the gameplay and decision-making takes place immediately, in realtime 3D, at the heart of
the action. Then, between action scenes, a blend of FMV and non-interactive realtime 3D
sequences tell the unfolding story, linking together every interactive scene you take part
The emphasis of the gameplay is on action. The War of the
Solstice is a unique blend of action-adventure (such as in Tomb Raider), single
combat (such as in Tekken) and realtime command-and-control (such as in Warcraft) but all
focused on the hero the player controls.
There are three kinds of action scene, quest, skirmish and battle, each
of which show the hero from a 3rd person point of view. During forward
movement, to aid navigation, the camera is positioned behind the hero. During hand-to-hand
combat, the camera angle changes intelligently to match and augment the action.
The quests take place within the citadels and fortresses of Midnight.
The heros task can vary from rescuing a hostage to opening the gates of the enemy
citadel from within. They all involve hunting, action-adventure style, through a maze of
chambers and dungeons and corridors, solving puzzles and fighting off assailants along the
Skirmishes involve single-combat on open ground and occur when a lone
hero is ambushed during a journey or must force his way past wild beasts and monsters.
Here, hand-to-hand swordplay is at the heart of the action.
Battles take place both on open ground and in enclosed arenas within the citadels and
fortresses. In a battle, the hero is not just a lone warrior - he is also a leader and
commander. He has his own personal retinue of warriors who will follow and aid him and he
can also give simple commands to other leaders on the battlefield. But all this is done in
the thick of battle, the hero carving his way through the enemy, hewing down his opponents
often with a single stroke.
These battles, skirmishes and quests all take place within the
framework of the great war that is raging across Midnight and the player has command of
the forces of good in that war. He begins with 4 heroes at his command: Luxor the
Moonprince, Morkin son of Luxor, Corleth the Fey and Rorthron the Wise. All these heroes
are mighty in battle but have no army at the outset.
To defeat the evil Doomdark and win the War of the Solstice, the player
must recruit other heroes and their warriors to his cause, gather together great armies
and send them against the forces of evil pouring out of the north. To do this, the player
must send his heroes on long journeys through the Land of Midnight, to far citadels and
keeps. And once the player has gathered armies together, they must be given journeys and
These strategic decisions are made during decision scenes. Here, for
example, the hero stands gazing at the panoramic landscape he stands within. When he turns
left or right, the panorama scrolls before him and the distant places beyond the horizon
come to his mind. A small inset picture shows a view of the citadel, or tower or keep. A
small inset map shows its location. If the hero stops turning, he speaks the name of the
place he is thinking of. At a button press, he will speak its distance and how long such a
journey would take. At a different button press, he will announce his intention to go
there and set off on the journey.
This visual method of journey selection maintains the sense of being
there in the decision-making as much as in the action. Other pure decision-making is
done in a similar fashion. Always, you are standing at your heros shoulder, seeing
the world as he sees it.
The important thing for the player is deciding where his heroes and
their armies are to go. The journey itself does not matter. You are a warlord, not a
sight-seeing tourist. But what happens at the end of the journey matters a great deal.
Consequently, once you have decided where a hero is going and what road he is to take, you
see him set out on his journey and see him next when he arrives at his destination, where
battle may be joined or other heroes recruited and further decisions made. You do not
watch him march for mile after weary mile through the countryside.
Some journeys, however, are eventful. The hero may be ambushed, he
might spot enemy armies ahead in the distance or come across the smouldering ruins of a
lonely farmhouse or village. When this sort of unexpected event happens, the computer
interrupts the journey and puts the player in direct control of the hero again.
By intelligently interrupting the unwatched journeys of the heroes, the
computer automatically moves the on-screen action and decision-taking from one moment of
drama to the next moment of drama. With 4 or more heroes on different journeys, the action
scenes switch from one hero to another according to events, just like the scenes in a film
or TV drama switch from following one thread of events to following another thread of
events. So, as events unfold, the player takes on the role of whichever hero in engaged in
All the ordinary minutes and hours and days of waiting or journeying
are cut out. Time races ahead until the next extraordinary, exciting event and the next
moment of decision, the next hero of the hour.
The emphasis is always on the action scenes. High-level planning is
kept firmly in the background. The decision scenes are brief and presented from a human
angle. The movement of heroes and armies across the Land of Midnight drives events forward
and takes you from action scene to action scene, but controlling this movement of
your heroes is a simple matter of setting them a destination and a task. Most of the time
you are fighting furious battles or exploring the labyrinths within dark citadels and