The new Lords of Midnight -
The War of the Solstice

 

    The 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 by sight.
    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 1990’s 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 in.
    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 hero’s 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 way.
    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 targets too.
    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 hero’s 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 action.
    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 fortresses.

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