AD&D: Heroes of the Lance

ADD Heroes AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: U.S. Gold
Released: January 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-LQ-USA

Players:  1
Genre: Action RPG
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: SKROM (128k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Three centuries have passed since the thirteen days of sheer destruction, known as the Cataclysm, devastated Krynn. All sense of order fell to ruin, and the survivors, disenchanted with the gods, fought endlessly amongst one another. Forgetting the ways and beliefs of old, the people of Krynn slowly lost their faith and their sense of purpose. Hoping to exploit the discord, the goddess of darkness,

Advanced Dungeons Dragons Heroes of the Lance USA 004 256x224 AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review Screenshot Takhisis, sent forth her minions, eager to gather enough might to be able to travel the mortal world herself.  Quickly running out of options, the Champions of the Lance desperately searched for a way to fight this. Hearing whispered rumors of the Disks of Mishakal, a symbol of the healing goddess of old, the champions believe that they’ve found hope. Thinking to use the disks to prove the existence of the gods, the adventurers plan to remind the people of Krynn of their past culture and traditions, restore faith, and destroy Takhisis’ power before it’s too late. Of course, Takhisis too has learned about the Disks, and has sent her followers to keep close guard of that which has the power to destroy her. The adventurers head toward the ruins of Xak Tsaroth, the Disks hidden deep in the rubble of the once thriving city. Upon arriving, the spirit of Mishakal contacts the party, offering a mystical staff and words of encouragement; hoping that they survive the ordeal, the party descends into the darkness.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance is a port of the 1988 TSR computer game based on the popular Dragonlance series of fantasy novels. Playing from a 2D side-scrolling perspective, the player-controlled party of eight intrepid adventurers navigates the ruins of Xak Tsaroth, exploring its maze-like Advanced Dungeons Dragons Heroes of the Lance USA 038 256x224 AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review Screenshotcorridors in search of the Disks of Mishakal.

Most of Heroes of the Lance is played from the “combat screen.” In this view, the bottom half of the screen displays portraits and life bars for each of the eight heroes, while the top half is used to portray all of the in-game action. The party navigates the perilous halls of Xak Tsaroth primarily through doors that, when stood in front of, will cause the compass to indicate which direction the door will lead (allowing for usable doors on both sides of the corridor, instead of only on the visible wall). After holding the up or down button for a couple of seconds, the adventurers will move in the indicated direction. The conspicuous lack of NPCs and dialogue result in an experience that feels empty and aimless. Furthermore, the ruined city, presented as a huge maze, can be difficult to navigate. This is largely attributable to the monochromatic backgrounds that rarely display recognizable landmarks, hearkening back to the early CRPG days that required serious players to map their progress with graph paper. Every navigable environment in the game world features grey stone walls, a grey brick floor, some pillars, and the occasional door. Oftentimes, multiple doors will bring the party to the same exact place, making movement and mapping a confusing chore.

Advanced Dungeons Dragons Heroes of the Lance USA 094 256x224 AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotThe in-game character graphics are absolutely awful. Even by early NES game standards, the characters are featureless, tiny, pixelated blobs, severely lacking in animation frames. The small assortment of enemies are only a slight improvement, with some discernible detail on the bigger sprites, though the increase in size only serves to make the lack of fluid movement more obvious. The animation quickly becomes an issue in terms of gameplay: it’s extremely difficult to judge jumping distance and speed, and fights are so choppy that killing foes without taking serious damage becomes an impossibility. Heroes of the Lance also lacks any discernibly functioning hit-detection system, with many of the characters’ strikes passing straight through enemy sprites. Magic can be used to overcome this (through heavy abuse of the web spell), but casting quickly becomes tiresome, since the player must access the menu system every time they wish to use a spell. Compounding these issues are the unintuitive controls, which are nigh impossible to figure out without referencing the manual.

The sound is no way praiseworthy, but it’s a huge step up in quality from the Advanced Dungeons Dragons Heroes of the Lance USA 101 256x224 AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review Screenshotvisuals. The music is somewhat repetitive, but sometimes manages to be catchy, and occasional voiced grunts and screams provide much needed comic relief (it must be noted that Goldmoon, a woman, sounds exactly like the men when she yells).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance deserves its reputation as one of the worst games on the NES, and is also one of the few with the gall to ask the player to look forward to its sequel in the ending sequence. With the game’s extreme few redeeming qualities completely eclipsed by dire play mechanics, repulsive visuals, and the complete absence of storytelling, there is absolutely nothing to recommend about this game.

screenshot icon w text AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review Screenshot05 AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review Screenshot


flag us AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotAdvanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance
FCI, 1/1991
flag jpn AD&D: Heroes of the Lance NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotAD&D ヒーロー・オブ・ランス (Adobansuto Danjonzu ando Doragonzu – Hiro obu Ransu)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons:Hero of Lance
Pony Canyon, 3/1991