Jealousy and the desire for Power is the backdrop to Mike Singleton's latest creation - Throne of Fire. The Story tells of The Burning Citadel, a fortress high above the desolate planes of Carakesh, where stands an empty seat, the Throne of Fire, vacated by the late King Atherik. His three sons, Alorn, Cordin and Karag, desire the seat of the Throne and power of the land, and are prepared to battle it out to a bloodthirsty end.
The game can be played in two ways - either two players taking control of two of the three Princes and the computer taking the third, or a sole player taking on two computer opponents.
The action takes place within the 100 rooms of The Burning Citadel. The screen is split vertically from top to bottom, displaying the character currently control - led, the action window - which illustrates the movements of the characters, the castle map indicating the positions of your characters, and your additional support. Rooms are shown in perspective (looking front to back), side doors lead left or right and doors at the back of the room indicate stairs leading either up or down.
To begin with, there are nine men-at-arms under the control of each Prince. However, as play progresses, this may increase or decrease as some are killed off and reinforcements are brought in. Men-at-arms come in handy for doing the Prince's dirty work - bumping off the other claimants for the Throne. The selection mode is entered to take control of one of the men-at-arms, allowing a player control of the horizontally scrolling Citadel map at the bottom of the screen. The Citadel is scanned using a cursor, and rooms may be entered as long as they are the same colour as the heart at the top of the screen. The selected room then appears in the room display window.
Characters who are in allegiance with a player, but not specifically under control, are unable to move from room to room of their own accord. They are, however, able to defend themselves. Additional weapons are found scattered throughout the Citadel and can be picked up for later use. Strength and energy are measured by a beating heart - it the hearts stops the character pops his chainmail socks. Characters regain their lost strength by resting, or by entering the Throne Room, Gate Rooms or using magic potions.
Reinforcements appear in the Gate Rooms, they enter empty rooms and automatically take side with the last character to be in that room. If no player has been in the room the new arrivals join the ranks of the King's Guard.
The objective is to seize the power of the Citadel; achieved by a player taking his Prince to the Throne Room after disposing of the other two. On gaining the Throne, that Prince becomes King, power is his and the crown is presented.
Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Use of colour main play area monochrome, but bright and colourful elsewhere
Graphics: splendid; large, well detailed
Sound: good tune, otherwise not much
Skill levels: three different Princes to play
'Throne of Fire is most enjoyable as a two player game, otherwise it becomes too simple ... and therefore tiresome. The only really annoying feature is the sequence where your character walks up stairs, it's a bit long and pointless. The compact screen works well - everything is on screen at once, so there's no messing about with pulling down awkward menus. Throne Of Fire is a very good three sided battle which has the same degree of atmosphere as other Mike Singleton games but, having said that, it doesn't appear to have the same compulsion and depth'
'Mike Singleton doesn't half come up with some good ideas - and the programmers have done a great job of implementing his designs. The split screen works well, creating plenty of tension in the atmosphere - much like Spy Vs Spy. The one player game is a bit weak - being much too easy to be of any challenge. Where Throne of Fire really scores high is when playing against a human opponent, the challenge to beat the other player is Immense. If you're a single parent of your Spectrum then think first, as you may end up completing it first time and be left with another unused game'
'Throne of Fire is a good Idea which has been implemented well, there is a problem though, it's much too easy to play and complete. The two player game puts the difficulty levels up, but not quite sufficiently to make it as playable or addictive as it should be. The large and beautifully animated characters and the attention to the detail of the castle help make Throne of Fire look exceptionally good, but that's no real surprise as Mike Singleton (of Lords of Midnight fame) had a large hand in the design of the game and its graphics. The lack of difficulty drastically spoils the gameplay of what could easily have been a Smash!'
|Value for Money||72%|
At last! After much speculation, trepidation and even desperation, Mike Singleton has finally completed a game! It's not the much publicised Dark Sceptre or Star Trek, but Throne Of Fire, designed for Melbourne House. And believe me, it's hot stuff!
The storyline is this - you're one of three princes who all, naturally enough, want to be king of the castle. Each amasses his followers and races to the throne room to collect the crown. You've got to get there first without being killed in the process. Simple, you may say. Wrong! The other princes are just as hell-bent on mangling your chances of knighthood. So you've got to use your forces carefully to avoid the other players and protect your prince. One good idea is to stow your prince somewhere safe and use a plain ordinary foot-soldier tO do all the dirty work - which means if he dies, you don't - yet.
The castle itself is circular, so if you continue one direction long enough, you'll wind up back at the start. There are also several levels and towers to negotiate. The screen's divided into two sections a la Top Gun, but as there are always three princes this means that until someone (usually you) dies, one prince is hanging around unseen, and is usually him who does you in! You can play against the computer, which then looks after the other two princes, or in two-player mode, with the computer taking prince number three.
The gameplay is fast and furious, with superb animation (as in all Mike Singleton games) and little details like the fireplace and the chandelier which both flicker realistically. There are sword fights you have to survive if you're to have any chance of winning, and these too are well animated - there's even an effective clunk when you engage in hand to hand combat with your foe. You start with ten followers per prince, but as you fight the other players or the King's Guard, who are an independent (are you?) force protecting the throne room, your numbers go down. In the two top corners of the screen your heart, and that of your opponent, pumps away, indicating how much energy you have left. The weaker you get, the faster your heart will pump, and if you're caught in a fight and lose, your heart splits in two and a curtain of blood dribbles gorily down your half of the screen. Bleeuugh!
The only drawback is that if you're playing in one player mode, and you die, the other two computer-controlled princes carry on with the game until one of them wins. This gets a bit boring, especially if you're foolish and get mashed early on in the game. I completed it my first time in two player mode, but I haven't been so successful in one player. Almost, but not quite! It's great fun though, and very good to play - I really enjoyed it. As games go, Mike, it was worth the wait!
|Value For Money||8/10|
If you think Throne of Fire is something that happens after seven pints of lager and a vindaloo, kindly leave the magazine - otherwise read on, coz if you have been reading your SU previews properly (and name one hip entity that doesn't; you'll know it's the latest from Mike Singleton (as opposed to his really massively latest, Dark Sceptre).
The game is all about three brothers Princes vying to gain the recently vacated throne - their father the King Atherik having recently departed this mortal coil.
The game is either one player, with the computer playing the other two, or much more interestingly, two player, with the computer taking the odd one out.
The roles (supposedly with different characteristics, but actually the same) are chosen at the very beginning of the game, along with choosing key (redefinable if you like) and joystick options.
The idea is that you, assisted by your ten trusty men-at-arms, must force entry into the Throne Room (itself defended by the King's Guard), and then kill off your other brothers. Once you are King and they are dead - it's all over.
The castle itself is divided up into about 80 interconnected rooms. A portion of the castle is shown in silhouette on the bottom third of the screen. If a man is present in a room, a window will appear lit up with the colour of his side, otherwise - it's dark. It's vital to keep an eye on this scanner by the way, it's the only way you can watch what your opponents are doing. The display is actually split vertically down the middle, with player one having the left and the computer or Player 2 having the right - the layout is the same for both.
The bottom third shows the 'scanner'.
The really clever stuff though, comes into the top bit, which contains the location of the piece you are controlling at that time. Drawn in beautifully detailed perspective 3D, you move your man about the room, which may have exits left or right, and/or stairs up and down.
The gameplay is simple - you select a man to move (using a cursor that appears on the scanner) and until you choose someone else, he is directly under your control. You can move him from room to room (perceptively noting the smooth animation of the fabby graphics and the neat touches, like flickering candelabra) but if you encounter any of the opposition, it's out with the rapier and waggle that joystick, which will cause you to cut and thrust - hopefully with fatal results.
Combat will lose you strength though - which you can gauge by how fast your heart in the corner of the screen is beating, although extra strength can be regained by drinking potions that you might find scattered around the place.
Two-player is slightly better, but there's no question that the game doesn't have the depth of vision of Singleton's previous masterpieces.
Throne of Fire falls into the look-and-see category, rather than the essential purchase.
Label: Melbourne House
Author: Mike Singleton
Reviewer: Jack Daniel
SUPPLIER: Melbourne House
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
A game from Mike Singleton is always an event. And we've been waiting for some time to see anything new from the Doomdark man, despite lots of rumours, so Throne of Fire is bound to create some interest.
Throne isn't quite an adventure, it isn't quite an arcade adventure, it isn't quite a wargame - but it IS a combination of all three.
Not a game for those of you who demand instant gratification - but a challenge for gamesters who enjoy thinking with their action.
Throne of Fire is set within the Burning Citadel where three princes bid to seize the throne, and with it ultimate power. The three princes are Alorn the Lion Princea goodie, Cordrin the Sun Prince, another goodie and Karag the Wolf Prince - a black hearted baddie. Guess who is going to be the one everyone will play?
You can play alone against two computer controlled princes or with a friend and the computer. This is the best way to play as you can gang up on the computer prince and finish him off before fighting it out human to human!
The computer opponent is a tough cookie and will beat you nine times out of ten. So beware of early frustrations.
The screen display - a bit like Deactivators is split screen. The activities of the princes are shown in two large windows while below there's a plan view of the citadel.
The main display screen depicts the actions of the character who is currently under direct control, as he travels from room to room or is engaged in combat.
Each room is shown in perspective, and doors on the left and right lead directly to other rooms on the same level. Doors at the back lead to stairways ascending or descending to other levels.
The scrolling Citadel display at the bottom of each player's screen area depicts the inner wall of the Citadel.
The windows of all occupied rooms are lit in different colours, according to the allegiance of the occupant.
If a window flickers between two colours, there are two members of opposing forces in that room, who may be engaged in combat.
The colours are: Prince Alorn and his men-at-arms - red. Prince Cordrin and his men-at-arms - yellow. Prince Karak and his men-at-arms - purple. The men of the King's Guard - green.
The scrolling screen gives essential information about the deployment of all forces, but it does not reveal the structure of the Citadel, the connecting stairways, nor the contents of the rooms. These can only be discovered by exploration.
At the start of play, there are ten men under the control of each player - a prince, and nine men-at-arms. During play, however, the number of men-at-arms will vary greatly, as some are killed, and reinforcements arrive.
Characters who are not currently under the player's direct control cannot move from room to room of their own accord, but they will defend themselves it attacked.
However, they will not be able to fight very well. To get the best from his men, a player should, whenever possible, directly control them in combat mode.
Within the Citadel are a number of Gate Rooms. These rooms have only two doors, one which leads into the Citadel, and one which leads to the outside world which cannot be used by any of the players.
From time to time new men-at-arms will enter Gate Rooms from the outside.
They will only enter empty rooms, and they will join the side of the last player to have visited that room.
If the room has yet to be visited by any player, then the new men will instead join the ranks of the King's Guard.
So as you'll have already guessed it's important to map the position of these gate rooms.
The Throne room is the ultimate objective.
To seize the throne, a player must visit the Throne Room with his prince, and his visit must be unopposed. No other characters belonging to the other players or to the King's Guard can be in the room.
On gaining the Throne, that prince becomes King, and in addition to his men-at-arms, now takes control of the King's Guard.
At the same time, the other players lose the ability to directly control their men-at-arms, who now stay rooted to the spot, seeking only to defend themselves against attack.
Should the new King die, the King's Guard becomes neutral once again, and the surviving players regain control of their men-at-arms. They can now once more attempt to seize the Throne.
Die and your screen gets smeared with a tasteful splurt of blood. Nice!
Throne of Fire won't be to everyones taste - but if you've got the time and an inclination toward strategy games you'll find it an absorbing challenge.
One word of warning. Don't be put off by early failures - as I've already said the computer is a tough opponent. Be prepared to suffer early frustrations until you get to grips with the game.
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