If you’ve ever played Diablo – and let’s face it, most of us have – then you’ll get to grips with Throne of Darkness (ToD) pretty swiftly. It’s built upon the same RPG principles, in fact many facets of the engine, such as the experience allocation, inventory, skill system and so forth are pretty much identical. Diablo players will be immediately at home – but this isn’t any plain fantasy RPG, it has an oriental setting.
You play one of the big-wig Daimyos, who is trying to save the land from the Shogun who has been possessed by a demon. To accomplish this feat you are given a band of seven characters – though in the first novel twist of ToD, you can only have four characters in your party at any one time.
This is a big part of the strategy of the game, because you can teleport wounded characters back to base, and bring substitutes back in, at will. This might sound a little daft but it actually works very well. The plot-line is well implemented too – not only do you get the main quest to complete but there are some sub-quests tailored to the individual characters in your party, giving the single player campaign some extra depth.
Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the game is the formation system, which allows you to set the AI behaviour for the three other characters in your party (you control one, obviously). This lets you decide whether they should have defensive or aggressive postures, and you can also customise the various standard formations (which are all named rather mysteriously – scorpion, snake, leaping fruit bat, that sort of thing). This system works well, though it does take an hour or two of experimentation and consulting the manual to get your head round it properly.
Visually, ToD is on a par with Diablo, though it has that typical mean and moody Oriental ambience. Perhaps the weakest point of the program is that it feels a little too much like Diablo – for those who are tired of Diablo by now, it doesn’t offer nearly enough.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a multiplayer mode, though it uses the single player campaign, and the odds that you’ll get to play all the way through the game in one session are pretty slim. On the plus side, it wasn’t at all laggy and played smoothly.