14
Oct
13

Dark Ages for DOS

Title screen

Title screen

Dark Ages was released by Apogee back in 1991, one of it’s distinguishing features is the use of older graphics technology, whilst having excellent sound support for the Adlib and Sound Blaster OPL music. The game is set in the Great Kingdom where a bad guy named Garth has taken over after the king died. You play as the prince and heir to the throne, and you set out to defeat Garth and regain your birth-right.

The menu for Dark Ages

The menu for Dark Ages

The game was released as freeware in 2009, which is how I came across it when looking at the download section of the 3d Realms website when looking for another game. I hadn’t heard of the game before then, perhaps because it wasn’t widely distributed on magazine cover disks, or just not on the ones my older brother bought. I usually got most information about shareware games to play from the magazines back then. Mostly as we didn’t have a modem (which wouldn’t have worked well for us in the bush anyway).

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The games graphics are in EGA, which was very common at the time, especially amongst Apogee games. The graphics are reasonably well drawn and well animated, but look pretty average in comparison to other classic games that used EGA graphics such as Duke Nukem or Commander Keen. The players sprite in particular lacks detail.

Lava fall

Lava fall

Sound is where this old game shines technology wise. Whilst the sound effects use the PC speaker (a common technique even when a music card was present), the music is rendered using the OPL chip on either a Adlib card or Sound Blaster card. The music itself is quite fitting for the game, and sounds very good. It fits the atmosphere of the game and makes it feel more like an action game, even though it really isn’t.

The Prince of pansies on a fetch quest.

The Prince of pansies on a fetch quest.

Game-play wise it is brutally difficult, but not for the reason that you might expect. For the most part enemies are easy to deal with, and there are usually only a few of them. The difficulty comes from the fact that health power-ups are very rare, making it difficult to heal once you are hurt. The layout of the enemies make it difficult to not get hurt, so it pays to be patient and be more careful in what you do. Some parts of the environment hurt you when you don’t expect them to, most notably the spider webs in corners hurt you, the prince must be a bit of a pansy.

He didn't make it

He didn’t make it

Despite the difficulty and less than great EGA graphics, Dark Ages is an engaging platformer. It fortunately doesn’t have a limit on the number of deaths so you can play levels as much as you need to in order to complete them. Most of the levels are quite short and have simple goals such as finding an item for a wise man. So once you have practiced the levels you can breeze through them quickly, fortunately there are plenty of levels to complete and 3 episodes to play.

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