Preview - Discworld (DOS, 1995)

What Douglas Adams is to the world of science fiction, Terry Pratchett is to fantasy. If you've never heard of either of these names, where have you been? Both are very talented British authors who choose to work in a humorous form of their respective genres. Which is to say, they usually write funny things. While Adams is best known for his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy (now in it's fifth installment), Terry Pratchett is the creator of "Discworld", which has so far been the locale of a dozen novels.

Adams' series has had tremendous success in America, and was adapted to a computer game after only 2 or 3 books. While Pratchett's novels are a bit lesser known in this country, they are consistent best-sellers on their home turf, so it's only fair that they should finally get a turn at the fast-growing multimedia market. Psygnosis will soon release their Discworld game, subtitled The Trouble With Dragons. While the game does not mesh completely with the novels, it is set in the same highly unlikely universe.

A'Tuin (1), the great space turtle swims through the cosmos, supporting the four great elephants, who in turn carry the magical Discworld, home of the great metropolis of Ankh-Morpork and Unseen University. And home in turn to a wizard named Rincewind, the player character.

At the game's start, Rincewind is hard at work at one of his favorite hobbies: sleep. He is stirred by a knock on the door, and told that he needs to meet with the Archchancellor. When this meeting takes place, Rincewind is sent on a fairly simple research quest to get the DRAGONS' LAIRS books. There is a dragon terrorizing Ankh-Morpork, and the Archchancellor has decided that the wizards should do something about stopping it. This is no easy task, and will require some strategy. So Rincewind goes to contribute his share of energy to the cause, but as the game continues, the responsibility for dealing with the dragon eventually shifts from the general to the specific, and Rincewind is as specific as it gets.

The game starts in the Unseen University, then moves out to Ankh-Morpork proper, and eventually ranges over the whole Discworld, in over 80 distinct locations. There's even some time travel involved, so some of the wheres are whens! Rincewind does all this travel by himself, accompanied only by his trusty luggage. Yes, accompanied. The luggage is his pet, and it follows him around, also carrying numerous useful items.

Psygnosis is working very hard to insure that nothing interferes with the unusual atmosphere of the game. The graphics are 256 color VGA, and the style is very cartoony to reflect the humorous surroundings. The dialog is completely narrated, using the digitized voice of Eric Idle and other leading comedic talents. Also, there is no icon bar in the interface. Just point, click and interact.

The plot works equally well for those who have read the Discworld books and those who haven't. While it does draw on characters, scenes and locations from the novels, it always keeps ahead of the player and is in no way obvious. Do go ahead and read the books, though. For one thing, they're very funny, but also they provide good hints every now and then.

Discworld : The Trouble With Dragons is just your normal adventure game. The emphasis is very strongly on the humor, and the graphics and "transparent" interface will make the player feel as if he is controlling a cartoon. In short, it's magic.

(1) A'Tuin is referred to as an it, as opposed to an he or a she, simply because its sex is undetermined. There is a popular theory held by those of a religious persuasion, that A'Tuin is crawling from the birthplace to a time of mating, as were all the worlds in the sky which were, obviously, also carried by giant turtles. When they arrived, they would briefly and passionately mate, for the first and only time, and from that fiery union new turtles would be born to carry a new pattern of worlds. This was known as the Big Bang hypothesis. Of course, this raised many concerns in Astrozoologists about the sex of A'Tuin. After all, wouldn't you want to know if your world was going to be on the top or the bottom?