Hands-on: Eye of the Beholder

We check out Infogrames' GBA update of this classic PC and Amiga RPG.

We got our first chance to play the Game Boy Advance version of Eye of the Beholder at an Infogrames press event today, and we found the game to be much more than just a port of the original PC and Amiga games.

The first thing we had to do was create a party of six adventurers to play with, which was easy to do, but--given the sheer number of options available--could actually have taken some time had we been creating a team that we intended to play with for longer than the duration of our demonstration. For starters, there are six different Forgotten Realms races to choose from, four base D&D character classes to assign to them, and no less than 60 individual items with which to create outfits for them.

Upon starting our adventure, we were greeted by the familiar first-person view and step-based movement of the original game, but upon encountering our first enemy--a kobold--our party suddenly found itself playing out a tactical battle from an isometric viewpoint. If nothing else, this would certainly justify the time spent pondering over costumes--a fruitless pastime in a single-player first-person game, to say the least. As it turned out, the new isometric battles actually play pretty well. The character with the highest initiative rating gets to go first, and it's turn-based after that. Characters can move and attack in the same turn, and, since the game uses the D&D rule set, the combat is actually quite sophisticated--particularly for a handheld RPG.

Taking out the lone kobold obviously didn't provide much of a challenge, but it wasn't long before our party was regularly finding itself under attack from up to six enemies at a time, many of them significantly more powerful than kobolds. Upon winning a battle, players get to keep any treasure, gold, and weapons dropped by their slain enemies, but, as is always the case in D&D, characters are only able to carry a certain amount of items, so it's a good idea to sell off any unwanted gear when the opportunity presents itself.

Our only real concern with the game was that the step-based movement and repetitive textures would make it very easy to get lost and frustrated, but our fears were quickly put to rest upon the discovery of a map that can be called up at any time. Eye of the Beholder, which is being developed by Pronto Games, is scheduled for release on October 2. For more information, check out our previous coverage of the game.

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