Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon (EOTB 2) is quite simply one of the greatest RPG’s to ever brighten a pixel on the Amiga, let alone the PC. Unleashed on the Amiga world in 1992 by Westwood Associates (later known as Westwood Studios), EOTB 2 is based on the AD&D universe and rules. It was ported from DOS, which was released the previous year.
EOTB 2 uses the same user interface introduced in the first installment
but adds outdoor environments, more monster variety and simply fantastic NPC graphics and interactions. To that end, the intro graphics are undoubtedly some of the finest to ever be seen on the Amiga. The level of detail and beauty is something not to be missed
, even if one decides not to play the game (which would be dumb, because it's awesome). The way light is represented in the moonlit reflections of puddles, how candlelight spills onto the street or fire dances in the eyes of Khelben Blackstaff is worthy of being called an artistic masterpiece. And then there's the actual game, which is a best-in-class experience for RPGs
The game comes on four floppies, but thankfully they can be installed to Amigas equipped with a hard drive. It’s worth noting that this process is not as cut and dry as one might expect. While there is an “install to disk” icon in Disk 1, you must first make copies of all original disks before installing anything. As a result there is no copy protection, however every now and then you are asked to refer to the game manual
to answer “verification questions”. It is highly recommended to find original or make printed copies of the manual and Clue Book
(sold-separately). Both are valuable references, and the Clue Book offers maps of the dungeons with locations of traps, monsters and special items needed to get through the game. I picked mine
up off Ebay for only $10 - it is worth every penny. While some might think this to be cheating, fear not - the game is so incredibly difficult that the Clue Book mainly serves as a means to keep one’s sanity in check. And having a paper copy you can easily flip through is a must. However, there are PDF versions in the Helpful Assets section of this page.
A nice improvement of EOTB 2 is the ability to save multiple game files. This allows you to save in stages in case you accidentally do something (dumb) that makes progress near impossible. If you’ve saved appropriately, you can always go back to a previous save and undo any potential damage. During the course of this review, I typically had two main saves. I would save them as such: “Catacombs 2; 31” where Catacombs 2 referred to the 2nd level of the catacombs, and 31 was the block or closest block with a hint found in the Clue Book with the corresponding number. This really helped center my internal compass when I fired the game up a day later by reminding me where I left off last time.
You start the game in a forest filled with relatively easy to kill wolves. After walking around a bit, you’ll come across an old woman who can lead you to the temple of Darkmoon. Once there you meet some rather handsome clerics who, ultimately, you must kill in order to really start the game. You soon realize that each level of each building, catacomb or tower has its own foes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. And, in some cases, level designs are so difficult to solve that after a few days you’ll be an expert navigator by keyboard and will begin to memorize your way through the levels quite quickly. And while occasionally the game ventures on feeling unfair, you will ultimately unlock the secrets to Darkmoon through a combination of persistence, training (the game trains you) and a bit of luck.
EOTB 2 is a massive game for only being on four disks. And each level - except for experienced expert players - can take hours if not a few days to master. But each little step of progress made is incredibly rewarding.
This is a piece of gaming history that is not to be missed.
Game hints (mild spoilers):
Be sure to have at least one cleric in your party. You will come to depend on “Hold Person” spells any time you see evil clerics in the temple. Also be sure to have at least one Mage. You will need Burning Hands against clerics, Turn Undead to catch your breath between the hordes of skeleton warriors, Lightning and Burning Hands against Margoyles. Your "melee fighters" can hold more than one weapon at a time, and your weaker characters can throw up to four daggers, darts and rocks from the back ranks virtually untouched when fighting foes head-on. The third level of the catacombs eliminates the ability to Rest, which is how you typically restore health and magic spells. It really is tough, and bordering on the sadistic, but not impossible. Once you get past that level the catacombs are virtually a piece of cake (level four is like a breath of fresh air), and it's on to the Silver Tower, where the pain reasserts itself with a vengeance. You may have just played for a solid week to get this far, but you're just getting started!
This review was performed on an Amiga 2000 with 2MB Chip, 8MB fast RAM. It was played using original disks installed to a SCSI hard drive. Overall, it played beautifully. At times, when multiple monsters were attacking the machine would bog down slightly, which would make complex adjustments to character weapons etc. a tad challenging. But it was barely noticeable.
Check the Helpful Assets section for a downloadable copy of the manual, installation card and clue book in PDF format.