Record of Lodoss War is one of those storied anime series that’s been given the video game treatment several times in the past (mostly in Japan-only releases, on the PC Engine no less), with largely disappointing effects. While Record of Lodoss War on the Dreamcast has largely-gratifying gameplay (it should since it mimics Diablo quite shamelessly), those looking for a game truly faithful to the anime should keep looking. While the Lodoss characters do make an appearance of two, they are done in a very “cameo-like” manner, both in-game, and in the cinemas, which are oddly CG rendered rather than anime. For someone looking for a shameless dungeon slasher with LOTS of play time, this one’s for you.
Record of Lodoss War is presented in the same isometric view as Diablo, which in this type of game, is a very good thing. It gives you a pretty good look at the action from a 3D perspective without resorting to unplayable camera views (you can go with 2 other camera views, each of which is a 45 degree turn, left or right, from the isometric camera), a problem which has plagued many a game since polygonal 3D became the norm. While many of the in-game characters are rather drab in color, they animate fairly well, and in a game like this, they’re not going to be onscreen for too long anyway. At times, when the screen is filled with baddies and projectiles, which happens quite a bit actually, the frame rate does slow to a crawl, but it really serves as a minor annoyance as opposed to a major gameplay-influence. Overall, the Record of Lodoss War, while not overwhelming in its graphical package, is not underwhelming either. It’s solid, and for games like this or Diablo, that’s enough.
You would expect Record of Lodoss War to excel in the sound department, but again, it merely gets by. Voices, music and effects are clear, but not anything you haven’t heard before, and done better. The music is your usual ‘epic fantasy’ fare, with a sometimes dark and brooding overtone. Voices are clear and well done, but the acting quality is barely better than that in the Resident Evil series (“Deedlit!”). You get all the clangs, groans and screams you expect in a Diablo clone, but they seem to lack the guttural and eerie quality found in this games inspiration.
Luckily for Record of Lodoss war, gameplay is the category that always counts, and in that it delivers. Game pacing is good, even though some of the side-items to be had later on are insanely difficult to get (Dragon items for instance). The fact that the game is largely non-linear is another plus, as you can more or less wander aimlessly through most of the game and still come across many of the optional dungeons you’ll need to find for better items. The user-decided Mithril upgrades are another bit of ingenuity of this title that really adds to the overall effect, as the player can pick and choose where he wants to allocate the Mithril. While this is somewhat similar to Diablo’s level up, where you could allocate points to the places that needed them, the fact that Mithril is really a monetary system makes it nearly a sidequest in itself. Control is tight and responsive, and frankly, in this area, it easily outshines Diablo, as the clumsy point and click is replaced by analog movement and exacting blows. As for time, well, you had better have plenty of it, because for a game like this, even with no multiplayer mode, you’ll need it. You will lose hours of sleep with Lodoss, another way that its resemblance of Diablo rings through
Anyone who is a fan of the popular Lodoss War anime series will attest to its unique blend of Japanese style and classic fantasy themes. While the storyline would seem to work better in a party-based, traditional RPG, it works fine here, albeit greatly watered-down. To be honest, there is really a lot less ‘Lodoss War’ in this game, than there is of, say (again), Diablo. Though some fans might be a bit miffed at the fact that the cast members of Record of Lodoss War are reduced to mere cameos, and that the ‘Lodoss War’ label was added as an afterthought to increase sales, the Diablo-inspired gameplay is good enough that most will forgive that much. With it’s extensive weapon/armor customization, faster-paced play mechanics and easy-to-learn control scheme, Record of Lodoss War may even give Diablo a run for its money in terms of its, shall we say, ‘addictive’ qualities.
This is the real deal, and the only game like it on the Dreamcast. While it’s not a perfect game (certain types of gamers need not apply, and you know who you are), for fans of the genre, this one is as close to Diablo II as you’ll get on the Dreamcast. Don’t put it in expecting to impress anyone with the aural or visual aspects of the game, let the gameplay speak for itself, once you score a copy off of eBay (Goozex might be another option).
Final Grade: 78%
Note: I apologize for the screenshots here. They’re the same ones I first included with the review when I first put it online around a decade ago (showing my age there). They were good enough then, but now…not so much. Once I have my video capture set-up going, they’ll be replaced.