The Legacy (aka The Legacy – Realm of Terror) is a highly unusual RPG developed by Magnetic Scrolls and published by Mindscape in 1993. Magnetic Scrolls were known for text adventure games and were regarded by many as the British Infocom throughout the 80’s. The Legacy was therefore something of a departure for them and despite a largely positive reaction from the press, it didn’t get the success it possibly deserved and would be their last creation.
This is a game I bought and played on first release but returning to it 20 years down the line, I can’t say I remember a whole lot of the detail. I do recall it being quite tricky and it was quite possible to get into unwinnable states but I’ll do my best to get through to the end once again.
The copy I have now isn’t my original as I sold/traded that one a long time back. I rectified that mistake eventually and bought another one. This is a game that comes in a particularly large and good looking box even if mine could do with gluing back together on one side.
I’m sure the contents here aren’t complete but I do have 7 floppies, a technical leaflet and the manual itself which goes into all sorts of detail considering how intuitive the game is to play. The manual contains a brief section allegedly written by Edgar Allen Poe about a particularly scary house he was unfortunate enough to visit. It’s hinted to be the same house as in the game but the influences once you start playing are much more Lovecraftian the way I remember it.
The game has an impressive intro for the time in which some hapless idiot draws up to the extremely sinister looking house, and only manages to make it up the steps before something emerges out of the floor dragging him to his doom.
It’s at this point that the game hung on me and I had to spend a while figuring out that it will always crash after the intro with SoundBlaster/Roland combo selected for audio. Either on their own worked fine but didn’t sound anything like as good. The readme file came to my rescue – basically select Soundblaster for sound and then start the game with “legacy -roland” and it works fine during the game. The snag here is that the intro and presumably outro if I make it that far still only have SoundBlaster music. I’ll worry about the ending if I make it that far.
The story of The Legacy is a nice simple one allowing anyone to jump straight in without reading the manual. You the player have inherited a house and at the start of the game arrive to take a look around. Before starting the game, you have a choice of 8 characters to play all with their own stats which will affect how you play the game. If you don’t like those stats, you can redesign the character as you please. Something I recall from playing this years ago is that all of these characters are stored in text files so if you want to make the game much easier you can simply edit the text file to beef them up. Tempting as that is, I stuck to playing it properly and chose the ex-military Robert Kowalski.
And with that it’s straight into the mansion. The setting is very different but the game is effectively a dungeon crawler in the style of Dungeon Master and Eye Of The Beholder. The interface is interesting in that it’s all point and click with context sensitive menus. All of the windows are resizable meaning that if you want to play full screen you can. You won’t be able to see your automap without clicking on it to bring it to the front but it’s entirely possible. This may seem unremarkable now but this was cutting edge stuff for a DOS game back in 93. The system was previously used in Magnetic Scrolls earlier game Wonderland back in 1990.
Using this sort of interface is second nature these days at any rate. The first task at hand is to get my bearings and the game wastes no time in setting the scene as the note immediately in front of me says that the house is possessed by an evil entity. Apparently there are strange goings on every 20 years and I happen to have arrived at just the wrong time. It’s too late to get out now as the door is being held shut by a magical force that laughs at me every time I step on that square.
I’ve no choice but to explore and it doesn’t take long before I come across my first zombie. All the creatures in the game are pre-rendered in 3D studio but move around quite smoothly despite this. The animation puts the likes of Doom to shame but there were only four possible camera angles here. There are loads of these zombies on this level and they tend to chase me around as soon as they spot me but won’t come through doors provided I don’t hold them open. It’s something of a theme throughout this game that whenever you run into a new monster, you aren’t equipped to deal with it so there is a lot of running away even with the character I’ve chosen to play. I do find a poker fairly quickly which becomes my weapon of choice for these early sections.
Further exploration reveals a spiky green floating thingy that doesn’t actually attack me but does terrify the player enough that they are rooted to the spot until it’s gone out of sight. This sort of fear reaction is used throughout the game and the willpower stat can be raised to overcome it.
Near enough the whole house is open to explore right from the start of The Legacy. This is not a game that holds your hand through each section one by one and it’s entirely up to the player to decide what to do next which does make starting out tricky. I venture down into the cellar when I come across a set of steps but don’t last more than a couple of seconds so decide to carry on exploring upstairs instead.
Most of the locations in the game are rendered as corridors. They aren’t entirely bare with sofas, chairs and the like but are largely generic on each floor. There are however, some specific locations such as the room above which have a pre-rendered screen and the player can search within that for things to do in the same manner as a point and click adventure game. I.e. here I can open the curtain to discover a hanging corpse, or more usefully open up the dumb waiter to find a severed head which I can carry around with me. I assume it will be useful at any rate.
The inventory space is extremely limited in this game. I have found a suitcase at this point which I can use to store about a dozen items but I’ve ended up using the entrance hall as a stash room to store all those things that I expect will come in handy much later in the game.
I decide to venture up to the second floor and have much the same experience I did in the basement only with a ghost this time around. All the fuses have now blown because of the storm so the house is quite dark and makes life trickier still. I do find a fusebox on the ground floor but it needs repairing and I haven’t found the appropriate equipment yet.
I eventually locate my first spell which is used for avoiding getting hit by enemies. The game’s magic system works by equipping a spell book in one hand and then selecting the spell and power level from a window of icons which pops up. Each spell has its own skill level which you can spend experience points on if you wish to improve your chances of casting successfully. The stat system in this game is quite complex with a lot of options on where to spend your experience. I’m tending to concentrate on combat skills and hope this won’t come back to hurt me late in the game.
The experience system is unusual in that it appears to be about exploring rather than combat and I’m unconvinced I gain any experience at all from combat. The Legacy definitely doesn’t have the usual RPG mechanics in this sense. There are no levels either and experience is just gained gradually and can be spent at any time.
I’ve run out of places to explore on the ground floor so decide to do my best a floor up and run away from anything dangerous. There are some imp-like creatures who throw spells at me but I do find out I can destroy these with holy water which I have a small supply of. I spot another human but she just walks back and forth across some trapped areas and ignores me if I try to talk to her so I leave her well alone.
I do come across my first NPC shortly after in the form of a friendly ghost who tells me how he is chained to the house by a particular painting which I must find and destroy.
That painting is practically around the corner. I drag my matches onto it and can now explore the level without being hassled by ghosts any more.
This leads me to a fusebox which I switch to get the lights back on for this floor. This doesn’t really appear to help in any way except the screenshots look much clearer.
Level 2 looks to be the guest quarters with loads of bedrooms and bathrooms all of which are more or less identical. Opening the toilets is not recommended as a blue worm will attack on suspicion.
I learned early on in this game that triangular symbols meant safety and I’ve been desperately looking for one so that I can rest up and regain health ever since. When I do finally find one, I’m not tired enough to rest so it was wasted effort. The only way I’ve got to regain health is the first aid kits I’ve run across which don’t last long and are in short supply. I’m definitely going to have to be more careful about not getting hurt from here on out. Presumably if I run out of first aid kits it will be game over as this game doesn’t strike me as being exactly forgiving in that sense.
I figure a baseball bat ought to help me out in fending off monsters than a poker so I grab this for my weapon of choice at this point. There are firearms in the game also but I can’t honestly say that I found them all that effective and ammo is in extremely short supply so I’m tending to stick to melee weapons. There isn’t anything to say it’s a +2 weapon or the like so I simply have to try it out and see how it goes.
Before I call it a day, I get to meet some of the family using a VHS I found earlier in the TV room. Not surprisingly since they owned this place this isn’t your run of the mill family video. The man is just saying how Ellen has escaped and how he doesn’t know what to do when she turns up and gives him the axe.
I can’t say I’m a whole lot wiser as to exactly what is going on in this house at the end of this first session but it definitely isn’t good. The Legacy is everything I remembered it to be though and is holding up extremely well. The graphics have barely aged as far as I’m concerned. I’ll admit the monsters are a little clunky when moving around and they do tend to face the wrong way at times (not that it dampens their ability to hit you any). It doesn’t do anything to reduce the air of dread that is hanging over me while playing these early sections. The constant threat of a quick death certainly adds to the tension as does the atmospheric music and sound throughout.
We’ll see if I can’t shift the balance a little more in my favour next time anyway and speed up progress a little. Either way, the floors on this house are unrealistically enormous so I expect there will be a good number of posts before I make it to the end.