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Eye of the Beholder (Amiga) artwork

Eye of the Beholder (Amiga) review

"Taken for what it is - an old-school immersive dungeon crawler - this game still holds up today."

Vanquishing the mighty (and eponymous) Beholder at the end of the game is one of the most satisfying RPG experiences to be had. I have killed the Archdemon of Dragon Age - and survived (!) - I have saved defeated more than one Daedric Prince of Oblivion, and I have even killed the Dragon at the end of this game's sequel. But none of those is an achievement like beating the floating monster.

You might think the satisfaction comes from the variety of ways you can kill the beholder:

a) Fire magic and missiles from afar.
b) Nimbly hack it to bits.
c) Use a magic wand to drive it into a spike trap that gruesomely bursts it open

You might also think the kudos comes from its level of difficulty. As with all good old-RPGs, the beholder has several 'instant-kill' spells (disintegration, cause instant critical wounds, and even just a 'death' spell).

But no. The achievement is managing to endure what used to pass as an RPG experience. For example, earlier in the game (about 30 minutes in), you have to fight your way through giant spiders. One unlucky bite and a party member is poisoned. Of course, cure poison potions are in short supply and, without the ability to create new ones, you can suffer game-breaking deaths of key party members.

I still loved it though. Those party members were created through one of the best character creation screens made at the time. If you wanted, you could forgo the RPGing aspects of the party's attributes, and simply ramp up everything to maximum. God knows, with designs like the spider level, you would either do that, or save every few minutes. And (as anyone with an Amiga background knows) saving onto a floppy disk is something you want to do as little as possible - the disk might break before you do.

What else? The magic system was intuitive, with a real sense of progressing onto more powerful spells. However, I never did appreciate the way that in order to regain the spells (and heal an injured party) you would often need to rest for several days. Watching a clock wind up for several days, open a door, kill a monster, and repeat for a week, didn't feel heroic to me. But you just have to give games like a break.

What this game does have, though, is the puzzle that kept me stuck for six months. It involved me clicking on every pixel-area of every wall (until I decided I needed to map it). Far more difficult than defeating the ultimate baddies on WoW (although I am yet to play that game...), only the greatest of adventurers - the true chosen ones - can hope to overcome the follow piece of game-design history:

Step on the invisible pressure pads in the right order. And they don't make a sound when stepped on. And you don't know you have to do it.

What kept me, and so many others, with the game despite the true monstrosities like the above design? And no, it wasn't the fact that there were no other RPGs at the time. It was the variety unseen of in a game at the time, both in the enemies and in the levels. Trust me, when you have spent six months clicking on every pixel in a grey-stoned wall, to see green-stone walls is akin to gazing upon the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Another anomaly concerns the spell system. When you find a scroll, you can either use it immediately as a one-off, or scribe it so you can use it permanently when you reach a level capable of casting it. Unfortunately, some of the best spells require a level unachievable (in my playthrough) in the game. So that regeneration spell, something that you've waited for ever since half your party was poisoned to death in the spider level near the beginning of the game, turns out to be entirely useless, save as a reminder of how you should have used it when you had the chance.

Should you play this game today? As a piece of gaming history, it is certainly worth watching some Youtube videos at least. Taken for what it is though - an old-school immersive dungeon crawler - it still holds up today. However, there are too many flaws of design to make it an enjoyable experience. It exists now a piece of nostalgia; as something to realise how much more we expect in our RPG games.


thequillguy's avatar
Community review by thequillguy (April 26, 2011)

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Masters posted April 26, 2011:

Nice review! I like the final paragraph especially.

I believe you missed a word in this sentence though:

But you just have to give games like a break.
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honestgamer posted April 26, 2011:

Thanks for reviewing this. It's good to see new Amiga reviews being posted on the site, and Eye of the Beholder is a game that has always interested me. I wonder how much the Amiga version differs from the eventual SNES and GBA ports. Substantially, I would imagine.

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