Game 344: Bandor II (1992)

From The CRPG Addict


That’s a lazy title graphic.

               

Bandor II
United States
Magic Lemon (developer and publisher)
Released as shareware in 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 26 October 2019
Date Finished: 28 October 2019
Total Hours: 14
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)
          
I was willing to give some credit to Bandor: The Search for the Storm Giant King (1992) for at least having the originality to try to clone the Gold Box instead of Ultima, Dungeon Master, Wizardry, or any other title that we’ve seen dozens of times. All that good will is gone with Bandor II, which differs so little from Bandor that it feels more like a remake than a sequel–albeit a remake in which very little is actually remade except trivial graphics and interface changes.
            

And let’s not over-emphasize those graphics upgrades.

        
In the original Bandor, you controlled a party of four adventurers set loose in the titular city to take quests from the council and its chief wizard, Osi. Both games draw heavily from Pool of Radiance in the nature of the plot and quests; for instance, a mysterious warlord organizing monsters in the slums, and someone poisoning a nearby river. In the first game, the city’s woes were revealed to be the machinations of the Storm Giant King, whose defeat ended the game well before I’d completed all the side quests. Here, the game begins with new ills facing the city, including word that the Storm Giant King has returned. Bandor II is subtitled “The Wrath of the Storm Giant King” on some external sites, but the subtitle is never given on a game screen or within the game files.
           

Bandor is having more problems.

         
I tried to import my characters from the first game but couldn’t figure it out, so I created brand new ones. Classes are warrior, thief, mage, friar, rogue (warrior/thief), and jack-of-all-trades (warrior/thief/mage). Races are human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, and half-dwarf, with only the mongrels able to be jacks-of-all-trades. Attributes are strength, magic, and luck, given as percentages from 0 to 100. Everyone begins with axes and leather armor. Spellcasters have spellbooks that (annoyingly) must be swapped into the weapon slot when you actually want to cast a spell.
            

I was uninspired during character creation and chose an uninspiring name.

           
The game re-uses the three 40 x 40 maps from the first title: the city of Bandor, the forest, and the underworld (slums) to the city’s east. The underworld has a teleporter to a fourth map, titled “Landthi’s Lair,” which makes no sense until you reach the final encounter. The city map is entirely wasted. The huge space has only a few shops and no special encounters.

This was a huge waste of time.

         
A large city council building in the center doles out quests. There are only 5 in the game:
            

  • Retrieve a bottle of Elixir of B’Tet from the Fortune Teller in the slums; bring it back to the wizard Osi. The Fortune Teller has you rescue her brother, the guildmaster, from a group of bandits before she hands over the elixir.

         

The Fortune Teller has a sub-quest.

         

  • Investigate unexplained deaths in the city slums near the old Temple of B’Nah. This turns out to be former acolytes of B’Nah attempting to resurrect him. One combat clears this quest.

           

Getting rewarded back at the city council chambers.

           

  • Find out who’s poisoning the River Quoth. It turns out to be a dragon.
  • Investigate the return of the Storm Giant King and find out who is behind his return.

            

The council issues the main quest of the game.

         

Only the last quest is necessary to win the game, and depending on your exploration pattern, it’s entirely possible that you’ll stumble on that quest first.

Bandor featured three major problems, none of which is fixed in Bandor II:

1. No inventory improvements. From your starting axes and leather armor, you can use your gold to buy slightly better items like long swords and plate armor. Once you have those, there’s nothing else. No upgrades are found during adventuring, or as quest rewards. This means there’s no purpose to the economy except healing and resurrections.
              

There’s hardly anything worth buying here.

          
2. A horrible mouse-only interface. I hated the mouse-driven interface of both games. Actions require too many clicks; there are no alternatives to clicking; and clicking even slightly away from the center of your target produces a question mark, a pause, and a noxious noise that made me want to punch a kitten. The worst part is that this game was supposed to feature a keyboard interface, and it technically does. But it’s bugged and broken, failing to read your input about half the item. Worse, you have to choose one or the other during configuration. Good games have redundant commands active at the same time.
            

Graphics haven’t improved. I don’t know what this was supposed to be.

            
3. Too many combats with too few tactics. Bandor tries to emulate the Gold Box combat system but only offers a handful of spells (admittedly, its “Fireball” analog is about as much fun as “Fireball” without being quite so over-powered) and eliminates useful features like backstabbing, delaying, and guarding. Worse, it often puts the party in extremely narrow corridors where only one character can fight and spellcasters can’t cast over their heads because they must have an uninterrupted line-of-sight to the enemy. Random combats are programmed to come along something like every 20 moves, and I found it less annoying to save the game, quit, and reload (which restarts the counter) than to fight all of them.
             

Fighting bandits in confined conditions.

         
To these inherited problems, Bandor II maddeningly introduces another:

4. No ability to level up until late in the game. If you visit the guild early in the game, you can’t get in. A message on the door indicates that the guildmaster has gone into the slums to investigate the problems there. You have to rescue him from bandits before he’ll return to the guild and train you. But the bandit encounter is so deep in the slums, you could easily do this quest last, or not at all.
          

This doesn’t happen until it’s so late you hardly need it.

        
The only thing to unarguably improve is the automap, which no longer forgets your progress and clearly annotates physical features like doors and uncrossable foliage.
            

A growing automap of the final area looks a bit like Ultima Underworld’s.

           
Of the maps, the outdoor forest is the most annoying. It is essentially linear, with trees, bushes, and water blocking any attempt to create your own exploration pattern. In short order, you find a magic staff, talk to a druid who is only able to contact you through the staff, and then fight a dragon to destroy the threat to the city’s water supply. Random battles against ogres and giant rats are more dangerous than the “boss” battle in the area.
            

This time, it’s a three-headed dragon instead of a sorcerer named Yarash, but the idea is the same.

          
The slums serve up more giant rats and ogres, along with bandits, fire beasts, and “black servants.” (Nothing like a message saying, “You hit the black servant” to test my liberal sensibilities.) Buildings within this area hold the encounters necessary to solve all quests except the Storm Giant himself.
             

Threatened by Benson.

           
The undead Storm Giant King is found through a portal. He attacks after a bit of exposition with two black servants, and again the combat is easier than some of the random ones found in the same area.
         

The Storm Giant King, just like Tyranthraxus, doesn’t know when to stay dead.

           
After he’s defeated, you can enter an inner sanctum and find the wizard Landthi, brother of Osi. He takes the credit for raising the Storm Giant King and then attacks with no minions, making the final battle one of the easiest.

The villain delivers his exposition.
The final battle against Landthi in a corner.

           
Once you defeat Landthi, Osi apparates in and says that Landthi still lives . . . somewhere. He thanks you for your service and ends the game.
           

Maybe we’d like to be heroes of some other city next time.

        

I gave the original Bandor 26 points on the GIMLET. Since its sequel uses a near-identical interface, mechanics, and plot, I’m inclined to give it the same thing–minus 2 points for “character creation and development” since you can’t develop for most of the game. I guess I’d also subtract a point for “encounters,” since this game had the same unmemorable foes as the first but without the handful of non-combat encounters that I noted in my review.
If I can say one good thing about Bandor II, it’s that magic and physical combat are well-balanced. You can’t win with just a melee party, but spells aren’t quite the deus ex machina that they are in the Gold Box series. There are only a few of them, and while none of them ever stop being useful (e.g., “Sleep” doesn’t stop working against higher-level foes), they also have logistical concerns that prevent the mage from wiping the floor with every enemy party. For instance, enemies have a chance of dodging spells, you have to be in a line-of-sight to cast them (no other party members blocking), and the spellcaster cannot be in melee range of an enemy.
          
Blasting the Storm Giant King with a “Fireball.”
          
Still, unless Bandor III (1993) offers a significantly different experience, I won’t be sad if it never surfaces. We’ll see author Don Lemons’ other work with Shadowkeep I: The Search (1993) and The Infernal Tome (1994).
We’ll check in with Camelot next, after which I’ll either take another stab at The Magic Candle III or move on to Challenge of the Five Realms


Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2019/10/game-344-bandor-ii-1992.html