Once upon a time there was a little French software house called Ubi Soft. Born in 1986 it employed just 30 people and took care of French distribution for Elite, Domark and Electronic Arts, among others. Ubi Soft was such a hard-working company that in 1987 it had sales of almost £3 million and soon decided France wasn’t big enough for it. By the end of 1989 Ubi Soft planned to be an international software house publishing on most important formats. Skateball (85%, Issue 61) was its first, extremely violent Spectrum release, but it’s Iron Lord that’s the flagship of Ubi Soft’s plans for world domination.
Iron Lord: The Crusader of Justice begins when you return home after five years of fighting in the Holy Land. Your father, the King, has been murdered by your Uncle who has become an evil tyrant. Under his evil reign France has been terrorised by spies and assassins. You are determined to reclaim the throne, but must first win the support of your suspicious countrymen.
Your quest is a massive one and is made up of not one game, but three interlinked ones with numerous sub-games as well. The first game is an adventure where you must move around the country recruiting an army. The graphics of you walking around are basic, but compensated for by the main window pictures of the village streets. When you enter a building, the main picture changes accordingly and options come up, allowing you to trade and have conversations. There are also sub-games where you must prove yourself — these include a dice game in a tavern, arm-wrestling, an archery contest and even a first person perspective, 3-D swordfight! These are separate loads on the 48K, but all contained in memory on the 128K.
If you prove yourself in all these trials, and successfully persuade people to join you, then it’s on to the next section. This is a single 48K load and gives a 3-D view of the field of battle as your army takes on the enemy forces. Using your joystick you can give orders and interrogate units to find out their strength. The number of men in your army depends on how well you did in the adventure.
Defeat your Uncle’s army and he takes refuge in the Labyrinth, a maze packed with monsters. This is another 48K load and is an arcade action-style game, with you running around, battling dragons in search of your Uncle. If you manage to survive the Labyrinth you will have completed what must be one of the biggest games ever to be released for the Spectrum.
Iron Lord was originally developed on the Atari ST by six people, including David Whitaker who wrote the music. The Spectrum conversion is being handled by Ashminster Computing, a Leicester-based programming house headed by Roger Taylor. Originally specializing in Amstrad and PC conversions, once a conversion deal was signed with UbiSoft they launched a recruiting drive which still continues. One of their first recruits was Jonathan Medhurst, a twenty-one year old techie. His first conversion was Skateball, after which he went on to Iron Lord. His partner on the project is Nigel Kenward, a free lance graphic artist in his early thirties who provided most of the graphics for Skateball. They’ve been working on Iron Lord for five months already and their biggest problem has been cramming such a big game into the Spectrum. The load for the first 128K game is certainly massive, but the game certainly looks extremely attractive. If you think you’ve the mettle to take on such a formidable game, the price is £12.99 tape, £19.99(!) disk and it should be out soon.