Roger Kean previews Gargoyle Games follow up to Tir Na Nog...

Dun Darach

It happened that, following a fateful, bloody battle against the Conachta, Cuchulainn the Great was returning home in the company of his faithful charioteer, Loeg.

Towards the end of the second day, Cuchulainn and Loeg came across a wayside inn and went inside to claim lodging and sustenance, leaving their war chariot by a strange horse-drawn carriage. While they waited for food, they were approached by Skar, a strikingly beautiful girl, who told them that she was the owner of the strange carriage, but was desperately troubled for her conveyance had developed a shattered axle. With somewhat unseemly haste, Loeg leapt to assist her and left the inn with Skar.

Cuchulainn smiled to himself and settled down to enjoy the freshly arrived trencher. After a while, he went outside to see what progress Loeg might have made, but was astonished to find no sign of Skar or Loeg.

Skar was, it seemed, a Sorceress and ally of Connachtmen, and she had seized Loeg as retribution for the Princeling’s death, and taken him, body and soul, to the Secret City of Dun Darach...

IN TIR NA NOG Gargoyle Games introduced us to the seven character-high hero Cuchulainn and what Greg Follis of Gargoyle calls ‘Grego-Celt Mythology’. Now Cuchulainn is back again in this ‘prequel’ to Tir Na Nog.

Greg Follis and Ted Heathcote visited us at the CRASH offices to let us have a sneak look at the new graphical adventure. There are immediate similarities between Dun Darach and Tir Na Nog in graphical appearance, but the new game goes well beyond the sophistication of Tir Na Nog. The main object is to locate and secure the release of Loeg who is held somewhere in the city of Dun Darach. This puts the action firmly in a townscape. Ancient Celtic towns must have looked a bit boring, so Gargoyle have designed a more attractive looking, half-timbered town that oddly enough resembles Ludlow. There’s even a King Street and, odder still, Number 2 (The CRASH office address) has a Wine shop on the ground floor (We are above the Victoria Wine shop). This, it appears, is quite coincidental!

Being a town, all the streets have names, and the doors to the shops and houses are numbered, which makes finding your way around the large town a relatively easy business, and the use of odd and even numbering helps enormously to overcome the sense of disorientation that changing direction sometimes caused in Tir Na Nog. Greg says that there are over 100 streets to roam and some 40-odd shops/rooms to enter.

Control of Cuchulainn is identical to that used in Tir Na Nog, but a striking difference is that you cannot be killed off in the new game, and consequently the ‘thrust’ function has become one of offering. This is important because although some of the other characters in the town, like shopkeepers, stick to their tasks single-mindedly, the streets are full of other large, fully animated characters with whom Cuchulainn can interact. So, you can’t be killed off, but you can be mugged and robbed, you can bribe and barter, and you can even send the more friendly or reliable of characters off on an errand for you and keep track of their progress as well.

The city is divided into several quarters, each with their own character such as the entertainment quarter, the financial quarter, the professional quarter and so on. Naturally, during the game Cuchulainn requires the aid of different services, which are more easily obtained in the appropriate quarter.

As you can buy, sell and steal, commerce is a vital factor in communicating with the other characters in the game. Here, joining a Guild may prove useful, and there are several to chose from (paying your dues of course to join) — certainly, being a member of the Thieves’ Guild is helpful if you get caught by the policeman stealing something because he’ll let you off! And any money that Cuchulainn may acquire during the course of the game, can be banked and it accrues interest as time goes by.

As the other citizens on the street are represented by a basic male or female character, a red cursor follows them along the street under the playing area displaying their name. A panel above the playing area carries text information, while the lower panel tells you objects carried or located.

Any of the doors may be opened and the shop or rooms behind it entered. Cuchulainn stands before the door, which swings open, he goes in and the door shuts before the scene cuts to the interior. Should another person come along while the door stands open, they might well decide to enter as well. If it’s a shop, goods may be bought by picking up the desired object and offering the shopkeeper the appropriate money. You could, of course, try stealing...

The currency in use is the Iridi (rainbow). This can be earned by working (if you can find a steady job), by gambling in one of the gaming houses dotted about the entertainment quarter, by selling goods at a profit or by stealing or by banking.

Dun Darach therefore, offers many levels of play and games within games; not only may it be treated as an exciting graphical adventure, but as an interactive strategy game, a try-your-luck gambling game (the Wheel of Fortune in the gaming houses can keep you at it until the Iridi run out!), and through the means of barter and banking, even a financial simulation as well. Graphically, it looks, if anything, even more exciting than Tir Na Nog, with bustling citizens striding about their tasks in the scrolling streets. The camera view angles’ of Tir Na Nog work even better within the confines of the streets of Dun Darach. This should prove to be a mapping game to beat them all!

One last word — the rats are not just a ‘nice little touch’, uncommunicative as they may appear....

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