Amstrad CPC cover
|Developer(s)||Tim and Chris Stamper|
|Publisher(s)||Ultimate Play The Game|
|Release date(s)||ZX Spectrum
Knight Lore is a computer game developed and released by Ultimate Play The Game in 1984. The game is the third in the Sabreman series, following on from his adventures in Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde. Unlike the earlier games in the series it used Ultimate's filmation engine to achieve a 3D look using isometric projection. In the game Sabreman has to find the ingredients for a magic potion.
Knight Lore was regarded as a revolutionary game and was among the first of the "isometric adventure" genre, by displaying a detailed 3D world using isometric perspective. It was extensively copied by other publishers, and was described as being the second most cloned piece of software after WordStar.
Typically for an Ultimate release, the inlay card provides little actual instruction for playing the game, but includes a cryptic rhyme.
|“||"THE MIST TUNES
THE WIZARD`S OLDER NOW THAN ALL
—Knight Lore documentation, Ultimate Play The Game, 1984
A man cursed to be a werewolf (spelt as "werewulf" in the game) travels to Knight Lore castle in the hope that the dying wizard, Melkhior can free him. He has only 40 days and nights to find a potion that will break the curse or he will remain a "werewulf" forever.
Again taking the role of Sabreman, the player must find the wizard Melkhior and scour Knight Lore castle to retrieve the objects successively requested by his cauldron. These objects are found at set locations within the castle, but which objects are at which locations varies from game to game. The player can carry up to three objects at a time. (This mechanic is similar to that of earlier Ultimate game Atic Atac, except that the objects do not affect the player while they are being carried.) Sometimes an extra life is found in place of one of these objects.
Once collected, the objects must be returned to Melkhior, and dropped into the waiting cauldron. Successfully following all of the cauldron's requests within a forty day period frees Sabreman from the curse of lycanthropy cast upon him by the Wulf encountered in Sabre Wulf.
The curse itself plays an important role in gameplay. While beginning the game as Sabreman, the player is periodically transformed into a werewulf as day turns into night (see the sun / moon dial in the bottom right of the screenshots below). At the point of transformation (either to, or from, the werewulf), Sabreman experiences a short, but humorously animated, seizure, and is vulnerable to enemies or hazards. Certain enemies (including Melkhior's cauldron itself) will attack Sabreman when a werewulf, making the timing of certain actions crucial.
In what was revolutionary for its time, the castle is presented as a series of isometric, flip-screen rooms. Negotiating many of these rooms requires good platform skills, especially since some platforms disappear or move when stepped on. In some rooms, objects such as tables, treasure chests or the objects collected for the cauldron need to be used to reach carefully positioned goals.
Aside from platform-hopping, Sabreman must avoid a series of enemies and hazards. Static beds of spikes and falling spiked metal balls are among the simplest hazards. Malevolent portcullis gates guard many thoroughfares, and are often accompanied by slow-moving, but lethal, guards. Faster moving enemies, such as ghosts and Melkhior's cauldron spirit, provide more dangerous company.
Tim Stamper suggested in a 1988 interview that Knight Lore was actually completed before its less technically accomplished prequel Sabre Wulf. However, they delayed its release because "the market wasn't ready for it":
|“||I think possibly Knight Lore was ahead of its time, and in looking back at the market now, there doesn't seem to have been any vast improvement in the two years since we left it. I don't know whether we could have made any more of an improvement.||”|
—Tim Stamper on the impact of Knight Lore, CRASH magazine, April 1988
Knight Lore received an overwhelmingly positive reception from the gaming press at the time of its release. Amstrad Action described it as a "stunningly original concept" and praised its addictive gameplay, calling it "without doubt one of the best three games available on the Amstrad". CRASH was equally enthusiastic, calling it "incredible, and a joy to play ... simply a great game" and describing the animation as "terrific from the smallest detail right through to Sabreman himself". Your Sinclair magazine called it "one of the most important (and best) games ever written for the Speccy".
The game's reputation survives intact to this day and it still receives acclaim as one of the most important and advanced titles of its era; one reviewer compared its impact on Spectrum gamers to King Kong on movie watchers. GamesTM hailed it as "seminal" and "revolutionary", while Gamesmaster magazine's Adam Norton claimed that "this slightly cryptic puzzle/platform adventure defined isometricism in the same way Super Mario 64 defined 3D". X360 magazine said Knight Lore is "one of the most successful and influential games of all time", while Edge described it as representing "the greatest single advance in the history of computer games".
The ZX Spectrum version was number 33 in the Your Sinclair Top 100 Speccy Games in 1991, was voted number 22 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time in 1993 and was voted the 2nd best game of all time by the readers of Retro Gamer Magazine in 2004 for an article that was scheduled to be in a special Your Sinclair tribute issue.
Although Ultimate Play the Game were primarily associated with European software publication, Knight Lore did reach Japanese players in the form of a Famicom Disk System version (see cover art to the right). Though not a straight port, it did feature the original's day/night mechanic and could be viewed as an unofficial sequel. Though details of the port's developer are uncertain, its publisher was Jaleco, and it was released on December 19, 1986.
Martin K converted the game from ZX Spectrum to Sharp MZ-800 in 1989. It was a monochrome version. In 2008 Krzysztof Dudek aka XXL made a version for Atari XL/XE. It is a conversion from the BBC Micro, the title screen was taken from the ZX Spectrum version (as Hi-Res graphics) and was coloured using G2F. Music was also added to this conversion. Manuel Pazos and Daniel Celemín converted the game from MSX to MSX2, adding new 16 colour graphics, fixing bugs of the original and adding new features such as map, torch animation and different palettes for day and night.
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- Knight Lore at MobyGames
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- A walkthrough video of Knight Lore on the ZX Spectrum