Currently playing: Nox Archaist

December 24, 2011

The Dark Heart of Uukrul - Revisited

While the first impression of Skyrim has faded somewhat I am feeling drawn once again to return to the old rpg school of games. Earlier games revisited have always been known to me in some way or another, but this time I have the sight targeted at - at least for me - an unknown game called The dark heart of Uukrul. I have never heard of it before. I took it from the list that CRPGAddict uses as his master list and googled it quickly to determine what kind of game it was. First impression looked promising so I got the game and fired it up with Dosbox 0.74 to see what it is all about. The few reviews of it I found was praising the game and said it was a perfect mix of combat, puzzles and adventure. So why not give it a try ?

The party consists of four characters each must be a Warrior, Paladin, Priest and a Magician. You do not roll your attributes but instead are asked to answer a few questions for each class to - what I believe -  determine what focus you will have in your attributes. A few of them is neutral through a moral viewpoint but a few is not and that makes it interesting. It reminds me of Ultima.

I am not sure the attributes are random or not. I have yet to re-roll any class to verify that. Instead my group looked like this in the end:

The party starts out in the city of Eriosthe. Somewhere here is the evil magician Uukrul which I suppose we will have as our major adversary. What I like about the manual is the developers talking about the depth of the game. I have to give you a quotation:

"The game’s emphasis is on depth of play and quality of puzzles. It’s
not just another “bash the monsters” fantasy game. We could give
you figures about the number of monsters or maze size, but that’s not
the point. We hope you find the puzzles challenging and tortuous
without them brickwalling you. Nothing pleases us more than
watching someone who has already played the game for hours realize
that the game has even more subtlety."

I really miss this kind of developer diaries or designer´s notes in today game manuals. So what is this game about anyway ? You start out with your adventurers in a huge underground city called Eriosthe. Your goal is to destroy the evil magician Uukral that resides somewhere in the city. That´s about all the manual tells you in the beginning. I started out with the party and moved around for awhile. I came to some sort of underground hall with doors in all directions. 

Every door gives you the ability to listen. I suppose it is to give you hints if there are living - and thereby dangerous - creatures on the other side. You also have the opportunity to search the walls. I periodically started to search every wall I could see where potentiall secret areas as could be determined from the automap. I found a key, opened a locked grate and stumbled into my first fight with rats.

Combat reminds me very much of Demons Winter. The graphics is almost the same but here you can move diagonally. You could also flee combat but I haven´t tried that yet. I was positively surprised to see that enemies could flee and also move in different speeds. I will return with an analysis of the combat in the game in a later post. After combat experience points are distributed according to who and which characters took part most actively. There is also the opportunity to find treasure you could take. So far I´ve only seen daggers or gold. 

For a game from 1989 it does - surprisingly - give you a quite good auto-mapping feature. You could label an area but I am not sure what the other options are for yet. Red squares above are hexes I have visited. After about 20 minutes I found the Sanctuary. A Sancturay is a place in the town where you could rest and regain your lost health and magic points. You could also store items permanently there and gain levels if you have enough experience points. Last but not least it enables you to let the program take a backup of your party and save game file. Here is the first restriction of the game. You only have one save slot and according to information I have gained in FAQ:s it seems it is automatically saved before each combat and death of a character so you cannot just reload easily unless you backup the whole directory from time to time. 

Quite often - almost for all rooms - you are given story descriptions about the place which builds up the atmosphere. It is much more advanced and mature that Bard´s Tale or Dragon Wars but not as well as the SSI series of RPGs. Oh, I forgot to mention that you need food to survive. I have not yet found any shop to replenish my supplies and I haven´t found any in my loot either.

There are pits you could descend into by climbing down with or without a rope depending on how dangerous it is. The city is also build on several levels with stairs connecting them.

The combats is not very frequent but still random. I would say fights occurr less often than every 30 steps which is a giant leap forward compared to Bards Tale III or Dragon Wars. The area in the combat section is exactly a replica of the maze you where currently standing in.

Dogs or hounds are a litte tougher than rats

Bats are your first and easiest enemies
The magic system is well developed in the game. I have yet to figure it out since I haven´t had the time to read the whole manual yet. What I can say is that there are a lot of spells in different disciplines as a mage and different schools as a Priest. The spells have to be manually typen which makes it cumbersome just like in BT3. I´ll return later on with more info about this part as my group develops and I learn more about the game.

Above is the character screen of my Priest. He has some rings which are important for the magic part and virtue points that I am not sure what they are for right now. Either they are my spell points or something else. The skill level is my character level and will increase when I get enough experience. I don´t know if my attributes are increased then or not.

The inventory screen show your items graphically. A question mark (?) indicates you have to identify the item to be sure of what it does. You could still use Inspect to try to identify it though. The marked letters indicates which armours and weapons are equipped.

The game has no sound and pretty bad graphics even for a 1989 game. Still it is better than what I saw in Demons Winter. I will continue to play this game to give it a fair chance. It is a very odd and rare game and was made by Broderbund, a company that was not famous for anything in this genre. 

Until my next post, merry christmas!


  1. Having not gotten far in the game, my clearest memory of Uukrul is of "rape" being an answer to a character generation question.

  2. I did notice that as well and wondered who would choose such an answer and what type of effect would that make on your attributes.

  3. Heh, this is funny, but I just started this game as well. My characters are currently lvl 2, and yes - stats do increase when gaining a level.

    "Rape" is one of the answers to a question about spoils of victory. The other answers were Pillage, Plunder and (I think) Burn. Not very suitable for a Paladin, I think!

    One rather annoying thing about the game is that every action eats food. So be careful about Searching every wall for hidden doors or you'll soon starve. Searching also increases chances of random encounters.

    Another annoying thing is that like Dragon Wars there doesn't seem to be any in-game way of determining the stats of weapons and armour. And unlike DW there is no info on the net. That is painful for a control freak like me. :-(

    The game is supposed to be quite hard core and has been mentioned in the same sentence as game like Deathlord and Chaos Strikes Back.

  4. @PetrusOctavianus
    I didn´t almost believe there where other people playing this game anymore. I agree with the lack of stats for weapons and armour. At least with armour you can wear it and immediately see its effects on armrour rating. I can just hope the more expensive the better when it comes to weaponse. I have just bought a broadsword to replace my short sword and hope it will be an improvement