Better Beholder

I’ve been playing this game for a long time. That’s my excuse for the piss-poor, derivative names of the characters in my party.

Of the number of first-person, realtime CRPGs that cascaded into the market in the years following FTL’s seminal 1987 Atari ST title Dungeon Master the best known is still probably Eye of the Beholder. This excellent title, programmed by Westwood Studios and incorporating the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons ruleset and world, proved extremely popular and spawned a sequel – Eye of the Beholder II - which many fans believe surpasses the original, as well as a third game which nobody does. Taking control of a party of four adventurers, the player entered the sewers under the city of Waterdeep looking for the troublesome evil that plagued the city, progressing through a mixture of combat and puzzle-solving. Taking in the aforementioned stinky sewers, spider-infested dwarvern ruins and dark elf lairs the game had the feel of a fantasy epic, despite taking place entirely underground, and continues to have a fanbase to this day. There’s only one problem: which version to play. You see, the two most popular versions are those for the Amiga and MS-DOS machines; the Amiga has the far superior sound effects but the DOS version has 256-colour VGA graphics which look much better than the 32-colour Amiga port. It’s a toughy – pictures or sound, daddy or chips?

“And the best thing is, they can do it with proper graphics *and* sound!”

The thing is, there’s no need to make that choice. There’s actually a little-known unofficial port of EOB which brings both of these together but, more crucially, adds something even more important.

You see, despite generally being very good and still offering a great deal to modern gamers, CRPGs of that late ’80s/early ’90s era tend to put people off for one very simple reason: the player needs to make maps to progress and because this in the era before games had automapping (largely for reasons of RAM, I’m guessing) which meant maps had to be done the old-fashioned way: pen and graph paper. What was barely tolerable then is intolerable now and only the most patient retronaut would bother to break out the pad of squared paper and get cracking when they could play something that draws the dungeons for them instead.

So, when mixing-up the graphics of the DOS version with the sound effects of the Amiga version they naturally threw-in an automap as well.

So enough background, how do you play it? Well, sadly it’s not a fancy-pants Windows port along the line of the one done for Dungeon Master that you might have expected. It’s actually a version for AGA Amigas which runs from hard disc only, although it works through an Amiga emulator too if you can be arsed setting a HD up on it. As for where you can get it, that would be here.

And now you can all run off and solve the great mystery of Eye of the Beholder: why this brilliant enhanced port is so obscure and why people don’t do things like this more often…

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One Response to “Better Beholder”

  1. Gnome (@gnomeslair) Says:

    If I only this… Not that Dungeons of Dredmor isn’t a great game, but, well, Eye of the Beholder…

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