Dark Sceptre – help!

Here’s a wee experiment for you all to try. Go to this link here and download Mike Singleton’s much-acclaimed 1987 strategy game for the ZX Spectrum Dark Sceptre; and whilst you’re there download the instructions file.

Umbarg's Reaper attacks the confused n00b for his confused n00bness!

Umbarg's Reaper attacks the confused n00b for his confused n00bness!

Done that? Good. Now, put aside a couple of hours if you can and read the instructions (because, by golly, you’ll need to do that) and then have a shot at the game using your Spectrum emulator of choice. Don’t just dick around for ten minutes, put at least half an hour to an hour aside to play the game and really try and find that goshdarned sceptre.

Done that? Congratulations. Now, were you able to, for want of a better way of putting it, get any sort of feel for the game and what exactly is going on?

I ask because this game really seems to divide people. Take a look at that World of Spectrum entry I linked to earlier again. It’s got a really good user score meaning that lot’s and lot’s of Spec-chums like Dark Sceptre and yet try and I might I, and quite a few other people, find it a bit of a confusing game to play. I know about all the characters I have control of, I know all the things they can do that sound terribly involved and exciting and yet when I play the game all I seem to do is issue a few orders and then my men wander around the game map (which doesn’t seem to have terribly recognisable areas making things even more confusing) either looking for people, killing people or getting themselves killed. There seem to be dozens of items in the game and yet I can never seem to find them and I’m not sure what they do. I keep wanting to go back to it and yet I know I’ll just get confused all over again and sit in front of the monitor with virtual question marks floating above my head.

Seriously, folks, if any of you can find the time to try this game then tell me in the comments and let me know if you got the feel for the game that so many critics at the time seem to have. And, if you can, maybe tell me where I’m going wrong…

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9 Responses to “Dark Sceptre – help!”

  1. Stuart A Says:

    I don’t think I ever worked out any of Mike Singleton’s games, although that’s probably more down to my lack of patience with such things.

    Here’s a quote from the Your Sinclair review:
    “…Dark Sceptre is well designed making it accessible and easy to play – in the sense that it’s very quick and simple to grasp…”
    I disagree in the strongest possible terms, your honour.

  2. Matty Says:

    Most of Singleton’s famous games were extremely complex and baffling to newcomers. I think “Lords of Midnight” was probably the easiest and most straightforward one. Its sequel, “Doomdark’s Revenge” takes away the simple “one side versus another” scenario of the original and throws in loads of different races with different empires, agendas and alliances. And some tunnels, lots and lots of tunnels. Then there was “Throne of Fire” which should be straightforward (being essentially “Spy vs Spy” but with Princes) but isn’t.

  3. Rasterscan – in space no one can see your confusion « Matty on Games Says:

    […] that, I’ve never quite managed to get past all the weird doors so I can’t find it. Like Dark Sceptre, this game leaves me scratching my […]

  4. Psy Says:

    Hi. I’ve just bumped on your blog, and this post got me memories. Yes, I was a lover of Singleton´s games, but this one got me very frustrated. Its not about the obscure goal, the “now what” commands, but the bugs. The worst of all was the perpetual “on garde”:
    Two characters meet, want to duel, challenge each other but the fight never starts, then other character pass by, wants to duel but must wait for the ongoing duel to finish, then another character pass by, and another, and another…
    In the end what you got is similar to a week end family picnic 😉

  5. dusoft Says:

    I agree “En garde” bug that basically stalled the whole game and meant hours of waiting (literally) for the game to continue was awful. Otherwise the game is enthralling, not only because of its fascinating graphics (huge figures taking the 2/3 of the screen)

  6. Eamon Kelly (@eakokel) Says:

    Love this game, absolutely love it, but ahhh yes the En Garde! Nightmare! Plus what good is a ‘Fool’ to you? Anyone ever find anything other that the silver ring and the dark sceptre? Anyone find the golden sceptre? Tip: You can save your thrall at the start if your quick enough 🙂

    • Matty Says:

      I was always intrigued by that glowing sceptre the bad guy who always appeared at the start of the game had.

      • Psy Says:

        Ohhh, don’t make me start about the glowing sceptre. Even if you’re fast enough to catch the guy carrying it (before he get lost in the map), no character has skills to stop him.

  7. Scunny Says:

    Dark Sceptre was a great game, the En Guarde bug was a pain but could be used to your advantage, The guy carrying the dark sceptre initially CAN be killed, but not by your thrall at the start.This game was awesome if you put the time in. There are tons of items that can be found, when used they generally add another attribute to your character that makes them stronger. The fool is not useless at all, he can persuade characters to join your cause.

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