Developed in 1994 by Lion Entertainment AD&D Slayer (henceforth referred to as ‘Slayer‘) is one of the rare role playing games on the 3DO. What makes it rarer? The fact that it’s a first person RPG based in the AD&D universe with a huge world to explore.
What makes this world huge? Well, it’s not class leading level design, that’s for sure. In fact, some of the level design is block like and shocking. This isn’t a bad thing though because Slayer uses a random dungeon generator to create a new experience every time with the player selecting how much loot there is to find, how potent poison is, enemy abundance and so on. This can potentially make every single dungeon dive a new experience and with a handful of unique bosses to take on differently every time, and a slew of predefined characters to take into battle, players are given many options on how to approach the game.
How do you approach the game though? Slayer has a decent enough control scheme with a decent frame rate so movement does not feel sluggish, combat is decent enough with your player wielding an intangible weapon, casting spells or hurling projectiles to damage enemies. Naturally experience is gained and progression is based on established D&D standards.
The trick in getting the edge in Slayer’s challenging combat is learning what works against what enemies and getting a rhythm in place for combat. Moving in an out of enemies and swinging your weapon in just right window is not easy, and playing a battle mage character is a lot easier than a straight up fighter in this game. That said Slayer is not a simple or easy game by any stretch of the imagination. Enemies can destroy you, especially if you don’t take your time and gather as much equipment as possible, early on. Outfit yourself with powerful offensive spells early, as above all else you want to keep your distance from the grossly overpowered enemies.
If I wanted to criticise anything about Slayer is that it is unreasonably difficult. It has a steep learning curve, that is almost vertical, and it is nothing like sitting around with friends and enjoying a game of D&D. Don’t let the license fool you, the game is ruthless. Some enemies can kill you almost instantly if you don’t respond fast enough. Luckily, you can save wherever you like, so that makes the difficulty a bit more bearable.
Graphically, few first person 3DO games can touch what Lion did with Slayer (unless you count Deathkeep, but that’s a story for another day.) Sporting a full 3D engine supporting gravity, looking up and down and ducking, Slayer runs at a high clip with great looking enemy sprites and crisp, clear animated textures. The draw distance isn’t fantastic and no attempt was made to hide it with fog but it doesn’t really matter as much when you have such a good looking game, running at such a high frame rate.
The soundtrack is another thing Lion did really well. An excellent medieval feel mixed with subtle synth gives it a modern, 90’s flavour. It’s really quite nostalgic because it, amongst certain other 3DO soundtracks really encapsulate that dreamy 90’s vibe that was all the rage and if you don’t know what I’m talking about…well, listen to this and you might get it:
So, there we have it: Slayer. What we have is a solid playing, but brutally difficult first person dungeon crawling RPG with hundreds of items to collect, enemies to kill and unique bosses to bash. The sheer scale of dungeons you can create using the many options you have on hand, and the robust character creation leads to some potentially epic replay value if you don’t mind the dedication required to get through the game.