Platforms: Commodore Amiga and PC
Realms of Darkness was billed as a role-playing game for people who hated role-playing games. As well as an isometric Populous-style viewpoint for its RPG features, there would also be a side view approach for combat situations.
The game was set within the Plains of Darkness, and follows the adventures of a boy who has been cursed with a long dead Necromancer’s soul, and who must go on a quest to try and save himself. Along the way he must meet various characters to conversate with, to get clues to help solve puzzles and obtain objects to help progress.
He would need to progress across six quests in total, navigating through vast villages and towns to try and find clues. There would be an array of monsters who you would need to use magic or weapons to defeat too.
Some highlights and features of the game would include a realistic weather system, 2D sections having parallax scrolling, intelligent tiles (i.e. snow titles that slow you down), hundreds of beasts and peasants to slay and rob and numerous languages to learn.
Overseeing the entire project was project manager J.P. Bankes-Mercer as part of his Mystical FX group, which consisted of himself and Colin Jones designing the game, Trevor Brown and Jason Heggie on coding duties and Shadligh Dale on graphics work. TRIVIA: Trevor Brown had worked on the cancelled version of Operation Thunderbolt four years previous.
The game was in development for over a year, and featured in various magazines up until around September 1993. After that, the game just disappeared completely. It wasn’t until a forum post in 2004 on eab.abime.net that details came to light about what happened exactly.
Artist Shadligh Dale revealed that the game was cancelled after Grandslam were not paying the team correctly. In total the game was worked on for around two years, and originally was being picked up by Bullfrog, before everything fell through and Grandslam came in to pick up the pieces.
It was a bit of a mess, with the team losing their original developer and one of the artists, with Trevor Brown eventually coming in to take on coding duties. It was revealed that a PC version was also to be in the works, but it isn’t clear if anything was ever started on this.
Shadligh felt that the game was far too ambitious, and it was going to be almost impossible to squeeze everything onto the Amiga and just two disks. It was felt that the game was much better suited to the PC platform. Apparently, they did originally pitch a much simpler game, but this was rejected to focus on developing Realms instead.
Although magazines had suggested the game was near completion, Shadligh revealed that the game was never anywhere near playable and had been re-written at least 4 times overall. Most of the core stuff was done, the mutating isometric landscapes, the 2D side scrolling engine and tilesets, though the world map was not done, the story not implemented. Nothing flowed together, and the screenshots shown were just that – static screens that were mocked up by Shadligh.
Sadly, Shadligh revealed that he no longer had anything of the game, though J.P Bankes-Mercer would also pop up on the forum and revealed that he did! However, the line went dead pretty quickly after that, so we don’t know if anything came to light at this stage.
We hope now to get hold of J.P to see about the possibility of putting up remains of the game on the site and allow people to see the promise of what could have been, but also for Shadligh to get his work back too. If you know anything more about this game – please do get in touch!