Eye of the Beholder C64/128 - Could this be the next best thing for the C64/128? Here's our EXCLUSIVE Review with NEW gameplay footage!


Evil has plagued Waterdeep for some time and the city’s Lords suspect it must be coming from down under. No, not Australia... attacks on the city seem to originate from the city’s sprawling underground multi-tiered network of long forgotten sewers, tunnels and dungeons. Four mercenaries are commissioned to investigate the complex, and to find and destroy the threat. In return they’re given full rite of passage beneath the city, a licence to exterminate anything that might interfere with their investigation, and of course all the loot they find along the way. As the adventurers enter through the only known entrance, they hear the creaking of the heavy metal grill gate, and turn around to see it slamming shut behind them, and suddenly a huge explosion causes the collapse of the entire tunnel they just entered. Their fate is sealed… or is it?


So begins another thrilling adventure: Eye of the Beholder. One of the most iconic “dungeon crawler” RPGs. Developed by Westwood Associates and published by SSI in 1991, the game took the tried and trusted dungeon crawler formula, similar to that seen in the earlier “Dungeon Master”, but with more refined graphics, animation and the addition of the hugely popular AD&D ruleset, it became an absolute smash hit on both DOS PCs and especially the Commodore Amiga. Now, you can play through the entire game, faithfully recreated on an 8-Bit machine for the very first time.


The story of C64 Eye of the Beholder really begins with the Amiga release in 1992. Andreas began hex editing game saves as a way to gain bonuses in the game. Even creating a fully fledged save game editor using AMOS which featured a very nice UI.

Fast-forward to 2005 and Andreas had dug more into the inner workings of the game and created an open source dungeon crawler engine called JAD (Just Another Dungeon crawler). Whilst this was abandoned fairly quickly, it did allow Andreas to learn the file compression, maze format and parts of the game’s scripts.

Work started around 2006 targeting C64/128. The memory limitations of the C64 forced Andreas to quickly abandon the C64 version - releasing a preview of a single level on CSDB. Focus switched to a dedicated C128 version and work continued until 2009 with Two Flower and Mirage contributing some icon graphics. In 2009 despite having all the levels, wall rendering, and items, the memory ran out, and Andreas had to call it a day on another valiant porting effort.


In 2010 Andreas got a Macintosh PC, and decided to learn Objective C and attempt an iOS port. After reverse engineering the entire game in less than a year he had a pixel precise replica of Eye of the Beholder, including automap. Whilst the rights holders were unlikely to allow a solo dev to publish the game on a commercial basis, the process of completely reverse engineering the game would prove invaluable later on.

Then in 2018, a chance encounter with TwoFlower reminded Andreas that he needed to finish C64 Eye of the Beholder, and suggested he target the EasyFlash cartridge format… The C64 now had the hardware required to overcome the C64s lack of memory!  So work started from scratch, and this time there would be no stopping them. Updates from Andreas and the team have been regular, so most people will know the game’s been in development. I was given a fully playable Beta version more than 2 years ago to play on my Twitch stream, as well as coding and pixelling streams from Andreas, and regular press releases to Indie Retro News.

Eye of the Beholder C64/128 announced in 2018!

When you first load Eye of the Beholder on the C64, you won’t believe how incredible this port has turned out. After the initial title screen and credit roll you’re taken to the infamous introduction animation, faithfully recreated by Oliver (V3to) Lindau (known for some of the best looking C64 graphics on Rolling Ronny, Caren and the Tangled Tentacles, and the recent Sonic the Hedgehog port). Accompanied by an awesome SID interpretation of the title music, translated to C64 by Linus. 

After the intro, you get a familiar menu where you can Load an existing game (by default this allows you to start with a premade party of heroes), create a new party of heroes which has its own music and gorgeous party creation screen, or re-watch the intro. You’ll also see the default control option (1351 Mouse with Acceleration) - which works perfectly on my Ultimate 64 and the Micromys V5 mouse adapter with a cheap PC optical mouse. You can also choose non-accelerated 1351 mouse or keyboard only controls.


The keyboard controls work surprisingly well, though perhaps not as well as the original PC version. In that version you had an interaction button which would toggle any switches available in the current screen, and you could stack up pickup and attack commands, in a way that was more efficient than using a mouse. On this version you move the cursor with cursor keys, between a selection of pre-defined hotspots and can only interact with whatever the cursor is currently hovering. It leads to efficient combat scenarios, but perhaps not quite as powerful as using a keyboard on the original PC or Amiga versions. As well as cursor control, you can move your party with the WASD & QE keys to rotate. This is available even if you select mouse control for quick movement. The combined mouse and keys work great, and are probably the best way to play this new port on the C64.

Exclusive new gameplay reveal!

The in-game graphics (From llesj, Mirage and Twofolower) are simply stunning. The colours are used to such great effect, that I think overall it looks even better than the higher resolution 16-bit graphics. Monsters, portraits, walls, that giant glass compass and HUD have all been lovingly pixelled on the C64. The combat animations and damage indicators are also included, and implemented perfectly.

While screen rendering is fluid, it doesn’t quite match the speed of the 16-bit originals. Not surprisingly since the C64’s processor runs at a fraction of the speed that the processors the game was designed to run at. However, the C64 version is more than playable as it stands, and the developers even added dedicated C128 support, so if you are lucky enough to have a C128, or just load the .crt file in the C128 version of VICE, the 2Mhz mode is supported for blazing fast screen updates.


A new feature which wasn’t in the original PC or Amiga versions of the game, is an extremely useful automap. Accessible via the “M” key, you’ll see your current location denoted by an arrow, together with all previously visited locations, and even markers indicating interactive wall and floor switches.

I’ve never beaten Eye of the Beholder, so I knew my review of the game would only include maybe a fraction of the whole game. I was able to reach the point where I usually get stuck. It’s the 4th level of the game, and the first major palette change. The game’s iconic red walls are replaced by darker, danker blue coloured walls, and spiders’ webs. After hacking my way through some webs, my party is confronted by giant spiders, and after killing a few of them, some of my party usually end up poisoned with no way to recover - All hints welcome! I’ve reloaded my save at the start of the level numerous times. I do get a little further into the level each attempt, but not quite made it further.


The game is just as brutal, but rewardingly satisfying to progress as it always has been. Whether you’re a hardcore fan who can walk through the whole game blindfolded, or a dungeon crawler newbie, curious as to why this game is considered one of the best ever dungeon crawlers, I think you will not be disappointed. All the levels, traps, monsters, puzzles, spells and weapons are included.

Andreas (JackAsser) Larsson, and team have created a no-compromise port of Eye of the Beholder for the C64 and it is absolutely stunning. Finally, after years of development, announcements, beta tests, live coding streams - and many 10s of thousands of assembly code, the game is in the hands of reviewers, and a general public release will be released mid October. Stay tuned to Indie Retro News for updates, you won’t want to miss this!

Credits
- Mirage did all the panel artwork, character faces and panel items.
- Ilesj did the whole groundwork of the in game graphics and after that it was a cooperation between Ilesj and Oliver Lindau(repixelled all dungeon gfx and about half of the monsters)
- Twoflower initially did the graphics, helped in places.

hayesmaker64

16 comments:

  1. You don't always get poisoned, and you may also cast healing spells or slow poison if not everyone is affected. The rule of thumb is, save your game a lot to get through these parts :3.

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  2. Jammet comment pretty much says it, but I'll add a couple things: There are a couple of remove poison potions a little further on. Slow poison is a life saver in the mean time. There is also a certain NPC a little further that can remove poison for you. Most important thing tho: save often, save earlier.

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  3. It looks stunning, and automap is a fantastic QOL addition. Fantastic work on this :)

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  4. Kill the spiders with ranged attacks if possible

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  5. Looks amazing and the sounds are good too!

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  6. Sorry they refuse to release this for the C128...

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  7. Looks amazing! When is the general release for this?

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  8. This is my most awaited game since a long time. I am so impressed of what some talented people can bring to life on this little machine! So impressive!!!

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  9. where will the game be available to purchase? and will there be a boxed version?

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    Replies
    1. Nope. They don't have the license for the game and cannot sell it.

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  10. never got to play these games and i love dungeon crawlers, so im waiting for this hard.

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