Sunday, June 30, 2024

Against the Black Priory

Back at the start of April, I wrote about my inability to replay the old AD&D computer game, Pool of Radiance. The difficulty lay primarily in its user interface, which was clunky and difficult to use on a contemporary computer. Likewise, the graphics, which looked fine on the screen in the late 1980s, did not translate well on a better monitor with a higher resolution. Consequently, I found it nigh impossible to play, let alone enjoy, Pool of Radiance again (or likely any of the other AD&D computer RPGs from that era). That's a shame, because I'm a fan of computer roleplaying games and am always on the lookout for enjoyable ones.

Fortunately, I stumbled across Skald: Against the Black Priory, a brand new (released May 2024) computer RPG inspired by the 8-bit CRPGs of old, while introducing aspects of modern design to make it more playable on contemporary machines. Though Skald no doubt took a lot of inspiration from games like Bard's Tale – likely explaining its title – one of the things that sets it apart in my opinion is the combination of sword-and-sorcery and cosmic horror of its narrative. Think Robert E. Howard's "Worms of the Earth" or Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea stories and you have a good idea of the kind of thing I'm talking about.

I've enjoyed my time playing the game. It's party-based (with up to six characters) and uses a top-down perspective, in keeping with its inspirations. There are lots of little details hidden throughout the game, both to assist you in your quests and to paint a picture of the overall setting. The game is quite unforgiving at times (again, in keeping with its inspirations). Not only are enemies tough, especially at low levels, but there are some choices you can make that result in automatic death. Though its interface is better suited to modern sensibilities, the game itself is quite old school in its deadliness (though there is an option for "narrative play," if you aren't interested in a challenge).

All in all, I have almost entirely positive feelings about Skald: Against the Black Priory. My biggest complaints are minor (the combat system can be grindy) and are outweighed by the game's cleverness and atmosphere. Playing through it has definitely whetted my appetite for more games like this. Now, I just need to find them ...


  1. Consider looking at Serpent in the Staglands, which seems to have taken at least some inspiration from Darklands, though the Bronze Age setting of Staglands has nothing in common with the 15th century Germany of Darklands.

  2. Here are a few more suggestions for you, James:

    And - as the previous poster suggested:

  3. Although it is more inspired by Wizardry and Bard's Tale than the old SSI games, I wholeheartedly recommend "Demon Lord Reincarnation"

    Full MSRP is only $7.99 USD and it is frequently, like right now through July 11th, on sale for even less ($3.99 USD as I type this)

  4. I think I've mentioned it here before, but there is a fan-made patch for Troika's Temple of Elemental Evil that restores some cut content and fixes most of the bugs. The same group also released additional content for the game, and there is a recreation of Keep on the Borderlands using the same game engine. All of which us D&D 3rd edition. Circle of 8 is the name of the mod group. Search for "temple of elemental evil circle of eight" and you'll find the downloads for the patch/mods; you'll have to own a copy of the base game to install.

  5. Regardless of how one feels about 5th Edition D&D, Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is a masterpiece. It conforms well to the system, but makes several quality-of-life changes that translate better to a video game and frankly just correct some of the more frustrating and plain unfun parts. The story is great, all the companions are interesting and layered, and you can play it multiple times and still not see everything. It’s really worth playing, even if modern D&D isn’t your thing.

  6. Bunch of cool games listed here but my favorite by far and imo the most accessible is called "Realms of Antiquity". It was came out just a few years ago developed for an ancient platform (TI-99) but despite that it's remarkably easy to play and modern in its design. Rather than sword & sorcery-inspired it's much more of a fun GM's crazy world like they used to do at the dawn of the hobby. Internally consistent but drawing from a variety of genre sources - chocolate in peanut butter if you catch my drift. Available on Steam (and soon GOG I believe) - strongly recommended!!!

    1. Good catch! I had forgotten about that one.
      And it's on GOG already:

  7. I'm very much looking forward to playing Skald when time and discounts allow. I adore the C64 style graphics, and combined with modern gameplay, it should be right up my alley.

  8. My favorites from back in the day were Curse of the Azure Bonds and Fallout 1. I just bought them yesterday during the Steam sale, curious to see if I feel the same about the interface/graphics issues.

  9. Check out crpgaddict at blogspot