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Game 117: The Legacy: Realm of Terror (1993) – Introduction

By Voltgloss

In 1992, Infogrames released Alone in the Dark, which put the player in the role of an unsuspecting investigator who experiences the horrors of the mansion of an eccentric magnate, after said eccentric magnate committed suicide. The player tries to escape from the mansion, the unspeakable lurking fears that haunt it in the dark and from the raving madness that the secrets of the mansion could deliver. It is exciting, deadly and … why do I suddenly have this overwhelming sense of déjà vu?


All the pictures into the mind/There’s a flashing in my eyes
(Image still from here)

Yes, it’s time for a horror double bill here on The Adventure Gamer. The year after Alone in the Dark saw, not only Infogrames’s own Shadow of the Comet, but a competitor’s entry placed even more solidly in the “haunted house” genre. Because in 1993, Microprose released The Legacy: Realm of Terror, which puts the player in the role of an unsuspecting inheritor who experiences the horrors of the mansion of an eccentric Massachusetts family, as said family’s last surviving heir. The player tries to escape from the mansion, the unspeakable lurking fears that haunt it in the dark and from the raving madness that the secrets of the mansion could deliver. It promises to be exciting, deadly, and … why do I suddenly have this overwhelming sense of déjà vu?


We’ve just been in this place before

So the setup for Legacy is decidedly familiar. What about the gameplay? What we’ve got on our hands here, based on the manual and a bit of make-sure-everything-works tinkering, is an Adventure/RPG hybrid: a game where the player controls a single character exploring a “dungeon” (the mansion) in first-person perspective, with tile-based mapping and over fifteen different character statistics, all apparently with gameplay significance down the line. Something in the Elvira and Waxworks vein, then - but leaning even more heavily on the RPG side. Will the game stand on its own as an Adventure? Will it navigate the narrow straits of hybridization successfully, or will both halves combine to make less than a whole? We’re about to find out.


Higher on the street

The Legacy: Realm of Terror (also called simply The Legacy outside the United States) was the last game developed by British adventure game developer Magnetic Scrolls, after their acquisition by MicroProse. Between 1985 and 1990, Magnetic Scrolls had previously developed six graphical parser-based text adventures (and one “mini-adventure” offered to those who joined the short-lived “Official Secrets” adventure gaming club): The Pawn, The Guild of Thieves, Jinxter, Corruption, Fish!, Myth, and Wonderland. We’ve not covered any Magnetic Scrolls games previously on this blog - perhaps some Missed Classics treatment is in order down the line? [Admin note: Well, a reviewer did start Wonderland as our sixth Missed Classic, but he vanished after barely scratching the game. A replay is definitely in order.]  For now though, I’m playing through their first and only foray into mouse-driven, RPG-hybrid adventuring, published in 1993 for PC (and released digitally on GOG in December 2019).


See your body into the moonlight

Loading the game treats us to a cinematic intro where someone (our protagonist? someone else?) drives up to the spooky Winthrop House, accompanied by lightning flashes and tense, fast-paced music. Between the glowers of gargoyles our perspective passes through the front door, into a foyer (that we’ll see “for real” soon enough), up stairs and through a door - and promptly face-plants into the floor in a dimly lit hallway, blood filling our vision. An omen of things to come? The fate of the last visitor before us? We may never know! What we do know - as the game next tells us after showing a newspaper about the “Winthrop House heir” (us) being located - is that it’s time to select (or create) our character.


The fiction is gonna run it again

Character selection/creation lets you pick one of eight different protagonists, each with different backgrounds, character model design, and statistics. You can also manually adjust statistics for any one of the eight characters to tailor their attributes to your liking. The manual also promises that skills can be improved as we progress through the game, although there doesn’t appear to be any dedicated “experience” score or character “level”; rather, the game suggests that repeatedly using a particular skill can increase your proficiency at it, Quest for Glory-style. There are seven primary statistics, three of which have four secondary sub-skills, as detailed in the manual:

1. Knowledge - ability to “perform various operations requiring special training.” Sub-skills:
  • Electronics - for opening “electronic locks” and dealing with other “electronic objects”
  • First Aid - for restoring health via first aid kits
  • Meditation - for restoring magic power via “Power Crystals”
  • Mechanics - for opening “mechanical locks” and dealing with other mechanical objects
2. Strength - prowess with hand-held weapons, and boosts Health. Sub-skills:
  • Brawling - bare-handed punching prowess
  • Club - prowess with club-type weapons
  • Force - for forcing open doors
  • Lift - for picking up heavy objects
3. Dexterity - a “value for basic agility.” Sub-skills:
  • Blade - prowess with bladed weapons
  • Dodge - ability to avoid ranged weapon attacks
  • Firearms - prowess with firearms
  • Throw - ability to throw objects or weapons
4. Stamina - poison resistance and boosts Health

5. Willpower - prowess with magic and resistance to magical attacks

6. Health - our character’s life meter; death at zero “hit points.” Derived from Strength and Stamina.

7. Magic - or “magic points”; expended by casting spells.

And now, let’s meet our eight potential protagonists. Whom shall we pick? That’s up to you! I’ll be accepting votes in the comments to this post as to your first, second, and third choice of protagonist; I’ll then assign 5 points per first-choice pick, 3 points per second-choice pick, and 1 point per third-choice pick, and then using whichever character gets the most points. Ties will be broken by random roll. I’ll accept votes up until 72 hours after this is posted. Here we go!


Brad Norris. Sophomore at NYU, ski team captain and Debating Society member.
Planning a “mondo party.” Never claimed to have deep motivations.

Brad is the default choice if you’re just clicking through as fast as possible, and perhaps by design he’s one of the most well-rounded statistically, with equal Knowledge, Strength, and Dexterity scores. Most of his sub-skills have a few bonus points added (the gold line segments extending to the right of the blue, red, or purple line segments below each sub-skill’s name).


Charlotte Kane. CEO of the charmingly-named Golgotha Holdings.
Planning to turn Winthrop House into a luxury hotel and conference center.

Charlotte is one of the four options who comes with a spell already learned. No idea why a CEO knows the secrets of the Crimson Mists of Myamoto, but apparently it’s a spell to reduce physical damage taken. Statistically, she’s got very low strength, mediocre dexterity, but high knowledge (and particularly good at patching herself up with first aid kits). Lower health than Brad, but higher willpower.


Charles Weiss. Stage magician and self-described astrologer and occultist.
Implicated in the Arlington “sacrifice” scandal. We don’t talk about the Arlington “sacrifice” scandal.

Charles eschews protective magic for a good old-fashioned fireball spell, leveraging the arcane power of not one, not two, but three words ending in “-eth.” Base statistics are generally low across the board (even his Knowledge score is just equal to Brad’s, though he’s specialized in Meditation where Brad isn’t). Where Charles put his bonus points is into his fire magic; see the length of the gold line segment below the “Flames of Desolation” spell name.


Lucy Weston. Sophomore at UCLA. Orphan who worked her way through school.
Tennis and volleyball player. Thinks her inheritance is “totally rad” and “almost tubular.” 

Possibly modeled on horror films’ “final girl” trope, Lucy here is just as strong as Brad, has extremely high dexterity and health, and is apparently a crack shot (with the best skill in firearms out of all eight characters). As a tradeoff, her knowledge is at rock bottom.


Henry Jones. Head of the Department of American History at Penn State.
Authority on the Salem witch-trials. No word on whether he has a son named Junior.

What horror game is complete without a university professor character? Henry here brings impressive knowledge to the table, with mediocre dexterity (though he’s spry enough to dodge and throw surprisingly well) and lots of points devoted to his “Sight of the Dark Walker” spell. I don’t have any information on what spells do beyond the description you see here; I’m guessing this lets you see in the dark and, maybe, helps with discovering secrets. Of course, all those points need a tradeoff somewhere; Henry has the least strength and health of all eight characters.


Jane Olson. Investigative journalist with the New York Daily Post.
Looking to uncover the truth about the Winthrop family’s enigmatic disappearance.

Jane is our second well-rounded choice. She has very similar stats to Brad, with equal knowledge, strength, and dexterity scores and with solid health and willpower. Jane’s a bit better than Brad with at punching, dodging, forcing doors, and tinkering with electronics/mechanics; while Brad has the edge in first aid and throwing skill.


Robert “Boomer” Kowalski. USMC (retired). Purple Heart and Navy Cross holder.
Veteran of actions in Grenada, Panama, and the Gulf.

Someone has to have the most strength of the bunch, and that someone is Robert. He’s best situated of the eight to beat down eldritch abominations with his bare fists, and is also ready to swing a mean blade or shoot a mean gun. Average dexterity and mediocre knowledge (though with combat training in the use of first aid kits). His weak point is very low willpower. What’s that going to mean in gameplay? We’ll see, but the manual suggests your protagonist can become terrified or go into shock at the horrors they’ll face. If willpower determines resistance to such effects, our friend Robert here is well-equipped … to go mad.


Isobel Gowdie. Widow and distant Winthrop family relative.
There’s always been one Gowdie resident in the area, dating back to the 17th century.

Isobel, like Charles, is a fire-slinging offensive spellcaster. Mediocre stats across the board in exchange for very high willpower and a pumped-up Flames of Desolation spell. Compared to Charles, she has less knowledge (though is a bit better at first aid) and less prowess with weapons; but she actually is better at magic (in both raw magic and in her Flames spell) and has more stamina and health.

So, there’s our cast! Whom shall be our avatar for this spooky adventure? You all tell me. I look forward to your choice!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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