Your first strategy is to stay alive
An axe-wielding medieval mother wants you heart on a stick...
An armored killing machine wants his mace in your head...
A ferocious fiend wants his claws in you charred corpse...
Anyway, you're facing eternity on the edge of a rusty blade.
All the strategy of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS melds with mysticism, blood, and muscle to unleash the dark side of 3-D fighting.
The horrific and medieval universe of Ravenloft comes to life in a maelstrom of hacks, gauges, enhancements, and lost limbs. But it will take more than quick reflexes to conquer the revolutionary Campaign mode! Choose your alignment. The ranks of Chaos. Or the Lords of Law. Hand-pick your warriors and go head-to-head with hellish fiends, battle-hardened knights and changeling beasts in magical interactive arenas. Quest for mystical artifacts that will give you the upper hand - and turn your opponent into a charred corpse.
When the power of the mind meets the might of the blade, a new gaming experience is forged - strategic combat with a bloody twist!
- A medieval massacre with 250 combat moves and arcane powers!
- Bludgeon the weak with 64 deadly weapons and artifacts!
- Choose your allignment!
- Face off in a tactical struggle to the death with the revolutionary team campaign mode.
~ from the back of the box
While not as massive as it is now, Dungeons & Dragons was still huge in the 90s. There were a treasure trove of games released on a variety of systems so it comes as a surprise that the only one to come out on the RPG powerhouse that was the Sony PlayStation was not a role-playing game, but a one-on-one fight. Sure, the console has the D&D adjacent Magic: The Gathering games and we almost saw a Baldur's Gate port, but as it stands the only title it got wasn't even remotely associated with what the franchise is known for. It was eventually ported to DOS computers the next year, but both had a mouthful of a title; Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Iron & Blood - Warriors of Ravenloft.
The DOS version came out in 1997 and stood out for being a rare example of the genre on Personal Computers. It also stood out for sucking as hard as hungry vampire at a blood bank. It isn't like there's a dearth of good and inventive ideas here. The 16 main characters are split evenly between the light and the dark side and no allied fighter will duke it out with each other in single-player mode at least. Their move-sets have been inspired by the spells and abilities of the class and race system of the table-top game and that includes the use of magic items.
When you win a fight, you might get more than bragging rights for a reward. You may receive one of 16 magic items to use in your next fight. This only happens if you manage to input a specific move unique to the character. I found these moves already difficult to pull off successfully for some of the characters so the whole mechanic isn't particularly friendly to newbies. They're necessary for the campaign mode, where acquiring a certain item before defeating all of your opponent's fighters is the only way to see the end game cut-scene.
The edge of the ring holds a barrier that gives massive damage when hit (left).
It you can activate them in-game, magic items can give you one heck of an advantage (right).
It you can activate them in-game, magic items can give you one heck of an advantage (right).
It may have been the early days of 3D fighters, but compared to other home released at the time such as Soul Blade, Tekken and Virtua Fighter, Iron & Blood can't compete. Its controls are clunky, it's camera useless and it's character balance all over the place. Some fighters, such as the one-armed, hammer-wielding dwarf packs a heavy punch while the sprightly halfling may be weak but runs nimbly around his opponent. There are two overt magic users - a mystic shaman on the light side, and an evil wizard on the dark - who play very differently. The wizard has strong elemental attacks that can be cast from a distance while floating with great precision, while the shaman seems to cast a menagerie of spells that I have no clue what they do. They sure don't seem to reduce the opponent's health bar that's for sure.
Regardless, this rogue's gallery of adventurers is the best thing about the game. The long history of recognisable fantasy archetypes within D&D make for a varied and provocative bunch of fighters. They are each visually interesting and distinct in their own right and are rendered quite nicely for the time of its release. Here's a rundown of them;
|TOGO THE DWARF - Light Side|
A seasoned warrior who is known throughout the land for his bravery in the face of danger. He lost his arm fighting against the terrible ogre chieftain Grok, but that didn't stop him from slaying the creature moments later. Since then, with warhammer in hand, he has trained his remaining arm to be deadlier than it has ever been.
His spiked helmet also makes his head just as dangerous, with one of his special moves being the Head Butt Charge. His hammer can also be used as a projectile using the Dwarven Throwing Hammer special move. His Magic Ability is Earth Tremor while his Arcane Power casts an Anti-Magic Aura.
|LUTHOR THE PALADIN - Light Side|
Being a man devoted to his gods, his daring deeds and determination since the age of 19 have made him the Order of the Golden Cross' greatest champion. Over the years, his courageous actions have swayed many heathens to his Order's cause in turn bringing infamy to his name. He will stop at nothing to bring order and good to the world, and that has led to him to the gates of Ravenloft ready to smite all evil in his way.
Being a man of the gods, one of his special moves is the Halo Attack. Both his Magic Ability and Arcane Power are defensive in nature being the Aura of Invulnerability and Heal respectively.
|ERLAND THE ELVEN ARCHER - Light Side|
Spending his youth in the wilds of Silverwood Forest, Erland passed his time by mastering the bow. When the ark sorcerer Kharon despoiled the sacred oak grove at the forest's heart, Erland shot him dead with a single arrow. This could not save the forest, so he left to find fame and fortune wherever his master bow-skills were needed.
He seems to have mastered the element of fire, with both the Flame Arrow being a special attack and Fireshield his Magic Ability. His Arcane Power is the Arrow of Slaying, adding to the archer's offensive abilities.
|DARIUS THE GLADIATOR - Light Side|
Sold into slavery as an infant, Darius was forced into one of the many gladiator schools in the city-state of Atticus. He quickly became proficient in all types of weaponry defeating hill giants and combat veterans to earn riches in the arena. When the corrupt Atticus officials were overrun and killed by barbarians, Darius fought his way to freedom and has since sought out the toughest challenges he can find.
His magic and special abilities make use of his weapon of choice; the trident, binging on the Long Strike and Spinning Trident Jump to his repertoire. His Magic Ability is the Magic Trident which does heavy damage while the Heroic Stance - his Arcane Power - means he can never be knocked prone.
|XENOBIA THE WARRIOR - Light Side|
Suspicious similar to Xena: Warrior Princess, this D&D version grew up with a hardy band of hillsmen. Being one of the only women in the group, she fought hard to prove her worth, becoming the first woman to carry out the tribe's ritual of passage. She slew a mighty White Bear that represented her clan's totem and bartered peace between the hill tribes by single-handedly killing the White Dragon that terrorised them.
With a sword and shield in hand, she can Impale and High Dive her opponent with her special moves. Her Magic Ability is the Siren Call while her Arcane Power gives her the Shield of Reflection. When blocking, this will return any projectile back on her opponent.
|IGNATIUS MAX THE THIEF - Light Side|
Being a halfling, Ignatius Max used his small stature to his advantage to become a thief of unnerving speed and mischievous cunning. He stole the Tome of Ulroth for the priests of the Black Hand during one of their dark rituals earning him a great reputation in the process. He now only steals when confronted with a challenge that will truly challenge him. The magic items of Ravenloft is just such a challenge.
Being a sneaky dagger-wielding thief, his special attacks include Backstab and Dagger Leap. His Magic Ability created the Dagger of Venom while his Arcane Power provides a Stealth Attack.
|SHINESTA THE ELVEN PRINCESS - Light Side|
Cast out by her clan for studying forbidden magic, Shinesta was then taken in by a band of travellers. Not being and actual princess, the title refers to her stubborn and haughty personality. She thirsts to know more about the arcane and wanders the world in pursuit of it. This leads her to the edge of Ravenloft where many magic items are hidden within.
Her quarterstaff is not only necessary to cast spells, it is also a mighty weapon if wielded correctly. Her special attacks provide a 6-Blow Combination as well as a Pole Vault, but her Magic Ability performs the devastating Staff of Striking. Her Arcade Power is Natural Healing which restores all of her health between rounds.
|RED CLOUD THE SHAMAN - Light Side|
A respected tribal shaman of the Grey Wolf Clan, Red Cloud was a great friend and advisor to its chief Great Elk. When his son, Howling Wolf, murdered his father to gain power the gods punished them with a drought. During a vision quest, Red Cloud learned the truth but was instead accused as a traitor and exiled.
Red Cloud is a magic user with four standard spells; Light, Staff of Thunder, Bless and Levitation (note that only one of these is an actual attack). His two special attacks and Magic Ability are both also spells being Earthquake, Teleport and Vortex respectively. His Arcane Power is the Weight of the World which means that a devastating earthquake will erupt whenever he falls to the ground.
|URGO THE MARGOYLE - Dark Side|
Summoned into this form by a misguided prince, the soul of Urgo the minor fiend will forever be trapped into a gargoyle. This angered him into a rage that fuels his actions, forever seeking to destroy all things made of flesh and bone.
Have no weapon to hand, his hardened claws and stone fists do more than enough damage. His special attacks are Breathe Fire and Flame Claw while his Magic Ability gives the protection of Stone Shield. His Arcane Power is Petrify which stops an opponent in their tracks leaving them vulnerable.
|ARDUS THE SKELETAL WARRIOR - Dark Side|
When alive, Ardus served King Goodwyn or Aragon as captain of the guard. His position allowed him to plot against the King but was double-crossed by his co-conspirators and denounced as a traitor. Within a fortnight of his execution, he was reborn as a skeletal warrior with a grudge against mortalkind seeking to send as many of them to their deaths as possible.
The morning star in Ardus' right hand can do a fair amount of damage, but his special abilities allow him to Drain Life or attack with a Stone Fist. His Magic Ability brings forth an Aura of Fear while his Arcane Power, Vampirism, drains an opponent's health for heal himself.
|SASHA THE WEREWOLF - Dark Side|
Sasha was once a handmaiden to the daughter of a rich nobleman named Gwyneth. She loved her job until her lover, a knight of the realm, spurned her for her mistress. In a fit of rage and jealousy, she killed Gwyneth and fled for the forest seeking remorse and advice from a druidess. Instead, Sasha lied about her deeds leading the forest wise woman to curse her for her crimes. Now, Sasha spends each night in the form of a beast, her rage contributing to her dangerously vicious nature.
Sasha's teeth and claws will do more damage than any weapon held in her paws. Her special attacks are Leap Frog and Rending while her Magic Ability performs a Call of the Wild. To do even more damage, her Arcane Power is Bloodlust.
|NYM PYMPLEE THE GOBLIN - Dark Side|
Even though he has the best goblin name ever, Nym Pymplee is better known through the lands as the fearsome "Mad Goblin". He spends his times roaming the wilds terrorising all who encounter him.
Nym clasps a cutlass in each hand which he keeps sharp and jagged for maximum damage. His two special attacks are Frighten and Lunatic Charge while his Magic Ability casts out a Demonic Whirlwind of destruction. Similarly the Belch of Flame coming from his mouth whenever he uses his Arcane Power is just as devastating.
|BALTHAZAAR THE HEADSMAN - Dark Side|
Once a member of the Headsman's Guilde despite worries over his unnatural zeal, Balthazaar was soon dismissed after he began toying with his victims. Enraged, the executioner sought revenge by beheading the guild members. He now travels through town plying his trade inflicting deadly punishment on both the good and the wicked with equal pleasure.
Never seen without his hood or axe, Balthazaar's special attacks include the Spinning Axe and Crushing Heel. His Magic Ability is the deceptively pleasant sounding Axe of Dancing while his Arcane Power is the much more ominous Blood Fever.
|KAURIK THE WARLORD - Dark Side|
The youngest son of an inbred noble family cursed with madness. He obsessed over a young maiden who was driven to suicide after her love of a knight proved unrequited. Grief-stricken and enraged, Kaurik keeps her preserved remains and saw fit to kill every fifth man in the duchy. The people revolted, burning the family castle to its foundation and killing all inside but Kaurik who escaped more insane than ever.
With his flail, Kaurik attacks with a berserk and manic rage unseen by most warriors. His two special attacks are the Dervish Attack and the Magic Mace Attack. His Magic Ability imbues power into his weapon with the Explosive Flail while his Arcane Power performs the Force Choke, just like Darth Vader.
|BALOK THE BLACK KNIGHT - Dark Side|
Once a champion for good, Balok was seduced by an evil magic sword that lusted for blood. After absorbing the blood of just one kill, the sword had power enough to exert its complete will over Balok whose reputation quickly turned from that of good and noble, to one of evil and fear. After slaughtering every living thing in his keep, Balok now travels the world guided by the vampiric blade's unquenchable thirst for blood.
His two special attacks include the Vapiric Attack and the Overbear Charge. His Magic Ability provides some protection by casting Darkshield while his Arcane Power inflicts Curse on his opponents, which takes two lives from them when killed.
|STELLEREX THE WIZARD - Dark Side|
A dark genius of the arcane, Stellerex possesses a vast intellect that makes him a cold and calculating foe. As an apprentice, he secretly mastered the complexity of the black arts before turning on his master by burning him alive with a spell of his own making. He has sought out teachers to learn all the magic he can before killing them in much the same fashion.
With a trident in hand, Stellerex floats a foot or two above the ground making him quite the agile combatant. He has an abundance of spells to hand including Ray of Enfeeblement, Melf's Acid Arrow, Shocking Grasp, Gust of Wind, Magic Missile and the Hot Foot Cantrip. More defensive spells adorn his special attacks including Circle of Protection and Runes. His Magic Ability is Detonation while his Arcane Power is Withdrawal which teleports him a distance away.
There are also a few hidden characters which I won't spoil as well as the big bad of the infamous vampire Strahd himself, but these 16 varied combatants prove that a fighting game in this universe could work. Even though the PlayStation original, which came out a year before the PC version, plays a little better, there's still a sour core the whole thing. The abilities of each fighter make playing some opponents easier than others while the inclusion of magic items provides a whole extra level of unbalance. It's so egregious that there's no way a fair tournament could be structured around it.
I give credit to the development team at Take-Two Interactive for trying something different. Not just with the licence but with the fighting genre itself. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite come together making it an uneven chore to play through. Stick with SEGA and Namco's more famous offerings.
To download the PC-DOS port, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 241 Mb. Install Size: 368 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
To download the Sony PlayStation original, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Mednafen Beetle PSX and Mednafen Beetle PSX HW cores to emulate the PlayStation. X-input controllers supported. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 367 Mb. Install Size: 585 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft is © TSR Inc & Acclaim Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me