Guardians of Destiny is the follow-up to Westwood Studios
' Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos
and the second game in their Lands of Lore trilogy. In this installment, the player is cast as Luther, the son of the evil witch, Scotia, who had led the Dark Armies to near triumph in the last game.
The game uses a far more advanced engine than that of its grid-based
predecessor, now allowing for a free range of movement and a full 360° turning radius. The magic, and combat system continue to be in real-time and although threats can now appear from any direction including from up in the air. The player can now run, jump, and even crouch to navigate obstacles.
One of the key mechanics to the game is in the curse that Luther bears which takes the form of uncontrolled transformation spasms that flip him between the form of a lizard or that of a huge, hulking beast. Both forms have their weaknesses and strengths which the player, as Luther, must use to overcome many of the title's challenges both in and out of combat.
The manual of the game was lavishly decorated with screenshots and fiction describing a history of the gods and their decisions leading up to the present crisis.
Saves could be initiated anywhere in the game, except while in combat. An autosave feature was optional.
The game arrived on four CDs, most likely because of the large amount of FMV that was used within its cutscenes which were a mix of live actors, CG characters, and special effects with an extensive soundtrack. Live actors in costume were also used to represent NPCs throughout the game.
The story behind Guardians of Destiny begins well before the current age of the game when the gods themselves grew bored with existence. No one knows whether they had come to visit the world or had created it, but one thing was clear: they were here to experience the one thing that they could not anywhere else...Not Being in Charge.
The ancient gods grew bored with existence. Everything that happened in the world was caused by their actions. They sought another means in which to gain new experiences that were not created by their own actions, Being At Effect as opposed to being At Cause. Thus, by agreement, the Immortals decided to mix some of their powers among the mortals and then step back and watch the Effect thus, in their eyes, creating a new sense of being that they could not otherwise find on their own. Immortals were even allowed to renounce their divinity and mingle among these mortals, to experience Effect on a personal level.
But no god was allowed to simply use the full weight of their powers by reaching into this world and cause something to happen. The balance must be maintained.
Yet there were those that, over the long eons, grew bored with this new toy of theirs and sought to make things more interesting. But only one would dare to break this rule of non-interference and descend into the mortal realm in order to create change on his own rules. The name of the Ancient was Belial.
He chose the Dracoid race as his personal playthings, coming into their midst and giving them knowledge of sharpened spears, hardened armor, and most importantly, Ancient Magic which they quickly used to wage war against their neighbors. Although the Ancients had asked that Belial to cease his interference, the evil god was only encouraged by their reluctance to stoop to his level and break their own rules. Thus, he was allowed to continue unchallenged.
The Dracoids crushed all that they came upon until they found the Hulines whose warriors managed to slow the tide, but not break the spearhead of their attack. Slowly, over generations, the Hulines slowly dwindled to only a few desperate communities.
The Ancients had now censured Belial, but their words rang hollow in his ears as he watched the Dracoids continue to dream of conquest and feed their lust for power.
It was when they were nearly driven into extinction that another of the Ancients, named Anu and who would eventually become known as the Draracle, chose to break the law himself in order to correct the evil that ran unabated. Ancient Magic and knowledge found their way into the Huline's hands, and soon the two sides found themselves in a pitched war that tore apart the Southern Continent.
Finally, at this final transgression, the rest of the Ancients decided to end this contest and forced both the Draracle and Belial to come before them. The Draracle's intentions were noble, but his hands had been stained with blood in defying their laws. Belial's actions, however, had no reason behind them. His wanton disregard of their own rules had also embarrassed them greatly.
It was then decided that Belial should die, an fate that no Ancient immortal has ever been sentenced to. As terrible as it was, the Ancients also decreed that the it should be the Draracle who would carry it out as he was already as tainted.
But Belial had known that this may be his fate and had made plans well in advance of his execution. Deep below the City of the Ancients within his laboratory far from prying eyes, he created a creature that he had called a Mother Beast. It would be his guarantee of return.
By drawing on Ancient magic, it would revive Belial. The process would be long, but in time, he would return having cheated death.
However, he did not count on the Ancients leaving.
Deciding to depart both their great City and the realm of mortals, the Ancients moved on taking with them their magic. The Mother Beast fell into a deep slumber beneath the abandoned City. The Draracle, the only Ancient left in the world, would stay behind to watch for signs of Belial's return. He would take up residence near the young kingdom of Gladstone, there to dispense simple advice and prophecies concerning crops and weather.
Things would have gone on as they were had it not been for a certain witch named Scotia. Known as Margarithe Fiston, she had been spurned by a young Prince Richard of Gladstone, nursing a grudge that would return many years later. But she married a wealthy landowner and had a son named Luther and would probably have lived a quiet life had it not been for war.
The evil forces of the Dark Army and the White Army of Gladstone clashed in one of many wars and it was during such a skirmish that her husband was killed. Fiston blamed the White Army for its inability to protect its own people and she focused all of her rage into revenge. She threw herself into her studies of the dark arts, soon becoming a powerful witch. As for Luther, he was neglected and left to find his own way in the world while his mother continued to grow ever more powerful and twisted.
Even the Dark Army grew impressed by her abilities and she quickly rose through their ranks. But it was not enough. Now King, Richard was well protected in his castle and his army was strong. She would need another angle.
And she would find it within the Nether Mask. A relic thought long forgotten in the mud of history, the Nether Mask was also one of the last repositories of Ancient Magic in the world. With it, she used its shapechanging powers to steal into the castle and threaten Richard himself.
But at the same time, the Mother Beast began to stir awake as it drew power from the mask.
Heroes would eventually stop Scotia, killing her in a great battle and putting an end to the Dark Army and her dreams of vengeance. Before dying, however, she attempted to channel her powers into her son, transmitting them across the land as a final gift.
The gift arrived in a damaged state, however, twisted by the sending so that it cursed Luther instead with unpredictable bouts of shapechanging. Hoping to find a cure for his condition, he would make the journey to Gladstone. Even worse luck for him, however, was that the White Army recognized who he was and imprisoned him instead.
Meanwhile, the Mother Beast continued to grow ever more powerful with the awakened presence of Ancient Magic that Luther's curse has brought into the Lands. Strange creatures began falling from its bloated form, warped and wicked things that slithered and crawled their way to the surface to infest the world.
Luther would eventually escape his imprisonment and with the help of the Draracle, confront and discover the means through many adventures and mysterious places to stop Belial. From the dungeons of Gladstone to the very heart of the City of the Ancients, Luther's curse bears both the key to Belial's resurrection and his destruction.
The question is whether the player will decide his fate for good...or evil.
Guardians of Destiny is a first-person action RPG which was based on the evolution of the design principles first explored by Westwood in their work with Eye of the Beholder I
for SSI and Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos
The engine would now allow the player to explore the world with free movement in 360°. Jumping, crouching, and running were now allowed in the game. Swimming, however, was deadly in deep water. The player was also able to stack items, such as crates, or drag items around on screen in order to solve certain puzzles.
The player was also free to attack, or be nice to, many of the NPCs in the game. This would determine whether Luther would follow the good or evil path determining what endings would be seen.
Luther also has his own lines in the game and will respond to NPCs or the results of his actions.
Gauges showing Luther's skill with weapons and magic are used to measure how much experience he need to earn in order to reach the next level in either one. The game was skill based in that using his martial skills often would contribute more advancement within his fighting ability. Conversely, using magic to overcome most of his opponents would result in a better proficiency with magic. Fighting lesser opponents yielded little, if any, experience.
Four more gauges represented:
- The level of protection he was receiving from armor
- His raw strength
- Melee fighting strength which was heavily influenced by what weapon he may have equipped
- Ranged fighting strength, again determined by what ranged weapon he may have equipped at the time
A large variety of items within the game could be combined to make new items that Luther could use and the game would remember the recipe for future use. Using certain items by themselves could yield their own results, such as in using a poisonous ingredient to make a sword a more potent weapon for a time.
An automapping feature was also used in the game.
The polymorphing curse afflicting Luther was both a valuable advantage and disadvantage as it could be extremely unpredictable in changing his form when he least wants it to. This was not scripted for the most part, although there were certain moments within the game when such a change was unavaoidable.
Both forms offered different abilities as well as vulnerabilities. One distinct advantage to his condition is that whenever he changes form, his hit points are also restored.
- The Beast - The beast is a huge, hulking monster much taller and larger than Luther's human-sized self. It is also the strongest form that Luther has at his disposal and is considerably adept at close combat although it cannot use weapons or magic. It can also smash obstacles in its way. It also cannot get dates.
- The Lizard - Quick, nimble, able to squeeze into small places and adept at magic, the lizard is also quite fragile and cannot use weapons.
There are several different endings depending on the player's actions during the game.
- The "good" ending sees Luther and Gladstone's enchanter, Dawn, in bed together as the Draracle leaves the Lands, chuckling. Although it's the nice ending, it's also the worst for how brief it is and how unsatisfying it comes off as in comparison to the other 'darker' endings.
- The destruction of the Huline village and Gladstone Castle by Belial if the player takes too long in leaving Belial's chambers at the City of the Ancients
- The Draracle killing Luther if he kills Belial on the evil branch; although the player will fight the Draracle, if he loses, this ending plays out. The Draracle leaves leaving Luther to oblivion.
- Dawn killing Luther if she succeeds in seducing him on the Evil path; Dawn simply wins the fight
- Raining ruin on the land as the new "evil" god; this plays out if you defeat Belial and the Draracle who comes to stop you
- Not escaping the soldiers that come after Luther when he escapes his cell at Gladstone
- Failing to kill Belial shows the newly risen god and an army of monsters readying themselves to find and kill the Draracle
As Luther improves his spellcasting abilities, he will learn new spells. He first starts with only two spell groups but as the game progresses, may earn four others including one specifically aimed at keeping his cursed state under control.
Magic levels are earned through improving his spellcasting ability and accessing these is done by 'charging' the selected spell group. A set of four dots representing the four normal spell levels available are shown above the spell group button that activates you magic. By holding the spellcasting button down, the dot begins to cycle up through each available level. Releasing the button at the desired level casts the associated spell.
There is also Ancient Magic which is the fifth, and most powerful, spell level. This can only be accessed if Luther uses an Ancient Magic Stone to charge himself first, but the spells at this level are incredibly powerful.
Combat in the game was handled in real time, although the new engine would expand the tactical opportunities that its free and fluid movement would offer the player.
Enemies were visible onscreen at all times allowing the player some measure in either trying to avoid having to fight them or in allowing them to prepare for the fight by lining up on a shot or in equipping what they felt they would need.
Luther's portrait, in addition to the health bar below it and the magic bar below his action buttons to the left, would also show damage depending on his wounds.
Melee fighting was handled by simply approaching the enemy and then clicking on the "weapon" icon next to Luther's portrait to swing. A cool down period between swings was dependent on the chosen weapon. Ranged combat was handled in the same way. A quick equip bar allowed the player to easily swap weapons on the fly.
Magic was handled in the same way. One click is all that is needed to trigger the chosen spell equipped in the use slot next to Luther's portrait.
Automatic targeting is enabled by default in which simply hitting the appropriate attack button automatically aims for the nearest enemy (or enemies if the weapon or spell permits).
The player could also choose Manual targeting in which they can aim at who they specifically want to hit with the targeting cursor and use the mouse to fight and cast magic.