Adieu, Game Boy Advance: EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Eye of the Beholder
Developer: Pronto Games
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 10/30/2002

EotB is a remake of one of the 1990 classic by RPG developer extraordinaire, SSI. Whereas the original was a first person real time action RPG, the GBA remake is a first person dungeon crawl that shifts into a tactical combat engine as soon as combat begins. This is a HUGE change from the original. Indeed, very little resembles the original EotB that was released on everything from the Amiga to the Sega CD save for the plot, which is still top notch. I have to admit I’m one of the few that actually really loves this game, as it received only a 52% overall score on gamerankings.com, where I gave it an 8/10. Holy crap! I gave a game a HIGHER score than the average reviewer! When the hell does that ever happen? Of course, only two actual sites reviewed it..

EotB revolves around a band of adventures gathered by the Lords of Waterdeep, the masters of this famous D&D setting. Well, famous for D&D players anyway. Your four person team is contracted to go down into the sewers of Waterdeep and draw out the evil guild that is working out of them. Of course, there turns out to be far more than some simple monsters and thieves lurking in there, and after a cave-in, your characters have no choice but to see things through to the bitter end. EotB still features one of the most famous villains in all of D&D: Xanathar the Beholder. This also marks one of the rare times when a character has leapt from the video games into actual D&D canon. Xanathar even made an appearance in Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance as a mid-way boss.

One of the odd things about this game is that there is no music. None whatsoever save for the opening video. The game really tries to enhance the realism of being trapped in a sewer with goblins and zombies and eight eyed monsters that can disintegrate you just by looking at you. Okay, well at least it tries to be SOMEWHAT realistic.

The character making process in EotB is a big shift. The original game used Second Edition D&D rules, while this GBA version was the first game released to make user of the WotC 3rd edition rules. This was a lot of gamers first exposure to 3rd edition D&D rules, which would eventually go on to games like the Dark Alliance series and even Stormwatch: the marginally above average D&D online game. Aside from the Dark Alliance games though, I feel EotB is the best release using the new (now like 7 years old) rule scheme. I mean, given a choice between this and say, Temple of Elemental Evil, well it’s not much of a call.

I will leave you with one warning: although the game has a good plot, and a nice looking opening video accompanied by good graphics for the dungeon crawling sequence, the actual battle graphics look like something out of the original Ultima. They are that bad. Never let it be said I don’t disclose the dirty as well as the good.

For those of you willing to track down EotB on the GBA, one of the very first things I ever wrote for 411Mania/IP back in Jan of ’03 was an indepth character making guide to EotB Feel Free to check it out and cheese your way to victory. I will caution you that EotB is a hard game to find, but you can generally snag it for between 5-10 dollars off of Ebay.

It’s hard to say why exactly this game made the top ten list. I’ve played through and beaten it 3-4 times. Yet, I dropped Lunar Legends off the list to put this one. Maybe because it was my first big in-depth commentary on a game? Maybe because it was a gift from my father for me to play while I was stuck in British hell and he remembered how much I loved that game on my Sega CD? Maybe simply because even though I’m not a fan of tabletop D&D, I love the video games and the high degree of customization they tend to allow players. Whatever the reason, EotB is one of my ten favorite GBA games, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.