Retrograding Advance 1.03.03

Okay, since this is a crazy semi-FAQ/semi-review /semi-comparison to the old SSI version of this game, we’re going to not use the usual 411-review formula. Ratings will be at the end of the column though for you. I simply can’t put everything I’m going to say into the standard form here.

Now, the original Eye of the Beholder is what I consider the best Dungeon Hack ever made. SSI first released it for the PC, then versions came out for the Sega CD and SNES. The game was super popular, spawned two sequels along with a horde of other Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft and Dark Sun video games, all based on rules for second edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

Now to be honest, I never liked AD&D. If I played I was a Paladin, Druid, or Psionist. I thought the rules were too wieldy, character making was too dry (and that should be one of the most fun parts of the game, and that campaigns either turned into a Monty Haul campaign (massive amounts of treasure), or a Gygax powermongering sessions where Gods would have a problem fighting your characters. It sucked and I stuck to Chill, Call of Cthulhu, V:TM, and Shadowrun. I always loved Ravenloft and would buy the books, but it always seemed that D&D players were, well super geeks. Like Battletech players that only wanted to kill, rape and pillage things. But the video games, I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was really young when I played them, and they were super hard because of the age thing. Like giving a 9-year-old the first Ultimo and telling him to go to town. But I enjoyed them even if they made me swear a lot. I still own all the Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms games on discs for my PC, but can’t find the Dragonlance ones on anything but super old floppy discs which sucks royally. But Eye of the Beholder always was my favorite. And I wasn’t alone.

SSI released Ruins of Myth Drannor for the PC a little over a year ago, and it was a decent game, except for the bug where half of the first set of games released had a bug on the loading disc that would freeze it up. Someday I’ll rant about how the video game industry has gone down the tubes releasing games with massive flaws nowadays, but that’s not the point. The point is that the new SSI game based on 3rd Edition D&D rules sold so well, Infogrames decided to do a little retrogaming of their own and to start releasing the older SSI games for the GBA, starting with of course, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

It was a good choice, especially since it would have been easy to do a direct port of the SNES or Sega CD game to the system. It would have saved Infogrames a lot of money as ports are obviously much cheaper than a full remake or new game. But Infogrames decided to go a better route. It remade the game from the ground up. It gave us the same plot, the same monsters, same evil Beholder baddie, but nearly everything else was remixed into Third Edition play. And like 3rd edition D&D, somehow everything got made better.


Well, first up is the fact you no longer have to eat food in the game to live. In the old SSI version, you had to eat every so often or lose health. Now, considering you’re trapped in a dungeon and can’t get out, you don’t have much food, and you find nearly none in the game. So you have an insane time limit to get through the game, meaning you have to race through it, barely level up, miss 75% of the game and then get killed by the massive Beholder end boss that toasts you because you had to keep from becoming an entire pack of Jeffery Dhamer’s. It really sucked. That’s gone now. The game is easier because of that, as much as I hate the dumbing down of games, it’s a lot more fun. You get to explore, and that’s the heart of a Dungeon Crawl game. It took me a week or 30 hours to beat the game, and I just wanted to go back and do it again.

What else has changed is character creation. In the old version you could be Human, Elf, Half-elf, Dwarf, and Halfing. They’ve added two new races in Half-Orc and Gnome. This gives you some more diversity, and you’ll need it consider they whacked quite a few characters classes from the game. Now you can only be a Warrior, Thief, Cleric, or Mage. Gone are the Paladin and Ranger whom I always had on my team, and at the front lines. So you have less of a choice in class respect, but at the same time, those annoying anti-demi-human level and class restrictions are gone. Any race can be any class. You want a Dwarven Wizard? You got it baby!

Best of all are the skills. You have a plethora to choose from and although only half are helpful, it lets you flesh out your characters more and makes them more interesting. Before you just levelled up and kept going in the old game without any real reward. Now you get customization and can even change classes. You can have a character with 2 levels of Thief, 1 in Cleric, 1 in Mage, and 3 in Warrior if you truly want. Again, maximum customization means a game more people with enjoy. Even people who have never played pen and paper D&D, or any RPG before will be able to get into this game quickly and easily. You also gain feats every so often, which are like skills, but have a more profound effect on your character.

Finally, the biggest change is combat. Again, this makes the game easier, but a lot more fun. I can’t believe I’m advocating the weakening of a game. This has to be a first for me. Anyway, in the old SSI game, only two of your 6-member team could fight. It sucked. You had to columns that were three characters deep. Only the first two could fight, with the other 4 having to be archers or spell casters in order to do anything. However, if there was more than two monsters, they didn’t have that problem. As well, your spell casters and archers had a better chance of smacking you that the enemy,. That finally learned fireball spell would wipe out your own team instead of the 4-5 Drow slaughtering you. The Original Eye of the Beholder taught me to be a hardcore gamer, but also taught me to by cynical and hate filled. The new Eye has junked the old battle system and when you go into combat in this GBA version, it’s TACTICS STYLE COMBAT! WHOO! That’s right, you switch to a battle screen where you can move characters all over the place. The screen is still based on the dungeon however, but it lets your rear guys flank out and do a two pronged attack. It’s far more realistic and fun. Tactics style combat always makes an RPG better. Thankfully your attacks and spells can still hurt your own guys, so placement is a necessity. You have to have a good knowledge of where and how your spells and arrows will hit.

There’s a few more changes, such as your max level only being 7 now, which is to make up for the easier time they’ve given you in combat and not having to eat. You also don’t find bones all over the place and bring them to a Dwarf cleric to resurrect them. Instead you can find prisoners and lost people and get them to join your team. There’s even a Drow Cleric/Mage that can join you! You can also talk with intelligent monsters instead of fighting them, which I found to be a neat bonus, and there is a definite improvement on graphics in every way possible. Yes the tactics battle graphics are rather crappy, but the rest of the game more than makes up for it.

I will say the game is far easier than the original. I was at max level halfway through the game and never had a character die on me. Because I can do Tactics combat in my sleep and sadly know how to maximize my stats from way too many Statistics classes in college, combat was usually a cakewalk. Except the bosses. They still remained a wee nip tough. But the game has gotten easier. Sometimes too easy.

There’s also a very cool bug in the game. When you go to add a new character to your team in one of two Dwarven settlements, you can create a new guy to join your team instead of adding one of the premades. These new guys start at level one, but you can always roll better stats than the premades, and you can level up so quickly in the game, that it’s better to do this.

Now, before I get into the “How to Cheese” Section, I do like you have to roll for your characters. Before you just gave your guys whatever stats you wanted and you could have a team with all 18’s, which you often needed to beat the game your first time. Now you have to roll, and there’s no way your characters will ever be perfect. And that’s half the fun.

First, let’s look at the races. First off, don’t ever bother playing a Half-Elf. They give you jack shit and are totally useless. Half Orcs get +2 to their strength but -2 to intelligence and charisma. Take one of these guys and make him a fighter. A level 1 warrior with a 20 strength equals instakill. Who cares if he’s ugly and dumb. He’s a killing machine! Gnomes are okay, but Halfings gets everything Gnomes gets and more, so don’t bother with Gnomes either. Especially since they don’t get free level 0 magic like in the actual 3rd edition D&D. Elves make better warriors than Mages. I know the stereotype is to make an Elf a wizard but elves have crappy Constitutions, which means next to no hit points, and Wizards have the least hit points anyway, so you’re just making the elf not long for the world. AN Elf Fighter has the massive warrior health offsetting the weak charisma and with its high Dex, the elf can always hit, and become a great archer. More on how to making a good archer later. Dwarves are okay, but rather boring. They’d be a good fighter, but humans, orcs, and elves make better ones, and Halflings make better Wizards. Besides, the dwarf is only good for resistance to poison and magic, and you rarely encounter those. Halflings, as I have said make great Wizards. Low strength does not affect magic users, they have a great constitution, and an excellent dexterity. If you are gonna make a mage, make them a Halfling. Finally you have humans, which are the best class in the game simply because they suffer no penalties and get extra feats and skills which makes them super useful in the game. Some skills are worthless, but others you can’t get through the game without. Generally, make your Humans warriors as warriors get bonus feats much like humans, and the bonuses stack!

So now you know to mainly make your team out of humans, half-orcs, halflings, elves, and maybe a dwarf. What about the classes? You have 4 to pick from, so logic says make one of each right? WRONG. Fuck the Thief class. It sucks. Badly. Really badly. It is of no use to you in combat. Sure you get extra skills, but the Rogue rarely hits and always dies rather quickly due to it’s inability to wear armour. Use a Human Fighter for lots of skill points. It works just as well and can kill. Speaking of fighters, there is no point in making a character a straight fighter. You only get to level 7, and fighting bonuses stop at level 6. Depending on what your fighter has better, give him a level of Wizard or Cleric. Trust me on this, as both classes are the meat and bread of your party. Clerics are good fighters and healers. And more often than not, your mage will be the only guy that can hurt bosses. So be good to them.

At the beginning of the game I had a Half-Orc Warrior, an Elven Warror, a Human Cleric, and a Halfling Mage. By the end of the game my team was a Half Orc with 6 levels of Warrior and one of Cleric, a level 7 Elf Warrior, a human with six levels of Warrior and one of Cleric, a level 7 human cleric, a level 7 Halfling Wizard and a level 7 Dwarven Wizard. You’ll notice two of my fighters had the big cleric level added to them. This was really helpful for two reasons. The first is now I had extra healing magic, but also I had to other characters that could use the heal skill for cheap and also could turn undead. It really is a smart and cheap thing to do. And it keeps you from ever dying.

Okay, if it’s not on this list, f*ck giving it to one of your characters.
Combat Casting: Give to your wizard and clerics for close combat attacks
Combat Reflexes: Extra attack. Nuff Said
Improved Initiative: Less random battles
Iron Will: Magic affects you less
Lightning Reflexes: See Iron Will
Martial Weapon Prof: Give to Clerics and Wizards so they can use Swords
Point Blank Shot: needed for a good archer
Precise Shot: See Point Blank Shot
Rapid Shot: See Point Blank Shot. Also gives you an extra missile attack
Gonna take a break right here and explain something here. A Human fighter at level one can have all three archer skills. With a max dex of 18, you will rarely miss the early enemies and get to attack TWICE a round. At level ONE! As well, A warrior at level 6 gains an extra attack, so an Archer would hit THREE times a round. You want one of these on your team, but make sure he can use a sword as well.
Smooth Talk: If you want to not fight, this is your feat
Toughness: Extra Hit Points.

Out of 25 skills, only 11 are useful. You’ve been saved a lot of work right here.

Appraise: Cheaper weapons and armour and magic!
Climb: You need it!
Concentration: Wizards and Clerics need this
Disable Device: Find and remove traps. Give this to your warrior.
Escape Artist: Dodge Traps
Heal: Think about why you need this
Intuit Direction: For the map making
Open Lock: Saves you keys
Search: Find hidden stuff
Tumble: No damage from falling

Again, only ten skills are needed out of the mass that you have. Use the above skills, feats, and character guidelines for the best team you can possibly make.

These are the best spells by level for your wizard
Level 0: Ray of Frost. It helps against the HellHounds in later stages.
Level 1: Magic Missile: Best Spell in the game. Best Best Best. You will use it constantly.
Level 1: Spider Climb: if you have no one with the skill Climb
Level 2: Electric Loop: First mass damage spell. Just don’t have your guys near
Level 2: Snowball Swarm: See Electric Loop
Level 2: Knock. Second best Wizard spell in the game. Opens any door
Level 2: Web: opponents can’t move.
Level 3: Dispel Magic
Level 3: Lightning Bolt: As much damage as fireball but less damage to your own guys
Level 3: Flame Arrow. Better than Fireball
Level 3: Vampire Touch. ONLY if you wizard has a good con and dex
Level 4: StoneSkin: massive defense
Level 4: Ice Storm: Bye Bye Hellhounds
Level 4: Eneveration: See Vampire Touch

Level 0: Cure Minor Wounds
Level 1: Cure Light Wounds
Level 1: Shield of Faith. Extra Armour
Level 2: Cure Moderate Wounds
Level 2: Curse of Ill Fortunes. Opponent can’t hit you
Level 2: Hold Person. See Curse of Ill Fortunes
Level 2: Spell Shield.
Level 3: Cure Serious Wounds
Level 3: Dispel Magic
Level 3: Negative Energy Protection. Wards off Undead
Level 4: Cure Critical Wounds
Level 4: Neutralize Poison
Level 4: Restoration. You need this against the vampire!

And there we go. You quick and easy guide to power mongering through Eye of the Beholder. It’s the best Dungeon Crawl out, totally authentic to the 3rd Edition D&D rules, and super easy to learn. It’s better than Golden Sun Hands down, and is tied with Ogre Tactics for the best RPG on the GBA in English right now. Go out and buy this game for the sheer fun and surprising addictiveness it has.

Graphics: 8.0 (everything but the battles are excellent)
Gameplay: 9.5 (Everything is initiative, but some puzzles may be hard for first time RPG’ers)
Sound: 8.0 (no music you see. Authentic dungeon crawl with only occasional noise)
Fun Factor: 8.5 (Great game with lots of customizing. A bit too easy in some spots though)

We have added they current review system to this old review as of 05/19/05. These scores replace the original ones and final review score for this game.

Current System
Story: 9
Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay/Control: 9.5
Replayability: 8
Balance: 7
Originality: 5
Addictiveness: 10
Appeal Factor: 6
Miscellaneous: 8
Overall: 7.8
Final Score: 8.0

You should know the routine by now people. I’ll see you soon.