Lionheart Review

Joe Dodson
Lionheart Info


  • N/A


  • 1 - 4


  • Black Isle/Interplay


  • N/A

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now


  • PC


We’ve lost the pulse! Start compressions! Stat!

Though they’re really just complex strings of 1’s and 0’s, games can allow us

to do the impossible. Some of them even challenge our ethical paradigms by letting

us pretend to be people we never thought we could be and presenting us with the

consequences, which can turn out to be a lot more fun than our 2nd grade teachers

would have us believe.

With this attitude in mind I approached Black Isle’s latest RPG Lionheart:

Legacy of the Crusader
. I looked forward to being transported back

to the 16th century to meet cultural icons like Machiavelli and Cervantes while

beating back goblins and bedding down with wenches.


Lionheart is terrible, and not in a cool, sword-swinging barbarian

sort of way. Since the game comes from such a strong line of Black Isle RPGs, my disappointment

is doubled. The dialogue, characters and the use of history is shamefully bad,

and sadly the gameplay isn’t there to bail out the weak plot.

Apparently, the 12th century Crusades led by Richard the Lionheart wound up causing a big event called the Disruption, which unleashed horrible evil things into the world. You play in an alternate reality version of the 16th century, which starts out fine but quickly goes from quirky to lame.

For example, at one point you meet Cervantes, the guy who wrote Don Quixote,

perhaps the most important book written in Spanish. The man was a mega-genius,

satirist and poet. In Lionheart he runs around stabbing at

bushes and raving about “La bestia!” Guess him and his famous confused character

merged into a Brundlefly.

You meet Leonardo Da Vinci, The Renaissance Man himself, but here he goes by

Leo and has nothing to say other than the usual semi-funny/sarcastic crap reserved

for smartass NPCs. Then you meet Shakespeare, who refers to Shylock as “That

pestilence from Jerusalem” and tells you to go rough him up. You know, the guy

wrote more plays than just The

Merchant of Venice

The capper comes when you meet Hernan

, conqueror of Mexico and the guy who eradicated

the Aztec civilization. In

Lionheart, you can ask him about his New World experience and

he says he went to Mexico and met the wonderful, friendly Mexican people who

were nice to him. Then he says he went to Tenochtitlan

and met the Aztecs who were brutal and warlike and had horrible monsters that

kicked his ass and cut off his arm. Then you go about trying to find him a new

arm so he can go back and regulate.

Pretty much everything in Lionheart trivializes a great work,

makes commonplace a fascinating historical phenomenon (you can easily get bored

talking to Inquisitors) or grossly misrepresents history. Some will enjoy this

kind of artistic license, but I think it’s a cheap way out of intelligently

interweaving such deep historical references.

But more important

than the plot is the gameplay, which unfortunately fares no better. As opposed

to strategic turn-based Black Isle games like the Icewind

series, Lionheart is a mindless, tedious hack and

slash. The fights are hard and the resolution is fixed at 800×600, so a ranged

fighter or spellcaster will have time to get off maybe one shot before an enemy

is on him. It’s like Icewind Dale and Diablo

got together and had a kid, except that Diablo II did crack,

heroine and Wow!

Potato chips
all the way through the pregnancy.

Using the ‘Special’ system from the great Fallout

games, Lionheart lets you build any kind of character you’d

like. However, if you don’t pick some kind of fighter-type, you will die. Bad.

Made what you thought was a super-cool holy caster? Prepare to get crucified.

Hordes of the same enemies and little room for strategy spell one thing: Y-o-u-r


To its credit, the ‘Special’ system is a good one and does allow quite a bit

of depth. Also, the way you play does slightly change the outcome. But when

you compare this to games likeNeverwinter

, Morrowind and Star

Wars: KoToR
, it simply doesn’t stack up at all.

There’s actually a multiplayer mode here too, but it’s not very good, just letting you and a cohort ramble through the single-player together. Good luck finding someone to play with you.

Graphically, Lionheart‘s new engine is just a slight improvement

over the Infinity engine used in the Icewind Dale games. Characters

are a bit larger and more detailed, but the city layouts are mediocre, the backgrounds

are so-so and the game looks dated.

The sound is decent at least, with good music hampered by redundant sound

effects. The voice-acting would be fine if the dialogue wasn’t so irritating.

Overall, Lionheart is a big disappointment. Though it uses

a decent RPG system, its poor balance, repetitive action and somewhat lame stab

at rewriting history leads to a game no one should invest time or money in.

Black Isle, we know you can do better than this, so get cracking on a real game.


Special system
Weird alternate historical setting
That’s almost blasphemous
Tedious hack n’ slash
Terrible character balance
Dated engine