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From the first glance of the opening screen...this game had me hooked! I suggest you take a look at the extras and play the track from this game (it's from the C64 version of the game, but still...). The PC version has slightly worse sounds and graphics, fortunately the gameplay stayed the same (but it does seem a bit sluggish).
The plot is not original, but works nicely. You are a nobleman returning to your home kingdom, only to discover your uncle took control while you were away. Now you must gather an army and fight him!
You'll meet different people and most of them will be representatives of certain guilds. If you do them a certain favor, they'll join forces with you (just imagine leading the guilds of millers and templar knights into battle at the same time). In order to win their favors, you first need to find them. There are several places you can go to, from the main map. Once a place is selected you'll see a nice little animation taking you to your destination. Upon arrival you'll see the hamlet/monastery/town you're visiting and in the top left corner a small scrolling map of the place. By pressing space you'll find out about the place you're in (like where the people are, what houses surround you and so on). Once you find people you'll need to do them favors and in return they'll help you win the war. You'll need to win the archery contest only to give your hard won trophy to the herbalist, to insure his services (and similar little side quests like that).
The little side games (like the archery contest, arm wrestling tournament, or shooting craps) make this game more diverse, unfortunately it also makes it difficult. There is only one place where you can save the game (at the castle ruins), but it's so easy to make a mistake and slip up while gambling (leaving you penniless).
On your way you'll also run into opposing knights. You need to defeat them before you can continue and that's not always an easy task. You'll only have a limited view (you're wearing your battle helmet after all) and you'll be able to hit or block from different sides. Just remember, that's a huge and heavy blade you're wielding, so expect the reaction time to be somewhat slower then desired.
Once you have an army (even if only one guild chose to join you) you can challenge your uncle's armies. You need to return to your castle and start the war. Until this point the game is more of an adventure/RPG type, but after you challenge your uncle the game becomes a strategy game. You'll move your forces and hopefully win the war (you really should get all the people to join you if you plan to win) and storm your uncle's castle.
And now comes the final part - the arcade game.
Once inside the castle, you'll be running around the maze with your main opponent being your energy. Every time you finish a maze you'll get an arcade like action scene, where you'll lose your energy fast. There is no way to recover energy and once you run out of it the game is over.
So make sure you find your uncle in time and retake the throne!
All in all this game is a great mixture of some excellent games. There are parts where it reminds me strongly of the Defender of the Crown. Iron Lord may not be quite up to the level of the Defender, but it certainly is a game worth playing!
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