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Rhino presents
Scourge of Worlds: Special Collector's Edition (2003)

"Destroyed? As in killed? That doesn't sound too good, you know."
- Lidda (Caroline Lesley)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 10, 2005

Stars: Dan Hay, Lester Rosenthal, Anna Dens, Caroline Lesley
Other Stars: Jack Brown, Sam Cunningham, Chad Nixon, Paul Stodolny, Peter Lepeniotis, Tom Perry
Director: Dan Krech

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (fantasy violence, CGI gore, some language)
Run Time: Variable
Release Date: February 15, 2005
UPC: 603497020126
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-A-A- B-

DVD Review

Dungeons and Dragons, the granddaddy of all role-playing games, has been around over thirty years. But few computer games have satisfactorily reproduced the feel of taking the paper and pencil adventure of the imagination and make it seem quite as real as the wholly imaginary game. This "DVDn" (DVD to the nth degree, according to the director and producer) tries to duplicate that experience through computer graphics, in the form of a "choose your own adventure" type system.

Your party, fighter Regdar (Dan Hay), elf mage Mialee (Anna Dens) and halfling thief Lidda (Caroline Lesley) run into cleric Barathion (Lester Roosenthal), who is on a quest. Barathion has been visited by Ariadne (Sam Cunningham), who appears to be an angel of his deity, and has sent him to retrieve the Aryx Orthian, a mystic doodad that will purify evil. But Barathion's way is blocked by a group of druids led by Rayne (Jack Brown). You must choose whether you will help or hinder Barathion in his quest, with your decisions having potentially cataclysmic consequences.

The computer graphics aren't terribly realistic, though from a fantasy standpoint they really don't need to be. The motion capture technology utilized works well enough for the game purposes. The characters are pretty well developed, right down to racial antagonisms between humans and elves. D&D veterans will recognize plenty of elements from the game, down to the mechanics of spells and designs of monsters such as the displacer beast, beholder and others. If you really screw up badly, you'll get to see a dragon too.

The main problem with choose-your-own-adventure type presentations is that they don't have a great deal of replay value. This game is no exception. Although there are some significantly different choices you can make that take you down very different roads, they eventually all wind up in the same spots (assuming you haven't gotten yourself killed in the first place). If you do mess up completely before the finale, there's a handy option to go back and make a different choice. There is enough here to amuse one for a short evening (perhaps two or three plays to check out the different roads), but you'll quickly find yourself bored to tears and skipping through the long speeches. If there's a problem, it's that there are too few choice points; in particular at the finale the characters make some decisions that I wouldn't as a D&D player make in a million years, but there's no way to break out of the pre-ordained mold. That lack of flexibility and ability to improvise means that the DVDn system will never replace a live Dungeon Master who can react and allow consequences to flow from unexpected actions.

This game was released in 2003; this collector's edition not only includes a bonus disc (described below), but there are supposedly additional scenes and two alternate endings added to the game play of the original.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 16:9 anamorphic image is crisp and clear, as befits a digital origin. Colors are vivid and not oversaturated and black levels are deep. Aliasing is frequently a problem, but otherwise there's little to complain about here.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 audio is quite good, with very nice bass and a broad soundstage. Hiss and noise are nonexistent. Surround effects are quite pronounced. When Mialee casts a dancing lights spell, my poor dog was looking all over the room trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from, so the spatial field is quite convincing.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
1 Documentaries
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Linear movie
  2. Trivia game
  3. Galleries
Extras Review: A second disc is included in this special edition, with a linear presentation of the game in movie form. Though I eventually completed the game after six tries, I didn't end up with the happy ending that's here so you can get a variety of degrees of success. The total runs 48m:32s, but obviously doesn't incorporate all the possible bits of footage. There's a gallery of characters, monsters and environments. The first two are just single page concept drawings, occasionally with a short comment. More substantial are the environment galleries, which give you a 3-D tour of selected important locations in the game. There's a trivia game with five multiple choice questions that unlocks clips from the game (though if you've played the game through a couple times you probably have seen them before anyway). Finally, there's a making-of (19m:58s) that covers the concept, production and post-production. It's pretty interesting and confirms that the goal was to hew very closely to the D&D game mechanics and rules, which experienced players and DMs will appreciate. There's also a link for a trailer but I never was able to get the cursor onto it. Beaten by another game, I guess.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

It's pretty well produced, with a good audio transfer in particular, but replay value is limited. Worth a rental, but it won't replace paper, pencil, and funky-shaped dice.


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