I wasn't wrong about this game.
On paper, this game is awesome. On paper, this game isn't only a Doom beater, it's a Doom annihilator. On paper, whatever Doom had, AD&D Deathkeep had in spades. Dungeons? Monsters? On-Screen action? Cerebal challenge? Maps? Polygons? This game, on paper, is pure perfection. Doom is for idiots. AD&D is for the hardcore. It is a gamers game.
...but only on paper.
Take the first level: The game opens with a pre-rendered introduction. So what? After picking a character: Woman, man or dwarf, you are dumped in the lowest level of an evil tower on your quest for a talisman. You walk down a slope, yes a slope, amazing in it's self, (hey this 1996 slopes were amazing) and pick up some weaponry. A Sword, some armour, you walk on a little more and you come to a T-junction. Left or right? You move left but suddenly the controls are messed up. YOU'RE SLIDING! It's ice. Amazing. Your digital legs flail around and you scamper up another ramp only to be greeted by two trolls. You hit them with your sword and they die. You go back down the ramp. The walls, the textures, the flames, the ice on which you are standing look, for the year, amazing. The enemies, that as you progress, are increasingly more impressive. To behold them is simply delightful pleasure. It's an adventure. It's an adventure full of moments. Moments you can share with your friends. "I ran round the corner of this brown cave and there was a damned great big fire monster there!" - Awesome.
And this brings me to another major gripe, that somehow has escaped everyone's attention in the current generation: Variety.
How much 'variety' was their in Killzone 2? I'll tell you: Not much. How about Resident Evil 5? Scant I would say if I am honest. What about Uncharted? Limited would be my best answer. In 1995 these sort of games wouldn't cut the mustard. Deathkeep has more variety than you can wave a magic stick at, and the 3DOs now paltry 3Mb RAM shames the super consoles of today. Reason being is that modern gamers only care about online, DLC and custom sound tracks. Each level in AD&D Deathkeep features, at least one, two or maybe three new creatures you haven't seen before. And they are never boring and you never once feel the character creator turned up for work dreading another day at the monster making workstation. No indeed, they loved their work. And it showed. And it was awesome. Farastu? Vampires? Cornugon? Bone Golum? Pit Fiend? They sound awesome. Trust me, they look awesome.
That said, the game designer, I suspect, loved Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not so sure they loved video gamers though mind you because despite the imagination, the execution and the delivery of the components of AD&D Deathkeep on the 3DO, it is, once you are off-of the paper, mind bendingly, pad crushingly, stand-up-and-swear-at-the-walls difficult. For some reason, it was decided that AD&D Deathkeep would be uber real. What that translates to is this: Yes, if you were to meet an real-life angry troll you would die very quickly. Now, a couple of points. Firstly, Trolls aren't real. This I believe was possibly something of a shock to the games designer. And secondly, dying quite so easily in a video game is not fun, and indeed, doesn't really add to the overall experience. That is unless you are a table-top AD&D player who enjoys the idea of video gamers dying - then I imagine it's enormously fun.
Which is of cause is a great shame.
It's not just the rapidity to the dying that makes it hard. There are other traps laid out to slay the innocent video gamer that stumbles into the Tolkien inspired digital universe. (Yes I spotted the similarities between the dwarf mines and the Lord of the Rings.) There were a few times where I thought, yes, this game really really hates me. Doors close behind you for a start. Not so bad in itself, but trying to remember where you have been and where you haven't been is something of a challenge when everywhere looks the same and the only indicator, an open door, is now closed. But it gets worse.
I remember seeing my first Pit Fiend. Now, don't forget, I'm cheating. Invincibility on. And let's be honest, nobody on Earth would have seen this wonderfully digitally created beast if it wasn't for the cheat, so I spy it, and I run at it with my sword, only to be greeted by the message "You're weapon has no affect on the creature" and then to realise I can't back away because the bloody door closed behind me. LS+RS, then CABBAC to exit the level. Nice work Mr Designer.
AD&D Deathkeep is a perfect five course meal. Laid out in exquisite surroundings, delivered to perfection, with style, class, hard-work and dedication of a true team of professionals. Then some git dropped a big dollop of donkey pooh in the middle and said 'Eat that!'
Which kind of ruined it.
The only way to progress is to cheat. Which for such a clever game, is stupid.
It's not rare.