(On my latest dive into obscurity, I dragged this up to the surface: The Darkest Road - Details (ifdb.org))
"It was lucky that you had the statuette."
…says the narrator voice in The Darkest Road at a certain point. Lucky indeed, given that there was no clue whatsoever that I would find anything, let alone a magic statuette, in the place the walkthrough eventually told me to look!
What would one do if one were a simple farmhand in a fantasy setting and one saw a prophecy coming over the horizon? Run like hell, of course, because prophecies tend to lead to gruesome death and other inconveniences in these circumstances…
But not you. You have elvenblood trickling somewhere in your bloodline, so you heed the call. You take in the old prophecy-bearing wizard who stumbled into your care, nurse him back to health and let him teach you of the “Silent Song”, a rare magic talent that lurks in you because of said elvenblood.
So off you go on an oldschool quest to vanquish the Dark Lord.
The Darkest Road has very good atmosphere. On your quest, you move from your familiar homestead to the wide grasslands, then through the dark forest, then sharp and windy mountainpeaks until finally you arrive in Evil’s Lair. With each new area you explore, the surroundings feel more hostile and oppressive. Here and there is a resting point, a beautiful location that breaks the gloom and dread for a moment.
The descriptions are very good. Even though you encounter standard dark fantasy stuff, there are many details that lighten up the clichés.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is not so good. There are many non-interactive locations. Well-described as they may be, they don’t offer enough reward to the player for the effort she has made to reach them.
And quite an effort it is! The game is full of unintuitive and underclued puzzles.
Many solutions are dependent on whether you are carrying or wearing a sparsely decribed and unhinted object, not on the player figuring out what she could do with said object.
When you do have to manipulate objects, often you get into try-everything-on-everything-else territory, like in a bad point’n’click escape game.
Also, there are quite a few one-use-only commands that only work in one situation. Try the same verb in any other situation and you get a default dismissive response. Not strong motivation to keep trying.
Add to the list that obvious synonyms or alternative verbs are not implemented (I could MOVE but not PUSH some heavy object), and I believe I am to be forgiven for playing this one largely by walkthrough. I gave it a fair chance, really I did.
To end on a more positive note, the unforeseeable sudden gruesome deaths are quite amusing, as the narrator offers to resurrect you. Which translates as “Would you like to restart?”