Times Of Lore is an early game from Chris Roberts (Wing Commander, Kickstarters that make insane amounts of money) and basically tries to take Ultima, streamline it so that it can be played with only two buttons, and replace the turn-based combat with action. Unfortunately, it also came out in the late 80s, and action on the PC in the late 80s is generally a clunky mess. This is no exception.

The game can be played with the joystick or mouse, since you just need one button to attack, and the other to access your menu bar of commands at the bottom of the screen. This isn't a bad concept at all, since one of the major turn-offs of the first few Ultima games is that you basically need a command cheat sheet sitting next to the computer the entire time to keep track of all the hotkeys.

The main problem is trying to do action combat. It's one of those primitive games where the melee weapon doesn't extend out from your sprite at all, so it's kinda like playing the first two Ys games except you have to press Enter or a button to go into "attack sprite" mode temporarily.

On its own merits it's clumsy, but it's also exacerbated by the design. One major problem is that townsfolk and monsters seem to live in harmony as neighbors, and there's sometimes not clear delineations where a safe "town" area ends and a "wilderness" area begins. I got jerked in my first game when I simply wandered a little too far south thinking I was still in town and three cloaked assholes surrounded and shot the shit out of me before I even knew what was happening. I chalked that up to getting suckered into picking Ass Titties as my character, and on my second run I picked the one guy who didn't show up for the quest naked instead, and kept my finger at the ready over the attack button at all times.

The armored knight did seem a lot more resilient to damage and clove his way through every monster in one meaty blow, but then I encountered the second major structural problem. There's no real way to defend from monster attacks, so your best defense ... well your ONLY defense here is a good offense. Monsters just kind of spawn somewhere just off the screen then suddenly run onto it in hot pursuit of you, so when you see something moving it's in your best interest to go and smash it ASAP. This is where that unclear monster/townsfolk line becomes a serious problem, because if you accidentally hit a Townsfolk, sometimes they throw a spell back that explodes you to death instantly!

The game basically also totally lacks story, characters, charm, personality, etc. The backstory is text-dumped on you at the outset; I guess that's better than just assuming you read the included manual and novella thoroughly, but after the first long-ass page my eyes were already starting to glaze over ... and there's SEVEN of them! Eventually all that talky talky leads to simply picking one of three generic fantasy characters - Knight, Valkyrie or Conan. Once in-game you're usually blundering about some largely empty environment with no clue where you're supposed to be going, what's happening, etc.

Ultimately, the only thing that really works here is distilling Origin's complicated sprawl of Ultima keyboard keys down to a handy menu (but even that's problematic as while you're frozen in place accessing the menu, monsters can still run about and hit you). Everything else is either troublesomely clunky or just boring.
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