You might have some definite misgivings about the quality of a film or game when you find it in a clearance bin by the register at a grocery store. That was my introduction to poor old Scourge of Worlds – and not even a year after it came out. Released by Rhino in June of 2003, Scourge was a novelty of sorts: a movie, a game, and an interactive choose-your-own-adventure story all squished into one. It went right under the radar and into obscurity, and what with many D&D fans still trying to get the awful taste of Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie (2000) out of their mouths, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise. Like a rolling stone, however, Dungeons & Dragons itself keeps going strong with its ever-expanding universe that includes cartoons, monster manuals, various video games, tabletop editions, films, and has even gotten a huge boost more recently with heavy references in Netflix’s Stranger Things 1 and 2.
There are also a good number of D&D novels out there and like the Scholastic Worlds of Powers books, which were a series a Nintendo game-based novels written by different ghostwriters and produced under the pseudonym F.X. Nine, Wizards of the Coast did something similar when they published a series of ten D&D novels from 2002 to 2003 under the pseudonym of T.H. Lain. The stories were all interconnected and followed the adventures of various groupings of 3rd edition iconic characters. They were pretty fun to read as they were written by authors that were already active in the world of fantasy writing, D&D gaming, RPGs, etc. Mix this canon with the choose-your-own-adventure books of yesteryear and you’ve got the basic concept of Scourge of Worlds.
If you’ve read the books or have played as these characters before you watch/play Scourge, then there’s that extra level of familiarity that you’ll have with them. Wizards of the Coast’s initial goal of creating archetypal characters with strong pre-established personas was for the developers to test 3rd edition’s rules, plus they served as visuals to demonstrate the various class, race, gender combinations possible. They’re also a great way to give the human touch to basic archetypes in the same way Final Fantasy did after the first entry in the series when Square began using prenamed main characters with their own backgrounds, agendas, personalities, classes, etc. Many of the D&D Iconic Characters were used in various guides and handbooks, and even the characters of Lidda, Krusk, and Jozan do a sort of mock commentary in the DVD special features of Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (a film only to watch if you truly hate yourself).
In regards to the plot, you’ll follow the human warrior Regdar, Lissa the halfling, and Mialee, an elven sorceress, as hired mercenaries to go on a quest to track down a relic known as the Aryx Orthian (nicknamed the “Scourge of Worlds”) and to first seek the aid of a rogue cleric named Barathion. Turns out Barathion was a close friend of Regdar and has a supposed fall from grace. Other parties, shady orders, and questionable individuals get involved and you must decide who can be trusted and who may simply be bent on advancing the cause of the evil forces at work behind the scenes.
Decisions involve a simple push of the button on your DVD remote and move you through the story. There are a few hundred of different playthroughs when all is said and done, the ever-elusive best ending, a lot of chances to fail, several mediocre endings and like any choose-your-own-adventure story, you’ll find yourself dying so much that you’ll think this was Castlevania 3.
Although it wasn’t a huge hit, it came out at a decent time as far as fantasy was concerned; 2003 wrapped up the Lord of the Rings trilogy and showed how much of a powerhouse the often-disregarded genre could be. Campier family entries like Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean were big hits too, even if they spawned the annoyingly abused quotes “NOT THE GUMDROP BUTTONS!,” and “Why’s the rum gone!?!”
Scourge of Worlds is most definitely dated by today’s standards which is most evident in the animation. And sure, with any 3D game around that time, there’s some clipping here and there and characters’ skin sort of looks plastic, though it hasn’t aged so poorly as to make it unwatchable. Rather, it just comes across as a product of its time and was pretty good for 2003. High adventure, decent voice acting, and at roughly an hour to watch/play through, this was an interesting little relic that missed its chance but was also a blast and I’d recommend hunting down a copy just for the experience.
Michael A. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org www.nerdsintheburbs.com
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