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Into the famous dungeon

Dungeon Master logo  Gold Medal Award

Dave Eriksson masters a mouse-driven adventure which has all the atmosphere of a classical textual game.
Dungeon Master D UNGEON MASTER from Mirrorsoft was an out and out success on the ST and Amiga users hav had to wait ages to get their hands on the promised conversion. Mirrorsoft said no review copies were available – apparently it just could not keep up with the demand. I could not wait. A few telephone calls located a shop with it in stock, and shortly afterwards my present to myself was loading on my Amiga. There is one major snag – it needs one megabyte to run. If you ever need a good reason to get that plug-in ram pack Dungeon Master is it. Additional ram is not cheap and while Commodore may gain, Mirrorsoft will certainly curse the programmers' short sightedness. Still, it is an investment you won't regret. And a 512k version will be out this spring.

The story is classic. An almost godlike wizard has helped maintain peace and prosperity in the world. He believes that at long last he has found a way to retrieve and harness the power of a miraculous gem hidden deep under his mountain retreat. His plans go wrong and he is split into two, one good and one evil. His evil self, Lord Chaos, sets up a hideous empire within the halls and passages under the mountain. The good, now called Librasulus, is forced to exist in no-space away from our material plane. The rumour of great treasures hidden under the mountain attracted many adventurers. All were caught by Lord Chaos or his evil minions. At last Librasulus manages to make contact. He tells of 24 adventurers trapped within the mountain. They were the best of the raiders, (no, not the LA Raiders – Ed) and the evil Lord has them displayed in his Hall of Champions, each within a magic mirror. In a final effort to defeat the evil that he set loose, Librasulus enables you to enter the Hall of Champions and select up to four of these lost souls. You may resurrect them as they were, or reincarnate them with new names and no knowledge of their previous existence. With these aides you are bidden to destroy all the evil that you meet and to finally dispose of Lord Chaos himself.

The graphics are brilliant, mouse control slick and the whole adventure takes place in real time. All your actions are controlled with the mouse. There are 14 dungeon levels and it is imperative to draw accurate maps as you go along. Although the levels seem to differ slightly, you should be able to map each on a 34 x 34 grid.
First, select your team from the Hall of Champions. There are no monsters on this level, so take your time. Point and click on a magic mirror and the characters' basic stats and what they have with them will be displayed. Point, click and hold on the character's eye and further stats, together with sill ratings, will appear. R ESURRECTED characters retain skills as novice fighters, apprentices, wizards and so on, but reincarnations lose them. The more your men fight, or cast spells, the faster they improve their ratings. The rating system from low to high is neophyte, novice, apprentice, journeyman, craftsman, artisan, adept, expert and master. Make sure fighters practice with their swords at every opportunity. Just throwing daggers down an empty corridor can help. Principle attributes are health, stamina and mana. The last of these is used up as spells are cast and all are recovered as time passes or the team sleeps. Secondary attributes are strength, dexterity, wisdom, vitality, anti-magic and anti-fire. Attributes increase as higher ratings are achieved.
Characters with no magic at the start may gain mana either from a high level potion or by holding one of the magic weapons found in the dungeons. Having a little mana will enable them to cast enough spells to get an initial skill rating, and hence more mana.
Skills may be gained as one or all of the following: Fighter, ninja, wizard and priest. Parties travel through the dungeons two abreast. Have your best armoured fighters at the front and magic users or ninjas – those that throw or shoot – at the rear.

Magic is vital to the game. A well placed fireball or the ability to create healing potions could well save your party from an early demise. To cast a spell, or create a potion, characters must select a series of symbols from a menu towards the top right of the screen. There are four groups of six symbols, and you may choose one from each group. Some spells need only two symbols. The first symbol relates to the power of the spell, so looking at the chart and translatiing both LO FUL IR and MON RUL IR are fireballs but the latter is very much more powerful. Likewise LO VI and MON VI both create healing potions, but the second is much stronger. Only as magic users increase their skill ratings will they be able to cast the stronger spells. Information on spells can be found on scrolls scattered around the dungeons. If you have the odd hour to spare you can always systematically try all possible combinations – there are 1,548 of them. Of course only 258 need to be tested, as the first symbol represents the strength of the spell and does not alter its effect.
Even before the team enters the dungeons proper, get everyone to cast a simple wizard spell such as LO FUL (create light). Persevere as it may not work, but even trying countrs towards a gain in rating and extra mana – you will need all you can get before long. Once you have an empty flask, start on the priestly spell LO VI. Drink the potion and try again. A gain in either wizard or priestly rating gives the character extra mana. This may then be used for either type of spell. You may not need all your characters to be priests, but the mana gained in this fashion may also be put to good use casting offensive spells like fireballs. T HE first level is magically lit; all other levels will need either a torch or a create light spell. Torches can be found along the way, as can food and water. Initially your party will own very little. Later you will have to think carefully about what to carry with you and what to leave behind. There is a limit to the number of items and the weight carried. The more carried, the slower the movement and the more sustenance required. Once you have chosen your team, save the game. It is easy to die in Dungeon Master. Although it takes up many discs, I would recommend saving it on a separate disc before descending to a new level. You can return to either level, either to find something you think you have missed or to complete a level more efficiently.
You must find a way to rid the dungeons of Lord Chaos. To do this, you will need Librasulus' Firestaff and the Power Gem. Each dungeon level has a series of puzzles to solve before it gives up clues or items that will aid further progress. The going gets tougher the deeper you get. There are 25 different types of monsters. The graphics and animation are superb. Scattered thinly throughout the dungeons are altars of rebirth. To use them pick up the bones of a dead companion and place them on the altar. Another more drastic way is to face a wall and launch a fireball. This will kill everyone and you will be offered a chance to restart the game from your last saved position.

On the second level you must find the 11 keys to doors which lead to stairs down to level three. There are a few flasks, some simple armour and several weapons. Look out for a sword hidden behind a secret panel in a room near the stairs. The first monsters met are screamers and mummies. Screamer slices will supplement your diet – waste not, want not! Some foors are operated by pushing a button on the wall, rather like lift doors. Wherever you can, get monsters to attack you from a doorwy and then close the door on them. Examine any scrolls by holding them up to the eye of a character and clicking the mouse button.

Level three begins with a long straight passage. Examine the walls carefully. You will find a small button – push it. There are many such hidden rooms and passages, often with something useful inside. You have to find a number of keys hidden within six puzzle snares. Each set of puzzles lies behind a door leading from one large chamber. The latest monsters, blue trolls and rock monsters, can be pretty fearsome, so remember the door trick. One puzzle requires spell LO ZO that opens doors, and another may require you to reduce the party's weight so that you can move faster. You will need healing potions after fighting monsters.

New monsters appearing on level four are pink worms, giant wasps and ghosts. The worms are really tough and the ghosts will need a new spell, LO DES EW, to destroy them. Worms also add to your food stocks. If you are carrying too much, picking up each piece and throwing it ahead of you will help the thrower's ninja skills. This level has secret rooms hidden by normal walls. There is no easy way of finding them you just have to try walking into likely walls. Accurate mapping will help, but locating rooms can be a long laborious process.

Level five has some interesting puzzles including one where trapdoors open and close as you move around a large room and another where you must choose the right directions to walk into a series of teleport fiels to get through to the rooms beyond. If you can't cope with these there are stairs up from level six beyond the traps. Green tentacles monsters spit poison and some unpleasant flying snakes will prove troublesome. Poisoning can be cured with potion LO VI BRO.

Level six has a batch of difficult puzzles. Be prepared to spend some time sorting them out. Skeletons are easy game. Beholders – floating tentacled heads – you can throw a mean fireball. Hit them when their eyes are closed. The two Vorpal swords will be very useful against ghosts and other non-material beings.

Level seven is the home of the Firestaff, but this is inaccessible until the Ra keys and the Master key have been retrieved from deeper levels. The only monsters are stone golems – very tough and I do not think they can be beaten without the help of closing doorways.

Level eight is mainly open space with fireballs zooming around. Find the green switch that deactivates the force fields which reflect the fireballs. Wall switches hide secret rooms, and in one hidden passage count 26 paces, turn right and wait. This level introduces the nasty little gremlins that steal whatever the members of your team are holding in their left hands. Have fireballs ready so that you can get back stolen shields.

Giant rats on level nine can be quite a problem, but rat drumsticks make a feast. Small wizards are quick on their feet but are not that strong, on the other hand mini dinosaurs are slow but tough. Close doors behind you, as rats breed in some rooms and can catch you unaware. There is a hidden stairway opened with a skeleton key – look for skulls on the walls. Nearby is a good room to hole up, both now and in the future. It has water and is near a rat breading room that will supply food.

Level 10 has a few good puzzles, a small supply of nasty scorpions and some interesting finds. There is entry to the hidden stairway but as there do not appear to be enough keys for all the entrances, I would not use one here. Level 11 starts with a puzzle that should have you going in both directions. A useful sword is at the end of a room filled with flying poison darts. Lighten your load to move quickly. With your one key you have choice of three doors, each of which leads to stairs. Each will involve a prolonged fight. The choice is blue trolls, wasps or particularly nasty water monsters. Stepping on the pressure plate as you enter level 12 deactivates hidden trapdoors. You must now deal with the Chaos Knights. These are real tough cookies. You can kill the knights fairly easily using a door and a magic box to freeze them, but meet them in the open and it's goodnight. Giant spiders are not such a problem but there can be a lot of them. Phantoms cast both poison clouds and fireballs so you have your Vorpal swords at the ready and cast a heavy duty fireshield spell quicly (MON FUL BRO NETA).
Lord Chaos is on level 13 (where else?) guarded by elite demons and fire monsters. To get him you will need the Firestaff and the Power Gem from level 14 which is guarded by the dragon. Approach the dragon from behind and freeze him before attacking. You will need a special spell to free the Power Gem and once it is placed on the Firestaff the only exit is back up to level 13 and your final confrontation with Lord Chaos.

Dungeon Master is the most stunning role playing game I have seen on the Amiga. It does not alter the fact that games like Ultima and Bard's Tale are, and will remain, top line adventures, but it does add a new dimension that can only encourage additional games in the same vein.

Amiga Computing, Volume 1, number 11, April 1989, p.p.14-18

REPORT CARD
Dungeon Master
Mirrorsoft
£29.99
STORYLINE 11 out of 15
Classic fantasy adventure in the D&D tradition.
AURA 12 out of 15
Go down those stairs and live on a knife edge. Excellent sound effects heighten the awareness.
STAYING POWER 13 out of 15
Plenty to puzzle over and many different monsters to be tamed.
GAMEPLAY 14 out of 15
Mouse control, magic and skills, all create a most viable scenario.
VALUE 11 out of 15
Hundreds of hours of concentration required.
DIFFICULTY 12 out of 15
Easy to miss some vital clues if you do not take great care.
Overall 97%
The best RPG adventure.


Dungeon Master logo Gold Medal Award

FTL/ Mirrorsoft, Amiga 2000 or expanded Amiga only £24.99

  • Hack mummies to bits and practise your warcy in the state of the art RPG

Dungeon Master EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF OOLA, CHAMPION OF THE DUNGEON.

Third day
Two days and nights now we've been wandering around in this dungeon and all I've got to show for it is a gash down one leg, welts on my shoulder from the weight of my backpack, and a swollen belly screaming out for food. My head's spinning and my mouth is dry but Butch is right – there are only two more waterskins and it might be hours before we reach another fountain.
I had imagined myself bold and fearless cutting a path through the labyrinth, searching for the firestaff and preparing the way for Lord Librasulus to come face to face with Chaos. Then we would regain control of the Power Gem and disorder would be banished from the earth for ever.
I was arrogant. We all were.

Fourth day
I'm determined to keep on practising my spells, Until yesterday I had thought that my superior swordmanship and skill at throwing poison darts and shurikens would hold me in good stead. In two days I'd managed to fell countless screamers and mummies with a single throw; magic was for the likes of Butch and Bing, the wizards of our party. I had seen them attempt poison charms but I had also seen them fail – a single blow with a sword seemed so much more efficient.
My flesh creeps at the thought of my ignorance. If it hadn't been for Butch, I would never come out of the Cavern Of The Gem alive. Eager to gain a little more food, Urk and I mistook a turning and found ourselves by a pile of rock in a dead end. I had a sling and bent down to pick some of the rocks for ammunition. A split second later the pile reared up in a mass of writhing tentacles, spat fire from its drooling jaw and slashed at my arm with its rattling tail. I began to feel a numbing sensation in all my limbs. Poison.
If it hadn't been for Butch and Bing's fireball spell our whole quest might have ended then. Just as it prepared to strike me again, the creature disintegrated in a puff of foul-smelling smoke. I owe my life to Bing. Without this antidote, I would be dead.

Sixth day
We are only beginning to fathom the mysteries of these caverns. A network of trapdoors, secret panels, hidden passageways and complicated gate-opening mechanisms seems to have defeated all our logic. Until we solve these problems we cannot progress. Meanwhile, we are all light-headed and increasingly irritable. There is no more food and we are having to survive on water and stamina potions alone. I can't help thinking about food - even the vile taste of screamer slice would be welcome now.
Bing is beginning to look very pale – I fear for his life.

Seventh day
My limbs are weary from walking sideways so much but it's vital that we do not miss the hidden wall panels which, when pressed, might reveal a hidden passageway containing extra treasures or food. A treasure chest was visible through a force field but we still haven't discovered how to get out.

Eight day
Slow progress. We have been searching for the key to a gate out of this section of the labyrinth. It's hidden in a matrix of confusing passageways which seem to transport you, as if by magic, form place to place. If it hadn't been for Urk's idea to keep dropping various objects as an aid to mapping, we might never have succeeded.
Towards what must have been nightfall, Bing's stamina finally gave out. We are sharing his possessions and Urk is looking after his bones – if we ever reach the next resurrection chamber, we'll be able to regenerate him and bring him back to life.

Tenth day
A short time for rest and repose. We finally reached a regeneration site.

Zzap! Issue 48, April 1989, p.p.60-62

Maff Ok, so I may not be into all that dungeon questing and role-playing lark but I know a brilliant game when I see one and this is a brilliant game. What bugs me about most RPGs is all that messing about with menus and options and really pathetic graphics which don't really give you any idea of what's supposed to be going on. In Dungeon Master on the other hand, you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to be affected by the atmosphere – the way some of the monsters creep up on you an scream is enough to give anyone a heart attack! If you have got the extra K, get this right now. If you haven't, keep slavering until you can get hold of the A500 version.

Gordo This is just the most incredible game I have ever seen. When you pick it up you find you lose whole days out of your life just getting that little bit further, just trying to find out where that elusive key is, trying to keep someone alive… There are so many elements to it: you spend hours practicing magic, learning new, more powerful spells that can destroy a quartet of mummies in one blow; if a character dies, you can resurrect him there are secret passageways revealing items you can't do without; you can eat some of the monsters you kill - and believe me, you'll have to! The deeper you progress the harder the puzzles get – whole rooms full of a maze of transporters, rooms of trap switches, fire-spitting eyes, sub-levels within dungeons, scrolls that reveal that spell you've been looking for – it's amazing! The best time to play it is late at night in a room by yourself – It's guaranteed to scare the life of you. It's like Gauntlet in 3D, but about a hundred times better – if you enjoy arcade adventures, RPGs or combat games, buy it; it's the perfect combination of all three.

Kati This has to be the most amazing game of all time, anywhere, ever – For now anyway. The first person perspective ensures an incredibly realistic atmosphere – you just can't help really getting into the feel of walking through damp, echoing caverns searching for ghosts. You can touch everything, try to move everything, use an object you come across, drink water, throw things and even eat some of the monsters you've killed. The puzzles are incredibly devious, the spell system is really flexible and the need to practice magic and spells gives the whole thing that extra-special depth. I'm just miffed we've had to borrow the extra memory to review it: I'll have to wait for the 512k version before I can really get into playing again –aargh!

The A500 Version
The version currently on the market is only for the Amiga 2000 or the expanded Amiga 500, i.e.: if you haven't bought a 512k RAM expansion (about £100) you can't play it.
Never fear though, an Amiga 500 version (costing £24.99, just like this one) is on its way and should be available some time later this year – At the latest in August.
What's been causing all the delay when they managed to shove all the game into the 512K of the ST last year? Well, apparently it's because the Amiga has less free RAM available than the ST, so it's been a real challenge trying to cram it all in! Mirrorsoft say the programmers are perfectionists – you can be sure they won't rush out the A500 version of this incredible RPG just to make a few fast bucks.

MASTERING THE MAGIC
Spells are cast using a combination of up to four magic symbols. They're divided into four categories: Power, Element, Form and Alignment.
To prepare a spell just click on the relevant icons in the right order. You always need a POWER SYMBOL and an ELEMENT – more difficult spells, like fireballs or poison charms require FORM and ALIGNMENT icons.
So how do you know what symbols to use? Easy. Just pick up and read the scrolls scattered around in the dungeon or (if you've got the time) experiment.
Be careful though: spells use up Mana, the magical energy of each character; the less magical ability you have the more energy it takes to cast a spell. That's why it's important to pick a mixed party of wizards and fighters. A really strong fighter will need lots of Mana to cast a very basic light spell.
Practice makes perfect. If your spells don't always seem to work, keep trying them out until you get them right. Even if you don't succeed your magic experience will go up.

PRESENTATION 96%
Extremely detailed and accessible control method with player inventory, spell menu and weapon icons. Save game procedure is a bit labored, though.
GRAPHICS 95%
The scenery scrolls in 3D blocks – it's interactive, detailed an extremely atmospheric.
SOUND 65%
Stereo screams plus the occasional eerie rattling door and heartbeat effects.
HOOKABILITY 95%
You can see what you're doing so it's much easier to get into than most RPGs.
LASTABILITY 98%
With 12 increasingly difficult levels, such complicated puzzles, magic and fighting options, you'll be playing for months.
OVERALL
98%
The best game we've ever seen.