DUNGEON 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.
RESURRECTED 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.
THE 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.