Tower Of Despair
By Games Workshop
Spectrum 48K

Published in Crash #11

Tower Of Despair

Games Workshop have evolved from a long history in role-playing games, with milestones such as the Fighting Fantasy Books and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but have waited until now to release computer games as a software house in their own right. All the authors contribute to White Dwarf magazine and one might expect their experience among the plethora of Dungeons and Dragons offshoots to add that little extra something to the adventuring world, and in many ways this is indeed the case. Should you locate it in your computer shop you will find the case lavishly illustrated with the magical and the mystical. An adventure guide accompanies the two cassettes and contains the history and map of the realm of Aelandor, and vital dues actually within the pictures of the guide, a most welcome advance to adventuring. The now familiar outline of the whys and wherefores that supply much substance for reviews naturally enough adorns the packaging here, but unlike many such narratives those for this game are more lucid and, what is more, reading it actually adds to the game giving information which is of some use in your quest. In short, it has been intelligently thought out so as to be consistent with the theme as a whole.

Malnor, Demonlord of Darkness, inhabits the Tower of Despair, amongst the Mountains of Undying Solitude, gathering evil forces about him by way of the Ring of Skulls, a wicked potent amulet. Legions of orc and demonkin await his command to infest the realm of Aelandor. You are the Warrior-Mage of Castle Argent, Keeper of the Silver Gauntlet and Wielder of Flamebolt, the Staff of Lightning Bolts. One summer morning, as you quietly work within Castle Argent, your Saying Sphere brings you baleful news. Malnor is powerful again, so you must seek I Ellwood in the Eastern Wilderness to retrieve the Golden Gauntlet.

You set off from the inner sanctum of Castle Argent, a place of contemplation and preparation. Only after going east and then back again are you told of the two visible items; the Silver Gauntlet and the Lightning Staff which, as you should now be aware, are very necessary for your mission. Equally important are the items to be found in the chest in the main hallway. 'Inside are; A long, fine coil of rope. A leather canteen of water. A pack of dried field rations. An oil lantern.' Alas, you must GET every item individually as there is no equivalent GET EVERYTHING. Your progress at this point is aided by a neat little map in the booklet which soon has you out through the east gate with your mount Fiannabad amongst the familiar rolling downs of your native countryside. You hear the distant sound of flapping wings and you would be wise to hurry on your way lest you fall foul of the winged hordes that will certainly descend should you falter. You will know when you are safe as you will sense 'A supernatural howl of anger emanating from many leagues further east. Then you feel a momentous shaking through the ground. Malnor is incensed by your escape from his agents!'

Tower Of Despair

Any difficulties you may encounter at this stage may be related either to the vocabulary, which uses the construction ENTER (DOOR) frequently, or to the unfamiliar terminology of the fantasy world where you must LOOK into orbs and to use a staff you must have its name. You will feel no doubt, like myself, feel hunger in the ancient wood of Aesweald where you eat, otherwise each step will take you further towards starvation, death and a new game. If you are proceeding well you move north to meet some superbly crafted atmospheric descriptions. You are in a small glade, the vale of Tranquil Enlightenment. There is a sense of enchantment in the air. At the centre stands a white stone statue at whose base lies a pile of ashes'.

The spell of the program is cast not only with the well constructed, lengthy descriptions but also in their presentation; the character set is wonderfully redesigned in the old world writing with ornate letters or symbols marking the beginning of each location description. This fine artistic talent also adorns the booklet where highly detailed and imaginative drawing in the style of White Dwarf is brought to bear on the project, giving the whole a classy, well-polished feel. These drawings not only add immensely to the pleasure derived from the game but are also a necessary part of it as within them lie clues to your progress. Perhaps the inability to examine or make use of all the objects in the drawings, just those that prove useful in some way, is more a reflection on the limits inherent in any computer adventure rather than a lack of insight on the part of the authors. An example is a picture in the booklet which you need once you've successfully negotiated the Door of Destiny. You see an innkeeper, and a ranger with a pouch full of arrows tied to his back but it is only the barrels in the corner that lead you deeper into the plot - the arrows cannot be collected.

The Door of Destiny is one of three such doors you meet once you've solved the problems at the white stone statue; the other two are Hope and Despair. On exploring these three I at first thought their names ironic because I despaired in Hope and was cheered in Despair, but once all the permutations became clear I found them apt enough.

The EXAMINE command is used often and its ramifications give rise to lengthy discourse. Through the Door of Destiny, and onto the inn, you find the body of the ranger is lying across the remains of the bar. 'His back is broken, and eyes stare out lifelessly from a face stricken with terror. From a chain around his neck hangs a delicately wrought silver locket. ' A further EXAMINE leads you on even deeper into the plot. 'Opening the locket you find an inscription written in the Old High Script, known in these days to but a few. The words inside are Peel Bark. ' For a Quilled game this adventure has some remarkably good, non-standard features.

The Tower of Despair is a Quilled text-only adventure. Were it not for the commendable acknowledgement on the packaging it would be almost impossible to prove that it had made use of the Quill. As such it is the best Quilled adventure I have yet seen, combining all the Quills advantages with a startlingly original and fresh approach. Fantasy fans will love this game.


Difficulty: moderate
Graphics: none
Presentation: very good
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: very fast
Special Features: pictures in a book

Derek Brewster

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