Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Temple of Apshai Trilogy

Sigh, another old and drab-looking RPG?

Temple of Apshai Trilogy was released all the way back in 1986 by Epyx with the ST conversion handled by Westwood, of Command & Conquer fame. The package features the original plus two expansion packs "Upper Reaches Of Apshai" and "Curse Of Ra". However, Hellfire Warrior is oddly not included.

This is a turn-based RPG with few expected similarities to Rogue. Each of the three realms has four different levels of difficulty and, unlike Rogue, each dungeon has been designed rather than randomly generated. Curiously, there's an almost nonexistent storyline beyond the point of killing and treasure hunting. Understandably, this might disappoint some but, for me, I enjoyed the freedom to roam without bothersome tasks getting in my way.

Firstly, let's hit you with a couple of screenshots to get rid of those people who care about gorgeous visuals...

Monsters, weapons and freedom to roam?

First things first, we need to build ourselves a character using a combination of different attributes that will affect strength, dexterity, intelligence, and so on. Thankfully, you can save and reload your character at any time. Either keep it real and roll a dice or fudge the numbers to get playing. Personally, I wouldn't restrict yourself.

You can venture naked with only your pride as a weapon but it might be best to visit the Innkeeper and get yourself equipped. He has everything you need, even if you must haggle for the best price - if you can be bothered? Armour, weaponry, arrows and more all come with a financial and weight cost... So try and be wise!

The InnKeeper seems to have everything you need to get started. Well, for a price...

He's not a generous man. I tried to explain that I couldn't pay, so his heavies broke my kneecaps!

Role-play like it's 1986!

Playing the Temple of Apshai is fantastic but I recommend starting on the first level of Temple rather than foolishly jumping in at the deep end. When you begin, your world is viewed from a top-down perspective with some helpful information listed on the right for health, ammo, information, etc. And yes, it's running under GEM :)

It's odd that there isn't any real point to these dungeons - other than killing the baddies and collecting loot. However, Upper Reaches does (umm) attempt to give your adventures some purpose. Well, it tries... For example:

Level one takes place behind the Innkeeper's Backyard which needs tidying up. Yep, we're on cleaning duties but at least he's warned us of a bandit in the area. Come on, this has to be the strangest tasks ever?

Level two, Merlis' Cottage is quite odd. We're in Merlis' home looking for cash because he failed to cough up after we painted his fence!

Level three is Olias' Cellar but nothing is mentioned in the manual so I assume we're back to killing and looting without reason? Fine by me!

Level four is set within Benedic's once peaceful Monastery which has been turned into an unholy Romero movie thanks to an evil vampire!

Start slow. Why not fire an arrow at your first opponent and don't forget to search everywhere...

I found a secret room inhabited by a swamp rat. I killed that and took the Magic Sword. Bonus!!

Stay Awhile and Listen

Whatever realm you're in, each room has a design that includes a written description detailing what you see and hear. There's no need to pick up the manual for the ST game just hit [return] to read about your environment. Also, the rooms are numbered so it's possible to map your adventure noting routes, traps, hidden doorways, etc.

Getting around the dungeons is done using a keyboard command system quite similar to something like Ultima. Predefined keys are used to walk, turn, fight, talk, search, and much more. You can use the mouse - but it's a bit of a mess - so stick to using the keyboard. This is perfect and also a lot better than you might first assume:

RETURN = Make sure you read each room's description.

0 = Use this to rest and recover from some of that nasty fatigue.
L/R = This is pretty obvious and makes turning around easy.
V = Swoosh, you've just made a complete 180°
1-9 Let's go for a little walk, under the moon... Erm, never mind!

A = Hit 'em hard when you're up-close!!
T = Thrust a lunging attack which might leave you vulnerable?
P = Defend yourself with a countermove, you wimp!!
F/M = Take 'em out from a safe distance, sniper-style.

E = Budding adventurers will look under every stone.
O = Doors won't just open themselves you know!
S = Don't rush through, search for those hidden thangs...
I = Inventory (there's a shock).
G = Grab any treasure you find.
D = Ugh, drop that heavy trash.

Q = Shushh, did you hear something?
! = Dr Dolittle, he talks to the animals!

H = Heal yourself before you croak it.
Y = Ohh, gimme some of that fancy Elixir healing.

An RPG needs characters, with character!

Yep, characters make any adventure fun and interesting so it comes as no surprise to find out that this Trilogy is stuffed with many exotic creatures. Many spooky delights are waiting around every corner with the first being a skeleton - a classic encounter! This guy is pretty tough so I wouldn't let him get too close if I were you.

Brilliantly, we have an option to listen for distant sounds and even talk to some of the nasties. I doubt you'll get much sense from most but sometimes a creature might respond. They might just let us pass or reveal something interesting. Attempting a dialogue is something unexpected, mind-blowing and pretty funny too.

Each of the 3 realms has a myriad of ghoulish creatures and some unexpected ones. Battles are fought using few weapons but victory comes to those prepared. Press [A] to attack when up-close and personal but you could use [T] to execute a ravaging thrust? This might plunge your sword into a beast's heart but at what cost? Those carrying a bow can use arrows to pick off their prey from afar. Just make sure you're facing them properly!

There are some fantastic enemies within the dungeon. And ants and mosquitos too...

Upper Reaches is so different but can you find the bandit? Whereas Merlis' home has ... a cat!

The Antmen are incredibly tough blighters but oddly, the Ghoul was an easy victim of mine!

Bears and Giant Bats, whatever next? You'll be telling me there's Vampire Bats around the corner!

Mind As You Go

Playing any part of this trilogy is an amazing experience but it's a good idea to experiment with your newly-created character, just to see how clothing and weaponry feel to your own preferences. Experience is gained as you progress deeper into the dungeon and it's always good practice to take it slow at first. Remember to search/examine/listen no matter where you currently are. You never know what might be nearby - be it a treasure chest, a trap or something lurking in the dark waiting to pounce. It's never a bad idea to read the room's written description!

Always keep an eye on your fatigue level, which can take a hit whether you're exploring or battling something freaky. Walking isn't free and multiple movements will cost a little tiredness that adds to your fatigue. Hitting [0] now and then can be rewarding. As is purchasing a box of bandaids before heading out into the unknown...

Remember, we're not God and any deadly battle will result in severe wounds possibly leading to death. Thankfully, not all is lost - roaming these dungeons are three peculiar helpers who may help. Bendic is a lost priest who can revive your broken body and all he asks in return is a financial donation. However, others aren't as kind, watch out for a dwarf or wizard who yields greater sacrifices - so keep your hands in your pockets!

During those desperate moments when all has gone wrong, this is the message I prefer to see!

Graphics & Sounds

Visually, this is pretty lame by ST standards yet faithful to the barebone originals. The backdrops are rather basic but the sprites are detailed and can look pretty good. Personally, I prefer the visuals in other RPGs, of the time, but Apshai still has its own unique charms. Also, it's GEM-based, which I think is crude but it works great.

Audio features a nice chiptune on the title screen but only spot effects in-game. However, I do love the little clipping that plays when a monster appears - scary stuff! lol. Overall, more than good enough for an RPG, I say!

This is the time when you remember that glam aesthetics never make the game. Never.

The CryptO'pinion

Temple of Apshai Trilogy is brilliant but possibly also a forgotten and much-underrated RPG for the Atari ST. That's a shame because the original game was a massive success and I think the Atari ST conversion captures the essence of that very well. And, dare I say it, improves upon it? Well, at least visually anyhow.

Whatever you chose to play first, each game is absolutely huge with hundreds of rooms to explore over four levels. Most of my time has been spent within the realms of the temple, which I'm still battling through to this day. I love how each room has been pre-designed yet still manages to feel fresh and interesting.

I've been making a map with notes of hidden doorways along with curious hints taken from a room's description. This took me back to the 80s when I was a geek. Of course, I'm no longer a geek. Honest. Anyhow, I feel that I've only scratched the surface, especially with Upper Reaches and Curse Of Ra. So I need to change that asap.

If you love being transported to another level filled with weird creatures and looting treasure then this old timer is definitely for you. Ignore the graphics, don't use the mouse, read the descriptions, and remember to save regularly! A whole world awaits you so expect lots of late nights. One of the best olde RPGs and I love it!!

Grab yourself a copy of this brilliant RPG


  1. Never knew there was an Atari ST version. The only version I know is on the Coleco Vision, and played it any times. Will try the ST version soon..