Friday, March 31, 2023

Sword Of Kadash (part three)

Phew, what an adventure!

Well, I've finally done it. I've completed Sword Of Kadash... I think! (don't ask, just carry on reading to the end). When I first started, I genuinely thought that I would be playing for months due to its sheer size and also the fact that I wanted to painstakingly map it. Yet here we are with the third article and the game is finished and mapped.

You know, I have really enjoyed it too because this is a mapper's delight with a wealth of integrated rooms, secret routes, puzzles, hidden rooms and tons of hideous monsters to kill. The map design is very interesting and I like its style. However, it's not all good news as there are a few quirks and peculiar differences I didn't expect.

Before I begin, this is the third part of a mini-series. Have you read the innocence of Part One or the enthusiasm in Part Two? No, I didn't think so! Okay, click on those two links to get an idea of the pain and pleasure I have endured over recent weeks. Go on, both links open up in new browser windows and I'll be waiting here for when you get back.

While waiting for y'all to return, I shall enjoy dumping a couple of funky screenshots below...

I see the devil with horns and beady eyes staring at me! What do you see?
Interestingly, the room just to the south of this location is a formidable part of the maze design!

These little gremlins are weak but very difficult to shoot!!

Back to basics

Okay, because you've clicked the above two links, we all know the story and what's generally involved so let's continue on rather than starting afresh. Unlike many ARPGs, this begins the same each and every time: we start at the entrance of the caverns with a dagger, 2000 hit points (health), armour and fear spells. So, that means we're a dude without a choice of race, personality, skillset or attributes. Still interested? I know, I know, but you should be so read on!

Let's begin with the controls as there are three methods used to guide our little hero and this seems to have confused some YouTubers. The joystick is by far the best method (the keyboard felt unnatural and the mouse is nothing less than a nightmare). So, just press CTRL J to change from the default to the joystick when you first begin your quest. You are able to move (and shoot) in all directions, including diagonally. To shoot, press and hold the fire button and then 'move' in the direction you wish to aim. Oh, and hitting the spacebar activates your one and only magical spell.

Wanna see a couple of really annoying screens that made no sense? Of course, you do so here you go...

Trust me, unless you use the fear spell you have no chance of killing them without getting hurt.

One of the final rooms and it's stuffed with cursed items. Yep, every single item is cursed and there is no way (that I know of) to get around them. Thankfully, if you go back a couple of screens, there is a symbol/cross that can help.

The quest awaits!

I feel I should begin with a little piece of advice for newcomers - when you are about to begin, do not head north without checking out that tree. It's also worth heading back, southward, to find better weapons. Now head north into the fortress where there are a couple of ghosts and bats before stumbling upon a scroll - leave that be as it will come in handy if/when you get cursed. Next, head west for a room of scorpions, thus lots of xp for the killing. There is also a chest, and extra xp, but don't leave without searching for the secret passage that leads to a different room - with a sword!

Yes, items are a big deal in this dungeon and they are also a bit of an oddity. You will frequently find weapons and armour along with others like chests and keys. Collecting anything increases xp but you cannot use the keys as there is nothing to unlock. Nor can you plunder a chest as it's just a chest that does nothing more than increase experience. So, more often than not, the item you're collecting isn't for a particular usage - it's to gain xp and the benefits of that.

However, a selection of items is cursed which severely hampers ability and performance. Only two types of items can help cure you - the symbol cross and magical scrolls. However, this is where the game reveals its truly insidious personality because there is a chance that those might also be cursed. Cruel, very cruel!! So why not make notes? :)

Along the way, there are weird messages which are blatant and helpful. But not in these two screenshots...

I love how the designers left silly drawings and messages (Damon Slye)

The Pit is a disastrous moment but there is a hidden area to hide, but I wasn't quick enough!


The cruelty doesn't end with cursed items because the dungeon is host to a myriad of different traps and, just about everything will trigger something nasty. Heck, you may do nothing more than simply walk into a new room - and BAM!! Lots of arrows begin hurtling towards you. Most of the traps are triggered whenever you collect an item which is weird because you soon become cagey whenever you see something that might be worth picking up.

Many triggered traps are a lot worse and some can fill the room with a bunch of materialised monsters! Not only that but some are super strong and cannot be killed - so run! Lastly, there are a few which truly are game-enders: the boulders that appear from nowhere, rumbling down a corridor to block you in with crushing force! Did you save the game?

It's insane how many traps there are!! Never have I played any game that comes close to this...

Picking up an item and suddenly the screen is full of Mr T's - but one is stuck in the wall lol

This is one of only two puzzles/traps that take serious thought (relates to the 'devil' screenshot - above)


As I said in the previous article, walls sure play a big part in this adventure. I know that's a weird thing to say as most are just, erm, walls but it depends on their colour. The blue ones can be destroyed thus aiding your journey with a new pathway. Sometimes these can help to provide a tactical vantage when shooting the baddies who are unable to reach you. Green walls will repel all your shots which is actually a great mechanic that works very well in battle.

Also, there are invisible walls that are a pain to navigate - there is still one screen which I've not managed to figure out. Heck, other rooms are made entirely from a maze of hidden walls and take, what feels like a lifetime, to suss out! Finally, there are secret walls that are revealed when you walk into it at the right point. However, some need to be shot first - it was only because of my map that I could see the potential routes to many hidden rooms that I might have missed.

So, it can be a bit inconsistent. Which I personally feel means that it was always designed for the gamer to create a basic map with notes. Annoyingly, there is still one room that I never managed to discover how to enter! Which is infuriating for an adventure like me who leaves no stone unturned. Gotta admit defeat now and then, I guess?

Well, I've talked enough about walls so let's see a couple of different screenshots...

Towards the end, some rooms had little fair play element - all items here are cursed! Why???

Oh no, a Lich. This guy is one tough cookie so be quick and deadly in your attack!

Armed to the teeth

Oddly, weaponry felt like an after-through as there are only four: dagger, morning star, axe and sword (all can be augmented magically to a max of +4 for extra damage). Battles are fought only by a range method, regardless of what you are carrying, and there is no actual melee or magic. Also, each weapon is expressed as an arrow and can only be fired in a series of three shots. Of course, you can fire again once they have expired or hit their intended foe.
About magic: there is one spell but it's not offensive and more of a fear spell. When used, all monsters will scarper, thus making it easier to kill them or for us to run away. This effect doesn't last too long but it certainly helps when there are loads of monsters. Use these wisely!
Don't worry about encumberment or inventory because there is no ability to look over your stock or play with your equipment. Whatever you collect is added to your xp with the potential to level up, thus increasing hit points (excluding cursed items). Weaponry will add to your xp but will only be used if it's better than what you already carry.

Right then, I think it's time for some tricky trappy screenshots...

Spiders spring out from the trap and are really tough in this dungeon. Hey, two swords? Beware!

This is the other puzzle that takes some serious thought. Looks easy, right? Hmm...


Being an action game, you won't tread for more than a few steps without having to kill something beastly ranging from ghouls, ghosts, bats, snakes, barbarians, spectres and more all the way up to the Liches. Those guys are very tough and can even spawn other monsters into the arena so step lively. Each enemy has a number of hit points before dying, not that there's any information about that to possibly complicate the already near-non-existent RPG aspect.

It's all a case of keep firing and, if they're strong and still chasing - run away. Now, fire some more shots and start hoping for the best! Of course, touching any will drain them of their hit points, but, at the expense of yours too.

However, all enemies are a bit daft and follow a basic pathway to get you, which often means struggling to navigate around objects. Sometimes that's a good thing as you can tempt them out from another part of the room, one by one. Thus making the overall battle easier albeit rather disappointing in other respects. Learn to manage the hoard.

The next screenshots are from the final rooms that only dedicated players will see (ha!)...

We're nearing the end of our quest. This is Aladag, the dragon guarding the sword.

It's possible to sneak by Aladag to grab the Sword Of Kadash (it looks like a banana!)


I was never going to boot up this old game and expect glorious visuals. It was developed around 1984 so I would be a fool to judge it based on what the Atari ST is actually capable of. The graphics are pretty much what I experienced with my old ZX Spectrum and use a basic design with lots of repeating red brick walls and black backgrounds.

Visually, the monsters are the best part and we get to slaughter a varied and whacky crew. Yes, they're quite poorly drawn compared to Rogue but I love how amateur their movements and animations are - they wobble across the screen. The gremlins are my favourite, small and made from very few pixels yet they still manage to look great.
Sadly, the framerate drops badly when dozens of baddies are persuing. It's a shame as it affects the final rooms heavily. But, something I can forgive for such an ancient release for the (then) new Atari ST.

The audio is almost zilch with no music and few sound effects. What you hear is mostly from your weaponry or when coming into contact with nasties. That's about it. Oh, a little jingle plays when the Lich appears! This is an incredibly short tune but is eerie and works surprisingly well. Otherwise, the entire game is silent without any distractions.

Okay, it's screenshot time again and here we have two sets of enemies that are badass...

I think this monster is called the Mukra, a Jason Voorhees wannabe who is very tough.

Wraiths are incredibly mean and move quickly. So, unless you're armed well ... forget it!

The map!

So the moment you have all (?) been waiting for... the map! My task to complete this game was a very enjoyable and addictive pleasure. However, the ending rooms are a disappointment in comparison to the rest of the entire game.
When at the end, the idea is to kill the dragon Aladag who is guarding the Sword Of Kadash. But there is a hidden passage north of his location, so you can skirt around and pinch the sword. A greeting then appears (the last screenshot below) but the game does not end. In fact, there are a couple more (pointless) rooms to explore, which doesn't make any sense as they are dead ends. So, armed with the Sword Of Kadash, I went back to kill Aladag and, once again, the greeting appeared but it still doesn't end. How odd!!
Rather an anti-climax but I won't let that spoil my memories of what is nothing less than a superb oldskool shooter. As always, the image below is a thumbnail, so click on it to download the high-resolution version. Or zip over to Atari Legend who is kindly hosting a similar version. Anyhow, I hope you guys enjoy using the map??

Carry on scrolling for my final thoughts on Sword Of Kadash...

Greetings to PP for helping me out with a better version of the game and also to Maarten for hosting.

The CryptO'pinion?

I'm sure you can tell how much I have enjoyed playing this? Not only writing the three articles but the mapping was an absolute pleasure and one that enhanced my experience greatly. I've honestly loved every second of the adventure albeit not the RPG that I imagined. In fact, those basic elements are diluted into the background so it has little depth. I would say it's more of an action/shooter with an emphasis on the freedom to roam without following a linear path.

My grumbles are minor, the combat system is limited as each weapon feels the same and there isn't any support for melee at all. Also, the cursed items are a pain in the bum because there are only two types of objects (for a cure). That is very restricting and I would have liked magic to have included the side benefit of dispelling curses too.

Anyhow, if you're in the mood for an alternative "roguelike" then this could be everything you desire. The dungeon is massive, with monsters at every turn, secret passages, and lots of infuriating traps! Just remember to save regularly and make notes. Of course, I have made a map (marking all cursed items) so you could use that as a guide?

Sword Of Kadash is humble and feels old so hasn't aged well but the gameplay is well-balanced throughout and that is something I thoroughly appreciated. I hope you ignore the bland aesthetics and take on board the challenge!!

The best download has just been updated for hard drive and the older floppies are right here.

After all the trial and tribulation, this is the finale. But then it carries on - to a dead end! Bugged?

Friday, March 24, 2023

Sword Of Kadash (part two)

Welcome all (who carry a pencil and paper)

I honestly didn't expect to be posting again so soon after the first article but, this is an enthralling adventure alright. Ignore how it looks and the player is rewarded with something rather unexpected and most enjoyable. Hang on, didn't you read the feature that I wrote? Sheesh, shame on you. Click that link above and I'll wait here until you come back.

Okay, you're back, so let's continue with part two of my progress within the fortress of pain. Yep, that's what I'm calling it for now. Don't get me wrong, this is just what I needed to dig my teeth into. It's everything I love; effortless gaming and fantastic freedom to roam. Plus there's usually something menacing to contend with amongst a myriad of silly traps!

In fact, traps are a big part of this game with most rooms having something to ruffle your feathers...

Hmm, the hairs standing on the back of your neck tell you this room is one giant trap.

Temptation is high, dare we grab the scroll and that powerful sword?

Another trap is triggered - eight beasts appear and arrows are hurtling towards you. RUN!!

Puzzling puzzles?

Many rooms have a basic puzzle element to them and, being of ultra-low intelligence, I like my puzzles uncomplicated! Well, good for me then because I've yet to stumble upon anything overly taxing on my old brain cells. In fact, the hardest part of the game is usually sussing out a route through a maze of irritatingly invisible walls.

Walls are oddly a big part of this game and the blue ones can be destroyed - which is sometimes a good idea. Especially to clear the way for a quick escape! But you may wish to be cautious and leave enough room just for yourself rather than the chasing monster? Be careful and think before making a move - don't let the puzzle trigger a separate trap!

Here are three rooms with typical "puzzles" that you will come across often...

This room is odd, there is an invisible wall surrounding the symbol. So how are you gonna collect that?

Why not fully blast away the blue walls before attempting to pass that sharp-looking object?

Another puzzling room with both a secret wall - and a trap. No spoilers but, step lively!

Psychic gamer?

Freedom to roam within such a whacky dungeon of horrors is proving silly yet ever so entertaining. However, it was not long into the first game I realised that I needed the power of prediction because of the dreaded cursed items. These are relatively plentiful but there's no way of knowing if an item is cursed or not beforehand. So, it's always a gamble!

Being cursed will affect your performance in terms of xp, armour and potential damage. This can be cured but only by collecting symbols or scrolls. These work a treat but there isn't nearly enough of them for the gamblers aimlessly wandering the dungeon hoping for the best. A good adventurer brings a sword, and he makes many notes.

Thankfully, it's not all blind faith because many rooms are exactly as they first appear...

I had my suspicions about this screen but all items come without the worry of a curse.

I hope you are carrying a strong weapon when entering this room? You'll need it!

It's party time down in the fortress so let's all get together and be merry. What a battle - use magic!

The CryptO'pinion?

Stumbling through the Sword Of Kadash after another week has proved itself fruitful. There are many crude, yet fascinating rooms to explore and my (albeit unfinished) map has opened it up somewhat. However, mapping might be good for my personal pleasure but it isn't essential. What is, is making notes and jotting down the location of cursed items as it's the only way to make progress in later attempts. Yes, you will replay it repeatedly to push yourself further each time.

That actually means hours of potential gameplay which, when you think about it, is massive value for money for anyone back in the mid-80s. However, do you have that free time today? Possibly not, so I hope my agonising and time-consuming mapping will soon be of use to y'all. Are there any players? Hmm, why not comment and let me know...

With that in mind, here is the updated version of my map with all the cursed items identified. (I've also noted decent weapons and any cruel traps/puzzles - but not everything as I didn't want too many spoilers). Remember, this image is a thumbnail so click it to download the high-res version. I hope you have enjoyed reading part two?

For now, relax and be contempt knowing that part three will soon be in the works...

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Sword Of Kadash (part one)

Fortress Of The Dragon

For almost a decade (wow, that long?) I have tried to play as much of a game (as possible) before attempting to write a humble review. In light of that revelation, I'm going to do things differently for this next game and shall post here as I progress through. Hopefully, I won't get stumped and give up - yikes, that would be embarrassing!

Without further ado, here is possibly the first episode of a mini-series for what appears a modest-looking action RPG (and I'm being kind there). It's called Sword Of Kadash that was originally released on lesser computers back in 1984/5 before finding its true home right here for the Atari ST in 1986 thanks to Dynamix /Polarware, Inc.

It was developed by Kenneth L. Hurley and if that name sounds familiar then maybe you came over to the Atari ST around the same time as myself? Do you remember the graphical demo 'Monarch'? Yep, that simple animated screen was mind-blowing to witness. I was new and couldn't get over the impressive power of my new 16-bit computer!

Anyhow, enough waffling by me. Yes, you guessed it, it's time for some funky screenshots...

Update: part two of my gripping playthrough is ready to view!

The start screen is one of the prettiest in the game with a lovely tree... However, it's all visually downhill afterwards. Hey, don't be too quick to rush off before looking around and umm maybe switching the control system? Joystick works great.

Ah, you started off well I see! This is the screen that proves just how sneaky the game can be. Wait, what was that flickering that I saw? Did you see it? Well, I think you should go and investigate that flickery wall. You never know...

Yeah, a secret room with a couple of weapons. Wait, I'm getting that sneaky vibe again! Which weapon?

What is this game about?

We are a traveller looking for his fortune in Persia but the local thugs had other ideas. The only way they will let me go is if I enter the Fortress of the Dragon to find a sword. You've guessed it, the Sword Of Kadash, which is guarded by a dragon called Aladag. A myriad of rooms is waiting to be explored but beware of the many hidden dangers!!

Upon loading, I'm instantly reminded of the Apshai games due to (ahem) modest visuals and top-down display style. Getting around is easy thanks to effortless joystick controls and you're immediately thrown into the thick of it with the opening rooms offering a glimpse into the type of dangers that lay ahead - secrets, weapons, traps and monsters.

It plays to be cunning but it's also tough figuring out what is the right thing to do. Screenshot time...

There are many different types of treasures and here I can see a chest. But it's a room full of nasty critters that are also incredibly tough to kill. So, shall we waste effort killing them for a chest? Or leave it and scarper?

Hmm, now I've already got a sword, which is a fantastic weapon but this room has lots of daggers and picking them up provides experience. Be careful, one of them might be booby-trapped? What shall you do?

It's now that you should use magic to nip down and grab that scroll. Watch out for traps!

So what's my plan?

Well, because the "dungeon" is massive, I know this won't be completed anytime soon. Inside are many rooms with numerous traps, items, cursed items and bizarre monsters just itching to be slaughtered. My progress is slow but the adventure is addictive and gratifying. What appears a humble game, isn't. Most monsters are bigger than me in size and strength - but don't feel the need to fight all battles, sometimes it's best to grab the loot and run.

So, the plan is simple and one that I'm sure you've already guessed? Yep, I desperately desire to complete a full map of the Atari ST version of Sword Of Kadash. I've already begun this massive task and it's made playing the opening screens so much better. Plus it's now easier to identify traps, hidden walls and cursed items. Gaming like we did as kids ;)

Yep, mapping is fun but time-consuming so don't wait up! Hey, do want some more screenshots...

Sword Of Kadash has a cruel game designed to be learnt by the player bit by bit. I say it all the time, but I don't think you can get anywhere without making notes to remember the different pick-ups. Argh, many are cursed!

Wow, there was a hidden passage! However, to my right, is an invisible wall blocking me.
Wanna grab the loot?

Doing so, these two goons appear. That invisible wall means we have to be sneaky! Run...

The CryptO'pinion?

Wait, this ain't a review. This is simply the first stage of my Sword Of Kadash playthrough. Well, I hope you have enjoyed scrolling through what I hope is the first of "many" articles about my progress. This game is indeed huge but there appears to be a method in its madness thanks to the way xp and hit points are earned. It's a bit (umm) different.

Yes, I'm loving every second of what I can imagine some might assume aged and ugly? Older gamers won't mind, but the younger folk shouldn't be put off by the amateur visuals. Plus, it appears to have been designed with replay in mind. Ie, you will die so make notes as you explore deeper into the fortress - to aid progression in the subsequent attempts.

Download it and see where the adventure takes you - let me know in the comments below?

I'm heading back into the dungeon but, before I go, I'd like to greet PP for helping me out with a number of ST hacks recently (cheers big man). Right then, wanna see what I've mapped so far? The image below is just a thumbnail so click on that to view the hi-res image! Tell me what you think of this ancient yet fascinating RPG in the comments below...

Friday, March 17, 2023

A book all about Atari ST demos

Democyclopedia - The Book!

There is a brand new book in the works all about the Atari ST demoscene and it's written by ST Survivor (aka STS) who I'm sure you will remember being interviewed a few years back? This book is based on his blog which alphabetically documents more ST demos than you could shake a stick at. The French book was released last year and when I recently heard that the English version was finally available to pre-order... Yeah, you know that I just had to have it!

The book is hardback of a beefy A4 size which I'm very happy about - gotta be big to exhibit the beauty of the ST demoscene! The release date is May and published by Cote Gamers (they of Iceblox Plus and Toogle and other goodies).

Click on the link below to find out more information and online ordering. Why not take a look at his blog whilst you wait for the book version to plop through your letterbox. Congrats Sebastien - I can't wait for mine to arrive!!

A few words from the man himself

"My love for ATARI ST demos started a long time ago in 1994 or so. Back then I joined a democrew called NLC first as the main editor of the Frenck ToXiC MaG and then as a pixel artist. Around 2015 I started writing a blog called Democyclopedia that is dedicated to ATARI ST demos. I decided to sort all effects alphabetically as well as I added my own favourite demos, a tribute to all pixel artists and some personal articles.

As I reached more than 150 articles and thought this was the end of it, a friend suggested I should turn my work into a hardcover book, this is how I came to work with publisher CotÈ Gamers. The 250-page French edition was released last summer and it was indeed more successful than I expected! We are now working on delivering the English edition within the next months but preorders are already open, so go for it! -STS"

Monday, March 06, 2023

Shadow Sorcerer

Welcome to Krynn

Who doesn't love a good RPG with its story, lore, characters and creepy dungeons all whilst levelling up a character(s) you prey are up for the challenge. Yes, there's something extraordinary about losing your free time over something my missus recently described as "an antique game that nobody's interested in". Why I'm still with her I'll never know.

Anyhow, here I find myself booting up a 32-year-old game by SSI/US Gold called Shadow Sorcerer which is based in the DragonLance era of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. This adventure is stuffed to the crust with quests and combat against demons, dragons, ogres, skeletons, and many more grotesque creatures. I guess I'm working backwards because it's the third game in the Dragonlance saga and follows on from Heroes Of The Lance and Dragons Of Flame.

I've always had a keen interest in anything AD&D and find it ferociously interesting with compelling storylines. I love the mythology and the worlds where we battle against all kinds of dreaded enemies in the creepiest places. So, I'm going to kick off a long-term plan to play all the Atari ST Dungeons And Dragons from my own collection.

Before we crack on, let's take a look at the two primary screens you will be using in Shadow Sorcerer...

This is the world/wilderness map. It's basic, and only the mountains are displayed until you get moving.

This is the Tactical view which is a beautiful isometric representation of your present location.


The land of Krynn was once a peaceful place but no longer thanks to Verminaard who conquered with his Dragonian armies. Cheer up, we're in charge of the Companions of the Lance and these plucky fellas have rescued a whole bunch of Refugees from the city of Pax Tharkas. The plan is to head south to safe territory but Verminaard has ordered his troops to track us down. Can you keep the refugees safe and guide them to a secure place to call home?

As with any RPG, begin slowly in order to learn the basic mechanics of what makes the game tick (along with understanding its user interface and any other oddities). This prevents me from doing something stupid (well, in theory) but is a good idea with Shadow Sorcerer because it certainly throws you straight into the thick of it pulling no punches!!

As you saw in the screenshots, the Dragonlance world is viewed using two methods:

The first is a wilderness map used only to explore great distances throughout the land (whilst you're making notes, I hope). Use it to keep tabs on the refugees and also Dragonian troops. Each possible location is initially a grey hex tile and, as you travel, they reveal their environment in and around your current location. Tread carefully!

The second is a Tactical view which provides an isometric representation of your surrounding area. All battles are fought on this screen plus the ability to interact with party members, along with communicating with other characters you might stumble upon. It's here that you can find items, equip weapons and armour, and more.

Beginning your first game is a little daunting so take time to check out the file menu, and experiment with the user interface within the Tactical screen. It's here that four portraits of the party members are displayed - Tanis, Caramon, Goldmoon and Raistlin. Clicking each reveals their stats along with default options when under computer control.

It pays to experiment before playing properly and here's a deeper look at what to expect...

Get out there and explore, you never know what you might find. Here is a sword carelessly left!

Now we're talking!! A safe(ish) haven with food to keep those miserable refugees off my back!

User Interface

Shadow Sorcerer has a pseudo-GEM feel so is a doddle to use. You spend a lot of time on the Tactical screen and it's here that your party is shown at the four corners. Clicking on each portrait displays their personal attributes like Strength, Dexterity, and so on. Oddly, all stats cannot be altered in any way which is a bit weird for an RPG.

Also displayed are the details for hit points, weaponry and armour class  - all these can change depending on your condition and with regards to clothing/weaponry you happen to find along the way.

Each character has default actions that the computer can assist with. Such as attack, range, spellcasting or running off like a chicken. Base your choice on strength and ability rather than everyone doing the same thing!

Clerics and Mages need to memorise spells. Clerics are great for Blessings, Protection and healing. A mage can be handy to detect invisible objects and can throw a mean fireball. Actually, that's a very powerful spell, tempting to use but dangerous to both enemies and friendlies alike. So beware! Possibly use Magic Missile instead?

You shall also notice a satchel icon, this is obviously the inventory and is probably the lamest part of the entire game because it's not very good. Sure, it shows you what is being carried and you can use, equip and exchange items with other party members. However, no details are given before deciding whether to equip, which I didn't appreciate.

Don't forget the GEM-like menu options at the top of the display. Here you can heal, regroup, review refugee status and exchange players - very useful after losing a companion who needs to urgently be replaced by another. The caveat is having to be located together with the refugee party. Yeah, I'm sure you can guess how annoying that might be?

Hey, it's not all fighting so let's check out one of the early puzzles the game throws at you...

Not everything is as it seems and some things require a little more than brute force...

Of course, the game then decides to kick you in your teeth whenever it gets the chance lol.

Ultimate play the game

Initially, the world map shows nothing but a mountain range and a yellow icon depicting your band of merry men. Beginning your expedition is easy, just click on the nearest tile that you'd wish to move to. Now you will notice a grey icon - that represents the refugee party who slowly plod on encumbered by their number, supplies, wagons, etc

Babysit these guys the best you can but, not at the expense of your progress - it's a balance of adventuring and keeping them content. You can interact with the refugees through their (groan) council with which you can discuss, reason or even threaten. I find they are best happy when fed and under the belief that I know what I'm doing (ahem). Disgruntled refugees might disband leaving scattered groups which are more difficult to manage and protect.

Of course, everything is in real-time and you shall note the day/night clock display at the top of the screen. Time applies to every aspect of the game which took me some time for me to feel comfortable with, especially for conflicts, learning spells, crossing rough lands, etc. Hitting the + or - keys can speed/slow down game time and is very helpful.

Shadow Sorcerer's strength is in how easy it is to get out there and begin exploring. But it's not that long until you see an alert for a 'chance encounter'. In fact, you see this a lot but don't worry, it's not always a nasty brawl. Quite often it's because there's someone or something nearby and that could even mean treasure or useful items. Yes, and many brawls!!

It's not all run and chase, as there are safer areas within Krynn. These are places to restock or shelter, so use them wisely but not for too long. Watch out for side quests, these are a massive part of your adventure and fruitful for several reasons (actually they feel more of a necessity rather than an option). Along the way, you never know how many potential friends you might meet so try communicating before raising your weapon. Might work, but, be prepared anyhow!

Oddly, I fear Shadow Sorcerer tries too hard - not only are we limited in time, but encumbered by clans of refugees dragging their heels, and then there are the chasing Draconians!! A part of me wishes things were toned down in the respect that refugees could have been a silent entity who we don't need to worry about or communicate with (except when repositioning for lost members). Plus, I thought that the Draconians break free of Pax Tharkas far too soon.

Shadow Sorcerer has amused me many times, although I don't think it was supposed to? Hmm, maybe. Let's see...

The UI is simple with instant access to abilities: fight, look, grab, talk, move and computer control. 

You must learn to fight as a team. Don't go throwing a fireball spell if the enemy is too close... Ouch!!

Faith and Spells

There are two main spellcasters, Clerics and Mages. Each type has its own unique custom collection of spells with which to help the adventure thrive positively. That might be healing, protection, detection, or an act of aggression. Clerics are helpful people so let's first take a look at some of my favourites they have on offer which are always very useful...

Bless - this improves your attacking because, erm, you're blessed!
Cure Wounds - there are two levels for this much-needed spell to help those in trouble.
Find Traps - quite useful if you feel a bit unnerved about something you can't explain?
Dispel Magic - very useful and helpful but often overlooked and I can see why.

Mages, like Raistlin, can detect something invisible which is really cool and you'll be pleasantly surprised just how much that comes in handy. I shall say no more without ruining things with an obvious spoiler like that!! I like to think he's the rock star of the clan with some rather excellent abilities lurking up his sleeve...

Magic Missiles - don't disregard this impressive attack that saves you getting too close.
Fireball - a powerful spell best used out in the open. Very dangerous.
Web - quite tough to master this one but very handy to snar your opponent.

Shadow Sorcerer always seems to hurl something unexpected your way. Shall we go inside?

Argh, it was a Dragon!! And it killed two team players before I could even react!

Big Tips

As with any RPG, each of us explores differently and, although Shadow Sorcerer is very easy to get into, that comes with a higher-than-expected difficulty. Here are a few basic pointers which I hope are worthwhile...

* The default party are a varied selection, stick with these guys for as long as necessary.
* Always heal your companions after each skirmish (via the menu option).
* In the Tactical screen, spread your men out wide to overcome troublesome obstacles!
* The fireball spell can be disastrous without due care. Is it worth it?
* Sometimes the text descriptions read a lot better than the tactical screen reveals. Think.
* Try to send the refugees to a safe area (an already visited part of the map).
* Keep the refugees happy so they don't split and panic!
* I was unsure whether or not to include this line, but I advise you head west as soon as possible.
* Computer control is good but there are times it's better to do it yourself. Most apparent with ranged characters, especially when it comes to magic. Maybe it's better to DIY?
* This might just be me, but I found the game far more responsive using real hardware rather than an emulator. No idea why, but it was and especially with the character screens.
* The manual has a good line, "...repetitive saving is not encouraged - take your losses like a man...". Superbly written but ignore that taunt and save regularly. I cannot stress that enough!!

With a replacement party, I hit the road only to be ambushed by Draconians.

Skeletons are very weak opponents. Look, Richard Gere has joined our party (top/left!)


Let's start with the mediocre sounds... the introduction plays nice sampled music whilst it cycles through the different intro screens. However, there is very little else afterwards and only when using a weapon or performing magic is anything heard. That's fine for a game like this, but a subtle background chiptune would have been a great option.

Visually, things are very different and Shadow Sorcerer is comprised of two primary screens...

- The map/wilderness screen is rather drab, but a practical way to identify your surroundings along with the location of Draconians and refugees parties. Basic, but completely functional and that's fine with me.

- The tactical screen offers a beautiful way to explore, be it hunting down treasures, commication or battling the Draconians. In fact, this isometric display is superb with great decor for the different environments you're gonna do battle in. The monsters are all gorgeously detailed ableit with humble animation. Love it!!

In this game, I explored the east but it wasn't long before we were being chased by Draconions!

The Dragonian armies proved too much for me. I hope there's time to recruit new members!

The CryptO'pinion?

Shadow Sorcerer is a fantastic RPG, especially for novices (like me). It's also a great choice for those without much spare time because it's so easy to immediately jump straight into it. Travelling huge distances isn't a problem and you will slaughter many monsters and meet lots of creatures along the way. Every battle is in real-time (with pause) so it's fun working out a strategical victory using magic, range and melee. This RPG is gratifying in almost every respect!!

However, it's strange that the characters aren't levelled up as the main attributes are fixed. I never got a feeling of the progression of skillsets so gameplay can occasionally feel unbalanced. Also, I didn't like the baggage between the Companions - that didn't work (for me). Plus they struggle to navigate around objects as they're a bit daft!

Nevertheless, this is a compelling adventure with a tremendous variety of interesting places to pillage and creatures to meet (and beat). Although I doubt I will not successfully escape the Draconians, I still think this is a belting aRPG albeit more for the amateur than a hardened player. Like I said earlier, it's very difficult and I feel they crammed in too much unnecessary content - chasing Draconians AND fumbling refugees! The odds are steeply stacked against us I felt.

You know, I have heartily enjoyed Shadow Sorcerer and thoroughly recommend you take a stab at ransacking the lands of Krynn for yourself. It's not flawless but, most certainly a captivating and formidable Lite-RPG. Consider this the first in a series of Atari ST AD&D that I personally own, cherish, and will return to over the years. Imperfectly excellent.

Downloads can be found on floppy disk but I'd recommend this hard drive version. (thanks PP)