Assistant Managing Editor
Telengard is a fantasy, role-playing game that requires a good memory, the ability to think quickly, and hours and hours to play.
Telengard is a dungeon, 50 levels deep. It is littered with treasures and crawling with monsters. Your purpose is to enter the dungeon, gather treasures, gold, and experience, and come out alive. You encounter monsters and traps, fall into pits, and wander into teleportation chambers that send you who knows where. You have your strength, your magic, and your wits to help you survive.
This Dungeon-and-Dragons-like game, which is both complicated and intriguing, is available from Avalon Hill for the Atari, Apple, PET, and Commodore 64 computers. It plays the same on any computer, but the 64 version, with its graphic representation of the monsters and dungeon hazards, has the most flair.
Telengard's complexity is indicated by the 24-page instruction manual, most of which is spent explaining what you'll encounter in the dungeon and how to cope with it. Learning the features of the dungeon, the characteristics of the creatures that inhabit it, and the weapons and magic at your disposal is crucial to the game.
Another complicating factor is time. On each of your moves, you have a limited amount of time (about five seconds) to deside how to proceed. The world of Telengard does not stop if you are indecisive. If you fail to initiate action, the forces of the dungeon will choose a path for you.
You are the adventurer in Telengard, and every time you play, you are endowed with different characteristics, each of which affects your performance in the dungeon.
These characteristics are: strength, which determines your success during combat; intelligence, which has a bearing on how well you cast magical spells; wisdom, which governs your ability to cast healing spells and to successfully use spells on "undead" creatures; constitution, a factor directly related to how much injury you can sustain in battle; dexterity, a measure of your ability to run when necessary; and charisma, which affects the way some creatures react to you.
When you begin your descent into the dungeon, you are a Level 1 adventurer. As you accumulate experience, gained by successfully fighting monsters and collecting gold, you advance to higher levels, giving you the stamina needed to carry you further into the maze of tunnels, as well as a larger array of spells to help you out of tight spots.
Monsters And Spells
There are 20 monsters in Telengard, each dangerous in its own way. Some are living monsters, fighters, elves, and dragons, for example, and others are undead. These undead creatures - mummies, wraiths, and specters, among others - require an entirely different approach in battle.
Each monster has its quirks, and, like each character, monsters have levels. A Level 1 Kobold may not be much to fear, but for a Level 1 adventurer, a Level 23 Kobold can be a handful. The outcome of your encounters with the monsters depends on the combination of the monster's level, its characteristics, your character's attributes, and how you choose to fight the monster.
There are 36 spells available to Telengard adventurers. At the start of a game, a character can use the first six. Access to the others is reserved for more experienced characters. Among the spells are Magic Missiles, Invisibility, Continual Light, Finger of Death, and Wall of Fire. Some spells can be used only in battle; others are "duration spells" that give an adventurer extra power for several turns.
Once the game begins, you find yourself deposited in the dungeon, directly below an inn, a place you'll return to often - if you can remember where it is. On the right side of the screen is a report showing your character's attributes, your collection of treasures, your gold, and your experience points.
You play this adventure in a series of two-part turns. Part one is the action phase in which you decide whether to move or stay put. If you move, the dungeon's maze is redrawn around you, and you're thrown into the encounter phase if you've moved into an occupied space.
If you've encountered a monster, you'll be told (in the 64 version, shown) which monster it is and how strong it is. Based on that information, you have a few seconds to decide whether to fight, evade, or cast a spell. If you hesitate, the monster is likely to attack, and your adventure may well be over.
If you fight and survive, you're probably injured and not likely to survive another battle. It's time to find one of the inns and recuperate.
The player has encountered a Hobbit,
skill level 3. 64 version.
Gray Misty Cube
As you wander through the dungeon in the darkness, you have more to fear than unsavory creatures. There are many inanimate objects to worry about as well. You may step into a Gray Misty Cube, which can take you to any dungeon level - but if you go, can you find your way back? There are teleportals, pits, fountains, altars, and a mysterious "small box with buttons."
Each of these features offers its own set of problems, and who knows, if you press the right combination of buttons on the small box, something good may come of it. There's more strewn about Telengard. Treasure chests, silver, armor and weapons, and even a Ring of Regeneration, something that makes those long trips back to the inn easier to survive.
But beware, that treasure chest may contain 10,000 gold pieces. Or it may house a poisonous spider. Do you dare open it?
Playing The Game
Playing Telengard takes time. First it takes time to learn the game, and then playing could take forever. The game goes on until you meet your match. While learning, pay attention to the helpful hints in the instruction manual. It also helps to play a few games with the time element disabled. That will give you time to leaf through the instructions to bone up on monsters or spells.
Once you're playing a real game, there is no way to stop to check the mail or make a cup of coffee. If you stop playing, you'll be attacked and defeated in no time. Whenever you return to one of the inns, however, the game is stopped until you give the command to reenter Telengard. You may find yourself heading back to an inn just so you can walk away from the computer for a few minutes to relieve the tension.
Though the dungeon is 50 levels deep, with a different maze on each level, you're wise to wander no farther than two or three moves from an inn until you've advanced to Level 3 or 4. The farther into Telengard you venture, the more troublesome your opposition will be.
The most frustrating part of the game comes after working your character up to Level 4 or 5 only to stumble across a Level 32 dragon and lose in an instant. The early game must be played painstakingly, with frequent visits to an inn. Each time you visit an inn, you have the option of saving your character to tape or disk. Once a character has been saved, it can be revived, even after a disastrous encounter with a demon. When saving to tape, have everything ready to go before giving the command, because the program will begin writing immediately.
A feature of Telengard that produces some unexpected results is the program's keyboard buffer. It holds two or three characters, so if you get excited and begin pushing keys without thinking, you'll blindly affect your future. Sometimes it's to your advantage to preprogram your steps, but usually you'll regret it.
Telengard is an exciting game, one that can tie you up in knots and rob you of your sleep. Learning to play is simultaneously frustrating and fascinating. And once you know the ropes, there's plenty of satisfaction in knowing you've assessed your character correctly and directed him appropriately.
The Avalon Hill Game Company
4517 Harford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
$23 for tape version
$28 for disk version