Classic Computer Magazine Archive Article from Compute! magazine

Three Fantasy Games For Commodore And Apple

James V. Trunzo

Requirements: Commodore 64 or 128 (in 64 mode), or an Apple II-series computer with at least 64K RAM. Disk only.

The old axiom that good things come in threes certainly applies to a trio of new entertainment programs from Strategic Simulations, Inc. The wizards at SSI have conjured up three new fantasy titles that are sure to please all the would-be warriors who sit by their computers, anxious to explore another dungeon, slay another dragon, or banish another demon. And while on the surface it might appear to be unsound business strategy for a company to release three new monster and magic programs simultaneously, SSI succeeds because each game is unique in its approach and play. The three games, Rings of Zilfin, Phantasie II, and Wizard's Crown, will provide fantasy lovers with enough challenges to last the entire summer.

The first game, Rings of Zilfin, differs from other games of its kind by offering a nearly perfect hybrid of arcade action, role playing, and animation. The player controls a single character who has a variety of combat skills as well as latent magical ability, This ability must be developed during the course of the adventure in order to survive and complete your quest: You must reclaim the Rings of Zilfin and the fabulous Treasure of Fulgarsh.

Pay Attention To The Plants

The entire game is animated. Your keyboard-controlled character marches step by step across a huge mapped area. When he enters towns, dungeons, and so on, the program uses windowing to display the interiors and the options permitted. There's arcade-style combat as well.

But your character is not the typical warrior-hero. Rings of Zilfin requires a thorough understanding of strategy, economics, and diplomacy. You need to pay special attention to mushrooms and plants because these items can offer important assistance. And, in addition to monsters, your persona will encounter elves, dwarfs, kings, beggars, witches, and wizards. Some are helpful, others deadly. Reading and rereading the well-written manual is a must; it contains necessary information as well as hidden clues.

This is a rich simulation. The realm of Batiniq contains three nations, 27 towns, two dungeons and more; there are over 100 inhabitants with whom to converse, and dozens of plants, magical pools, and monsters with which to contend—-and all phases of the game are animated. The game has a flavor all its own. If you are a fantasy buff and you're looking for something a little different, Rings of Zilfin might be the game for you.

If you would enjoy something a little more traditional (and if you are one of the many who became addicted to the award-winning Phantasie game), you'll certainly want to get your hands on Phantasie II. The sequel does not require you to have played Phantasie, but if you have conquered the first Phantasie game, you can transfer your battle-trained characters to the new adventure.

Phantasie II has all the same features of its predecessor. Assembling a party of up to six characters, you must explore a vast wilderness, dungeons, Astral Planes and—new this time around—two levels of the Netherworld. Your group, made up of any mixture of fantasy types, must battle over 80 different monsters, gather treasure and magical artifacts, and improve its abilities as it attempts to defeat, once again, the arch-sorceror Nikademus.

The Hidden Undead

Phantasie II employs full screen graphics, animated combat, maze-like dungeons (which are mapped by the computer, incidentally), and a wide variety of terrains.

If you've played the original Phantasie, you can look forward to new features like molten lava, which is extremely dangerous; mist, which shrouds areas and hides such enemies as the undead and swarms of insects; and dark voids, which hold unknown horrors that must be faced by your group.

Also, a new wrinkle has been added to the combat phase of Phantasie II. Characters can now choose to toss rocks at enemies in any rank, with accuracy and damage determined by the appropriate skill level of the character.

A Most Unusual Game

The third game, Wizard's Crown, is the most difficult of the three and probably the most unusual fantasy game to hit the market in some time. Requiring 50 to 100 hours of playing time, Wizard's Crown comes very close in flavor to the actual Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game which started the fantasy craze. One reason for this is that each member of the party of adventurers can be controlled separately.

Also, the combat can be tactical in nature. Each character can select from 10 to 20 combat options, more than one in a given turn in most cases. For example, a warrior could improve his accuracy by aiming at an enemy prior to attacking. Characters can dodge and zigzag, attack defensively, stand on guard, load a bow or crossbow, move in any direction, or ready a new weapon—to name only a few of the options.

This control over individual movement allows the players to form a wide variety of defensive formations when in combat and also to take advantage of the battleground terrain. Because of the large number of combat variables that come into play—rear and flank attacks, for example—the combat is far closer to a typical war game than is usual in fantasy games. Combat fought in the above manner can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete, and all combat maneuvers are animated by highly detailed character icons. But if you're in a hurry, Wizard's Crown offers a quick combat option, too.

Especially Lifelike

Characters in Wizard's Crown have many more characteristics and skills than are usual in a game of this type. Combat awareness, ability to track, skill at administering first aid, knowing how to read ancient writings, and ability to use alchemy are some of the more esoteric ratings given characters in Wizard's Crown. These are in addition to the typical skills of a thief, wizard, or warrior. The various combination of skills add greatly to the personality and individuality of the characters, making them seem especially lifelike.

Your quest, to recover the coveted Wizard's Crown, takes your group of adventurers through streets, buildings, dense wilderness, and, of course, dungeons. During the course of your adventure, you will encounter dozens of monsters, find merchants with whom you can trade or sell your loot, bribe innkeepers for rumors and clues that will help you complete your quest, and acquire an almost limitless variety of magical items like lightning swords and rings of invisibility.

Wizard's Crown also includes five levels of difficulty, two kinds of combat, and works with one or two disk drives. Add this to all the other options, plus the excellent animation and graphics, and you have a game that will excite and challenge even the most seasoned veteran of fantasy warfare.

SSI has created a triad of adventure games that offer something for everyone. Each program has its own special challenges and each requires a different strategy. One of them is sure to suit your taste; which one is up to you. You can't make a bad choice, though, because all three games are winners.

Rings of Zilfin

Phantasie II

Wizard's Crown

Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road
Mountain View, CA 94043
$39.95 each