Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roughing It With Sword of Fargoal

So I'm playing the Commodore 64 classic Sword of Fargoal. Yeah. It's hard. The game has no save feature, no pause feature and no mercy whatsoever. Like campers who go out into the wilderness without modern conveniences to "rough it", I am doing the gaming equivalent by playing this quarter-of-a-century old game.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, Sword of Fargoal is a twenty level dungeon exploration game where one must find the sword and then escape with it under a 33 minute timer. The timer starts off when you get the sword. It has monsters, traps, and spells you pick up to help out with healing and other standard magical uses.

Each level takes up one full screen that must be revealed by exploring through it. They are generated randomly each time you play, too. In fact, during my three attempts yesterday (which I will detail in a moment), I discovered that if you return to a previously explored level, it not only hides it again but it seems to generate a new layout! My only hope before finding that out was to clear the levels all out on my way down to the sword, then make a run for it through previously-explored levels. So much for that.

Healing takes a long time without the use of a spell. One must stand on a square called a "temple" to regenerate the fastest. Even if one has cleared the monsters out of a level, new ones can spawn from the staircases. There's even one monster called a dimension spider which can appear anywhere at anytime.

My first run lasted 24 minutes. I was on level 4, doing good, and just as I was walking toward the staircase, a shadow dragon came out of the stairs and killed me quite quickly. If a monster initiates the attack, one cannot flee. The lesson here was to look before I leap. In Sword of Fargoal, one must take it very slow and tread carefully.

My second run lasted 23 minutes. This death was my own fault. I was fighting a swordsman, a type of enemy I had beaten before quite easily, and died to it. I failed to reach the H key to heal in time. Lesson learned - enemy hit points can vary greatly, and know where the heal button is at all times.

My third and final attempt lasted 28 minutes. This time, thanks to a pit, I fell down to level seven but was instantly killed by an assassin, which was invisible. I am not entirely sure, but I suspect that the fall through the pit did enough damage to me for the assassin to quickly finish me off.

Instantaneous death is frustrating, but I was able to learn quite a bit from these three attempts. This game requires a lot of patience, a cautious step, and a huge chunk of time set aside to play. Why am I playing it when I've got three new Nintendo DS games begging for my valuable game time? To "rough it", of course - to get in touch with my gaming roots and to test my tenacity to its limits. Sword of Fargoal is a perfect game for that.

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