Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (GTW64 highlight)

A highlighted review from the archives

Dungeons and Dragons was a gaming phenomona that started in the 1970s when historial gaming enthusiasts, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, created their own rules to tabletop battlefield gaming and focused it on a small group of heroes sneaking into a castle.

The game proved popular and to this day remains a huge influence on popular culture, though few people realise it. All modern computer games owe something to Dungeons & Dragons. Any game with even a casual structure that involves hit points, experience or levelling, in fact owes it’s existence to the original RPG game that introduced these concepts.

It is no surprise then, with the explosion of home gaming in the 1980s that Dungeons and Dragons tried to get in on the act.

This game, preserved in ‘preview’ form on, sees you create a hero, choosing between a Warrior, Wizard, Cleric, Paladin or Thief and venture out into your surroundings. As such, despite it being ‘Advanced’ Dungeons & Dragons, the character creation is more similar to style to the original Dungeons & Dragons of the 1970s. Race-wise too you can only choose from several basic races and not the mixed race characters that typified Advance Dungeons & Dragons and many other games under the banner, such as the Gold Series games including The Savage Frontier and Pools of Radiance.

The unfinished state of the game shows itself through basic spelling errors on words such as Armour and Halfling and poor formatting, with too many words starting on one line and finishing on the next. In fact, some elements are downright bizarre, ‘experience points’ spelt ‘xperience points’, for instance. And starting as a level one Mage with 22 hit points, when every D&D gamer worth his geeky dice collection knows Wizards get 1D4’s worth of hit points per level, therefore starting between one and four hit points.

The game proper is a typical text adventure, with a menu displaying your options when you enter a town or ‘area’. In the town you can buy weapons and armour, or visit the temple, inn or casino. Your choice of dangerous ‘area’s consists of a forest, a dungeon and so on.

Playing the game it becomes clear this is in no way an official D&D product. Around this time TSR/SSI were producing quality RPG games, immersing the player fully into the D&D universes, such as Forgotten Realms. This game, on the other hand, plays like the results of a first-time bedroom coder. Misspellings, poor formatting, basic setups, poorly written and with an incredibly tedious combat system that bizarrely features no spells despite my character being a wizard, I was glad when my wizard was killed by a Giant Cockroache because I was bored of waiting for the fight to finish, when my options were either running away or attacking again.

I can only assume that the game was perhaps created as a showpiece for the programmer, perhaps to take to TSR for it to be commissioned or to a software house to commission a different work. Sadly the preview isn’t up to much, which is probably why it remained a preview.

Sadly the game does actually have potential, simply because text adventures were relatively well suited to a pen and paper RPG game like Dungeons and Dragons, if done well. This isn’t, sadly, although if it is tentative results of a first-time bedroom coder, it’s a valiant effort (although there is no excuse for such terrible spelling). But on a commercial level, it’s a stinker and probably better off left as a Game That Wasn’t, rather than a Game That Was.

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