Swords and Sorcery was originally announced in 1984, as a revolutionary computer role-playing game, claimed by its designer Mike Simpson to be the first of its kind. It eventually did surface on the Spectrum and Amstrad, earning considerable critical acclaim, but no C64 version appears to have surfaced.
The games database MobyGames describes the game as such:
“The catacombs of Zob are believed to contain untold wealth and fortune, and this is enough to tempt you. That means entering an imposing dungeon filled with strange foes – Mages, Servants of Set, Revenent Guardians and many more. After taking 14 days of training to build up your skills, or taking the default combinations, your magic and swordplay must face the challenge.
Swords and Sorcery is a dungeon-crawler that uses the proprietory MIDAS system to present a first-person visual representation of your position, in a manner similar to Bard’s Tale. This is on the left of the screen, with a map of your surroundings on the right, and text messages detailing your current situation below.
Below even that are the menus, which are activated by moving a highlight bar left and right before selecting the correct option. Enemies you meet can be threatened, bribed or grovelled to. You can activate any spells you collect, including un-poison, weaken enemy, and freeze enemy.
Watch out for magical barriers and traps, and use the transporters to your advantage. When you encounter magic would will have to test it to determine its use or detriment.
The Armour of Zob is split into several pieces, which would will hopefully find on your quest. There are also extra swords and shields to collect, plus some treasure as a reward.”
Sounds like something which could work well on the C64, so hopefully something can be traced.
Richard Hewison gained details from Mike Simpson which informs that the C64 version never got started:
“No. C64 was never contemplated.”
However, in the scans section, if you read the Zzap snippet, they mentioned that the game was heavily delayed for about a year, and causing Mike Simpson some headaches. Maybe for that reason and for money lost on the game, it is not one which people want to focus on. But then Richard Hewison suggests that this may have been referring to the Spectrum version, and not a C64 version which might have been publicised by marketing in the hope that the Spectrum version sold well.
Does this mean that a C64 version ever existed? Gary Mays recently contacted GTW and said the following (but sadly didn’t leave an email address for us to get back to him):
“Hi, I am Gary Mays and I was the publisher not the programmer. The C64 version was never released – the endless delays in release of the Z80 language version cost PSS a small fortune and we frankly lost heart as well as money.”
So confirmation is now complete that the C64 version was infact never started after a lot of money was lost on the original game. A huge shame!.
Interestingly though in 2011, Garry Irwin got in touch as he recently created a blog post on Alternative Software and some advert scans. In one of the adverts showed “Swords and Sorcery” being advertised for the C64. A misprint, but ironic!
Here is the shot…
More fuel to the fire was added when Robert Robichaud recently uncovered more details to confirm that a C64 edition was under way, and very likely in development long before the plug was finally pulled. Aimed at the US market too. I’ll let Robert take it away…
“It seems that sometime in 1986, classic US publisher Datasoft (at that point owned by IntelliCreations, after a chaotic ownership situation that played out a year or so prior) struck a deal to license some of the PSS catalog for release in the US, including new conversions to US-centric micros like the Apple II and Atari 8-bit in addition to the expected C64 version. This deal seemed to encompass the usual PSS strategy wargaming fare (a number of which did indeed reach the US market), but also included a planned conversion of Swords & Sorcery.”
Robert then gave a series of snippets of info collected from various magazines, which we have included under the Articles section. Robert then added based from this information…
“As you can see, it would seem from this report that Datasoft may have actually shown some version of the Sword & Sorcery port(s) in action to a small group of US computer media and software distributors at their off-site CES suite in early 1987.
After this, Swords & Sorcery continued to be listed in Computer Entertainer’s “Availability Update” section every month thereafter, with gradually slipping release dates, all the way up to the December, 1988 issue, where it appeared for the final time, by this point listed as a Fourth Quarter, 1988 release for the C64 and Apple II, the Atari version having been dropped earlier.
It should be noted that by the time Datasoft published another catalogue (seemingly from around 1987/1988 and also available for viewing on the MOCAGH site), any mention of Swords & Sorcery had been dropped, although other PSS conversions had indeed been released to the US market, and continued to be up through later titles like Sorcerer Lord. However, as I’ve mentioned before, Computer Entertainer was very thorough indeed, and had constantly updated “insider information” from all of these companies, so if they were still listing it up to the end of 1988, it’s likely that Datasoft still hadn’t officially cancelled it.
Having read your GTW entry on the game, this all seems quite perplexing, as the original developers appear to have shut the door on this conversion project before it even began, However, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps, since Datasoft seemed to be going forward with these ports well after PSS had abandoned the idea, they may have actually just purchased the rights and began their own ports, either in-house or farmed out to a another developer? It would seem like this would have been a necessity in any case, as it’s doubtful PSS would ever have had anything to do with the Apple II or Atari conversions, which would have been aimed solely at the US market and were planned by Datasoft from the very beginning. Also, as I mentioned earlier, RPGs were big business in the US computer gaming scene, so it would make since that they might be keen to continue pursuing the project on their own, even if the game’s original developer had dropped out. A bit of a mystery here then, and I’m not sure where else to go with it. I don’t know if anyone who was around at Datasoft/IntelliCreations is findable at this point, and the PSS guys didn’t seem to have any further information to share. Still, maybe there’s something out there…?”
Robert’s theory seems very real, and its a possibility that could be worth checking out.
Do you know anything more about this game?
Contributions: Peter Weighill, Richard Hewison, Mike Simpson, Gary Mays, Garry Irwin, Robert Robichaud
The first peace of evidence is this quote from a (presumably 1986, no date is listed) Datasoft catalogue:
SWORDS & SORCERY TM
A role-playing fantasy that takes you through the unending corridors of the underworld on a quest for material, physical and/or spiritual power. The choice is yours. You will en- counter beings meek and mighty, discover untold wealth, while avoiding fiendishly ingenious traps, on your pilgrimage to power and glory. Solve the quests and develop unique characters to help you unravel the mystery of the “Prayer of the Seekers”. ”
You can see a scan of this entire catalogue here:
The next piece of information comes from the ever-reliable Computer Entertainer:
October, 1986 (page 14): First listing in the “Availability Update” section as a First Quarter, 1987 release for Commodore 64, Apple II and Atari XL/XE, along with “Tobruk” and other forthcoming Datasoft titles. It would continue to be listed here in each issue going forward (more on that in a moment).
Then we find this in the November, 1986 issue of QuestBusters (page 2):
“Datasoft is bringing over some British games: Swords & Sorcery, a maze-based RPG; Saracen, an arcade-style adventure; and Black Magic, also an action- adventure. These are set for the Atari 8-bit, C-64/128 and Apple in the first part of 1987.”
It should be noted that only Swords & Sorcery was actually British. Ilan Ginsburg, who created Saracen, was French I believe, and Black Magic was an American game. These two were initially released in the US and then brought to the UK by U.S. Gold/Americana (GB64’s dates seem to be off regarding Saracen).
Back to Computer Entertainer, where in the February, 19887 issue (page 10) they offer an extensive report on Datasoft’s offerings during the Winter CES:
“Varied Lineup from Datasoft
Like many other companies, IntelliCreations showed its Datasoft line away from the CES floor in a hotel suite. The company showed a varied group of titles, from arcade-style games, wargames, and a creativity program to the eagerly awaited ALTERNATE REALITY games- THE DUNGEON for Apple II, C64/128, and Atari XE/XL and THE CITY for Atari ST (MSR $39.95 each). (THE CITY for Macintosh, IBM, and Amiga will be next) We were told that a technical breakthrough on the ST version of THE CITY means that Version 2.0 has 50% faster disk access than Version 1.0. Another bit of technical wizardry has allowed IntelliCreations programmers to achieve graphic improvement in programs for Atari XE/XL. The normal bit-mapped graphic mode on these computers allows for only four colors per pair of lines, but the programmers have managed to extend this to six colors. The first programs to show this improvement will be the Atari XE/XL versions of 22 IB BAKER STREET, GUNSLINGER, and ALTERNATE REALITY: THE DUNGEON. (The effect is most noticeable in THE DUNGEON.)
More Datasoft Games for Apple, Atari, Commodore
Like a number of other companies, IntelliCreations plans inexpensive programs for the action gamer looking for a challenge. The games will be available for Apple, C64/128, and Atari XE/XL at $19.95 each. SARACEN is a 100-screen maze test of reflexes and strategic ability in which you can play the screens in order or try your hand at any one at a time. BLACK MAGIC also offers 100 screens of action and even a few magical spells as you attempt to replace the eyes in a statue. Continuing the action wargaming series from PSS of Great Britain that began with THEATRE EUROPE, IntelliCreations will release TOBRUK: THE CLASH OF ARMOR and BISMARCK: THE NORTH SEA CHASE ($34.95 each). In TOBRUK gamers can put themselves in Field Marshal Rommel’s tank and command the German Afrika Korps. The game includes lots of action with air reconnaissance, mine-laying, and sabotage. BISMARCK is another World War II game, allowing you to command the German battleship or the British Royal Navy. This one also includes air recon missions, the impact of weather, and a simple flight simulator. Yet another Datasoft game coming from IntelliCreations this Spring is SWORDS & SORCERY ($29.95), a fantasy role-playing game with humor. This game features dual perspective, letting you see both first-person and overhead views of your position in the mazes.”