Wrath of Denethenor: A Review

Wrath of Denethenor (Sierra On-Line, Apple II series, $24.95) is a fantasy role-playing game in the Ultima tradition. Despite it's low price, this is a quality program, spanning both sides of two disks. Sierra priced the program so cheaply at the request of the author, Christopher Crim, who also requested that the program be released without copy protection. In a press release that was sent to GameSIG, Crim was quoted as having said, "I honestly think Sierra will sell three times as many copies of my game at $25 as opposed to $50."

So you know what to do: buy one copy for every member of your family and another for the moron across the street that owns an IBM PC (you can watch him go crazy trying to boot it up). Be sure to write to Crim and tell him what a wonderful person he is. (Write care of Sierra On-Line, P.O. Box 485, Coarsegold, CA 93614). If sales are high enough, we might see lots more unprotected, cheap, high-quality software in the future.

As to the game itself, you play the part of the Standard Fantasy Role-Playing Game Peasant, who, according to prophecy, will gain great power and eventually single-handedly destroy the Standard Fantasy Role-Playing Game Evil Wizard - Denethenor being the wizard. Your quest will take you through the towns and dungeons of the five continents of Deledain.

Each continent is a quest in itself. You must first find a town where you can buy food. You next need to find a boat. Usually, only one town will have boats, and that town can be tricky to get to. It may be on an island, or surrounded by mountains, and you'll need to find a magic gateway or a tunnel-dungeon to get you past the barrier. In the meantime, you can kill monsters for gold, and talk to townspeople for information. Eventually, you'll be able to find the magic gate that leads to the next continent, where the whole process starts all over again.

Overall, the game is not too difficult. I finished it in about three weeks of playing time. While experienced gamers will enjoy it, Crim wrote the program specifically for novice gamers, to give them an alternative to dealing with the complicated combat and magic systems and multiple character parties of most of the recent role-playing games.

The magic system is rather unusual. There are only 10 spells, but you'll need almost all of them to finish the game. You learn spells by talking to townspeople, who will give the names of the spells and hints as to what they do. You have to experiment to figure out exactly how the spells work. If you're in a bad mood, you can start stealing from townspeople.

The only sad note is that you have to be very careful whom you kill. Anyone you kill is dead forever. So if you kill all the merchants in the restaurant, you'll never be able to buy food in that town again. Also, when you kill someone, a warrant is put out for your arrest (in that town only). When you return, hours or days later, the guards will immediately attack you. Eventually, the warrant runs out, and the guards forget you. I'm not sure how long you have to wait, so take my advice: choke back your rage until you're positive that you've talked to everyone in town and bought everything you want. And don't forget to run by that tavern where everyone snubbed you until you bought a round for the house. There, isn't that more fun than trying to become an Avatar in Ultima IV?


My biggest complaint with the game is the "day-night cycle". Time slowly passes in the game, and the sun rises and sets. When the sun goes down, you can't see very far in any direction and most stores close until the next morning. Casting a light spell helps a little, but you still can't see very far. You can't get much accomplished exploring the surface. Your best bet is to find a dungeon and explore it, since that's going to be dark anyway. But dungeons are fairly small, and after you're through with them, you're reduced to going to the outskirts of town and waiting until morning — not a total loss, since you'll slowly gain hit points. I developed an interesting strategy for handling nights. I'd haul out a paperback and start reading, with the volume on my computer turned up so I could hear if I was being attacked by a wandering monster. The "day-night" cycle is an interesting idea, but can get irritating fast. (Those of you that were at the August '86 WAP meeting heard Lord British announce that Ultima V will also have a day-night cycle. Growl, mutter.)

The game also drags a little towards the middle. It's well worth waiting for the ending, though. I especially enjoyed the last continent. After fighting my way through a vast horde of monsters, I finally reached Castle Denethera, home of the evil wizard. Not only were there no monsters there, but the townspeople were the friendliest I'd seen. Denethenor was holding open court, and I just wandered up and talked to him. He was friendly, too. A lot of townspeople were saying, "The other Lords of Deledain are just jealous," and I started to find myself agreeing. Needless to say, the game doesn't end there.

The grand finale is a masterpiece of programming. After it was all over, I rebooted it and played the ending again, this time with the volume turned all the way up. Very satisfying. Later, I was shocked to realize that this seemed to be the only fantasy role-playing game ever written that didn't end with the promise of a sequel. It's there, though. After you've won the game and the closing credits have rolled, you have to wait for about a minute. You'll see the program drop a hint about a sequel.

Historical note: Beta-testers for this game included GameSIG Chairman Emeritus Ron Wartow and GameSIG member Dave Granite. Ron's name appears in the acknowledgments in the documentation. If you come to a GameSIG meeting and plead on bended knee, they might consent to autograph your package.

Bottom line: If this game were priced at, say, $50 — which is pretty much the going rate for a game of this size — I'd give it an 8 out of 10. Since it's priced at half that, and isn't copy-protected, it easily earns a 10 out of 10. This one should be on everybody's must-buy list.

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