Tuesday, January 3, 2023

SOTE: Shadow of the Evil: Summary and Rating

One of the encounters I never quite figured out.
SOTE: Shadow of the Evil
Ultraforce Software Team (developer); Markt und Technik (publisher, via 64'er magazine)
Released 1993 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 24 November 2022
Date Ended: 30 December 2022
Total Hours: 10 (unfinished)
Difficulty: Moderate (3.0/5)
Final Rating: 19
Ranking at Time of Posting: 142/483 (29%)
A nonsense modern-day framing story puts a single character in a first-person dungeon with a mission to save his girlfriend from the evil Harcon. This diskmag game plays like a standard tile-based, turn-based dungeon crawler like The Bard's Tale, though with interface elements that suggest some influence from Fate: Gates of Dawn. The dungeon experience is relatively standard, with locked doors, illusory walls, messages on the walls, and occasional special encounters. Combat is turn-based, with a few spells supplementing various options for physical attacks. With only a single character, no character development, and only minor inventory improvements, the game strips a lot of what makes its sources "RPGs," though it does have some complex encounter options. Translation issues or just general confusion meant that I never quite figured out what the game wanted from me.
I'm going to bail prematurely on Shadow of the Evil. I've made this decision partly because it isn't really an RPG (there's no character development), partly because I'm stuck, but mostly because events of the last month have created such havoc with my playing that I need a fresh start with something new.
As far as I got in the final area that I mapped.
I only explored one new area after the last entry, and even here not completely. The trip to this level was one-way. Amidst a tangle of combats, locked doors, and false walls, I found only four key encounters:
  • A message on a wall: "Six and six is the same, three times the four, too, it's part of twenty-four of course twelve's division." Simple math. I'm not sure what it was trying to tell me.
So . . . 12?
  • An encounter with an orb that called itself "Gurgan the True Teller." It said that it serves Harcon (the game's big evil) with its "knowliedge." Looking into the orb reveals the number 52. I couldn't get anything else to happen with it except to smash it, which accomplishes nothing.
  • An encounter with what I guess is a vampire. Hell, for all I know, it's Harcon. I could not defeat it in multiple trials, and there's really no way to get stronger.
That's just rude.
  • A locked door seals off a large part of the level, and I assume the vampire has the key, or it's found in the square beyond him. I further assume that the way back to the previous levels is beyond the locked door. I don't know for sure about either of those things.
All in all, I feel like a lot was lost in translation with Shadow. On the four levels that I mapped or partly mapped, I ran into numerous encounters and messages, but I never really figured out what they were saying or wanted me to do. I grew enormously frustrated with the game's approach to inventory. It fills you with keys and quest items that you're paranoid to drop, meaning you have to leave a lot of useful items (e.g., potions, backup weapons) on the dungeon floor. I got one equipment upgrade this session, from my leather gloves to what looks like chain gloves.
I'm moving on with a GIMLET of 19, mostly 2s. Sorry for the short entry, but I am back, and you should see a regular posting schedule for the near future.


  1. Glad you're back! Seems like a sound decision to move on.

  2. Well, this one is not really an RPG anyway. From my point of view the only really playable C64 indie RPG from that era seems to be Dunkle Dimension which I also played back then. At least it had the usual Ultima clone mechanics and was finishable.

    1. I should've written enjoyable instead of playable.

    2. Nippon was also another cool indie RPG that got me hooked up with Japanese culture as a kid :-D

  3. For its age the game looks very nice. Look at the crystal ball on the pedestal!

    1. In retrospect I think so, too. Back then I was glad my parents bought a PC by the end of 92 because Ultima 7, Underworld, Wing Commander, Monkey Island, you name it, so I was no longer dependent on indie developed games for a commercially dead system.

      Today I'm still impressed what amateur developers get out of the machine since the beginning of the "afterlife" of the C64 in the early 90s.

    2. If anything, the recent release of the impressive Eye of the Beholder conversion for C64 has once again made me think, what kind of entirely new CRPG the modern C64 scene might be able to develop. Especially since the cartridge format (such as the EasyFlash used by EOB) would be handy workaround for C64's notoriously slow disk drive.

      For example, a tribute to the Gold Box games with actually working economy, well-written campaign combining the best aspects of both Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds and more balanced ruleset without stupid junk like penalties for females and non-humans.

  4. While there are some things I miss about oldschool RPGs, one thing I'm glad has almost entirely vanished from the genre is mathematical puzzles.

    Funnily enough one of my favorite RPGs of recent years, Knights of the Chalice 2, has a few of these. Luckily you can skip them (or just look up the solution online, ha!)

    1. KotC 2 sure has fine puzzles (and even finer combat). I think I managed to solve all of them, or maybe all of them save one by myself. At the very least, the game provides you with hints AND does not penalize you for using those hints in any way - it's like the developer understood that not everyone enjoys puzzles in a combat-focused game!

      Another thing I loved about puzzles in this game is that they are NOT integrated with game world. You don't have to hunt for tiny barely-visible switches or wrestle with overlapping floating icons, or try to read blurry symbols in a 3D world... All puzzles are done in clear, separate UI. Yes, that makes them less immersive, but much easier to enjoy and solve, imo. And, well, there is no way to make a RPG-themed crossword puzzle immersive, anyway.

    2. About the orb: According to the user comment on https://csdb.dk/release/?id=19642, Hargon has a "vault" and apparently to open it you need that six number code ... ups, obviously can't code numbers with ROT13, so I'll let anyone interested check the link. Anyway, the first two numbers are what the Orb gives you, only backwards. And the last two numbers seem to be the result of this session's 'math puzzle', backwards again.

      I thought that could make at least some sense, maybe together with the math puzzle from the preceding entry and/or some clue still to come. Though now I see the first two numbers of the code were already given to you by an NPC in the first entry, so ... .

  5. Glad you're back! Maybe now my obsessively checking this website for new content will actually bare fruit...

  6. Is this one on the master spreadsheet, or didn't make the cut? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_King_%28video_game%29?wprov=sfla1

    1. I'd argue it really isn't since Gauntlet isn't a RPG under Chet's definition, too.

    2. He did a Brief on this one already:


    3. Was about to write the same.

      You can check these things in the "Index of Games Played by Title" (link is in the top dropdown menu on mobile view or upper right corner on desktop view) or directly in the Master Game List itself (link "See a Google spreadsheet with my master game list." on the right border in desktop view).

    4. I took a look at the games by year, and didn't see it. Thanks for pointing out the brief!

  7. Glad too see you back in this new year! I usually like reading about your high and lows with quirky games, but this time it seems you really got stuck up with too much soul-killing products. Looking forward to seeing you ditch everything unworthy of your time and proceed in your exploration. Have a nice 2023!

  8. The game is mentioned in two Hungarian and a Polish contemporary publication. Since I speak neither, if any interested reader who does, wants to correct or fill in gaps... . It seems only the first one is more of a review while the other two appear to have had issues with its name - one made a comment/joke about it under a screenshot (internet translation: "Evil is still O.K., but where is his shadow?") and the other printed its name in the title as "Shadow of the Emil"... .

    The reviewer in GURU 3/1994 (https://archive.org/details/guru_1992-1996/guru_1994-03/page/42/mode/1up) was happy to see a Hungarian game and mentions the three choosable languages. He's not too happy about the "ugly walls" and their sameness, though, and especially about having to map yourself. In his short stint he only encountered one hostile creature and also confirms the game's author is a former cracker.

    The person mentioning it under 'News' in Commodore Világ 1994/2 (https://archive.org/details/cov_1989-1995/cov_commodore_vilag_1994-02%2841%29/page/n3/mode/1up, including a commented screenshot on page 3) found the interface to be similar to 'Elvira' and liked it, but otherwise didn't know or say much about the game.

    And the short blurb in the Polish 'Top Secret' 25 (4/1994, https://archive.org/details/TopSecret25/page/n4/mode/1up) is translated as: "If you like Dungeons & Dragons games then Shadow Of The Evil is sure to please you. Good sound and not bad graphics, as well as a large number of possible actions make it one of the best RPG games for a small Commodore."

  9. Ultraforce made at least two more games, each also released as diskmag game through '64'er' / Markt & Technik and both apparently Tetris variants to some degree:

    'Star Brain' in 1993 (German review / presentation in https://archive.org/details/64er_top_spiele_06/page/n11/mode/1up) and 'Two-Tris' (shareware) in 1994 (https://archive.org/details/64ermagazin199411/page/44/mode/1up).


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