Monday, April 8, 2019

Game 324: The Keys of Acheron (1981)

As an expansion of Hellfire Warrior, the game has no main title screen.
The Keys of Acheron
United States
Automated Simulations, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released in 1981 for Apple II and TRS-80, 1982 for Atari 800
Date Started: 5 April 2019
Date Ended: 5 April 2019
Total Hours: 5
Difficulty: Easy-Medium (2.5/5), but heavily adjustable by player
Final Rating: 24
Ranking at Time of Posting: 130/327 (40%)

Every once in a while, it's a good idea to remember that the Dunjonquest series existed. Its first edition, The Temple of Apshai, released in 1979, gets my vote for the first true commercial RPG. Sure, Beneath Apple Manor, Dungeon Campaign, and Space technically preceded it in 1978, but none of them are what we would consider fully-featured RPGs. Temple of Apshai and its paragraph book, full of evocative descriptions of rooms and treasures, was the first earnest attempt to bring the essence of a tabletop RPG module to the computer. Co-creators Jeffrey A. Johnson and Jon Freeman should be names that we invoke as frequently as Richard Garriott or Brian Fargo.
A typical Acheron screen has me fighting a fungusman in a twisty cavern. A treasure can be seen beyond him.
The Temple of Apshai was a huge success, ported to nearly every platform that existed at the time, and it naturally generated a slew of sequels. Oddly, Epyx released several different sets of sequels for the original game. The first set began with Hellfire Warrior (1980; link to my review), which added Levels 5-8 to Temple's Level 1-3. This series continued with The Keys of Acheron (1981) and Danger in Drindisti (1982). At the same time, Temple continued onto a different set of dungeon levels with Upper Reaches of Apshai (1981) and Curse of Ra (1982). In between these titles, Epyx published a few "microquests" using the Dunjonquest engine but with a fixed character: Morloc's Tower (1979), The Datestones of Ryn (1979), and Sorcerer of Siva (1981). The engine also spun off two horrid action games with no RPG elements: StarQuest: Rescue at Rigel (1980) and Star Warrior (1980). The whole series wrapped up with the terrible Gateway to Apshai (1983), which couldn't even spell its own name right on the title screen. Dunjonquest also inspired a series of simplified diskmag and shareware titles, including Quest 1 (1981), Super Quest (1983), Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils (1984), and Cavequest (1985).

I bypassed Acheron in 2014, claiming that I couldn't find it, but I must not have tried very hard because the Azimov archive says that it's been uploaded there for at least a decade. (And thanks to commenters J.D. and metallik for helping me get it running.) I probably just thought of it as an expansion to Hellfire Warrior, which I'd already covered. But I figure it's worth taking a second look now, partly to remember the Dunjonquest series, but mostly because it was the first CRPG scenario designed by Paul Reiche III, co-founder of Toys for Bob, and co-creator of, yes, Star Control and Star Control II.

This was Reiche's first computer game credit after a couple of years designing tabletop Dungeons & Dragons modules for TSR, and his experience can be seen in the quality of the backstory and in-game descriptions. The setup is that the character has been asked by the wizard Abosandrus to recover four magical gems--emerald, amethyst, ruby, and sapphire--from the dungeon. The gems, known as the "Keys of Acheron," have the power to open or close rifts between worlds, and Abosandrus wants to use them to prevent the immortal demon lord Kronus from invading. The dungeon takes up four levels, labeled "Abode of the Dragon," "The Temple in the Jungle," "The Crystal Caves," and "The Shadowland of Kronus." The game does the same weird thing that Hellfire Warrior did where the first and third levels have room numbers (and associated descriptions in the book) but the second and fourth don't.
Kronus himself appears randomly throughout the game's levels and cannot be killed.
The game is a bit tricky to get going because it requires the original Hellfire Warrior disk for booting, character creation, and shopping. The Acheron manual tells you bluntly that you'll screw everything up if you don't follow its instructions to the letter, and for a while I couldn't find the instructions. Fortunately, as usual, a helpful commenter came through.
My character at the beginning of this session. I created him as a veteran of Hellfire Warrior.
Character creation thus precedes exactly as Hellfire Warrior, where you can randomly roll a Level 1 amateur or manually enter your own statistics and create an indomitable titan right away. After you buy your melee weapon, armor, bow, and arrows, you can choose to spend excess money on various draughts and elixirs. These modify your statistics and abilities for the next dungeon session only. You can also stop by Malaclypse the Mage and get your weapon or armor enchanted (up to +9) and buy a few magic items that only last the duration of the adventure.
Available magic items.
In one last screen before you enter, you can donate money to Benedic the Cleric's mission, which seems to increase the chance that Benedic is the one that finds and resurrects you when you die. Otherwise, you may be found by Lowenthal the Wizard, who takes all magic items that you own before returning you to the town for resurrection; or Olias the Dwarf, who takes all your items; or a random monster, who just eats you.
I confess I reloaded save states in such circumstances.
Once inside the dungeon, the game behaves just like the earlier incarnations. You use "R," "L," and "V" to turn and rotate the character and then type a number from 1 to 9 indicating how many steps to move in your facing direction. "S" searches for traps, "E" searches for secret doors (you have to be pretty close to the door), and "O" opens them.
Finding a secret door.
When monsters appear, you can try to shoot them at a distance with a regular arrow ("F") or a magic arrow ("M"), or wait until they get close and use "A," "T," and "P" for attack, thrust, and parry. When the monsters get your hit points down, you can heal with a salve ("H"), nectar ("N"), or elixir ("Y") if you've purchased them. If the room has a treasure, you grab it with "G." The controls are all quite intuitive except for movement, which never stops being clunky.
Melee combat with a grifffin. There are, alas, no spells in the game.
You have to be careful about stamina. The game tracks encumbrance (including weapons, armor, and found treasures), and the faster you move with more weight, the faster your stamina depletes. Standing still causes it to (slowly) recharge, and you don't want to be caught in combat in such situations. I had fewer problems with it here than in the original Hellfire Warrior.

The rooms and corridors are all uniformly dull--the top-down equivalent of Wizardry's wireframes from the same year. (There are mild icon animations but nothing to get excited about.) This is where the Dunjonquest series is greatly enhanced by the monster, trap, room, and treasure descriptions in the accompanying manual. On the screen, you may enter Room 16, but with the manual, you know you've entered a cave where:
The air is intolerably hot. To the west you can see roaring flames. As you make your way through the passage, you stumble over something. Looking down, you see the fragments of a huge egg. It would seem that the Dragon has borne young ones.
If you meet one of the baby dragons, you consult the manual to see that:
Although this creature resembles its parent closely in its scaled, wormlike form, it is fortunately much smaller, typically 6-8 feet in length. Even though the immature beast cannot breathe flame (and luckily so!), it will attack anything it meets with ferocity.
You defeat him and head down the corridor, only to accidentally stumble in a dragonfire trap! The manual has you covered there, too:
With a titanic roar, the corridor fills with the burning flame of the Dragon's breath. You should have been quieter, more careful. Now it knows you are here.
But eventually you defeat your foes and pick up the treasure in the room. The screen tells you that you've acquired Treasure #8:
A quaint piece of giantish artwork, a skull carved from a huge agate. Surely some collector of such things would buy it, but for how much?
As noted, levels 2 and 4 don't have any room descriptions--some limitation imposed by the game basically faking the Hellfire Warrior application into thinking it's playing Hellfire Warrior levels. But to compensate, Reiche used treasure descriptions more as encounter flags rather than literal treasures. Sometimes, you find healing items that can be repeatedly taken. Other times, you find a clue, as in "a severed hand . . . clutching spasmodically" that eventually "points north, up the corridor." And still other times, it's just flavor text, as in "the floating remains of one of the kraken's more recent meals."

The overall dungeon designs are superior to the earlier games in the series. You start in the "Abode of the Dragon," a classic dungeon of rooms and passages featuring trolls, ogres, giants, grues, and the titular dragon. These are not Level 1 monsters, so you're expected to bring an experienced character. The room descriptions have you begin in a field and (depending on the way you go) either enter a tunnel immediately or follow a shoreline around to a cave entrance. They both converge on the dragon's lair, one via a straight path through monsters and treasures and the other taking a shortcut through a secret door. A side area leads to a unicorn's grove, where a non-hostile unicorn lets you take an opal necklace. Other treasures found throughout the area include a magic sword and a healing potion; I think this is the first Dunjonquest game where any of the found treasures can remain a permanent part of your character.
The game's take on a "grue."
The demon Kronus occasionally pops up in all of the levels, and there's nothing to do but run away. The manual says that he cannot be killed, and my experience bears that out.

The first Key of Acheron, a "spherical ruby gem as large as your fist," is found beyond the slain dragon. Overall, the level has more valuable treasures than the others, and if you thoroughly explore, by the time you return to the surface, you'll have enough money to enchant your sword and armor and drink every elixir in the apothecary's shop before your next trip.
The first key lies beyond the dragon.
"The Temple in the Jungle" offers no room descriptions and simply has you navigating a fairly open level with different types of dinosaurs, giant dragonflies, and Sserpa (snake god) shamans. For the first time in the series, this level has an adventure game-like quality where the "rooms" don't lie in consistent directions, and the map warps on itself. You have to create a little node map to find your way through. You eventually find the "amethyst key" in a room occupied by a giant tarantula.
Fighting a giant dragonfly in what we have to imagine is a trackless jungle.
"The Crystal Caves" puts you in an extinct volcano. There are some interesting "trap" areas that the game suggests are deep pools full of piranhas from which you have to climb your way out. Mechanically, you do this by searching for secret doors, but a player with an imagination will appreciate the game's attempts to do something clever with limited mechanics.

Battling lava beasts, lizards, fungus men, salt slimes and dodging earthquakes and cave-ins (again, all described in detail in the manual), you eventually find your way through secret doors and recover the "emerald key" in a cavern.
I collect the third gem.
The last level is called "The Shadowland of Kronus." Like the jungle, it lacks room descriptions, but here almost none of the treasures are actually treasures. Instead, they generally contain clues or taunts from Kronus.
Some of the treasure descriptions from the final level.
The level takes the longest to explore. Eventually, you find your way through a secret door to a large, open water area, where the game uses a treasure encounter to suggest you're paddling around on a boat. Waves and "black rain" do damage to the character while you're attacked by shadow bats, fiends, and krakens. Another node map is necessary to chart a path through the area.
Release the kraken!
You arrive ultimately on the shores of a citadel (this is all related via treasure paragraphs) and a walkway where numerous gaps suggest a "broken railing"; going through these gaps leads to instant death. Eventually, you come to Kronus's chambers with side-rooms for a torture chamber, library, and bedroom. Each room has appropriate monsters, like wraiths, astral skulls, and automatons. I particularly enjoyed the treasure encounter in the library, with its Lovecraftian allusions:
You stand in a library filled with books, scrolls, and tablets of arcane and eldritch knowledge. Looking around, you find such titles as De Mysteriis Vermis, The King in Yellow, and a complete edition of the Pnatonik Manuscripts. Resting on a nearby table you find a particularly interesting volume entitled The Necronomicon. When you open the book you find it filled with incomprehensible writings, and you feel an unholy chill pass through your body. Perhaps some wizard will buy this strange librum.
A secret door leads from Kronus's chambers to the final area. You pass through a room of fake sapphire keys (and lots of monsters) before arriving in a room with Kronus himself guarding the real final key. As before, there's no point in fighting Kronus. You have to dart up, grab the key, find a secret door in the north wall, and escape the dungeon before he kills you.
The final encounter.
Alas, just like its predecessor, the game is disappointing in its lack of acknowledgement that you've completed the main quest. Treasures are ephemeral things; they disappear, converted to gold, the moment the game transitions from the dungeon disk to the program disk. Thus, there isn't even any way for it to record the fact that you've found each of the four keys on their appropriate levels. Even if there was, it wouldn't matter, because the moment you leave the Acheron dungeon disk, you're back in the Hellfire Warrior program, which doesn't even know that Acheron exists. As with so many other places in the Dunjonquest series, you have to use your imagination to return the gems to the wizard Abosandrus and seal Kronus in his own dimension.
The appearance of Treasure #1 four times in a row (this is the last) is the only "proof" that I've won.
The Dunjonquest entries have always evoked tabletop modules, but this is perhaps the most sophisticated of the lot--a testament to Reiche's prowess as a dungeon master. In a GIMLET,  I rated it 24, two points higher than Hellfire Warrior, apparently feeling better about both encounters and the economy.

I'll try to check out Danger in Drindisti in the future. After that, the Dunjonquest series falls apart, perhaps more from the breakup of  Automated Simulations (and its rebranding as Epyx) than from anything to do with the quality of the series. If the Dunjonquest series had continued and grown, we might have enjoyed Gold Box-quality games before the Gold Box.


I'd like to ask a favor of my U.S. readers. I'm looking for places across the United States that sell Diet Coke with Ginger Lime in 20-ounce bottles. Exactly that--no other flavors, please, and no cans. Just Diet Coke with Ginger Lime in 20-ounce bottles. If you happen to see them at a local convenience store, drug store, or whatever, I would appreciate an e-mail to Thank you!


  1. I feel like the "Computer games THINKERS play" tagline would appeal greatly to the elitist snob subset of RPG players who claim Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls, etc. are not "real RPGs."

    1. Sigh. It was a different time. There was no Fallout 3 or Elder Scrolls. It was indicating this game was for the brainy sort of kid. It desperately tried to give that kid status, but we all know considering yourself as a thinker gets you a lifetime of social rejection, especially from girls. It certainly happened to me and a lot of others.

    2. I know that. I was simply stating that there are those who would interpret the line that way today, as RPG players today often arbitrarily decide that older games are somehow automatically more authentic/intelligent, giving the tagline new meaning today.

    3. The funny thing about the tagline is that to the extent that I found myself "thinking" at all while playing Keys of Acheron, it was "why did they adopt such an idiotic movement system"? I mean, the game is fun, but it's not like you have to solve algebra equations.

    4. I know Epyx primarily from the Summer/Winter games line, Pit Stop, and Jumpman... as all of those are action or sports games, I find this tagline highly amusing!

    5. The competition was Scrambler and Gorf, any game that gives you a spreadsheet like the last screenshot is sapience in comparison.

    6. I played these via the Temple Trilogy remake, and found a good control method was to rest the index finger of my left hand over R. Turning is "free" so I never used the L or V keys, instead just R'ing til facing the correct direction. Left hand can hit low movement keys and A, T, F, S and E easily, and the right hand can M, H O and G.

      Speaking of the Trilogy remake, you oughta check out the cute character death animation it has :)

    7. Well, to be fair, criticism by old Fallout fans on Fallout 3 was mostly centered on butchering the setting and making it even sillier than Fallout 2 (the Brotherhood of Steel all the way in DC, and now they're noble knights instead of xenophobic technology hoarders? A city inhabited entirely by kids? Cannibals whom you can convince to become "vampires" instead???). And the Elder Scrolls games have dumbed down their RPG elements since Morrowind: Skyrim has much fewer skills, no stats, much fewer equipment slots than Morrowind and Daggerfall.

      So these are valid criticisms on these games, and the direction Bethesda has been taking after Morrowind.

    8. Whether you like the the games or not, they're still RPGs. I let myself be drawn into another futile discussion on Reddit the other day with a commenter who defined an RPG as "good dialogue and meaningful character progression where choices affected the story." If your definition of a "real RPG" encompasses only five games out of 6000, then I think you may have to revise your definition. (And he did this as an argument AGAINST Fallout 4, which I would argue has both of those things. I mean, certainly more than The Bard's Tale.)

      One of these days, this blog will reach the modern era (or at least its edges), and I'll disappoint a lot of readers by analyzing why I'm having fun rather than why I shouldn't be having fun because the current game didn't include every single good element from every previous game.

    9. While I feel the original Fallout's atmosphere, voice acting and general tone is just perfect I still love Bethesda's take on the series. Skryim however is most definitely not an RPG, I love the game to death but it's an action adventure with some light RP mechanics thrown in for good measure.

    10. You're doing exactly what I'm arguing against. There's nothing about Skyrim that makes it "definitely not an RPG." The character development system may be less complex than some other RPGs, but it has one in a way that pure action-adventures do not.

    11. It really isn't though, I'm not intentionally trying to be a contrarion. For god's sake, the thieves guild quest line is one of the most damning examples. I know you're a busy man, but if you have the time look up Zaric Zhakaron's Skyrim is not an RPG video. It's two minutes long and is far more concise than I am.

    12. I'm not arguing they're not RPGs at all, just explaining why people are disappointed in them.

      Personally, I felt almost betrayed by Oblivion due to the removal of so many features and especially the destruction of the cool setting they had going on (Cyrodiil was a jungle, the Imperial City essentially like Venice, but they retconned all of that to turn it into generic fantasy land). The huge amount of skills and especially the huge amount of equipment slots were my favorite aspects of Morrowind, and those were subsequently dumbed down in the following Elder Scrolls games. Huge disappointments for a long-time fan of the series.

      But yes, of course they're still RPGs. Just a little less strong in their defining RPG elements than they used to be.

    13. There is no plot-related element that could make a game “not an RPG.” Whether a game is an RPG comes down to its mechanics, and there is no possible argument that you could make that excludes Skyrim from that definition.

    14. The video Ethan mentioned illustrates bad PC dialogue options (in fact most of the dialogue only has a single option down each branch), forcing the player to commit to saying something that doesn't really fit the character you might envision. I don't know the whole background story. It looks like the game is forcing you to lie in that conversation, but I'm not sure if the lies are because the character is supposed to really believe them or if it's in character to hide the truth. Honestly, it could be the story changed at some point, and that bit of dialogue was a relic of previous ideas that shift during development. In any case, a badly executed RPG is still an RPG, no?

    15. I respectfully disagree Chester, everyone is entitled to their own definitions and opinions on what exactly is an RPG and to me personally the game is just a great action adventure romp. Nothing more, nothing less.
      In response to Zenic, I never thought about it being something that was lost or changed in development, it would make sense if true. In any case I can agree it was certainly badly executed.

    16. First of all, you're commenting on a blog for which I have established a specific definition of what is an RPG, and Skyrim clearly meets it. It also meets the definitions supplied by MobyGames, Wikipedia, and just about every other game site out there, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a list of computer RPGs on which it does not appear.

      You're welcome to establish your own definition of an RPG, but you haven't done that here. You've just repeated asserted, with no backing, that the game is not an RPG, in contrast to what every other reasonably-authoritative source, plus my own definitions, say. If you're going to disagree, at least provide some evidence or basis for your disagreement.

    17. Skyrim meets your definition but so does Star Control II apparently which god forbid we go back down that whole rabbit hole of a discussion of whether it's an RPG but Wikipedia would say you're wrong on that one. I think we can agree there's just as much opinions on Wikipedia as facts when it comes to video games at least. As far as a "reasonably-authoritative source" well that seems somewhat silly considering we're talking some really pedantic nerdy stuff.
      I'm not going to launch into an entire missive of my definition of an RPG because quite honestly I think it changes a little bit with each new game I experience and enjoy but I can certainly say dialogue options matter a whole hell of a lot. If I a wear an amulet of Talos and strut up and down Whiterun or come across a group of the Aldmeri Dominion wouldn't anyone expect some interesting dialogue interactions to ensue? Reducing everything down to Health, Magic and Stamina is boring and bland as well. It's like the game is saying there's three classes to choose from but even Diablo has attributes like Strength, Dexterity and Vitality. I have to bring up classes of course because I think the ES series had some of the most interesting choices, especially Daggerfall. I played Daggerfall very young, too young really but creating custom classes is something I hope for in every CRPG I play because of Daggerfall. I admit I take it a bit personally that they removed them from Skyrim, it's like they gutted the game. Characters matter a lot too, every npc you come across in Skyrim is so lifeless and dull. It's like nobody cares.

    18. what you're basically saying, Ethan, is that you do not have a consistent definition of what is (or is not) an RPG; except for the nebulous bit that you must find a game "not boring" to consider it an RPG. That makes your posts not particularly useful.

    19. Now, I'm one of those people who were disappointed with Skyrim's dumbed down RPG elements and terribly linear dungeons. But it still meets the minimum requirements of an RPG.

      It has skills. You increase these skills during the course of the game. It has an inventory system and equipment that increases your abilities. Yeah, compared to Morrowind both the skill and the inventory systems are horribly crippled, but they still exist. Therefore it qualifies as RPG.

      Ultima 1 and Wizardry 1 didn't have much in the way of dialog and story, yet they still count as RPGs because you control characters who gather XP, level up and loot better equipment through the course of the game.

      Just because Skyrim is a bad RPG doesn't mean it's not an RPG.

    20. @Anonymous I'm not too great at articulating my thoughts through writing I guess. It seems the definition is constantly changing online and the discussions are fascinating but my favorite aspects that to me define the genre are:
      1. Interesting and immersive dialogue options
      2. Attributes, skills and their associated stats
      3. Deep character creation with custom classes (where applicable)
      4. Real-feeling characters, npc who feel like they're more than computer players.
      In my opinion Skyrim fails these categories either in execution or because they just didn't bother to include them.

    21. It's amazing how such a detailed, amazing game like Skyrim gets crapped on by its players for failing to be perfect. I saw the video (it would have been nice to have it linked) and the player freaks out because of a dialog option and writes "I have my skill not powers and magic" - Says an Aldmeri WIZZAAAARDD WHO USES ILLUSION MAGIC TO STEAL EVERYTHING. Nerd rage. The developers didn't think of every possible interaction so the game sucks.

      "wouldn't anyone expect some interesting dialogue interactions to ensue?"

      It would be great but jeez at a certain point the game has to stop going deeper. If you want full interactions with every character in the game then that's an MMORPG.

    22. Based on Ethan's #4 criteria I'm pretty sure that means that there are actually no games that are RPGs. What a totally bonkers set of points to define an RPG.

      Ethan, which games in Chester's "Highest rated so far" list on the right hand side do you think are not RPGs? I'm dying to know.

    23. Yeah, I mean, clearly I can't accept #1 and #4 in Ethan's definition. It would mean I haven't played an RPG yet on this blog. It would mean that thousands of players from the 1970s through the 1990s who though they were playing CRPGs--indeed, who coined the term--were playing something else.

      But you won't catch me arguing that the Thieves' Guild Skyrim had a good questline. Then again, there was no way they were topping Oblivion's.

    24. Dudes, CRPGs are literally just adaptations of a genre of tabletop game. An argument could be made that some newer games are not CRPGs (I wouldn't however because even Morrowind is a CRPG despite being simplified from Daggerfall), but not if your "definition" excludes the first games to adapt RPGs to the computer. It isn't rocket science. Stop trying to REWRITE HISTORY. A game can be a CRPG even if you dislike it. Otherwise can I claim Madden isn't a sports game because MY definition of a sport prohibits balls from being thrown? No that's ridiculous. Please keep the genre debate to scholars like me and Chester.

    25. Oh and on the same note please don't use "action-adventure" if you don't know what it means. If you played Daggerfall very young, these terms may well predate you. So don't come in with half-baked concepts and 2 minute YouTube videos and expect to be taken as an expert whose "opinions" are young enough to be the children of people who coined these terms.

    26. Everyone is "entitled to their own definitions" in the sense that nobody's going to get sent off to a reeducation camp for calling The Binding of Isaac a "roguelike". But if you don't accept something reasonably close to the consensus definition of a commonly used term, you're just going to get in a lot of pointless arguments.

      I mean, this is probably one of the most receptive audiences you could find for the proposition "Skyrim falls short in a number of gameplay and narrative dimensions that make for a good RPG". And instead there's this argument about definitions that will end with nobody being persuaded one bit.

      Also, to be honest, as much as I love RPGs, I think it's pretty bogus to try to define RPGs as "games that are good" with the implication that other genres are definitionally inferior. There's nothing wrong with an action-adventure game, and I've played action-adventure games that have more interesting characters and immersive dialogue than the vast majority of RPGs I've played. But the difference is that in those games there's limited or no character creation, character strength is purely based on item acquisition and/or plot progress, combat is purely action-based without any kind of statistical or random element, etc.

    27. Hey I was just thinking after reading all of this devil may cry is a rpg isen' t it

    28. Hah. I hope not. Irene convinced me to try one of those on the console. I don't remember which one, but it was new about two years ago. I had no idea what was happening in the game. It might have well have been just a bunch of flashing lights and screams. It made me feel old.

    29. Vampire: Bloodlines would fit the four criteria above pretty well I'd say. But GOG managed to file it under "Action", which means I never came across it for years. I finally got it as a package with the awful "Redemption". The one use _I_ have for categories - easier shopping for games I like - and GOG messed it up.

    30. Maybe on day all games will be all genres, hopefully just the good bits though.

    31. No they didn't, it's filed under "Role playing" and "Horror" as well. It's just not very popular, found it on page 10 of 14.

      Which is quite baffling, as it's one of the best CRPGs ever made.

    32. Yes, it's tagged as role-playing, but you won't find it if you go by category "RPG". Under "Action" it's one of the first items. Which is even more baffling. The action parts are ok, but the role-playing aspects of the game are simply fantastic.

    33. Ah, I see now. For some reason the first genre is treated differently than the rest. There are two ways to search, one (that is available on the front page) only looks at the first genre, and the other searches all of them. Quite confusing.

    34. I don't think I ever questioned action-oriented games being RPGs, but a long time ago I was worried about the state of CRPGs. When Fallout 3 was announced, I suppose I was part of the Oblivion-with-guns crowd, at least mentally.

      What I loved, and still love, is turn-based combat in my RPGs. In all of gaming turn-based was seen as slow and outdated. I'm pretty sure I used the "Is chess outdated?" argument on some forum. But at that time Black Isle was dead, and there weren't a lot of triple-A RPGs, or traditional RPGs in general. There was Jeff Vogel, but not much else. My selfish and rather juvenile concern: the specific type of game I want won't get made. The idea of an action-oriented Fallout seemed to say if this classic series will forgo its turn based roots, any high-budget CRPGs in the future will have action combat.

      I suppose one could argue that is still the state of affairs. Real time with pause isn't quite the same as turn based. But XCOM made turn based popular again, so these turn based tactical games satisfy my turn-based itch. On the other hand Divinities/Eternities provide great traditional CRPG experiences and there's even lots of cool new stuff like Expeditions games. And Jeff Vogel still makes games as well. There's just so much more space beneath the triple-A these days.

      Although I still dream someone will make a great CRPG with not too frequent XCOMish combat. Mutant Year Zero is a step in that direction. It is a tactics game, but you can easily see how it could have been made as a proper RPG.

    35. Certainly, that's a valid concern, and I share it. Or, more specifically, I share occasional fears that the type of game I enjoy will no longer be made because other styles are too popular and lucrative. It annoys me that if I want an open-world RPG experience in 2019, I have to sigh and start a replay of a title that came out 4 years ago or more, mostly (I perceive) because everyone took the resources that would have gone into such projects and put the into multi-player games instead.

  2. Still have boxes/manuals and disks for C-64 versions of Temple and Upper Reaches somewhere in my basement. I don't recall if I have gateway or not. Reading the room descriptions as an 11 year old was pretty damned fun!

  3. This game seems like it would have been a lot of fun when I was a kid, though I only had one rpg on computer and that was Hillsfar, wish I had the Apshai games.

  4. I feel you're being a little harsh on Gateway to Apshai. Sure it wasn't a true RPG, but it was a nice little action game with light RPG elements. I thought it was pretty nice for 1983.

    Gateway was actually the first Apshai game I played since it was on cartridge for my Atari 400. I didn't get into the other games until I got the Trilogy for my Apple IIe years later.

    1. Gateway has its defenders. I won't ever be one of them, but I respect your opinion.

  5. Very glad to see you got this running! I played this when it came out. Not a lot of choices for the TRS-80. The manual descriptions, as you noted, really made the game.

  6. Unless there's something I'm forgetting, isn't this effectively the first expansion pack released for an RPG?

    1. Good question! It's close. I think you'd have to regard any of the Eamon adventures released in 1980 as the first, since they all required the main disk to run. That was noncommercial, but the commercial version of Eamon, Swordthrust, was also released in 1981. But those had a hub-and-spoke nature from the beginning, and without at least one of those modules you don't have a game at all. Acheron would be the first that wasn't envisioned at the time of the creation of the original game, that requires the main program of a completely different game to run.

    2. Oh, and Space II is technically an expansion rather than a sequel to the original, requiring the original to run. Yet it's kind of a quasi-RPG. I'm happy to give the prize to Acheron as the first expansion the way we think of it.

    3. Since you mentioned Eamon, we can say with some surety that this was the first RPG that was intended to have mods made for it, can't we? Since user modules are such an important thing with Eamon.

      Might even be the first game released with mod tools, but I'm less sure about that.

    4. Jimmy Maher refers to Eamon as "the first system created specifically for the creation of text adventures", and if anyone would know, he would. Considering the limited capacities of the PCs of the time, I doubt anything much more challenging than a text adventure could be created this way.

      Of course, this was the era of type-in programs, and in a sense Eamon was just a particularly well-designed type-in program -- it was written in BASIC, and you were expected to edit the game program itself in addition to adding data to a few built-in datafiles. (The manual is interesting reading.)

      It's possible that there were mainframe-era games of this nature, but I think it would be hard to draw a clear line between those and the general culture of just copying and modifying existing games on those systems.

  7. Is there even such a thing as 20 oz. Diet Coke with Ginger Lime? The Coca-Cola products website only lists 12 oz. and Freestyle form factors for it.

    1. I bought them regularly up until about a month ago, and when I called the Coca-Cola company, they insisted it hadn't been discontinued. But they also insisted that three or four stores in my area still carried it, which they don't, so clearly some knowledge had not yet filtered down to the person who answered my call. What I don't know if it's just my local bottler who no longer packages it or whether no one does.

    2. So what are you going to do if someone from Montana says that they have them locally?

    3. Call the place, see if the manager will order me 12 cases from his supplier, fly out, drive them home.

  8. Interesting the number of tastes you have for Coke. In my part of Western Europe, you have Normal / "Light" / Zero for the main brand, and you can, sometimes, rarely, find "cherry" - and that's all.

    1. We have all kinds of crazy ones in the U.S. now: wild cherry, blueberry acai, mango, strawberry guava, probably others. To me, almost all diet soda tastes like drinking chemicals. If it's flavored with cherry, they might as well call it "Chemicals & Cherry!"

      I don't like the lime varieties because they taste like lime in particular, but because whatever they use for the lime flavor neutralizes the aspartame flavor. If they were smart, they'd just add it to regular Diet Coke.

      When I was in Ukraine, there was a lemon version of Diet Coke that was pretty good, but I could never buy it COLD anywhere. People just drink them at room temperature off the shelf. Every time there's a discussion on Reddit about the "greatest country in the world," people immediately start talking about things like health care and paternity leave. All I wan't to know is the average temperature of their beverages. I'll bet the USA comes out #1 with that one.

    2. I recon Australia would beat the US on being #1 for average beverage temperature.

    3. In Canada everywhere keeps there stuff cold, people think it's strange that I let things sit and get to be room temp but I got used to it while visiting Eastern Europe. Especially beer I prefer warm, but soda I did too until I quit. Though I only ever liked Diet Coke or Pepsi never could get used to regular.

    4. Diet Pepsi plus Seagram 7 has always been fine to me. I even kick them back at room temperature so they go down with less metabolic effect. Hahaha

      I'm also a bit of an alcoholic, so there's that. Wait, am I posting under my real name? Craaaap...

  9. I wonder if that is the first explicit Lovecraft reference in a crpg?


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