Friday, February 28, 2020

Ragnarok: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

I'd say that's better than getting membership in a guild.
United States
Norsehelm Productions (developer and publisher); distributed in Europe as Valhalla by Optyk
Released 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 28 January 2020
Date Ended: 26 February 2020
Total Hours: 23
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 50
Ranking at Time of Posting: 329/360 (91%)
Ragnarok is an excellent freeware game with a roguelike base. Veterans of Rogue or NetHack will soon become familiar with the partly-randomized game maps and the game's 47 keyboard commands such as (A)ttack, (i)nventory, (q)uaff a potion, and (Q)uit and save, but they will also appreciate the original and varied things that the developers did with potions, scrolls, wands, and other inventory items, as well as the interface upgrades. The story is also richer here than in most roguelikes, requiring the player to solve a series of quests that will turn things in the gods' favor at Ragnarok. Character development, inventory, monsters, and combat tactics are particularly strong, but as with most roguelikes, there isn't much "role-playing." The game allows saving every 200 turns, which takes the edge of the permadeath of other roguelikes but still requires the player to act judiciously.


What a ride. I was up late with this one Wednesday night, and even though I had to play through the endgame a couple of times, I never got bored with it. Ragnarok is one of the best games of 1992 and my blog in general. A lack of any real "role-playing," including NPCs, will prevent it from reaching the absolute top spot, but it's excellent for what it does.
The game warns me to stop wasting time.
Late in my last session, Heimdall had warned that Ragnarok was at hand. Relying on one commenter's statement that there was no time limit, I ignored Heimdall and kept exploring around the River Vid, which wraps around the base of the world. As I was screwing around, a comment happened to come through from Thomas Boyd that there is, in fact, a time limit. Right about then, Odin appeared before me and his voice came booming from his astral form:
Many days will the gods battle fiercely with the forces of death. Make haste to reach Asgard but take care as well. You are the only hope that we have left. Aid us and join the ranks of mortals who have been honored with greatness. Fail and the universe shall perish. First, take Gjall to Heimdall at Bifrost or we shall be overwhelmed. We await you at Vigrid.
At this point, I only had solved two of the six quests: I had found Freyr's sword, Mimming, and Odin's spear, Gungir. I knew where the Miner's Well was to solve the third quest, and I had Thokk's soul in a ring, which would allow me to solve the fourth if I could find Hela in Niflheim. I hadn't heard a word about Mjollnir or a weapon that would allow Tyr to fight with one arm.

I headed back to Mimer's Well and used my Wand of Wishing to generate a Scroll of Knowledge, which teaches you one skill or ability. I think it selects at random, so I took a save just before using it, prepared to save scum for the "Swimming" ability, but I got it on the first try. This allowed me to enter Mimer's Well, where I promptly sank to the bottom, couldn't move, and was soon slain by the serpent Aspenth. Apparently, I had to divest myself of heavy items first.
Mimer's Well had a fun title screen even though it was only a small area.
I reloaded, and suddenly the game had never heard of "Swimming." It took me about 12 reloads before I finally got the skill a second time, dropped most of my heavy stuff, and entered the well again. This time, I was able to maneuver. I drank a couple of Potions of Speed and attacked the serpent in melee range, killing him in about four blows. He dropped Gjall, Heimdall's horn, and I snagged it.

Worried about time, I figured 50% of the quests was good enough to try. I made my way back along the River Vid to the Bifrost, which occupies its own map. Heimdall was standing at the end. He gratefully took the horn and blew it to call warriors to the final battle, then disappeared. I followed him north off the bridge and into Asgard, at which point the game told me that the Bifrost collapsed and I wouldn't be able to use it to return.
Not so much a "rainbow" bridge as a Romanian bridge.
Asgard was under attack, with enemies and allies everywhere. I didn't last long. In addition to hel dragons and draugr, which killed me in single blows, the map was swarming with a handful of unique demons. One of them had a piercing wail like the zardons I'd made extinct. Another could sap my strength from a distance.
I didn't last long in this crush of enemies.
I reloaded an old save, from before I wasted so much time exploring the River Vid, and considered my options. Clearly, I needed to develop my character a bit more, with whatever time I had remaining, but also perhaps get some better equipment. Character and inventory development in Ragnarok are both consistent and rewarding because there are so many different methods. These include:
  • Regular experience and leveling.
  • Finding and quaffing Potions of Experience.
  • Raising your strength with Potions of Strength.
  • Raising your constitution with Potions of Constitution.
  • Raising your luck with Holy Water.
  • Finding better items of equipment.
  • Improving your primary weapon or any piece of armor with Scrolls of Enchantment (preferably blessed).
  • Improving your constitution by eating hel dragons.
Hel, yeah!
  • Improving your speed by eating blurs (this is temporary but long-lasting)
  • Improving levels, for a while, and then maximum hit points by eating dead wraiths.
If you explore an area that generates a lot of monsters of different types, like the dungeons, it's nearly impossible that something on this list isn't going to happen every few minutes. Thus, I spent some time back in the forest and dungeon just hewing through monsters and finding items. I saved every 200 turns unless I hadn't accomplished anything in those 200 turns, at which point I loaded the previous save and tried a new area.
Speed is worth a note. A high speed allows you to attack multiple times for every one attack from an enemy, and I found that it was absolutely necessary for some high-level enemies like hel dragons. The character has 10 by default and can boost it up to 60 or 70 with potions, dead blurs (a monster), and the Amulet of Quickening. Above 70 runs the risk of killing you. Unlike all the other attributes, I don't think there's any way to make the increase permanent. Potions and blurs wear off and even the amulet eventually loses its power and becomes an Eye of Sertrud (it turns out you need five of these to retrieve Mjollnir). Thus, it becomes important, particularly towards the endgame, to load up on speed-granting items. Since potions don't stack but dead bodies do, at some point I used one of my wishes for 10 dead blurs. It worked, and that supply kept me speedy for most of the rest of the game.
At some point, I figured I'd try to re-visit Niflheim and see if I could make it to Hera. I was feeling pretty strong, and I had a Wand of Wishing with 5 charges and no particular idea of how to spend it. Niflheim turned out to be as hard as I remembered, but I learned how to use speed to keep ahead of hel dragons. I'd attack them, dart away, wait for them to close, then attack again. Eating their corpses significantly boosted my constitution.
Taking out a hel dragon with throwing weapons.
Niflheim consists of 9 maps arranged in a 3 x 3 grid. Each one is ruled by a demon lord, and I recognized a lot of their names from the battle at Asgard. Apparently, if you don't kill them in Niflheim, they show up in Asgard. Thus, I took my time trying to kill them here. It wasn't easy; they're all immune to wands and have a variety of special attacks. Here's the rundown:
  • Konr Rig: a powerful fighter-type demon. He can drive you insane, so you have to kill him before that happens. He's immune to wands and missile weapons. I had to get my speed up to the highest levels and kill him with a few melee blows.
  • Vanseril: Hardest of them, I think. He has a psionic attack that he uses every few rounds, and it will damage you for several hundred points anywhere on the map. I had to look up an online hint to see that the only protection was a Disperser Helm, which hadn't shown up in the game for me. I ended up wishing for one. But even then, he can drain your strength from anywhere on the visible map. It took me almost an hour to kill him with hit and run tactics using missile weapons and speed.
When wishing for things, you can wish for a "+" equal to your current luck.
  • Plog: Easiest of them. He summons monsters and drains wands, but I learned to just drop my wands and wait until he came into melee range.
  • Emanon: An annoying demon who takes your equipped weapons and armor. I killed him with throwing weapons.
  • Anxarcule: Second-hardest. He can steal your equipped weapon, create copies of you that fight you, and eat your legs. And he's also immune to wands. As with the others, I used a combination of speed and missile weapons to kill him.
Speed and missile weapons are the key to this whole area.
  • Nidhogg: Not only is he immune to wands, he removes all their charges if you try to use them anywhere on his level. (That was a reload.) He also messes with the items in your backpack, turning them into useless items. Again, it was missile weapons and speed that finally did him in.
  • Gulveig: This guy was easy. Two whacks.
Hela occupies the final section, and when I first approached, she took Thokk's soul and asked what soul I wanted released in return. I said BALDER (the game's spelling) and she complied. I then attacked her and was surprised when she died in just a few blows. She dropped a magic scythe, apparently one of the most powerful weapons in the game. Once I enchanted it a few times, hardly any enemy lasted more than one blow.
Solving the fourth quest.
Much stronger now, I returned to Asgard and started punching my way through the battle to the eastern exit. With the demons dead, I only had to worry about hel dragon and draugr. Draugrs return to life a few rounds after you kill them unless you (uck) eat their corpses.
The chaotic final battle in Asgard. You must make your way from the left side of the screen to the right.
Asgard has several buildings. One of them, in the mid-south, had stairs up. On the second level, three rooms held stacks of almost all the items in the game, including blessed versions of every scroll and potion--15 of them! I gorged myself on Potions of Strength, Holy Water, Scrolls of Enchantment, Potions of Constitution, and the like. I rendered a dozen creatures extinct (including most of those fighting below, but draugr and hel dragons are too powerful). I used Potions of Endurance to pump up my temporary health to ungodly levels. I loaded every free inventory slot with blessed Potions of Curing. Scrolls of Knowledge filled in every skill I didn't have.
 A bonanza of items just before the end.
It all turned out to be useless. A few steps later, I was off the Asgard map and onto Vigrid, site of the final battle. The game immediately started telling me that Heimdall was fighting Loki, Odin was attacking Fenrir, and so forth.
The character joins the battle in progress.
Giving the weapons I'd recovered to Odin and Freyr involved simply walking up to them. However, there was nothing else I could do. If I tried to attack any of the evil gods or monsters--if I even caught their attention--they would kill me from afar.
Sometimes it's best not to be noticed.
Thus, all the bonuses I'd gained in Asgard served for nothing. I just wandered back and forth until I got a message that the gods had won the battle and I was welcomed into Valhalla. This was accompanied by a nice image.
A real paradise would have more outlets near those tables.
So you only need to solve some of the quests. I'm not sure you'd even have time to solve them all. I guess the fewer you solve, the less likely the gods are to win at Ragnarok, but I frankly couldn't even make a loss happen. When I reloaded from my first step into Vigrid and refused to hand over the weapons this time, the gods still won. This happened on two more reloads.
I guess they really just needed Heimdall.
In addition to the two major areas I never explored and the two quests I didn't solve, there are many aspects of the game I didn't experience, including:
  • Making use of spells or psionics (apparently, every time you pick up a "diamond needle," you get better at psionics).
  • Dimension traveling. I got the ability when I ate a breleor, but I wasn't sure how it worked and never had occasion to use it. Apparently it makes traveling between the major areas much faster.
"The Crossroads" lets you travel between different planes. I only even visited for this screenshot.
  • Potion making and potion-mixing. The alchemist was the last class I tried. He can mix potions into combinations otherwise not found in the game.
  • Ironworking. I guess I could have had a very powerful weapon (the runesword) long before I took Hela's scythe.
Blacksmiths can make things out of other things.
  • Polymorphing, which can grant skills not available to regular classes. 
  • Taming animals or creating golems.
  • Writing my own scrolls, a sage ability.
  • Helping my allies. You can give equipment, potions, and other useful items to any human fighting alongside you at any point in the game. I didn't explore this.
But unlike some players who prefer the so-called "completionist" approach, I enjoy leaving a game with plenty of content to be explored. It gives me an excuse to replay.
The various areas of Ragnarok. Although I played for 23 hours, I still missed a lot of the maps.
On my GIMLET, the game earns:
  • 5 points for the game world. We've had other games use Norse mythology--notably Dusk of the Gods, which has the same plot. But it's still relatively original among RPGs.
  • 5 points for character creation and development. Development is satisfying, rewarding, and constant, as we saw. I don't think the different classes matter as much as they should, though. Since they're all capable of using the same items, the only real purpose of the classes is to work your way up to the highest level and get the class-specific skills. More benefits and restrictions would have made a more interesting game.
My character at the game's end.
  • 2 point for NPC Interaction. It gets this for the hint-delivering Ravens and the occasional NPC ally that you can help. It's too bad there are no dialogue options with any NPCs.
  • 5 points for encounters and foes. There are no non-combat encounters or puzzles, but the bestiary is as original and varied as its source material while not being completely derivative of it. I enjoyed learning their strengths and weaknesses and adapting my own tactics in response.
  • 6 points for magic and combat. As with most roguelikes, combat seems somewhat blunt but is surprisingly tactical. I was underwhelmed by the magic system, though.
  • 8 points for equipment. Easily the best part of the game. Ragnarok doesn't feature quite as many item interactions as NetHack, but it still has a wide variety of things to find, use, and equip. You can even make your own items as a blacksmith, sage, or alchemist.
Dragons always drop a wealth of treasure.
  • 4 points for the economy. You stop thinking about it, or bothering to collect gold, about halfway through the game. But during the portion when you find the occasional shop (the forest and the dungeon), it has a reasonable amount of relevance.
  • 3 points for a main quest with multiple parts, some optional, but no side quests nor role-playing choices or alternate endings.
An "alternate ending."
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. It gets almost all of it for the excellent interface. One command=one key, logically mapped, but with a mouse backup. I like the way the main interface shows both a large-scale and small-scale area. Graphics are a step up from most roguelikes; sound is sparse and only okay.
  • 8 points for gameplay. It's mostly nonlinear and quite replayable. It offers the challenge of a roguelike without the insanity of permadeath. Limiting saves to once every 200 turns is just about perfect. The game lasted exactly as long as its content supported.
That gives us a final score of 50, six points higher than I gave NetHack. Omega (1988) remains the best roguelike I've played so far, but Ragnarok is a close second, and frankly a better game for a player who wants a tighter storyline.
A slick ad for what was essentially a shareware game.
As we now know, Ragnarok was a passion project of two California-based college friends, Thomas Boyd and Robert Vawter, and I thank both of them for offering comments and recollections during my coverage. Norsehelm was their company, meaning they self-published and self-distributed the game in the United States, albeit with (as we see above) commercial production values. Their London publisher, Optyk, apparently never sent them any royalties, so the duo decided to offer it as freeware after a few years of modest income.

I couldn't find any contemporary American reviews. European magazines mostly weren't kind. The lowest score came from the February 1993 PC Joker, where the reviewer compared it to a flight simulator and seemed to find the number of keyboard commands bewildering despite mouse buttons, including a help menu, right on the screen. Other reviews simply suggested that the reviewer wasn't really aware of roguelike history and was looking for fancy graphics and sound. PC Games (March 1993) had the only complimentary review, recommending it for its replayability and challenging strategy.

It's too bad that Norsehelm never produced another game. Mr. Vawter hinted in an e-mail to me that they started one based on the Seven Wonders of the World but didn't get very far. Both seem to have done well for themselves, however, with successful technology careers in the San Francisco Bay area.

I gave the choice of the next game to commenter Lance M., who's helped me a lot lately with "lost" games. Lance wanted me to play GayBlade, one of the games he managed to turn up. This led to a confusing bit of research. GayBlade is listed as a 1992 game on a lot of sites, but I've found comments from the author that he based it on DragonBlade (1993), and moreover only released it after he got into a rights battle with the publisher of his Citadel of the Dead (1994). My attempts to contact the author have not been answered. For now, I have to assume DragonBlade came first and play it first.


  1. "Ragnarok is one of the best games of 1992" - I'd way with statements this strong until you get to the end of the year. 1992 was, after all, one of best - if not the best - year in RPG history.

    1. Especially when you include JRPGs.

      But I read it as 'so far'.

    2. If you consider JPRGs a good thing, that is :p

    3. Even without the JRPGs, there already are five 1992 games Chet rated higher than Ragnarok (UUW, Wiz7, Darklands, Star Control 2 and Savage Frontiers - though the last two only by 1 point), and there are still such juggernauts as Ultima 7 and M&M4 left on the list, as well as The Summoning, Amberstar, Legacy and a couple more Goldboxes.

    4. "So far" is mostly how I meant it, but even if there are 6 more games over 50, it will still be a small number.

    5. I guess it's just my definition of "one of the best" is more top-3 than top-10.

    6. It was not a true CRPG, and it's not even a hugely popular roguelike, but it's strong in a lot of peoples' memories.

    7. Are you saying Ragnarok isn't a "true CRPG"? Why not?

  2. Chet nice review but your score is clearly wrong in judgment, or shows the gimlet is broken. As you admit this isn´t a true RPG and considering the cardboard cut out graphics, the score of 50 is simply too high. Halve that. I say the game is really worth 25, no more, and even that is being generous. Consider that you gave Quest for Glory a 50, and Ultima IV a 53. I think you should start to score games relative to how you scored other games. Ragnarok is simply not of the same calibre as U4 and yet the score you gave is very close. If you want your scores to be serious and accurate, look into this.

    1. I strongly disagree! The gimlet works exactly as intended. As it is based on the pure experience of this one game by Chet. Thoughts of "but this game got this score, so we need to give that game that score" ridiculed the game scores in traditional gaming magazines. If you don't agree with the score you have the whole text to figure out for yourself how you would rate this game. I appreciate that Chet stays with his subjective rating.
      And one additional thing: your comment sound pretty rude and demanding to me. From my point of view that is not a respectful way of communicating with the author who creates this entertainment product for us for free.

    2. As someone who never could get into any of the Ultimas Or QfGs (albeit recognizing their qualities) but has spent hundreds of hours with various roguelikes, many much more primitive than this one, I don't see any problems here.

    3. Also wholeheartedly agreeing with Discobutcher's comment that posted in the meantime, especially regarding the rude tone.

    4. I'm not a big roguelike fan but don't disagree with the rating. Ratings are subjective, after all. Also, numerical ratings don't even matter as much as you think. There's a reason why on RPG Codex we don't give numerical ratings in reviews: the review text should speak for itself, so a number isn't needed.

    5. On most sites that use the range 1-10, 8 means Average, 9 Good and 10 Very Good/Masterpiece, so I agree that numerical values are mostly useless.
      On TES Nexus you even get banned if using the lower range of the scale when reviewing mods

    6. I think that Chet can score any particular game however he feels fit with the amount of work he puts into the CRPG Addict! 1992 is a big tent year... plenty of room for lots of highly ranked games...

      Ultima 4 was a great game and one of the earliest ones I solved, but had its own limitations, and as pointed out above, it is simply a different type of game than the Roguelikes.

    7. I don´t see how Dan2´s comment is rude or demanding. It´s simply a strong point of view. That´s something we all do, even if we sugar-coat it.

    8. Moby games covers a lot of these same games, Arthurdawg. Pay attention to the screen shots there and you´ll find an amazing coincidence.

    9. On a scale of 10, 10 would be perfect. I don´t think any game really hits that height.

    10. I was hoping it get a 49 so a 50 is way off the expected number

    11. Scales are relevant to you if they're relevant to you.

      Generally relevance requires some level of agreement with the author about what constitutes 'good', and an understanding of what the author means by '3.5 stars' or '40/100'.

    12. I just looked at mobygames and -- amazing -- none of the screenshots were the same.

    13. Some commenters on RPGCodex believe this conspiracy theory that I don't actually play the games; I just steal the screenshots from other sites. It's so easily disprovable that I don't know how it's gained any traction, but I guess they'll believe anything that makes me look bad.

      Dan2, I'm satisfied with the way that the GIMLET performed in this case, and I never said it wasn't a real RPG.

    14. Speaking for myself, I don't even register the GIMLET score for longer than it takes to read, the text/review/longplay is its own thing and the true evaluation. I mean, the reason I keep coming back is the in-depth analysis based on a decade of addiction, not a numerical end note.

      Also I love the comments, thanx to all of you/us for staying classy!

    15. Same here, I read the gimlet and I think "just like I thought" or "out to lunch", but it is the story of Chet's playthrough that I am here for.

    16. "I think you should start to score games relative to how you scored other games."

      Could not disagree more. Games should be rated on their own merits.

      Saw way too much of this when back when I used to follow the NFL before they turned me off. "Oh, the '78 Oilers can't be rated higher than the '74 Bengals! No, we have to figure out how we want the ratings to end up, and then endlessly tweak our numbers until they align with our preconceptions. Completely defeats the purpose of ratings in the first place.

    17. lol addict, if its so 'easily disprovable' then why don't you disprove it? Or stop lying to your readers.

    18. So let me get this straight. Addict steals screenshots, then somehow gathers enough information about a game to write anywhere from one to 20+ detailed postings, uploaded several times a week... For the sake of a blog that wasn't even monetized until last year. Keeping in mind that many of these games are complete unknowns that nobody cares about, has written guides for or even described in great detail.

      This conspiracy theory is dumb, don't you have any pamphlets about reptilians or JFK or something?

    19. It's just trolling, ignore it. These people get a rise out of replies. The best trolls are the ones that are met with silence. Who cares what a bunch of people on some random forum think? It's thinking that they're relevant that is the source of the problem.

    20. I'm curious what would convince my detractors if full descriptions of each game plus screenshots with original character names doesn't convince them. I'm even more curious why they keep popping up and commenting here even though they clearly hate me. Why not just not visit my blog?

    21. Obviously your blog has inspired many others to play obscure old games, and as a tribute to you they all call their characters "Chester". Then they send screenshots to you to get cred, and then you ruthlessly use their screenshots on your blog.

      Yes, that makes sense.

      Or they are just trolling.

    22. Harland you´re actually wrong, at least partly. Go to buy a car, where all those in the yard are equally powered, comfortable and fashionable. You choose one. That´s relative scoring in your mind. In an absolute score sense they´re all equal.

    23. Huh, I've been reading the Addict for years and don't remember seeing that conspiracy theory before. That's pretty laughable that people actually believe it, but so are plenty of other conspiracies.

  3. I want to play this game after reading about it, which is pretty unusual

    I remember you mentioning that Omega was something you'd like to revisit, as were some games from 2010 that you felt didn't get the entry quality they deserved. Do you have a shortlist of 'redos'?

    1. The first revisited game should be Dungeon Master.

    2. I thought the next version of Omega was coming soon, but I guess the next substantial update wasn't until 1999.

      "Revisiting" in this context means "playing a later version of a game that was under continual development." It's not part of my official plan to re-play games I've already played.

  4. Just a little correction: Gullveig isn't a guy but a gal ;)

    In Norse mythology she visited the Aesir and brought them avarice, for which she was punished by being burned to death thrice (makes sense that she'd end up in Hel then). This caused the Vanir to declare war on the Aesir, starting the first war ever in Norse mythology.

    1. Thanks. I started out looking up all the references, but too many of them were just made up by the authors.

    2. Yeah I always wondered about the Vanir (who were gods or god-like) and the Æsir and what their relationship was. I know that Týr was Vanir and was accepted into the Norse pantheon after the defeat of the Vanir, but never got further into it (despite being a heavy Nordic mythology buff as a kid (as well as being from Iceland)). It got me thinking what happened to the rest of the Vanir...

    3. After the war with the Vanir, most of them got assimilated by the Aesir. The most well-known Vanir are Njörd, Freyja and Freyr. After the war they realized that it was too costly and it would be better to ally and work together against the hostile races (giants etc). Aesir and Vanir are obviously close enough to each other to count as the same race (no difference in appearance between them and they can interbreed with each other). So the story of their war may be a cautionary tale against brother wars.

      Tyr is not of the Vanir, though. The Vanir are generally considered to be fertility gods (since Freyr and Freyja are their most prominent characters), some theories propose they were pre-Indo-European gods assimilated into the Norse pantheon, which would explain the whole war and assimilation story as a parallel to what happened in prehistory. I do not subscribe to that interpretation though.

      It's also possible that there is no distinction between Aesir and Vanir, they are both synonyms for gods, and Snorri Sturluson invented this distinction when he wrote down the Edda.

  5. Other reviews simply suggested that the reviewer wasn't really aware of roguelike history

    I wonder if roguelikes were not common in the European market? I know it's always dodgy to base things on a sample size of one, but I had never heard of the genre until the late 90's. Perhaps they just weren't well known?

    1. Oddly, the most memorable parts of Hack came from a Netherlands developer.

    2. Roguelikes weren't really 'on the market' as such, because most were free. Also, whilst they were usually converted to the Amiga and such, they were mostly PC driven. I played Larn on the Amiga, and also Omega (probably a mistake, bad version) but most of my RL experience was on MSDOS. (I remember actually using a DOS emulator to play Rogue on my Amiga.)

    3. I mention PC because the European market was much less PC orientated.

    4. These articles are very relevant:

  6. So Chet, let me first congratulate you on winning! This is not an easy game if you don't know the shortcuts. You found some, but I am truly amazed about how you won without Dimension Travel and I didn't think of using speed as such an important attribute in killing those bosses and high end monsters. The fact that you went to Niflheim and killed all those demons, is truly an astounding accomplishment looking at where your character was at. Shows very nicely that there are truly multiple ways to beat this game! I commented on your question in the other posting (Gods and Giants) about the Bazaar and how to reach it, but to elaborate a bit further: I don't think the Bazaar on it's own would merit a higher score for economy. It is a money sink for sure, but it suffers a bit from only getting accessible later in the game because the scroll needed to get there is only available to sage characters level 31. There may be a quicker shortcut, but I'll have to try that one out before I can confirm. I'll also take up your invitation to post my own GIMLET below, I didn't change it after seeing yours, and I believe it will bring a smile to your face.... ;-)

    1. Killing the demons in Niflheim was hard, but I don't think it was nearly as hard as facing them all at once in Asgard.

  7. I played this game extensively as a college student when it came out around 1993, and I played the European version called Valhalla. It came in a cardboard box on one 3,5 inch disk and a manual in a zip-loc bag. The art on front of the box was as shown at the wiki fandom site mentioned below for the European version. The only differences between versions I could find within the game (I compared it to Ragnarok) was that Valhalla comes with more sounds and music and an expert option that only will allow you to save every 4000 turns (!). And you don't get any perk for that, so I'll take of my hat to everybody who solves the game on that setting. I read somewhere that Ragnarok was developed to a later version in 1995 which may have included some more monsters, but I'm not sure if this information is correct.
    So I must confess I heavily used the great fandom wiki (dos-ragnarok.fandom) to get through most parts of the game. A lot came back from my college days when I was playing, but I couldn’t bring up the patience and time anymore to test everything and reload a couple of thousand times more (I have a family and work now ;-)). I knew which animals and plants to eat, where to find stuff, what to buy and especially important, how to use the wand of wishing. If you can recharge that thing by writing your own scrolls of blessing and recharging, the game is much more easy. But because of the 200 turns-before-you-can-save mechanic, it was still no walk in the park mind you!

    So I did it, with sweat in the ol’ armpits…..
    In the end I solved 5 of the 6 quests, I ran out of time to get Mjollnir so Thor had to fight bare-handed I guess. But Balder was present at Ragnarok after I got his soul released from Hela. Heimdall got his horn Gjall back. Tyr stuck his right dwarven arm back where it belonged. Mimming was returned to Freyr and Odin got Gungnir. The hardest part of the whole game was to get safely across the madness that is called Asgard. It took me probably 10 attempts before I could figure out a safe way. It’s actually a beautiful place just across Bifrost, and before you get to the last screen where the gods fight. But it is filled up with every remaining badass boss and their minions from all over the game. Heimdall did manage to muster up the forces of good, but they did seem outnumbered to me by about 10-1. All the demon lords from Niflheim were there, including Vanseril who can psi-blast your ass from wherever he is at the map. I at first did not have protection for that, so I had to resort to concocting a potion of invulnerability with advanced Alchemy when I was still on Bifrost. Then I lucked out with a teleport (which you can’t control in this area, even with the appropriate skill and rings of Locus Mastery) right to the edge of the map at the other side, so I quickly got to the next map. This is Vigrid, the plane on which Ragnarok takes place. With my Telepathy skill I could quickly make out which god to get to in time, because the whole battle only takes about 80 turns. Actually less because it seemed with the quest items and Balder there to help out, that evil was outnumbered. Heimdall and Balder jumped (teleported) across the field to help out the other gods who seemed to focus on a single foe at first and in the end Jormungand fell as the last standing evil god, totally surrounded by the forces of Good! Two dialog screens and one nice picture of the halls of Valhalla, and the game was over. No celebrations down at the village or victory tour elsewhere. You even are greeted with your own death sound at the score screen…the same one I heard a thousand times over when playing the game and getting killed again by something. But my score came with the coveted “Saved the World” and the text is now in gold instead of red. Now to my GIMLET

    1. Of course it would make perfect sense that the villages/normcore worlds would not feel the heat of the last battle/Ragnarök - it would look like an amazing meteor shower to the plebs I presume.

  8. GIMLET (1/3):
    1. Gameworld. Interesting Norse Mythology setting. Quite some backstory for a Rogue-like but on the light side of course for the average cRPG. Single focus and clear (sub)quests, even with a terrifying and confusing gameworld when you are new to the game with no clue how to even find a startpoint for those quests. In mid-to-end game you can effect the gameworld to a large extent, terraforming the terrain and extincting monster races as you go. Do something evil and the power rangers are immediately on your ass GTA-style. I give it a 5 because I like the overall atmosphere and consistency, and the creativity and fun that clearly went into it.

    2. Character creation and Development. A bit on the Spartan side for the creation part. Character creation is as simple as choosing a class and sex. The latter plays a very limited role in the game, as so far as being virtually meaningless (it influences if you are vulnerable to a certain (single) monster ability). Starting stats and equipment are fixed to your class, and everybody starts outs as a human. Character development on the other hand can be wild and very diverse. End as a polymorphed Draugr with 5 eyes and 15 fingers with AC -300, HP 9000, Luck 50 and Constitution 1500. Character improvement is mostly combat-based at the start, but in mid-/endgame you can also “artificially” improve via wishing, potions and other items. Advancement is very satisfying and rewarding, you can relate the power of your character directly to effects on combat onscreen. Stroll casually through an area that insta-killed you the first time, and deal out death like a boss to former nigh-unkillable foes. There is some diversity in how the game reacts to you, but it is strictly on the binary good-bad axis. I give this category a 5 mainly because of the insane diversity in character development and the fun associated with the experimentation.

    3. NPC interaction. Almost non-existent. There are not a lot of NPC’s to begin with, mostly you deal with monsters, some of which can be neutral and will stay out of your way. Shopkeepers are a noticeable exception but there is no dialog and interaction is limited to buying-selling or you just outright killing them. Quest-NPC’s just move around until you come next to them, and then you automatically exchange goods or fight with them to get the item. Hela will ask you which soul to release and in Vidur’s temple there is a very basic roleplaying option in dealing with tortured prisoners. Even at Ragnarok you’ll have to check your inventory if you have delivered the goods, it would have been nice to get a basic “thank you” from the gods, but I guess they were too busy for that. I give this category a 2 at best.

    1. Plus you tend to change your sex back and forth dozens of times while you're trying to grow logistically important organs like extra fingers.

  9. GIMLET (2/3):
    4. Encounters and Foes. A sturdy category for this game. A lot of different monsters who’ll display very varied types of attacks, behavior and strengths/weaknesses. Different enemies require different weapons or other means to hurt them. Some are a slight nuisance, others are downright terrifying and capable of near-game breaking stuff. Even end-game heroes who have been painstakingly maxed out are still no match for some of the higher-end monsters and bosses, and this makes for good tension till the end. Behavior is fairly simple AI-stuff, but sometimes still unexpectedly complex. One monster will touch-drain your strength by coming in close-combat range and then teleport away to do a psi-blast from distance, all the while counting on the fact that you are now over-encumbered and can’t move to chase it. Although there are some Tolkien-derived monsters (orcs, goblins, dragons) and standard undead types (skeleton, wight, wraith, vampire), and of course the adventuring mainstay, the rat, especially the bosses and Gods seem to fit the Norse mythology. Other monsters are more gamespecific inventions as far as I can determine. I would give the game a 5 for variety, needed strategies and good “scale” (from easy to nigh-unkillable) for tension.

    5. Magic and Combat. Also a good category. Magic in terms of using (innate) spells and spell points is limited, but more than compensated for with an extensive scroll and potion system with even some basic crafting/mixing thrown in. There is a baffling and at first daunting array of options during combat ranging from straight-on or ranged attack, wands, spells, powers, skills and items. It has a tactical side to it also with ranged combat, movement at different angles and speed, usage of cover, summoning creatures to your side, altering terrain itself, polymorphing yourself and development of flee tactics including dimensional travel. Generate your own roof-collapsing trap, trigger it yourself or wait for a monster to wander on it and stand in the doorway while seeing monsters getting crushed in the affected area. There is no real roleplaying although using means to tame creatures and not killing them can be reimagined a bit to be playing a role but it won’t give you experience points as far as I know. Balance is there, but in a wild variety, there are instadeath monsters, but also scrolls of extinction and superstrong wands and everything in between. Still there is a clear system to it all. Also a 5 for me
    6. Equipment. Another strong point. Lots of different upgradeable weapons and wearables, unique items and one-off artifacts that really feel as powerful as they should and as hard to come by as they should. Crafting is in the game but in basic form. You can wear as much rings as you have fingers (which is not limited to 8), and besides armor for every body part, also several types of capes, cloaks and amulets. The hunt for the next best equipment piece is as much fun as it should be. Lots of feverish loot runs from dungeon to store in the hope you survive long enough to identify that loot. Items descriptions are basic and lack a bit of flavor. I would give this a robust 4.
    7. Economy. Well, loot is everywhere, and very expensive things can drop randomly. Store owners will buy everything but can run out of gold. Basic stores only have some value in the early game, but you’ll be self-sufficient quite fast. One exception is maybe the Bazaar, a store on it’s own plane of existence with high-end stuff, but that alone won’t fix this economy. Also, gold weighs and having too much of it is a hindrance. Not a strong point of the game and I’ll give it a 1 at best for just having a basic one.

    1. I originally gave it a 3 for the economy (I had gone back and forth between 2 and 3) but upped it to 4 when I heard about the bazaar. I think having a store on its own plane selling high-end stuff (and thus worth saving for) is a nice bonus in a game where so much character development depends on finding stuff.

  10. GIMLET (3/3):
    8. Quests. For a rogue-like there is a better than usual variety of quests to be done in order to complete the main quest, and they are quite non-linear although your character level/strength/AC will influence the order in which you do them to a certain extent. They are of the basic Fed-Ex fetch nature, but story-wise involve diving in well and battling a gargantuan horn-turned-snake, exchanging an enchanted anvil for a dwarven arm, bargain for the release of a soul in the Underworld after trapping another in a ring, doing arcane stuff with a bunch of amulets in a deep dungeon to get a magic hammer, and roleplaying your way through 3 torture scenes for a spear. And killing a mighty foe for a sword, after terraforming your way into an otherwise impregnable mountain fortress. There is very basic roleplaying to the extent of it being virtually non-existent in the game. Not completing all subquests still gives a chance of winning the whole thing, which is a nice touch because you can choose what to do depending on your particular game and luck. I would say a 4 is quite generous.

    9. Graphics, sounds and inputs. For a roguelike a definite step up from ASCII-code and I like the instant recognisability of monster, item and terrain icons. Unique monsters bosses and the Gods all have unique icons as do all the different character classes. Some status effects also show up, albeit very basic. It has a somewhat cute 8/16-bit feel to it, but respectable enough to let your imagination do the rest. I really like the transition graphics when you first enter a new area or plane. They really set the stage even when it only is 1 screen. Dimension Travel earns a special mention because it is trippy as hell, no mushrooms needed... :-) Sound is almost absent from the Ragnarok version, but is -probably annoyingly so- present in the Valhalla game. Although I grant it some atmospheric likeability, it was especially the interference with key presses that are annoying. I still kept it on to be more immersed, but Chet would probably kill the sounds instantly. Dialog is very sparse and handled through dialog boxes. Where this game does shine a bit, is the UI and inputs. Everything can be done by point-and-clicking the mouse, but every action also has a key binding. I don’t care that much for upper-and-lower case variants for the same letter to do different things, but if you play this game a lot, and especially certain actions that are used very frequently, you’ll be very happy with the keyboard. The UI is perfect to me: a small screen that focuses on you and the surrounding 40 squares (6x7), a bigger map screen that follows you live and encompasses a whole area. A small vital stat screen to the left with health, mana, strength, constitution, AC, luck and gold. A larger menutype screen to the right with the obligatory “boss panic key” that would now raise eyebrows because of the dos prompt it shows. My only gripe is that I would love to have health status displayed on the main screen instead of a separate character screen. I wandered around a lot being lycantrophic or deaf without the game notifying me on the main screen. I would give it a 3 but in large part because of the unique icons, key binding and the great UI.

  11. GIMLET (4/3 damn you HTML limit! ;-))

    10. Gameplay: this is where this game really shines I think, although your mileage may vary with preference and if roguelikes are your “thing”. It’s a classic example of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. It shouldn’t be so addictive but it is. Even while playing it with a tinge of nostalgia and with a walkthrough, I still got sucked back into the game world, and the variety of ways of how to achieve the different goals. Numerous ways of beating enemies, crafting and wishing, finding new equipment, improving my character, hard punishment for not saving on time, or just being killed in full view of a safe place to go. It’s hard not to like it and I found myself having the munchies to get back behind the screen. It has a unique and well-implemented Norse mythology setting and it handles the balance of character improvement to seemingly half-god status, but still having terrifying enemies and hard goals to achieve very well. And although I generally dislike time constraints, those are well-implemented in this game, within the story, but also as a pacing game-mechanic. It's just right for it's own content. I can imagine the game being off-putting to some if you luck out on a couple of bad starts, but those are roguelike lineage traits it doesn’t betray. Just jumping in would make it a hard game, but with some failed characters under the belt (which the manual actually actively promotes you undergo), I would judge it to be a moderate-to-hard game. I would give this game a solid 7 for this category.

    This would mean the game scores a 41 on the GIMLET. When I compared this to Chet’s rating of the youngest Nethack version (1989) he played (which scored a 44), I do think I have been a little strict with my GIMLET because it maybe should outrank this version of Nethack. In retrospect I should have given Equipment probably at least an 8 (Chet gave Nethack a 9), definitely a higher score for Graphics alone, and maybe Encounters/Foes and Magic/Combat slightly higher scores more on par with Nethack. This would give Valhalla a ceiling score of 49/50 which feels better in comparison to Nethack. But that is maybe the nature of comparisons: in comparison with the average cRPG (whatever that may be) which is bound to figure better NPC’s and interaction, more elaborate questing and hopefully a better economy (although those seem very rare), a 41-45 score would be very respectable. In comparison to roguelikes, albeit slightly older ones, it tends more towards the 50 score level. I’m very curious to see if newer Nethack versions will trump this little gem!

  12. Final comments (sorry for taking up so much space here….)

    If I now compare both original GIMLETS, I see this:

    Gameworld: same score (5)
    Character creation and development: same score (5)
    NPC interaction: same score (2)
    Encounters and Foes: same score (5)
    Magic and Combat: Chet (6), me (5)
    Equipment: Chet (8), me (4)
    Economy: Chet (4), me (1)
    Quests: Chet (3), me (4)
    Graphics, Sounds, Interface: Chet (4), me (3)
    Gameplay: Chet (8), me (7)

    Only on Equipment and Economy we differ, the rest is at best 1 point difference either way. As I concluded my own (first!) GIMLET, I stated that I probably was a bit harsh on equipment. I still stand by my Economy score though, I think it’s too basic for a higher score, I found gold to be irrelevant much earlier than Chet.

    Well, that's it for me, hope you all like this addition, coming from both a fan of this game, and also a fan of this blog!

    1. Thanks for the comments Slam, quite a varied world with many different options!

    2. Slam23 is probably Chet taking on another avatar.

    3. Anonymous is on to me. Not only am I dishonest enough to use a sock puppet, I care enough about validating my GIMLET that I'd type an additional 3,000 words even though I've never done such a thing before. Curses. Why must anonymous commenters always unmask me.

      Slam, thanks for your additional analysis and insight. Even though my GIMLET was never meant to be "objective," it's interesting to see how well it validates against your experience, and I don't think it's that much of a coincidene that we came up with a similar score.

    4. Thank you other self! :-) And I thought we could get away with it if I used a totally different writing style too, guess I should have been a little more verbose....sheesh. :-)

    5. You would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those Anonymous kids!

    6. Anonymous above is actually Chet himself posting to make the blog sound funnier. Works well.

  13. Oh, just a quick addendum: some Russian coders (that sounds more ominous than I mean it...) over at GitHub picked up Valhalla/Ragnarok as a game they probably wanted to update to get it playing in a Windows environment and also add more content to it. They call the update Norseworld-Ragnarok and it has an downloadable alpha version that is somewhat playable but clearly more of a test than an actual completed game. Would be fun to see where that would have lead to, but active work on it seems to have been suspended. Now I will be quiet......

  14. Ratings are misleading yeah. Better to just qualify a game as good, bad or ugly. Fun to read all the comments here... always entertaining.

    1. I rate the above comment 0 out of 10, qualifying it as an "ugly" comment.

    2. I rate anonymous as sad for not using a name.

    3. I look at it this way. If I didn't provide any numeric rating, some readers would want them and wouldn't have any recourse. Whereas if I provide numeric ratings, readers who DON'T want them can just ignore them. Everybody wins.

  15. I wonder how your "genocide list" compares to

    1. Only three. I genocided archmages, red oozes, and zardons. There are others on the list I wish I'd done, like the acid-spraying sandiffs. I don't understand pale mosses--sure, they're annoying, but they can't even move, and they're no longer an issue once you have the "Identify" ability.

  16. Another great review. Many thanks Chet. Brightens my day. I still wish I had time to actually play RPGs, not to mention adventure point and clicks and other stuff besides. Too much workload for me these days but your blog helps fill the gap in a manner of speaking. I do get surprised by some commenters here, but mainly I just like your blog text anyway. Do you have any plans to make some more game videos some day?
    Oh that point of scoring games, I don´t mind if it´s done or by what rating here or there. I figure though it may help someone out there deciding if a retro game is worth a tryout or not. The ratings are more useful than what I see in a certain online marketplace. Those are so confusing! Too many different opinions so it ends up I don´t know if a product is good or bad! Do you find that too?

    1. 1. I do have plans to make more videos. It'll probably come to fruition during the summer, when I'm no longer teaching classes.

      2. I would undoubtedly find the plethora of online ratings, but the nature of my approach (i.e., play ALL the games) means I don't scrutinize them too much.

  17. I remember reading about this game in the Dutch games magazine Hoog Spel. I've saved all my issues and decided to dig up the Valhalla review. You can view the pictures of this contemporary review here: The conclusion translates to:

    "Seeing a game remade that I haven't played for 5 years is a weird sensation. At first I thought it was coincidental, but there are many similarities that can't be coincidental at all. As an example: both games have a monster called 'wraith'. In the original version of the game, eating this monster provided experience points. This monster is also present in Valhalla, and yes, eating the corpse grants experience points as well.

    Hack is one of the games that I sunk the most time in, and so I enjoyed Valhalla as well. Many things were added. For instance, you can now mix your own potions and write your own spells. But to be completely honest, I'd advise you to download the original game from a BBS and play that instead.

    Only if you are - like me - a complete Hack-addict, and you have finished Hack several times, then Valhalla is the game for you."

    It seems the reviewer didn't consider roguelikes a genre (yet), and he viewed Valhalla as a Hack-clone only. He also remarks that he has reviews Hack in issue 3, but I don't have that.

    1. O, and something else I noticed in this review: he can only save the after 4000 moves (vierduizend acties).

    2. That's really funny. He actually thought that Ragnarok was a REMAKE of Hack, not just another game in the same style.

    3. In defence of the reviewer, he doesn't really call Ragnarok a remake of Hack, but the translation is a bit difficult since he uses an expression that I don't think can be translated literally. It's more like he's calling Ragnarok "like Hack, but with new clothes" (ok, the difference is small, but still...).

      Thanks to Filip for mentioning Hoog Spel, I used to read that as a child. There is still a Web page with the last editorial of the chief editor, explaining why they had to stop making Hoog Spel. It's not a very positive view of the game industry round the year 2000, with publishers demanding positive reviews and game magazines reviewing unfinished games... I wonder how much of it is true and how much is disappointment over having to stop the magazine.

  18. Speaking of ultima Iv, it was better on sega master system. Trust me on that! Play that one and you´ll rate it higher still !

    1. I preferred the NES version personally.

      Okay I'm not sure if this is a troll, but I'm guessing it is.

    2. No, the Master System version really is fantastic. I played it to death when I was younger.

    3. Ultima IV is the best NES Ultima game. The SMS port is closest to the original; though, why not just play a PC version at that point?

  19. Great review as always Chet, might check this out. I saw on your upcoming games list and it looks like you might temporarily close out 1992 with Ultima 7, any chance you will cover Might and Magic 4/World of Xeen?

    1. I expect the current year will always be the most active year. Definitely don't worry about M&Ms not getting played :)

    2. (and by current year, I mean current year of progress, which is 1992, and which will be for quite some time!)

    3. I'm quite eager to play MM4/5. I haven't moved on from 1992 yet; I'm just stretching a little bit into 1993.

  20. Congratulations on (finally) finding another hidden gem!
    It does look like there is room to improve your playthrough, to find all the shortcuts, to maximize your character and exploit all the possibilities, and then to finish all the sub-quests. Maybe the end fight should have been harder, or the ending should have been less binary.
    The 50 points are okay, I guess. The GIMLET is going to favour the "complete" RPGS.... we know Baldur's Gate is going to do especially well... so the 50 points for a rogue-like are still impressive. I guess a rogue-like could only get to around 70 points maximum... NPC interaction is intentionally weak, quests are intentionally few (though theoretically, they wouldn't have to), graphics and sounds are spare by tradition. One would have to start weighting the categories - but then, where does it stop? Another weighting system for dungeon crawlers, another weighting system for Diablo style hack'n'slash RPGs, for Mass effect / Bioshock action RPGs and so on..
    The 50 points are very respectable for a rogue-like.

    1. I don't see why a game with a roguelike approach couldn't have NPC dialogue options or more interesting encounters with role-playing choices. I think a roguelike could easily get into the 80s.

    2. Ancient Domains Of Mystery is a roguelike with both of those features. The latter is why the game has something like two dozen endings. Not sure which versions added what, though.

    3. Alex..weightings for different styles of rpg? It´s not necessary. The father of all these games is the role playing concept. Divergences below that are but a window dressing. In fact, "rpg" itself, as a genre, is itself a window dressing. From a cybernetic study we can take a step back and see what happens when we play a game: a person sitting at a desk, using keyboard and mouse (or joystick, pad). The player uses his eyes and ears as well as arms, fingers to make sense of what he perceives. There are movements and sounds, lights, colors. The player is invited to take control of a portion of the screen and see what changes can be effected. The concept of reaching a goal and understanding a visual and textual story comes in. Other "beings" are on screen in this experience. In terms of these basic events in the human condition, the player can make very generalized statements to describe what the "game" is like in terms of graphic quality, sounds, sense of story, how it matches mundane reality or not, tools to interact with, failings and successes, the fluidity of movement, visual feel, how high the suspension of disbelief, sense of time, emotions aroused in the player, numerical calculations, a feeling of quality and thrill (or lack). These could be a gimlet, or perhaps an even more conceptual assessment which would be looking, detaching even more from micro-descriptors of JRPG versus WRPG, rogue-like or not. It would be so generic enough as to be useable for any game at all, to rate and describe and even let us question how much something really is "just a game" or something that feels more serious, or more educational or indeed even therapeutic to the human player. For after all reality comes in layers.

  21. Hello again Chet, just wondering, how often does Irene like the games you play? Do you often find she agrees with you about which are the best?
    If anyone here is interested, Ragnarok is on youtube with some short videos, to get a motion-picture feel of the thing.
    Have a great day guys! I´m off to do yet more work reports Zzzz.

    1. Irene isn't interested in any of these old games. Occasionally, she'll enjoy a game that has a lot of plot and dialogue options like the Dragon Age series.

    2. Sounds like she'd (must have enjoyed?) the Witcher immensely

    3. We didn't try it. The first was only released for PC, and I only play console games with her. She liked the Netflix series, though.

    4. I'm currently playing the third installment on the Switch and enjoying it immensely. It's an excellent port and works really well, even on the go.

    5. I tried to play the first one... key word, tried. It's really bad.

      Maybe I just don't get the Witcher as a whole, but the Netflix series tried so hard to be edgy that it looped back around and became comedic.

    6. Unless you're a crpg addict, you really don't need to play the first two to enjoy the third. If you want more background, the novels work just as well for that, no need to bother with the first two installments.

  22. I feel it's fundamentally wrongheaded to have a game about Norse mythology where the gods win in the end. :P

    1. IIRC, Ragnarok was entirely the result of the gods' owm actions. Having the questlimes involve you helimg the gods undo their errora and atome for misdeeds would be a more reasonable path to victory.

  23. still, love you very....

  24. I'm so excited to see you beat the game! (and also so embarrassed to be reminded of my "picnic table" win screen. I was drawing that screen on the day we had to be done and I ran out of time... and colors in the palette).

    And now Rob and I are addicted to reading you blog. It makes me want to make games again! So fun! Thank you for playing. :)

    1. It was a real treat, Tom. Thanks again for your comments and for making such a memorable game. You and Rob should get on that "Seven Wonders" game he told me about.

    2. One of my favourite things to do in Ragnarok was to swap bodies with a Draugr. I have many fond memories of Valhalla/Ragnarok. Thanks for making it!

  25. I love love love this game. Ever since the 90's, I'll get a hankering to play ever year or two and subsequently lose a few nights of my life to it.

    I agree with the other commenters that the diversity of winning strategies is part of the magic for me.

    My favorite strategy is roughly:
    1) Start as viking, level up and get weaponmaster to make the dungeon at 10 meters less deadly.
    2) Change to blacksmith, level to master blacksmith, smith mithril mail and a runesword.
    3) Find the first artifact in Slater's sea with a potion of depredation and uncover it with a scroll of lava strike.
    4) Change to sage, find a stylus, learn how to write scrolls, and bless all my gear until I reach -50AC (becoming unhittable to rangers).
    5) Aggro rangers in Slater's sea and get them to multiply, creating almost limitless items and levels. Build enough resources to last me through the rest of the game.
    6) Write a scroll of switch bodies and go find a draugr to switch with.
    7) Find remaining artifacts and complete quests.

    It's certainly not the most efficient path and sometimes I play as a swordsman instead of a draugr but regardless I always have a blast.

    Your blog posts on this game (and Wizardry 1) have been a much appreciated dose of nostalgia. I think I'll go play Ragnarok now. :)


    1. See, this is the kind of comment I love. Where I only have time to go through a game once, I'll never experience it the way a true fan does, having learned all the ins-and-outs and optimal strategies. It's a huge credit to the game, too, that it offers so many different ways to approach it. Thanks for offering yours!


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