Currently Playing : The Citadel of Chaos (1983)
Upcoming : Telengard (1983)
Recently Finished : Gateway to Apshai*, Dunzhin

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dunzhin - Finished!! (With rating)

  On my last posting for Dunzhin, I mentioned that I needed to consult the manual. I wanted to research several things, including some of the uses of my attributes and some of the other commands in the game.

  I was able to find a copy of the manual online, beautifully scanned, and was able to retrieve a lot of useful information.

A command sheet insert.

  The manual started with a simple introduction detailing our hero approaching the entrance to the dungeon, meeting an old beggar, then befriending him and learning some of the secrets to use within. There isn't much more story than that, we still do not really know why we are entering the dungeon--except for maybe the possibility of wealth--but it does serve a nice purpose in setting up the manual in a first-person narrative.

  Other juicy tidbits included an experience point chart, several new commands I had not discovered (bribe,force,wand,hide) and a list of monsters divided into groups of low-rank, middle-rank, and high-rank foes.

  I found that "movement" actually affected how many attacks I got in one combat round, attack value determines hit/miss ratio,while the fight value actually helps in determining how much experience you get from a combat encounter.

My nameless hero is perfecting his craft

  With my newly discovered information, it was time to load up my saved game and finish up mapping out level 3.

  It didn't take too long to discover the stairs and head down to level 4, which I was able to map out completely within about an hour.

Level 4

  You can see from the screenshot above how the level layouts work. I mentioned in my previous post about how each level consisted of rooms and corridors, and here you can see how each room is labelled alphabetically. Almost every room holds "treasure" but some of the rooms hold other interesting things. Some examples:
  • An armor repair station. This was sorely needed and without it, I would have never finished my quest this session.
  • A room of regeneration, which heals you.
  • A forge where you can repair your weapon.
  I found all of these locations on the third and fourth dungeon levels, thanks to exploring everything in-depth, but by the time I reached level five I was ready to simply find my goal and finish up the game.

Destination confirmed

   It didn't take long to finally reach a room that held my prize--The Crying Scarab of Murak--which was guarded my 3 trolls. I saved my game before the battle and it took quite a bit of reloading before I finally was able to take all 3 of the creatures down.

I saw this screen a lot during the final battle.

  After the battle, I was given a message stating : "YOU DID IT!!".

  I thought that this was possibly the ending of the game, but it seemed very anti-climatic. I decided to backtrack to the entrance of the dungeon and exit the stairs on level 1. Once I did this, I got the actual ending for the game...which wasn't much better.

Epic ending unfolding before our eyes...

  Exiting gave me a black background with the following message: "CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU HAVE OBTAINED THE ITEM!"

  From this point I was taken back to the main menu, where I could start another game. After winning I made a few notes:
  • I finished the game at level 10, half of the maximum level of 20. Apparently, your character can be transferred to the sequel, Kaiv. You could in theory grind to level 20, but it would take a long, long time and I am not sure why anyone would be interested in doing so that has an ounce of sanity.
  • You are never told what your weapon actually *is*. Your weapon breaks, but it is never revealed what class of weaponry you are actually using.
  • There are no items at all. You have treasure, and that's it. I found no use for the treasure--there were no shops or places to spend what you had earned. Maybe this is something added into the sequel.
  • It would take some of the most amazing luck to finish Dunzhin without the "save anywhere" feature. Thankfully, this was included--I couldn't imagine being a young kid in the 80's, grinding for hours only to lose all my progress to the game's unpredictable randomness.
Dunzhin magazine insert

  Dunzhin was released by ScreenPlay, and designed by Randall Don Masteller. I couldn't find any information on ScreenPlay at all, but it appears that Mr. Masteller went on to do some productive things in the industry. His credits include programming work on Pirates!, Airborne Ranger, and Barbarian...all very popular games in the Commodore 64 library.

  I found a great quote about Randall on MobyGames:
From James Hague:
Defunct game company Screenplay apparently had its share of insane programmers. I've heard stories about the co-author of Pogo Joe, W.F. Denman, and now the other half of that game, Steven Baumrucker, spills the beans about a third Screenplay programmer, Randall Don Masteller:
Randall was an interesting character. A true genius. He wrote a programming language in two weeks once...wrote it in machine code. W. Denman and I were visiting him in his house and we saw the disk. "What's this?" we asked. "Ahhh, that's some programming language I wrote to help with adventure games". It had a parser and all kinds of crud built into it. We were like "SHIT! Randall, people get PhD's for less than this!!!" It impacted him not in the slightest.
   So, lets get on to the final rating for Dunzhin:

  • 2 points for graphics and sounds. The artwork is very simple, with crude sprites and bland dungeon graphics. There are some slight animations when your character is walking or in combat, but they are very limited. Sound is basic, with a few simple tunes playing at the game over screen and on the intro screen, but it is nothing to write home about.
  • 1.5 points for character development. There is no creation or customization of your avatar, and gaining levels assigns automatic updates to your adventurer. While there are some interesting attributes, their function is often times cloudy and raising levels really doesn't affect your character in rewarding ways. My level 10 character didn't feel much more powerful than my level 1 rookie.
  • 3 points for combat and encounters. There were some really good ideas here : hit locations, armor ratings for different body parts, hiding, bribing monsters, and unique monster attacks--but also a lot of frustrating things too like ridiculous hit/miss ratios, overabundance of random encounters, and the tedious parser system. This had the potential to be much better, but is still the strong point of the game.
  • 1 point for story and writing. There simply is not much to see here. The manual gives us a nice little intro between our hero and a nameless beggar, but the story never develops much beyond that point. It would have nice to have known why were were in the dungeon, why we needed the item we obtained, or maybe a better ending telling us a little more.
  • 1 point for gameworld. Nothing much is fleshed out here, and the randomness that accompanies each new game makes it hard to get any stability with the world. There isn't much in the way of lore or atmosphere, and other than an old hermit wandering the dungeon, we meet no NPCs.
  • 0 points for items and equipment. Other than treasure, there are no items to gain. Although our weapon has durability and can break, it is more of a hassle than anything. By far the weakest aspect of the game.
  This gives Dunzhin a final score of 8.5. I couldn't find any reason to award any bonus points, so this is where my final score will stay. I know it seems ridiculously low, but keep in mind I plan on judging games pretty harshly. 

  Maybe things will improve when I get to the sequel, Kaiv, but overall Dunzhin serves as a very crude and basic CRPG in the early stages of the C64 life cycle. With my "master list" now updated, it is time to move on.

  Now, onward to Apshai.

Session Time : 3 hours 18 minutes

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