Your small plane has crashed in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You are all alone in the snow and cold, but you manage to pull a topographic map from the wreckage of your plane. The map shows the location of a ranger outpost, your only hope for survival. But you could be anywhere on this map, an area "twice the size of the state of Delaware." To survive, you must determine your location and hike to the safety of the outpost.
The game provides six different information screens to aid you in your journey. The View screen shows a three-dimensional panorama of your immediate surroundings. The Topo screen is a two-dimensional map of the 90x67 mile area where you have crashed. Your first job is to figure out where you are on the map. In the View screen you can type commands (e.g., LOOK RIGHT, LOOK UP, PAN LEFT) to help orient yourself on the surrounding terrain.
The Status and Inventory screens give you reports on your physical condition and survival gear, respectively. The Help and Clue screens give you survival advice and hints, if you want them, but cost you points.
When you are ready to set out, you issue travel commands (e.g., WALK FOR 20 MINUTES) which move you in the direction you are facing (the View screen is redrawn when you reach your next location). To survive, you must also make use of your inventory and things in your environment. All interaction with the game is in the form of type-written phrases:
USE GUN/KILL BEAR/USE KNIFE/SKIN BEAR
USE MATCHES/MAKE FIRE
USE FIRE/COOK BEAR/EAT BEAR
The game recognizes 300 different nouns and verbs to allow you to navigate, travel, make camp, use gear and supplies, prepare food, care for health and first aid, and make use of wildlife, plants, and weapons.
A second scenario is also available in which you play an archeologist in search of the Lost City of Gold. Here, you begin your journey with a "long-forgotten" map and several obscure clues. The game included a form to order additional geographic areas: Bolivia, Burma, British Columbia, Chile, and New Guinea.
Wilderness is a unique survival adventure that may well be the most realistic simulation of its kind ever made, even decades after its release. The game casts you as an archaelogist in search of the Croesus status, rumored to be inside the Lost City of Gold. From the scene of where your plane crashed, you must trek into the wilderness, find the statue, and return alive.
Although Wilderness may appear to be just another parser-based interactive fiction, the player will soon discover that the game's astounding level of realism and detail more than qualifies it as a simulation. The game was designed by a team of real-life doctors, and it shows: right from the start, the game asks for your height, age, and heart rate-- all of which affect hundreds of factors, from stamina, speed, and resistance to disease. Every decision involved in real-life camping is modeled in this game. For instance, you must WEAR WOOL SOCKS during cold weather to prevent frostbite; PACK and CARRY supplies (each of which has a weight, and you can overburden yourself); MAKE various survival tools from available raw material, such as HUT (possible if tree limbs are nearby), or even TRAP to catch wild game; BOIL WATER gathered from questionable sources (all food spoils at 65 degrees Fahrenheit); USE SPLINT to treat broken legs or arms; and navigate by the stars at night. The list of options is virtually endless, and there are many random elements (storms, diseases etc.) that you must contend with. The game boasts a 300-word vocabulary, none of which is superfluous. The parser is robust enough to understand long sentences and respond appropriately.
Wilderness features "Panagraphics," a 3D graphics generating system that guarantees a new, random map each time you play. Those who prefer adventure games to realistic simulations can play in "Research Mode," in which you are no longer affected by burdensome parameters such as hunger, thirst, or illness. Overall, Wilderness is a complex simulation that is guaranteed to teach you a few things about real-life survival adventure. It may seem "dry" to some, but for those who crave realism in their games, there's no better survival game on the market.
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