This fantasy adventure has the player exploring a castle in search of treasures. The castle is an eight-by-eight-by-eight grid, with eight levels containing sixty-four rooms each. Its contents are randomized at the start of each game. There are eight major treasures to seek (including the palintir and the silmaril) and twelve monster types to avoid (from pitiful kobolds to might dragons); players can choose from four different character races (elf, dwarf, man or hobbit) and, with sufficient intelligence, can cast three different spells (web, fireball and deathspell).
After picking a race, distributing attribute scores and spending money to gain weapons, armor and other equipment, the player enters the castle. Rooms are portrayed by short textual descriptions and grid numbers showing where they fit into the grand scheme of things. Gameplay consists of typing simple text commands to move, fight and gather treasure. A map is automatically generated during play, but it can only be viewed for a brief moment at a time before it disappears off the screen (even on very slow computers).
This is a not-so-simple turn-based textual Rogue-like RPG. After this description-based sentence you probably want to know what's it about and especially is it worth a try. Considering the time when the game was made, lack of graphics was a serious drawback. On the other hand, Amulet of Yendor has advanced from his predecessors (Rogue, Hack etc.) and should draw attention mostly from fans of those games.
It should be mentioned that Wizard of Yendor and/or his magic item (called by him) was omnipresent in the series starting with Rogue, and afterwards in UltraRogue, Advanced Rogue, Hack and NetHack. Try reading the name of Yendor backwards. Wizard is therefore known as Rodney among the players and the name itself was created this way: use instant name unusual for wizard and reading it backwards.
After all the bother with Amulet of Yendor in previous games, a player is now entering the wizard's castle long after the wizard is gone. The castle is told to be full of treasuries, magic, horrible monsters and off course, the wizard's Orb of power. A player enters a randomly generated castle in order to find the Amulet and leave with it. Before each play, you will receive all the instructions on how to play.
The castle is an 8x8x8 matrix, which means 8 levels consisting of 64 rooms. Room (1,4) on level 1 is the entrance and going north will end the game. Everything else is different each time you play. The command MAP will draw the map of the level but only instantly, so you'll have to bother around with it a bit. You get to choose among 4 races (irrelevant), afterwards you place some points to the attributes (strength, intelligence and dexterity) buy some weapons, armor and equipment and enter the castle.
There are several things you can find in each room and the most important are monsters, vendors, warps and treasures. Most of those treasures will protect you from evil spells (when opening a chest or reading books) so you shouldn't sell them to vendors at least not right away. Three treasures have only a sole purpose of being sold, as there's no other use for them. You can buy new equipment form vendors including potions for improving your attributes.
Still the biggest quantity of the gold can be gained by killing the monsters. Fighting is also turn-based and your attributes affect how strong you are. When you loose all your strength, you die. If your intelligence is high enough you can cast spells (three different spells) and amount of dexterity represents your skill of avoiding the attacks. You can also bribe the opponent, but that's surely not the way of a hero...
Warp rooms will teleport you to a random room on random level. Those rooms are also important as one of them has the hidden Amulet. In every game, there is one monster in the castle that carries the Runestaff, the magic wand with the power of teleportation. Once you obtain it, you can teleport to every room you want within the castle. Also, once you obtain it, you are to teleport yourself to every warp rooms in the castle in order to find the Amulet. Only one of those warps hides the Amulet and only by teleporting in that room can you find it. Then you loose the Runestaff and must leave the castle on foot.
So, you wander around facing dangers, drinking from magic pools and opening chest, using flairs to reveal what's in the rooms around you (if you haven't checked them before) and so on, thinking how difficult this game is and how it might get interesting and fun. Unfortunately or luckily, you can buy the lamp as the part of the equipment. You can use the lamp for unlimited times to look into the next room. Now you can see what awaits you. This makes your life much easier than before but also kills the game. Your adventuring now becomes a simple sneaking around the castle.
By using the lamp you can avoid the rooms with monsters (they never leave the room), warps and sinkholes until you gather all the treasuries. Now when you are safe from curses, you can go and read all the books to improve attributes and sell useless treasuries to buy potions and better weapons. Then you simply start killing weaker monsters to get even more gold for weapons and potions and if you haven't find Runestaff yet, you start facing stronger monsters (dragons, balrogs, gargoyles). Once you find the Runestaff, you can either clean the castle of all monsters or start teleporting to warps and finish the game.
To finish the game like this only takes some time and bother, but there is barely a challenge. Perhaps limiting the usage of the lamp or even playing without it may add different concept of the play, based mostly on luck and cases, which can be fun in a simple game like this. Although this game has some funny things that are irrelevant to the gameplay itself, it looks too simplified instead of an advanced game such as Rogue and Hack. Everything is just randomized by rooms. Perhaps it would be even better to wander around the same castle but a very well designed one, although random generated castles (with hallways, rooms and secrets) were nothing unseen back then.
Because of this few things, Amulet of Yendor would be a good game if it got out at the same time as the very first Rogue. Considering the needs of the players back then, it was probably enough for some of them and is still worth a try if you want to check out the story and have a taste of some of the atmosphere. Anyone can beat it with a little bother, or you can play without using all of the equipment to get some fun. This game is recommended mostly to the Rogue fans.
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