Demon’s Forge (1981)   10 comments

Brawling with the king’s guards is a crime punishable by death. But in considering your prior service as a mercenary in his pay, the king has decided to be lenient. In lieu of death sentence, you have been banished to the dungeon network infamously titled the Demon’s Forge.

You reason that you may as well have been executed. The dungeon has an exit as well as an entrance, but none of the many prisoners sent into it in the past century have left the labyrinth alive. It is little wonder, for they were required to embark without weapons or armor, or even the clothes on their back.

— From the manual

Brian Fargo is a developer still at work today with a long track record of games, including being a designer on Wasteland (1988) and executive producer of Torment: Tides of Numenera (2017). He started his career in high school collaboration with Michael Cranford on a game called Labyrinth of Martagon which “probably sold five copies” but unfortunately seems to have otherwise have vanished (I don’t even know if it is an RPG or adventure according to Andrew Plotkin reporting from a Bard’s Tale postmortem, it was an adventure game). His first game that got “real” distribution came the same year, and was a humble text-adventure-with-graphics for the Apple II.

The cover from the 1981 version.

The cover above I don’t believe has anything to do with the game itself. (Saber Software was Fargo’s creation, so this was still his choice of art.) As the manual’s opening implies, your goal is simply to escape a dungeon; the manual also hints at “a demon of horrible prowess and deadly cunning” named Anarakull who I’m guessing we’ll meet at the end.

I’m going to try taking my time here, because I bought this one back when you could get a new copy! While 1981 was far too early for me, it got republished in the late 80s for DOS by Mastertronic and I snagged that version and played all the way through; I recall needing hints from Kim Schuette’s book but I otherwise don’t remember much except for one (admittedly interesting) puzzle near the end.

I’m playing the original Apple II version which starts you with just “rations”, but I should note the DOS one states you are also carrying your “birthday suit”. I had never heard the term at the time so I spent a while confusedly trying to drop the birthday suit or otherwise interact with it.

I’m stuck fairly early. I found a blanket and pillow, a skinny man running by …

… a statue with a beak with something inside (but trying to reach in gets your hand stuck) …

… and a locked set of doors.

Other than a lab with an empty vat, a brazier, and what appears to be an empty closet. I don’t have access to much, but I’ve only just started playing around.

One last comment on the closet before I close out, though. This is one of those post Hi-Res Adventure games that sometimes describes things in text, and sometimes describes things visually. For example, in the room with the skinny man earlier, the banner is considered an item even though it is only in the picture. Exits are also only given in the visuals; or at least mostly given in the visuals, because it appears the game requires you test some things out randomly. Here’s a brazier …

… but not visible in the brazier picture is an exit to the NORTH, which has the closet.

I assume that’s a “shelf” in the picture but that noun isn’t recognized by the game.

This isn’t nearly as crazy as the map in Goblins, though — everything is rectilinear and only NORTH/SOUTH/EAST/WEST are allowed, not NE/SE/SW/NW. Still, I need to keep up remembering to try random directions as my playing goes forward.

Posted July 14, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Demon’s Forge (1981)

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  1. Not stock art, but cheap reused fantasy cover art, yeah: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?50731

  2. This page gives a slightly different providence:
    http://www.boxequalsart.com/demonsforgereviewpage.html

  3. The boxequalsart.com has more info, but it matches. (Pokes around…) Hey, Vicente Segrelles did the cover art on the first US edition of _The Colour of Magic_. I remember that well.

    As for the Dragon Quest Adventure, I see the artwork shows up at full size here: https://www.gettyimages.com/license/840904834

    No attribution, though.

  4. The Mercenary / Mercenario comics by Vicente Segrelles are actually pretty cool, at least visually. Every panel is painted in oil in the style of the cover shown in this post. I was very impressed with them as a child.

    A few pages are sampled here, unreadably small, but they give you an idea:

  5. Sorry about that! I did not intend that link to be shown inline. Feel free to edit or delete it.

  6. Could one drop the rations for the skinny man, or feed them to the beak? (I was going to suggest SCRAPE PARROT, but….)

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