Review: Castle of the Winds (PC – 16 Bit)

By Drew Wilson

Continuing our reviews, we turn to a very old RPG game called “Castle of the Winds”. It’s a top-down dungeon crawler that is a real step up to other dungeon crawlers that have already been floating around at the time.

Castle of the Winds is another game made for Windows 3.1. So, the only way to play it today is either through emulated means or dusting off a very old 386 machine. The game was released in 1989 and is really a step up to other dungeon crawling games where all you had what basic symbols that represent characters, walls, etc. In other words, it’s an upgrade from an ASCII based game.

The game starts you out with a customizable character. It is also split in two parts – a first and second episode. The first episode is ultimately the demo and the second episode is the game you get when you bought it (now, it is all available as freeware).

The game starts you off in a city. You eventually progress into countryside and see your farm burned down with nothing left for you. You’re quest is basically to try and fight whatever is destroying the property. You get to the dungeon at the northern-most tip of the map and start your quest. The first level is set in stone and has a fixed number of rooms and monsters. After that, the rest of the dungeon is more or less randomly generated, so no two plays are exactly alike.

Weapons and armor come in various shapes and sizes, but the quality can differ, so the stats are never exactly the same. If you’ve played Diablo already, think of this as an earlier version of this weapons system because the similarities are very apparent.

The money system is quite interesting. You have copper, silver, gold and platinum. While you’ll likely encounter the other kinds of money in the second episode, everything is ultimately translated back into copper for you, so there’s little confusion. Another interesting part is that when you pick up items, sometimes, you never know what it’s all about until it’s fully identified. Sometimes, the items are useless (anything that doesn’t change your stats is effectively useless). Sometimes, the items are enchanted and give you an extra bonus in stats. Other times, the items are destroyed or cursed.

This game has a lot of good points and some not so good points. The first is the graphics. The graphics are a plus at the beginning in the village, but once you go into the dungeon, it’s the same boring grey walls, blank floor (blue textured floors denotes lighted areas) The items, doors, traps and monsters add a little kick to the graphics, but it’s otherwise rather boring beyond that.

There is no music or sound effects outside of the standard Windows sounds.

Another annoying part is that if you complete the first episode, you basically start over when going to the second episode. If you did a particularly good job of leveling up your character, well, that’s only good for the first episode.

Another part is that when you get into the second episode, it seems like you hit a wall in terms of improving your character. You get to an OK level, but the experience required to improve much further gets very large in a hurry. While there’s no real limitations on the weapons and armor, those stop improving pretty quick. This leaves stat raising items which only go so far and are limited to begin with. After a certain amount of time grinding, the fun just drained away for me and I gave up altogether sometime after failing to save some persons life in the dungeon. The monsters got more powerful, but the character just stalls in improvement.

Another annoying aspect of this game is that within the second episode, you have about a dozen shops. Some sell magic items, some sell potions, some sell armor, some sell weapons, etc. You have to go through each one of these every time you return to the village just to see if you can purchase an improved item (if you can afford it that is).

In spite of these pitfalls, I can honestly say that there was a fair amount of enjoyment over playing this game in the end. I liked playing the first episode a couple of times and it’s a good way to kill a few hours. This simple game is still worth checking out.

Furthest point made it in game: Two levels after the level where you have to try and rescue someone. Played through first episode twice.

General gameplay: 25/30
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: Na/5

Overall Score: 75%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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