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Overview

Castle of the Winds is a roguelike game written by Rick Saada under the company name "Saadasoft", and published by Epic MegaGames in 1989. The game was written as a two-part title. Part I, A Question of Vengeance was released for free as the shareware version of the game and was freely distributable as a complete package. Part II, Lifthransir's Bane was the stand-alone registered version of the game and was only legally distributable for users who paid the $25 registration fee.

Castle of the Winds was generally well received. On Rick Saada's personal website he estimates that Castle generated around 13,500 registrations.

Story

Castle of the Winds takes many of its names, of creatures, characters, and places, from Norse mythology, though the gameplay has many elements inspired by a standard fantasy setting such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Story presentation in Castle is simple, although a few scripted story sequences both move the story forward and allow the character to access later dungeons and towns. Most of the background story is actually presented in the documentation (such as the Help menu of the game), and from a gameplay perspective, after creating your character you are effectively started in the beginning hamlet of the game with no additional back-story or NPC interaction. (Amusingly enough, there is actually more interaction with inanimate objects in the first game than NPCs, not counting shopkeepers -- this doesn't detract from the gaming experience, it is just an amusing fact).

Part I - A Question of Vengeance

The game begins in a small hamlet near the burned farmstead of your character's ("your") foster parents. You did not know your real parents, but grew up on a small farm with your godparents. Around your 12th birthday, you learn of a mysterious pendant that your godfather is holding for your 18th birthday, along with some vague but special information about your heritage and destiny. Near your eighteenth birthday you return to the farm to find it burned, your godparents dead and the amulet of your birthright missing. Your best lead is a set of gigantic footprints leading north toward the caves in the nearby mountains, so you stop at the nearby hamlet on your way to the caves.

The starting hamlet, in ruins.

At this point, you set off exploring the caves north of the hamlet, which serves as a proving grounds. The caves don't offer much story until you reach the bottom floor (Mine Level 4), where you find a scrap of parchment. As you read the parchment, it contains a missive ordering someone's assassination and mentions a fortress north of the nearby town of . This leaves you with an uneasy feeling, and since you've reached the bottom of the mines and killed most of the remaining bandits, you decide to return to the hamlet. As you approach, you smell burning thatch and it begins to dawn on you the meaning of the missive: someone is out to kill you for your special heritage. Finding the hamlet torched, you realize that someone has been out to kill you this entire time and that those who you now seek to avenge were killed because someone was after you. With new resolve, you continue towards Bjarnarhaven.

After traveling west along the road for about a day, you arrive. Bjarnarhaven is a larger town than your starting hamlet, and includes the branch office of a bank alongside better stocked shops. Shortly after reaching Bjarnarhaven, you travel north to the bandit fortress. Besides tougher bandits, this fortress does not have much more to speak of than the caves did, until you battle your way to the final floor of the dungeon where you encounter Hrungnir and a band of hill giants unlike the other bandits you encounter. Armed with your lust for vengeance, and all of the experience and equipment that you gained as you conquered the eleven floors of the dungeon you manage to slay the hill giant lord and his entourage, and recover your birthright.

Hrungnir

As you slip the amulet around your neck and begin to activate its magical power, you see a vision of a man who calls himself your grandfather. You learn that the amulet you now hold is actually the Amulet of Kings, signifying your royal blood. Your grandfather tells you that the Castle of the Winds, where he once ruled, now sits in ruin. He tells you that a terrible evil force laid siege to the castle and that it now falls to you to step in and reclaim your castle in order to restore peace to Midgard. As the vision begins to fade, he tells you to activate the magical power of the amulet once more, and you will be brought to the land of your ancestry to retake what is yours. This is where the first episode of the game ends, and you are encouraged to order the full game to find out how the story ends.

Part II - Lifthransir's Bane

After activating the amulet again, the amulet’s magic pulls you across Midgard to a small town. You find yourself in a small town (small, but larger than Bjarnarhaven). As the dizziness of the amulet’s spell wears off, you examine the town discerning the shapes of the usual structures, as well as the keep of the local Jarl. You then gaze into the distance and see the massive ruins of your birthright, the Castle of the Winds.

Your first strategy is to visit the local Jarl and see if he will offer you any aid as the heir-apparent of the Castle. At least, that was the idea. When you approach the gate and announce yourself to the guard, he laughs in your face, “Ha! Another one!”. Because of the pretenders before you and the difficult battles of the town, there is only one way to prove yourself to the townsfolk: by steeping your sword in blood.

The town you are in is called Crossroads, located directly under the former majesty of the Castle of the Winds. On the day of the castle’s fall, none of the townsfolk know what happened; everyone in and around the castle died on that day. What they do know is that it was an evil day for Crossroads, earthquakes and unnatural lightning shook the castle and sounds like a demonic invasion echoes down the hills.

People suspected that King Lifthransir had been involved in dangerous matters, but none expected his castle and throne would be destroyed in just over a day. Worse yet for the townsfolk, evil creatures and bands of raiders have been coming out of the castle since that day. But they have steeled themselves, and created weapons and magical items that far surpass the fare that you encountered in Bjarnarhaven and the bandit’s fortress.

The mountain pass

You steel yourself and make your way to the castle. As you pass through the archway, a chill runs down your spine, but you press forward to the ruined throne room and encounter the undead shade of your grandfather from the vision. He hails you as his champion and tells you the tale of the castle’s fall centered around a powerful magical artifact, the Helm of Storms. Loki made a deal with Lifthransir, granting him the Helm of Storms.

As with all of Loki’s plans, there was a catch. In fact, there was more than one catch. It turned out that not only was the helm stolen from Thor, but also that the demonic fire giant Surtur had his eye on the helm as a tool to rival Thor and rule Midgard. Before Lifthransir had begun to master the helm, Surtur struck and ruined the castle. At his death, Lifthransir cursed Surtur, swearing that one of his own bloodline would come and reclaim the castle. He then became the shade you saw, haunting the castle until the day you reclaim the throne.

He then opens the dungeon to you. You descend, quickly clearing the first floors down into the dungeon with little more difficulty than the bandit fortress. The floors begin to get more difficult, but a few more floors down you see a peasant chained to an altar. Quickly killing the nearby ogres, you set him free. He identifies himself as one of the townspeople from Crossroads, captured in a raid and enslaved. You happened on him just before he was to be offered as a sacrifice to the demonic Surtur. Thanking you, he sets off on his own to return to Crossroads.

On your next visit to Crossroads, you stop again at the Jarl’s keep, and this time he hails you as a hero. He rewards you with gold and some advice for the dungeon.

You return and continue down the 25 floors, seeing strange and evil sights as you continue. You encounter natural beasts and twisted beastmen savagely working together. You also encounter elemental portals, where strange elementals pour into Midgard. Deep within the dungeon, you eventually encounter epic giant-kings, first the hill giant king who sent Hrungnir for you. Then the stone giant king, followed by the ice giant king and the fire giant king.

First battle with Surtur

Finally, at the final floor of the dungeon, you meet Surtur. Killing his fire giant minions, you boldly approach him and strike him. At first, he recoils in shock, unable to comprehend why a mortal would even consider striking a god. As recognition of you begins to dawn on him he roars in furious anger.

Your epic battle with Surtur ensues, you using every enchanted tool and magical spell you have learned while he fights you with crushing titanic strength and the awesome Helm of Storms, which he is gaining increasing mastery of. After a grueling battle, you swing a mortal blow but he vanishes suddenly. Taking some time to recover, you seek him out again and engage him again. He manages to escape again, but you persist, repeating this battle for hours until finally, you manage to strike him down finally forcing him from Midgard battered and bloody.

On the scorched ground where you vanquished him, you find the Helm of Storms. You carry it back up the 25 dungeon levels (as its magic conflicts with the magic normally used to return to town instantly) and present it to your grandfather. Lauding your success, he informs you that not only did he hear the sound of your victorious battle, but that Thor granted you the Helm of Storms as a reward. Lifthransir then steps aside and invites you to take his throne, crowning you as the new king of the Castle of the Winds!

Gameplay

Victory!
The Character Creation screen

Your first step is to create a character. Character creation is a single pop-up window. You can name your character (text box), choose your stats by sliding slider bars allocate stats relative to one another, choose your character's avatar represented by an icon (with a default choice of a male or female icon or you can choose to load your own), and set the difficulty of the game based on Easy, Intermediate, Hard and Experts Only! Immediately after character creation, you are given spell selection opportunities (in Part I you are level 1 and choose a single spell, in Part II you begin at level 8 and choose 8 spells one-at-a-time).

After creating a character, you are given control of your character (almost always in a town). The game is tile-based, so your character's motions and interactions are effectively limited to a grid. Most of your character's actions can be controlled either by using the keyboard (sometimes to access the windows menus) or by using the keyboard. Movement is often as simple as hitting a keyboard arrow or clicking the mouse, and interactions (including combat) often involve trying to move onto or over the object in question. Other times, interaction is performed by moving on top of something and then activating a verb command. Combat is a combination of attacking an enemy by moving in their direction, or spellcasting.

The Inventory screen

Almost immediately after creating a character, you can interact with the shop keepers. The inventory screen mostly involves dragging items into their appropriate slots (again, this *can* be accomplished using the keyboard). Shopkeeper interaction is only slightly different, dialogs will appear with the asking price or selling price. There are a few interesting quirks about interacting with shopkeepers, from selling unidentified items, to trying to sell worthless items or items that a shopkeeper refuses to take (but these have little impact on overall gameplay).

After equipping your character, you proceed to the nearby dungeon. The game is largely a dungeon crawl, so most of your time will be spent moving inside of the dungeon between brief scripted story sequences. There are a number of different elements in Castle of the Winds that can be found in other dungeon crawl type games from NetHack to Diablo. Of course, dungeon gameplay features plenty of combat and loot lust, with various spells and items to restore your character or aid in combat. In terms of combat, there is also an element of resting in between battles to restore your character, while risking being attacking.

Other gameplay elements include dungeon exploration and story interaction. The game provides a wide array of utilities for exploring the dungeon, which can help with filling out the map, identifying the location of items and monsters or moving around the dungeon. This allows for a wide difference in play styles. When first playing through the game, a player might try to fully explore every dungeon level and try to hit every story sequence, while in another play session a player might ignore exploration in favor of a speed run or a quick loot grab.

Miscellaneous

  • The game is now freely distributed by Rick Saada on his web site.
The magic missile glitch
  • There is a cheat that can be performed at the very beginning of the game by repeatedly casting a level 1 spell (often Magic Arrow). After reaching 0 mana points, casting a spell will put the character into negative mana points at an increasing risk of permanently damaging constitution value. Normally excessive spell casting can equate to a crippling reduction in HP or possibly the character's death. However, at the very beginning of the game after casting continuously without rest the character will reach max constitution. Aside from obvious advantages from having maximum constitution, this can also be exploited by allocating all of your character's statistic pool into stats other than constitution, allowing you to play a character with superior values in all stats in addition to max constitution.
  • Another useful resource, both for this cheat and other game factoids is the Temple of Odin fan site. First battle with Sara

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