I first played Dungeon Master on my Atari ST when I was a teenager back in 1990.
It was the 1st realtime first-person view RPG Dungeon Crawler game ever, so it was a total blast..!
Although I played it twice till almost the end, I was never able to finish it.
I played it again in early 2009, this time with the punctual help of a walk-through and managed to finish it for the 1st time.
And I just replayed it once more a couple months ago, mainly to get inspiration for the puzzles for Dungeon Guardians. And to my big surprise, there’s almost no puzzle, per se, in Dungeon Master ! There’s something like a dozen of puzzles in total, for 13 levels, and almost half of them are more tricks than puzzles, as they are more about understanding a mechanism than solving a enigma. But in addition, there are also a good bunch of plain text riddles, which is a simpler gameplay concept.
But there are also a lot of “intriguing” zones, where it can get hard to understand where you have to go, what you’re expected to do, and sometimes requires some backtracking. And in that way, the dungeon itself feels like a puzzle, and managing to explore it feels like solving it. This is what is quite unique about Dungeon Master, even by today standards, even when playing for the 4th time, it pours an aura of mystery.
And as I’m not a big fan of puzzles, it’s exactly the kind of atmosphere I’m hoping to recreate in Dungeon Guardians. I’m still designing puzzles, but the complex ones are only to get extra gears & bonus.
Except that, Dungeon Master partly got old. Of course, technically, but also for the fights. They require almost no thinking nor skill, so they get boring after a while, especially the long ones.
But overall, I think it’s one of the rare games of the 80’s that still offers a gameplay that has not been totally outdated by some better modern games. And strangely, this is partly due to technical reasons : a few years after its release, games started to switch to full 3D movement, instead of the grid-based movement, and although it brings new interesting gameplay, it doesn’t completely supersede the old square by square grinding which keeps its own charm. Another technical point is that in DM, we see 3 squares away ; by today standards, it’s a very short distance. But it helps a lot building the oppressive atmosphere, getting us lost.
That’s all for this classic. In future posts, we’ll check more recent First-Person-View & Grid-Based RPG Dungeon Crawler games !