Dopefish Revisits Castle of the Winds

Finding out that the obscure PC games that you enjoyed in your childhood – but that none of your friends had ever heard of – were actually much more popular than you were aware of is one of the greatest joys of first discovering the internet; a list that grows smaller and smaller with each passing day that Twitter continues to exist. When you’re young and blissfully unaware, the only metric you have to determine how popular your favourite game is, is how much everyone else is talking about it, and since there were only two other kids in my school year who even owned a Game Boy, I grew up under the misguided apprehension that everything I played, from Kirby’s Dream Land to Jazz Jackrabbit, was the height of obscurity.

In retrospect, I believe these games fell into three varying categories of obscurity. Firstly, the not obscure at all, like Commander Keen and Age of Empires, which I knew from an early age were being enjoyed by far more people than just myself. Then there are the games that are not obscure, but emphatically not famous either; Big Red Racing, SimTower, arguably the entire Sierra city-building series (Caesar 3, Pharaoh, Zeus), Shareware games like Boogaloopers or Blades of Exile… it’s hard for me to come up with examples because I discovered most of these games on those old ‘200 Games on one CD!’ compilations where the majority of those games were Shareware demos, basic Sokoban puzzles, or just variants of Solitaire, Reversi and Mahjong.

Then there are the games that sadly left so little trace upon the world that it’s hard to discern if they ever existed. Best Friends, the 3D platformer starring Petey and Patty the penguin. A slew of Dorling Kindersley ‘edutainment’ games like Stowaway and My First Amazing World Explorer that understood the importance of making sure that there was some game in your educational game. Gopher Golf, a simple golf game… with gophers. I want to tell you that there was an MS-DOS platformer named Pickle Wars, but I cannot 100% guarantee that it wasn’t just the result of my overactive imagination and possibly a fever dream. These are the games where you would be surprised to find out that they had a Wikipedia page, which is ironic, as Pickle Wars actually does. I can finally tell my therapist that it was real.

Castle of the Winds was very – oh, wait, one more, Word Games at Camelot, or WGC for short. 2D platformer, levels filled with collectible treasure, you were a knight of King Arthur’s court on a mission to… learn about vocabulary, or something. Merlin the Wizard would pop up five times in a level and give you multiple choice questions to make sure you knew the meaning of ‘ineffable’. Very weird but also fun, I would love to play that again someday. Oh, and Curtis the Crate Man – or maybe just Crate Man – a classic puzzle game about stacking up crates to reach the mysterious treasure-filled red crate that symbolized the end of a level. Good luck finding downloads for any of these (and please let me know if you do.)

Right, so… I always believed that Castle of the Winds was in the third category, but I found myself thinking about it again lately. Firstly, because it was a fully-functioning roguelike developed by one person, Rick Saada, in 1989; far from the first – Rogue was developed in 1980 after all – but by far one of the most advanced and impressive for its time. Secondly, because it has both a Wikipedia page and a TVTropes page, indicating a higher level of popularity than I ever hoped it would accomplish. And thirdly, because unlike many other old PC games that have been lost to the sands of time, Castle of the Winds entered the public domain in 1998 and was immediately made available to download in full, for free, by Rick Saada himself.

Honestly, it was also because back when I went by the much more professional title of ‘Elmo 3000’ and frequently wrote on ScrewAttack, I had a short-lived series highlighting games of this nature that I remembered from my childhood, and obviously there weren’t very many people lining up to hear my take on Boogaloopers. But Castle of the Winds did end up getting some attention, from a good online friend of mine named Serperoth – he was the one who told me that the original developer had made it free to download – and even just one person sharing your recognition for a game made before either of us had been born was enough to completely transform my perspective on this game’s place in history.

So I’m really writing this not to give my opinion on an old PC game, but to see how many other people have opinions on an old PC game. In 2002, I firmly believed that I was the only person in the world – other than Rick Saada – who knew what Castle of the Winds was, and twenty years later, I hope some of you are ready to prove me wrong.

I guess I’d like to start this by thanking my parents for guaranteeing that I would always have a special place in my heart for Castle of the Winds. They did everything in their power to ensure that with 100% certainty, I would be obsessed with playing nothing else for the entire duration of my childhood. They accomplished this, of course, by banning me from playing it.

Now, I’m not writing this to complain about my parents – not when there is so much else I could be slagging them off for – but in their sort-of defence, given that this game was released in 1989, before I was even born, I have no idea when I even started playing it. I would guess around eight or nine years old, but I could have easily been younger, and I can see their point of view that Castle of the Winds is a game that features both magical and melee combat with all kinds of terrifying fantastical beasts. In their not-so sort-of defence, this is what Castle of the Winds looks like.

I think they were mainly concerned that it featured magic, although again, this is what using magic in the game looks like. Here I am casting ‘Magic Arrow’ at a Walking Corpse.

They understandably thought that this would turn me into a Satanist and wouldn’t let me play the game until I was… I want to say twelve? I don’t specifically remember ever getting the go-ahead, but at some point, I started playing it again and they didn’t seem to mind. I think they had moved on to being concerned about Blades of Exile; that game featured blood splatter dot pngs when you hit enemies, and there were sound effects of characters saying “Eek!” or “Oof!” when they took damage, so that shot straight to the top of the list of things they were worried would make me worship the Great Dreamer himself, the Sleeper of Ry’leh, the almighty Cthulhu.

Not to cut my parents some slack, but while typing out that I was casting Magic Arrow at a “Walking Corpse” I did have a little moment of realisation that maybe that was why they didn’t want their son playing this at such an early age. Weirdly enough, the Walking Corpse probably has the most graphic name when compared to other enemies, who include Skeletons, Ogres, Bats, Goblins, Ghosts, Shades, Wights and many, many more, but it’s also one of the easiest enemies to fight in the game and it’s liable to show up on the very first floor of the very first dungeon. But enough about my terrible parents who ruined my life by not being sufficiently supportive of my flourishing rap-battle career; let’s talk about Castle of the Winds.

From the moment you begin, you’re met with a classic 80s-90s character customization screen allowing you to buff or nerf yourself in the field of Strength, Intelligence, Constitution and Dexterity. Strength determines how much damage you do in hand-to-hand combat, as well as how much weight you can carry. Intelligence determines your maximum Mana (magic points.) Constitution does the same but for your Hit Points, and Dexterity determines how often you hit and block in combat, and gives you a higher chance to avoid damage when setting off a trap.

Directly after this, you’re given the choice to learn your first spell. Every time you level up, you have the chance to add another spell to your repertoire, and these spells usually fall into one of the following categories; Attack (pew pew lasers,) Defence (protection from the enemy’s pew pew lasers,) Healing (self-explanatory,) Movement (for when you need to make a hasty retreat,) Divination (detecting objects, traps, monsters, etc) and… Miscellaneous (basically just the ‘Light’ spell for illuminating rooms.) The more you level up, the more spells become available to you, so once you’ve reached Level 7, you should have fully transformed from the naïve rookie who struggled to take down a Kobold to a seasoned adventurer blasting Fire Balls and Lightning Bolts at any Hill Giant who looks at you funny.

The fun thing about the spells is that they are genuinely all useful; it doesn’t matter whether you start with Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow, or even Magic Arrow, you should always stand a fair chance against the litany of monsters in your way. This may or may not be my subtle way of suggesting that if you want to survive for more than five minutes, you should choose Magic Arrow as your first spell; it only costs 1 Mana and can be fired at enemies from a distance, and very few enemies have ranged attacks, so this keeps you completely safe. You’re welcome to try the alternative combat, which involves repeatedly running into an enemy until the game decides that one of you is dead, but at the very start of the game, when you only have 10 HP and are struggling to even hit the weakest enemies you encounter, it’s not a risk worth taking.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; once you’ve selected your characteristics and your first spell, you are welcomed to the mysterious world of Castle of the Winds and warned of the most dangerous quest you are destined to embark upon. Thrills, treachery, jubilation and betrayal all await you in – I am joking, the game drops you in the middle of a small village with no context other than a handful of shops, and a well that you can fall down in some versions of the game, if you really want a shortcut to the ground floor of the first dungeon.

The shops are mostly useless to begin with, because you only have 1,500 copper pieces in your purse, although you can buy yourself a cloak and some gauntlets or bracers if you’d like. Don’t waste any time buying armour though, as despite Castle of the Winds being a certified roguelike with randomly-generated floors, the ground floor of the first dungeon always contains a normal suit of leather armour that you can pick up and wear for free, provided that you can kill the Kobold protecting it (one Magic Arrow should be enough.)

But you might be thinking “What about the story?” What reason does Sir Dopefish of House Dopefish have to embark on this epic and noble quest? And the answer is readily available to you, if you just break the immersion and click on ‘File’, then ‘Review Story’, and then, since you have no text to review yet, clicking on ‘Background’, and reading the single-page story about growing up on a farm with your godparents and finding a mysterious box containing an amulet that your dying father asked them to give you on your 18th birthday.

The first story beat you actually can review is just to the north of the small hamlet you begin the game in, and if you check up on your godfather and godmother, you can-

Oh. Oh.

It might sound like I’m making fun of the story, but I’m genuinely not; it’s the kind of story which isn’t particularly deep or meaningful, but it is 100% functional for the game that Castle of the Winds is. You know how the story is presented in arguably the most famous roguelike today, The Binding of Isaac? You get a skippable cutscene at the beginning, a skippable cutscene at the end, and that’s all you get because that’s all you need. Not a great comparison, because Isaac is dripping with subtext and implications – along with gore, poop and dead baby jokes – but the story of Castle of the Winds is positively… fine.

So now that the game has well and truly begun, you make your way into the mysterious cave to the north. As mentioned before, there is always a Kobold guarding a suit of leather armour, two Giant Rats guarding nothing, and a Goblin holding a few more copper pieces. While most of your money will be gained by indirect methods, most of the direct pick-ups are the result of killing Goblins and Hobgoblins for copper, and later Bandits, Ogres and Smirking Sneak Thieves (actual name) for Silver. Even if you didn’t start with Magic Arrow, a few Giant Rats and a Goblin should be no match for-

Well, that’s what I get for charging into a Goblin’s nest. Always pick Magic Arrow.

Still, now that you’ve successfully cleared the ground floor, the real game begins, and you journey down the stairs to a shiny new randomly-generated floor filled with monsters, items and traps. The random generation in this game is so thorough that you can literally save the game before going down a flight of stairs, and every time you reload, the layout will be different, as long as you’re seeing the new floor for the first time. It might be tempting to save and reload until you find something nice, but it’s incredibly unlikely that the first room or corridor you find yourself in will contain something meaningful.

This begins a journey that will continue all the way until the end of Part 2, the concluding game that was initially not Shareware but was also made available by Rick Saada on his website, and is also included in the download link on old games download dot com. Not that I’m suggesting you should go there or anything. The core gameplay is exploring the dungeon floors, fighting enemies to earn enough experience to level up, and learning spells that will help you to explore and fight enemies more efficiently, while also picking up as many items as possible so that you can return to the surface and sell them to the shops so that you can buy better items, or keep anything helpful that you find. It’s a lot like what I’ve heard about Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. Apologies, Recettear, I still haven’t played your highly-recommended, Seumas McNally Grand Prize Honourable Mention recipient at the 2011 Independent Games Festival; I’ve been too busy playing this old roguelike from before I was born.

Combat is one thing, but a huge part of the game is finding items, and where you go from there. Your character is an adventurer, but emphatically not a blacksmith or mage, so when you pick up a scroll, potion or spell book, unless it’s an item you’ve previously identified (every town has a shop that provides this service, or you can learn the spell ‘Identify’ starting from Level 4) then you will have absolutely no idea what it is. For the most part, this isn’t a problem; go ahead and put on the Cloak you found three floors deep in the dungeon filled with Skeletons and Walking Corpses, I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Ah. The problem with cursed items isn’t just that they lower your stats for as long as they’re worn, but because you cannot remove them until they have been uncursed, which can only be done at a church, which, like the identifying service, can be found in every town, but costs three thousand copper pieces. Per cursed piece of equipment. And I hope you remember to unequip them once they’ve been uncursed, because they don’t stop providing a negative effect, they just become removable. Still, every town also has a Junk Shop that buys useless items like cursed things or torn cloaks, worn shoes, etc, for the grand old price of… twenty-five copper pieces. A bargain.

Fun fact; shops will buy unidentified objects from you, and also identify them for you so that you know what you’ve sold them and can recognize them in the future, but if you feel particularly cruel, you can save-scum after finding out which items in your inventory are cursed and then sell them all of the cursed things, which they obviously would not normally buy, only for them to find out that they’re cursed after they’ve handed you a generous amount of money for them. That said, after the first few times you get away with this, the shop in question will refuse to buy any unidentified objects from you, citing “You’ve sold us enough crap already, get it identified first!” A clever bit of foresight for a game developed by one person in 1989.

In case you think it’s a little bit cruel that random items have the chance to be cursed, you should know that they can also be enchanted. Armour, Cloaks, Bracers, Helmets and Shields can all offer extra defence, while most enchanted weapons either increase your damage, or your chance to hit, or both. You can wear a ring on each hand to improve your Strength, Intelligence, Constitution or Dexterity (hint; remember that high intelligence means higher maximum Mana for casting spells) and even basic items like Boots, Belts and Backpacks can be enchanted to make you faster, or let you carry more items. This is a huge benefit, probably even moreso than levelling up, but it also adds the temptation to equip something as soon as you find it. Sure, it could be cursed and completely ruin your armour value… but it could also make you virtually invincible against lower-level enemies.

Another benefit to this is that the enchantments – at least once you get quite far into the game – have a lot of variety. You can always right-click on any identified item in your inventory – or for sale – to be shown exactly how it benefits your character. An enchanted weapon, for instance, may increase your chance to hit, or strongly increase your chance to hit, or very strongly increase your chance to hit. And this is just one of the multiple effects that any weapon can have, some items have two or three, some pieces of armour also protect against fire or electricity, and very rarely, you can find an item that permanently activates a spell, like a weapon I found that had a permanent ‘Detect Monsters’ ability. Detect Monsters is practically mandatory by the end of the game as it makes every monster on the floor visible – not a big deal when you’re dealing with Kobolds and Goblins, a much bigger problem when there might be a Manticore or Hill Giant three tiles away from you and you can’t see them – and having a weapon with this effect was phenomenal. Which made it all the more sad when I sold it, because that was the only effect it had, and the ‘much higher damage, much higher chance to hit’ flail I was carrying was just too useful.

Still, by the end of the game, two things will be certain. A) Everything you wear will be enchanted and you will be a veritable powerhouse, capable of easily slaying virtually anything you come across with barely any damage, and B) You will have more money than you know what to do with, because anything enchanted you find that isn’t good enough to equip can be sold for large amounts of money at the nearby shops. Beyond the basic ‘money is good’ service that this offers, the fastest way to determine which of two items is better is usually to try to sell them both and see which one the shopkeeper is willing to pay more for.

You might not want to hold onto too much money at any time though, as Smirking Sneak Thieves are fond of attacking you, stealing your money, and teleporting away. They move much more quickly than regular enemies and take more than a few Fire Bolts to kill, although you can always track them down and kill them to get your money back. For this reason, in the second and third town, there’s also a bank that you can deposit your money into. You can’t take it back, but the bank gives you a letter of credit that you can use in any of the shops. Just another little quality of life improvement to make your game less frustrating.

So with this thorough explanation of the economy, I’ve probably painted a picture of quite an easy dungeon-crawler. Walk in, kill some Goblins, steal some stuff, leave, buy a cool sword, and in a minimum of two hours, you’ll be blinged up in all sorts of enchanted goodies, slaying monsters left and right. Castle of the Winds, 7/10, only problem is that it’s a huge walk in the park, gg ez.

And here is where we move onto discussing that this game has one of the most terrifying fucking bestiaries of natural, manmade and magical abominations ever conceived by man!

The further into the game you get, the more advanced the enemies become, and if you thought you were struggling against Goblins at the beginning, just wait until you reach Floor 4 of the very first dungeon, where goddamn Bears start to show up. And Ogres. And Bandits. And MANTICORES. Never underestimate a Manticore. You see, I mentioned that not very many monsters have ranged attacks, but Manticores do. And it’s not just that they have ranged attacks – hell, Bandits have ranged attacks, but it’s just firing a pithy little arrow at you – but that they have multiple-hitting­ ranged attacks.

Not scary enough? How about the equally terrifying Gelatinous Glob? This thing was genuinely absolute nightmare-fuel for me as a child, along with those wiggly walking mushroom monsters in Blades of Exile that made a horrible squishy ‘THWICK’ sound when they hit you. The Gelatinous Glob has no ranged attack, but it can also hit you multiple times per turn if it gets close enough. How many times? Well, since it can paralyze you and leave you vulnerable for several turns afterwards, how about… infinite?

Another reason why Magic Arrow is a mandatory spell for the entire game is that even though Cold Bolt, Lightning Bolt and Fire Bolt become available later – all increasingly stronger, although certain enemies have certain resistances and weaknesses; don’t throw a Fire Bolt at a Red Dragon, kids – Magic Arrow is the only attack that the Gelatinous Glob isn’t immune to. It can also break down doors, and while the graphics of the game aren’t advanced enough to be truly terrifying, few things in this game are as scary as finding a nice little corner to fall asleep in and having your recovery interrupted by a monster – Gelatinous Glob or otherwise – and suddenly noticing that all of the doors in the nearby vicinity have been obliterated.

A simple solution to this problem would obviously be to not fall asleep in a random spot in a monster-filled dungeon, but other than waiting an ungodly amount of time, during which you will certainly be found and killed, sleeping is the only way to regain your Mana. There are two options in the ‘Verbs’ menu; Rest until healed, and Sleep until Mana is restored. Rest is less risky but only regains your physical health, not that useful if you aren’t that strong yet and need to fight your way through a small army of Goblin Fighters, but sleeping takes much longer and increases the chance that you will be interrupted.

These aren’t your only options; amongst those potions that you can find, there are ‘Heal Minor/Medium/Major Wounds’, and once you get far enough, you can find ‘Lesser Restore Mana’ or ‘Greater Restore Mana’, and it’s always worth packing a few of these into your belt. Little warning though, unless these potions are in your free hand, which you are free to ‘Activate’ at any time from the menu, you have to manually open your inventory, open your belt, and move the items around. And every time you move something in your inventory, a turn passes. So, if you’re in a spot of bother and need to restore Mana quickly…

When you’re not expecting it, this little text-box is scarier than the Manticore and the Gelatinous Glob combined. I would still rank this as a more immediately terrifying jump-scare than anything that has appeared so far in the Outlast series.

Despite all of this, once you’ve really gotten started, made your way past the first few floors of enemies, gotten to at least Level 4, and picked up a few enchanted items, Castle of the Winds isn’t too difficult to play; most of my deaths are the result of impatience and greed. Short-sighted thoughts like “Eh, I might be at low health, but I should be more than capable of beating a few Goblin Fighters to death by now!” or “I could retreat to the entrance and sleep safely, but as long as nothing comes from that suspicious unexplored corridor, I should be able to just close this door and sleep until I’m fully restored!” And then you wake up to two Ogres and a Cave Troll in your face.

In keeping with the difficulty curve, the game has three progressively more difficult dungeons. The first dungeon in the game only has four floors, and there’s a very silly immersion-breaking trick you can do that’s worth talking about. See, once you’ve gotten to the final floor, there’s a room with four Kobolds and mysteriously ‘A Scrap of Parchment’. Step outside with the parchment and your character will automatically read it, and it turns out that it’s instructions to raze your humble hamlet to the ground in a final attempt to kill you. And when you head back to make sure they’re ok, then…

This is legitimately a pretty pitiless player-punch, partly because many players will be young when they see it, but also because of the ludonarrative (I love using that word, it makes me feel so smart.) Sure, What’s-his-face the Blacksmith had no real personality other than getting really annoyed at me for constantly selling him cursed weapons, but I visited his shop like ten times! And now he’s dead! They’re all dead! Even the church has been burned down! Castle of the Winds may be one of the first video game instances of the classic fictional trope of the Doomed Hometown, and it’s pretty savage.

Now, not to diminish the genuine shock to the player, who now has to go north again, travel west and arrive at a new, larger town (with a bank) and attack the Hill Giant responsible for razing his village to the ground, but since this event only occurs if you’re holding ‘A Scrap of Parchment’ when you leave the first dungeon… there’s nothing stopping you from simply dropping it on the ground right at the entrance of the cave, leaving, and heading back to your unburned, undestroyed town, probably to trick Dickface the Blacksmith (affectionate nickname) into buying more of your cursed shit. The village will remain completely okay until you nip back inside and grab that scrap of parchment. Dickface the Hill Giant (unaffectionate nickname) might be an ass, but there’s no denying he razes villages extremely efficiently. I stepped in and out of a cave; that was barely five seconds!

Now that you’ve made it past the four-floor start dungeon, you travel to the larger village of Bjarnarhaven and tackle the challenging eleven-floor dungeon. This ends Castle of the Winds: A Question of Vengeance, and the adventure is continued in part two, Castle of the Winds: Lifthransir’s Bane, with one single twenty-five floor dungeon. For the record, I finished the entire second game and I have no idea who the hell Lifthransir is. I don’t think he actually appears.

The only unfortunate thing about Lifthransir’s Bane, other than the confusing subtitle, is that it’s basically just… more Castle of the Winds. There isn’t a lot more to say about it. It takes place in an even larger village with a whole ten shops, meaning you’ll need to check them all to make sure you’re not missing out on any bargains. There are some new and even deadlier monsters, including some late-game demons who have the unfortunately ability to replicate themselves, although they never do this more than once. Also, while they show up quite rarely, since you’ve made it all the way to part two, occasionally shops will sell items like ‘Potion of Gain Intelligence’, which if bought and used, permanently increase your stats. Permanently. For permanent. It is not uncommon to finish Lifthransir’s Bane – I’m just going to call it Part Two from now on – with maxed out stats in multiple categories.

Part Two has some more frequent story beats, as by putting on the amulet that you recover from the end of Part One, you are whisked away to the faraway land of… Crossroads. Odd name, but there’s a huge castle where the Jarl resides – I know that word from Age of Mythology, it’s like Earl or Chief, but Viking… well, Scandinavian at least – and while he initially doesn’t have the time of day to see you, if you head into the dungeon and clear out a few floors, including a nasty gang of Bear-Men and Wolf-Men, he’ll deign to speak with you and ask you to continue on your quest, for the good of the country. You can check back with him every five floors or so, and it’s worth doing, because the further you get, the fancier the rewards he gives you, like enchanted weapons or armour. Even if it’s not as good as what you’ve already scavenged, every little helps in the shops.

The story is given more focus when the bosses you fight (Jotuns, or Hill Giant Kings, backed up by many of their kind) give little speeches upon meeting them, and again upon their defeat. I can’t say it’s particularly gripping, since they have no part in the story before or after you meet them and light them up with Fire Balls until their whole gang is defeated, but it was nice of the developers – and by ‘the developers’, I mean just Rick Saada – to make an effort.

One last point of note which I find absolutely hilarious; a very useful spell that you can learn once you’ve reached the third tier of spells (Level 1-3 is first tier, 4-5 is second tier) is ‘Rune of Return’, a teleportation spell with a practically mandatory effect. If used in a dungeon, you are teleported back to the entrance of the ground floor, free to return to the village, rest, sleep, sell your wares and check the shops for anything new. If you cast Rune of Return again, it doesn’t teleport you back to exactly where you were, but it teleports you to the stairs of the furthest floor down that you have reached. Understandably, when you’re on Floor 22 and need to get back to the top, Rune of Return is a vital spell to have.

Which is why it is such a hilarious piss-take that upon finally meeting, greeting and beating the final boss, Surtur, you are rewarded with the greatest helmet in the game; The Enchanted Helm of Storms. This helmet makes you resistant to fire, cold, and lightning, and on top of that, it also gives you a permanent ‘Detect Monsters’ ability for as long as you wear it. Not particularly useful since the game is practically over, but it’s still a nice reward. So, having defeated the Norse Fire Giant who tussles with Thor, you cast Rune of Return and prepare to return to the surface.

The Enchanted Helm of Storms absorbs the spell.

… The helmet doesn’t absorb any other spells. Just Rune of Return. Just the one that is really useful for getting back out of the dungeon as quickly as possible. And where do you fight Surtur and attain this wonderful helmet, again? Floor 25. You can even take the helmet off and just leave it in your inventory, but as long as it is on your person, it absorbs Rune of Return. This is amazing, because it forces the player to embark on one last desperate rush back up through twenty-five floors of monsters, traps and honestly, memories. You will definitely come across a couple of floors that you haven’t seen for hours and recall “Hey, I remember it here! I got trapped in this room by two Stone Giants and a Blue Dragon!” And it’s wonderful.

Now, if you’re a huge coward who hates fun, you can just as easily drop the enchanted helmet on the ground and Rune of Return straight out of there, but you really shouldn’t. For starters, you earned that helmet, you deserve that helmet, and damn straight you are leaving this dungeon with that helmet! But also, not to downplay your accomplishments, but if you’re strong enough to defeat Surtur, you are absolutely strong enough to survive a 25-floor retreat. Especially because the map to each floor is saved as you explore, and you are not trying to kill everything, just find the quickest route to the next flight of stairs up. It’s one final unexpected curveball of a challenge, and I was humming the ‘Hurry Up!’ music from Wario Land 4 the entire way up. ‘Acceptance’ from The End is Nigh would also work.

And… that’s Castle of the Winds! Countless hours of my childhood spent dying to Skeletons, Ogres and Carrion Creepers, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. It’s freely available now on several abandonware sites, and on old games download dot com complete with a DOSBox emulator already set-up in the download. I’d love to go into more detail regarding Rick Saada’s contributions to the world of gaming, but there aren’t too many; he was a producer for the 2008 pirate-themed MMO, Pirates of the Burning Sea, which was positively received to be fair, and is also still online today, and he was a programmer/creative director for the PS4 title Earthfall, an alright game that most consider a less-worthwhile version of Left4Dead. But even if he’s most famous for Castle of the Winds, that’s a fine legacy to have. I would not be surprised to find out that the makers of some of the most popular roguelike games today – Isaac, Hades, Darkest Dungeon – cited Castle of the Winds as an inspiration for their work.

From child me and adult me, sincerely, thank you Rick Saada.

Oh, and I suppose I should also credit the publisher, without whom the game would not have sold the 13,500 copies that it did, according to Wikipedia (those are some genuinely impressive numbers for a Shareware title developed by one person). So thank you to Rick Saada, and thank you to… to-

Epic Megagames? Who later became Epic Games? Those guys? I mean, I knew they were involved in some great older titles like Jazz Jackrabbit and Jill of the Jungle, but I never would have suspected… huh! Wow, Epic Games, eh? Well, I guess we all know who we can blame for Goku being in Fortnite. Thanks a lot, Rick. Joking aside though, thank you very much for your contribution to the video game industry, and… if you could let me know who or what the hell ‘Lifthransir’ is, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for reading!

-Dopefish

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