Castle of the Winds
Castle of the Winds is a computer role-playing game with a traditional fantasy theme developed by SaadaSoft and published by Epic MegaGames for Windows 3 in 1992. The game was originally released as shareware, but, in 2004, the developer released it as freeware. The game uses a traditional dungeon-crawler style, but utilizes the drag-and-drop icon interface of Windows. In the game, you play a character whose home has been destroyed, your foster parents murdered, and, an amulet, which was bequeathed to you from your real father was stolen. You journey into the nearby mine to seek vengeance only to discover that you were supposed to have died as well!
When my parents visited someone's house with me in tow, I remember seeing this game being played by their son. Although I recognized immediately that the game was hugely media challenged (the SNES was already out), I was still intrigued by the fantasy theme and fact that the game was released for Windows 3, a platform with few games. Years later, I remember seeing icons from the game in a free icon collection. I don't know if it was this or online searching that caused me to remember the game, but I found a shareware copy online. I only played a little bit before dying early in the game, and, not being impressed enough to put any more effort into it, gave up on it. When I began working on reviews for this Web site, I decided to give the game another try and played it with more dedication. Both episodes have since been released as freeware, so I downloaded it, and played it all the way through, finishing it on 2019-03-03.
The game has been released as freeware. I have beaten both episodes on easy difficulty.
Best Version: Windows 3
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The game is well-scripted; it uses complex and poetic language apropos for the fantasy theme.
- The wide variety of monsters, items, traps, spells, minibosses, etc. keeps the game fresh for quite awhile.
- The icon-based drag-and-drop UI, no doubt borrowed from earlier Mac titles, is quite nice.
- It's minor, but I like that the game lets you play as a female character.
- It's kind of cool that the game lets you rename all of your items.
- The difficulty setting adds a little replay value for those who want to punish themselves.
- Most of the annoying aspects of the game (unidentified and cursed items, stat-draining undead, traps, etc.) can be bypassed through save scumming. Although, this does slow down the game a lot.
- Having to use the keypad for movement is uncomfortable, and using diagonal movement on a square grid is always problematic. The designer should have either switched to hex or eliminated diagonal movement.
- The stores rarely stock items worth buying. You usually find your best gear in the dungeon, leaving you with nothing to spend your growing wealth on. By the end of the first episode, I had enough money to buy out every shop in the game, but none of them had a single item better than my existing gear. At the end of the second episode, I had over 1,000,000 copper with nothing to buy. Also, stores continue to sell very low-end equipment even near the end of the game. I'm not going to buy a normal club to replace my enchanted bastard sword, so why show it to me?
- The unidentified and possibly cursed items was a neat idea in the early 1980s, but by the time this game came out, it's really just pointless busy work. No player is going to risk equipping or using an unidentified item, so it just adds a couple extra steps to each item you pick up.
- The experience needed to increase to the next level doubles each time, so, when you reach level 12, it begins to take a really long time to raise levels. The designer should have used a linear or gradual curve system instead. As it is, your only realistic option for leveling later in the game it through potions.
- You have to repeatedly consult the help file to see which weapons or armor are superior, which is a bit annoying considering it could have been displayed in the menus. Also, it's impossible to know how much any listed enchantment actually boosts an item.
- Most of the armor slots have only a few upgrades, most of which you get fairly early in the first episode (cape, bracers, gauntlets, boots). You may find one or possibly two other updates in the span of the entire game, but, otherwise, these equipment slots never upgrade. More items should have been made so you'd see more frequent upgrades.
- The map generator very frequently places doors next to open entrances, secret doors right next to regular doors, or similar unrealistic architecture.
- Undead enemies cause semi-permanent stat loss, which requires you to buy it back from a temple or from potions. Again, this isn't fun, it's pointless busy work.
- Because levels are generated randomly, the location you'll show up when you take a stair case is entirely random on the lower level, which is a bit silly.
- The way to end the first episode is not made clear, and requires a bit of experimentation. I had to consult a guide.
- A lot of the potions have such specific effects that they're not worth keeping on hand (like resist cold). It would be better if there were potions like "resist all," or "recover all stats."
- I found the second episode to be less enjoyable than the first. The first had a bigger overworld, multiple dungeons, and scripted events, but the second episode, which you were expected to pay for, had a only single town and dungeon with nothing interesting on the overworld.
- The graphics are terrible. I understand that Windows 3 had a limited color palette, and the game only uses 32x32 icons for everything, but a skilled artist would have made the game much more interesting to look at. Animation is limited to spells, and it isn't that great either.
- The game completely lacks sound and music which just wasn't acceptable in 1993. One of the benefits of Windows was the compatibility of audio devices, which should have lead to more music and sound, and sound cards had been out for years at this time.
- Most of the game is busy work. While playing, I never felt like I was adventuring or even on a quest, but rather doing statistics homework.
The game was originally published by Epic Megagames without a box, but, when it was re-released a couple years later by Monkey Business, boxes were made for the two episodes, both were terrible looking.
This download includes the shareware versions 1.0, 1.0a, and 1.1, and the registered version 1.1a. The full version of the game was released as freeware by the developer in 1998.
|Designer, Programmer, Writer||Rick Saada|
|Additional Designers||Paul Canniff, Ben Goetter, Don Hacherl, Jeff McBride|
|Additional Help and Story Text||Ben Goetter|