Review/Comparison of Sword of Fargoal (C64/iOS)

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 It has been a LONG TIME COMING, but now is the time for me to show some SERIOUS love to a game that has sculpted my very psyche and piqued my interest since the day it first graced a CRT monitor….SWORD OF FARGOAL!  When I was just a kid, my stepmother was the proud owner of a COMMODORE 64, of which she had a pretty impressive collection of games!  One of which I saw her play constantly was SWORD OF FARGOAL, and it absolutely SCARED THE PISS OUT OF ME!

How can a C64 game POSSIBLY be SCARY?!
The point of the game is to plunge your character, the blind knight Gedwyn, deep into the dungeon’s depths to find the Sword of Fargoal, which is purported to be somewhere between the 15th and 20th floors of the dungeon in order to fight the devilish Ulma.  The game was written by Jeff McCord and released in 1983 for the Commodore 64.
What makes the game suspenseful are certain facts that make it unique: 1) it is a rogue-like dungeon crawler where the floors are randomly generated and never the same twice, 2) the level your character enters is completely cloaked in fog and is only visible after walking into the fog, 3) enemies roam around on each level and get progressively stronger the deeper into the dungeon you go, and 4) the lack of music and use of pointed sound effects to simulate battle and item use keep the player on their toes.
Interested yet?
There are certain items that help you along the way that can be found either lying on the ground or in treasure chests, represented by white boxes on the screen.  The possible contents of a chest include:
1) Healing Potions: Replace lost hitpoints.
2) Magic Sack: Allow Gedwyn to carry more gold
3) Maps: Reveal the layout of the dungeon without fog
4) Teleports: Moves Gedwyn to a random point on the floor and may lose map progress.
5) Enchanted Weapon: Increases weapon power
6) Trap Floor: Gedwyn falls through the floor and is damaged.
7) Explosion: Gedwyn receives damage
8) Ceiling Trap: Rocks fall on Gedwyn and he receives damage.
9) Healing Charm: Rare item that acts as a permanent Regeneration Spell
10) Light Charm: Rare item that acts as a permanent Light Spell
Spells can also be found in chests and include:
1) Shield: Press “S” and Gedwyn receives no damage in the next fight.
2) Regeneration: Press “R” and Gedwyn’s hitpoints regenerate faster.
3) Teleport: Press “T” to teleport Gedwyn to a random place in the dungeon.
4) Invisibility: Press “I” and monsters cannot see Gedwyn to attack him.
5) Light: Press “L” to increase Gedwyn’s distance of sight. Can be turned off with “O”.
6) Drift: Press “D” to keep Gedwyn from falling into a Trap Floor.
In the event that Gedwyn begins losing too many hitpoints, he can escape battle and his health will regenerate slowly, but not so for the enemy.  This allows Gedwyn to return to battle to slay the weakened creature and comes in VERY HANDY later in the game.  Once the Sword is retrieved, Gedwyn has about 30 MINUTES to escape the dungeon before it collapses around him!  Even worse, if the SWORD IS STOLEN at any point during the ascent, Gedwyn has to return to the floor where he retrieved it WHILE THE TIMER TICKS ON!
-There is a cheat however that has been documented (but not tested by me, personally) that states that if the Sword is stolen, the game’s command prompt can be brought up and the command “SF=1:CONT:” can be entered, which places the Sword back in Gedwyn’s inventory.  I don’t know how to do this anymore, as I no longer have a C64, much less the OG Sword of Fargoal to test it out on!  Even endless web searches have turned up NOTHING, so I encourage you to try this out on your own!
 The game has garnered a cult following and also enjoyed resurgence when it was released with a few other memorable C64 games on the Plug-and-Play C64DTV, some of which included PARADROID and CYBERNOID.  But it wasn’t until 2009, when Jeff McCord teamed up with Paul Pridham, that Sword of Fargoal saw a VAST UPDATE, both in graphics and gameplay!  Gone were the slow movements of Gedwyn and he traversed the dungeon and replaced with walk and run options that are manipulated either with an iOS touchscreen, mouse or trackpad.
It also became possible to ZOOM in on the action.  Another new addition to the game is wall holes that would take the player to a different part of the same level of the dungeon, VASTLY increasing the size of each level.  Players are encouraged to explore EACH and EVERY cavern before descending, lest they GET HOPELESSLY LOST on the way back up!  Further, new items and enemies are added that further enhance the experience.
I was so loyal to the game’s original layout that I was admittedly hesitant about purchasing it, but believe me, IT WAS WORTH IT!  Paul Pridham hit it dead-on when it came to recreating the spirit of the first game and is currently at work on Sword of Fargoal 2 for iOS!  It is currently available for iPhone and iPod as well as an HD version for iPad and Macs!

In conclusion, there haven’t been many other early games that were as successful as Sword of Fargoal in creating an engaging environment where you do not know what is ahead of you while encouraging the player to explore further and press on.  Some may have mixed feelings about rogue-like dungeon crawlers, but I say that any game that can give you a fresh experience every time you turn it on is a WIN TO ME!  Thanks for reading!  Lumpz the Clown OUT!