I began my search for the next item with a major victory. I found the last key! It happened in the most surreal way too, and given how much luck was involved, I can’t really call it a “eureka” moment. I was in the banquet hall, staring at the third door, wondering where the last key could possibly be. I’d previously noticed an oddity in the carpet texture, but examining it hadn’t given me anything, so I just assumed in was a glitch in the graphics. I suddenly realised that despite burning everything I could in the early parts of the game, I’d inhibited my pyromaniac tendencies for a long while since. I operated a torch on the carpet and it disintegrated, revealing that the oddity in the carpet texture hadn’t been a graphical glitch at all. The key for the third door was literally under the carpet about two metres away from it! This is actually a pretty clever puzzle, and I’ll admit that the game made burning rugs the norm early on, so it’s not totally out of the blue. The issue in the DOS version of the game is that the hint (being a bump in the carpet) is pretty much imperceptible due to the low quality CGA graphics.
See that little blue anomaly below the cursor? That's a key under the carpet.
So the third door was finally open and I felt like I was on the home stretch to victory. Through the door was a passageway with two exits. The left one leads to a balcony with an empty flagpole socket. I couldn’t find any item that would fit in the socket (I even went back and got the fire poker but that didn’t work either). Down the steps was a lookout with a bag of coins and a massive pot of gold! I added the coins to my inventory, but trying to pick up the pot of gold resulted in one of the more humorous and mocking deaths in the game (see below). Deciding to ignore the flagpole socket for now, I went through the second exit and found myself in a throne room with a seated skeletal king the centrepiece. To his right is the symbol of a sword and to his left is a panel that can be opened. Opening the panel reveals a slot, obviously requiring an item of some sort. I knew there was some mention of this in the parchments and when I checked it out I found “The seed of the dream, ‘fore the evil is free, where the sword is hung, he must place the key”. I tried using all the items I had, but nothing fit in the slot. Operating the king’s sceptre on the skeleton did work however, but apart from it appearing in his left hand, nothing happened.
I knew before I picked up the pot of gold that it wasn't going to end well. All the more reason to do it!
I spent the next hour wandering around Castle Shadowgate looking for an item that I’d missed previously that might go in that slot. I came up empty handed. I hadn’t yet found a use for the goblet, the sword, the flute, or any of the various potions I’d come across, but I found no obvious place to use any of these. So…this is where I turned to the hints left by readers, hoping that one of them would give me the push I needed. The first hint was from Bobbyloathesyou, but Zenic had warned me that it was not correct for the version of the game I’m playing, so I moved on to Zenic’s first hint: “A rickety bridge collapses under your weight. There’s very little you’ll need to progress.” After reading this, my thoughts were filled with numerous obscenities so I won’t repeat any of that here. There’s a way to cross the bridge right back at the beginning of the game without falling to your death?!?! I’d considered the idea previously but that part of the game was left behind long ago. I’d assumed once I got past the fire drake and bridge troll, that I wouldn’t need to go back through there, but obviously there was something across that bridge that I was going to need. Maybe it was the “key” I needed for the throne room!
There's a skeleton king on the throne too, but that's probably not worth mentioning.
I quickly went back to the bridge room and read Zenic’s hint again. “A rickety bridge collapsed under your weight.” I removed every item from my inventory and placed them on the ground in front of the bridge, and walked across successfully. How the f#$% was I supposed to know to do that?! I’ve seen no hint in the game, not even when I died trying to cross the bridge originally, that would lead me to think that it was even possible to cross the bridge, let alone to give me an idea of how to do it. If it had been the only bridge leading out of the room then I might have made more attempts to cross, but the game has a habit of throwing unpassable booby traps at you (such as the pot of gold), so I figured this was an example of that. Rant aside, crossing the bridge took me to a cave with a serpent in it. OK, so this was obviously another guardian that I needed to defeat to get another item needed to finish the game. The problem was that I had nothing in my inventory apart from a torch! I tried using the torch on the serpent, but no luck. Hmmm….I crossed back over the bridge and looked at all of my items, trying to figure out which one might defeat the serpent. The short answer is none of them!
This is all I was carrying the first time I crossed the bridge early in the game. The torches weighed me down!
I have to admit I was getting a bit frustrated with the game at this point. I’d scoured every room over and over yet still I kept finding myself in a position where I was missing something. I decided that another hour spent looking at every room in detail would probably be futile, so I went back to Zenic’s hints. His second hint was “an item you need lies behind the stars”. Behind the stars? I’d seen plenty of stars through various windows, but surely that had nothing to do with it. The observatory!!! I went straight back to the observatory to see if there was anywhere an item might be hidden. The star galaxy map would make sense, but then I’d already taken the shooting star from it. I tried operating the galaxy map and it moved away, revealing a metal rod! I couldn’t imagine how the rod would help me defeat the serpent, but I could think of another place where it might be useful. The flagpole socket! Sticking the metal rod in the flagpole socket resulted in a hand extending from the ground offering me a wand. More importantly, the wand had an image of a serpent on it, making its use extremely obvious. It was exactly what I needed! I rushed back to the bridge room, dropped everything except a couple of torches and the wand, crossed over and defeated the serpent. My reward? The Staff of Ages!
By the power of Castle Shadowgate...I have the power!!!!!!!!!!!
So…I had four of the five items I needed, but unfortunately, I still didn’t have the “key” for the throne room and had absolutely no leads whatsoever. It was time to get yet another hint! By now I was starting to feel a bit down about not being able to complete Shadowgate without assistance, but I also knew deep down that I probably would never have figured out the solutions that I’d got hints for so far. Bobbyloathesyou’s next hint was “the goblin room is completely superfluous”. That didn’t help with my predicament, but it was certainly good to know that I hadn’t just failed to figure out what to do there. I can’t believe how much time I wasted trying things with the goblins, so I’m likely to be critical of that when rating the game. The majority of the other hints I received described things I’d already achieved, until I got to one of Zenic’s. “The flute speaks to trees”! I’d operated the flute about a hundred times since I picked it up, but it never seemed to do anything. I’d eventually just stopped trying and instead waited for a scenario to arise where it made sense to play it. That never came! Reading Zenic’s hint, there was only one place in the game that I could remember having trees, and that’s the garden where I found the flute!
Believe me, the sound of the flute is NOT "very pretty".
I went back to the garden and operated the flute. A cavity opened up in one of the trees, revealing a ring in the exact same shape as the hole on the panel in the throne room. Once again I have to ask…how the f$%^ was I supposed to know to do that?! When I picked up the flute, I saw no reason to play it right then and there, and on revisiting the garden I can see no hint that would ever lead me to do so. This puzzle relies on either trial and error (play the flute on every screen until something happens) or sheer luck (you just happened to try using the flute as soon as you picked it up). Regardless, I had what I needed, and I quickly moved back to the throne room and placed the ring into the panel. The throne lifted up revealing a passageway beneath. On entering it, I was confronted by two stone gargoyles guarding a doorway and another exit off to the right. I’ll come back to the doorway later as that leads to the finale. Taking the right pathway, I entered a cavern with a large statue surrounded by bubbling lava. A bridge extends to the statue in the centre but no further, yet I could see an inaccessible doorway on the other side. This reminded me of the prophecy I read in the library. “A bridge to form amidst burning death, a demon to guard, ‘Motari Riseth’. Speaking the words aloud didn’t do anything, so I went back to the library, picked up the book and brought it back to the bridge. Operating it on the statue caused the missing part of the bridge to rise so I could get to the doorway.
Motari Sinketh more like it
Through the doorway was yet another cave, but this one contained a large hole in the ground, a metallic cylinder hanging on a chain, and three levers. It was clearly apparent that I needed to pull the levers to make something happen with the cylinder, but doing so in the incorrect order caused a griffon to come out of the hole and attack me, killing me instantly. I had no idea what the correct order might be and couldn’t see any hints in any of the parchments. I set about writing down all the possible combinations (123, 132, 213, 231 etc.), but things turned nasty when I got through all possible combinations that involved pulling any particular lever only once. That meant that the solution would involve pulling at least one of the levers twice and at least one of the levers no times at all. Thankfully I hit upon the correct combination fairly quickly, and the cylinder opened to reveal the fifth and final item, an orb. I now know that one of Zenic’s hints was to make sure I read the writing in the Sphynx’s chamber. Looking at it now, I can see the lever order is drawn on the steps, but I sure as hell had never noticed it. It looks more like a bad attempt to produce a shadow effect, and no doubt is more obvious in non-CGA versions of the game.
Honestly...would you have noticed the markings on the steps if you had no reference?
I knew from many of the parchments that three of the items need to be combined, so using trial and error, I eventually operated the spike and the orb on the staff to make one super powered Staff of Ages. Ready to take on the Warlock Lord, I travelled back to the door guarded by gargoyles. Trying to pass the gargoyles seemed to anger them and they killed me, so I cast the “instantum illuminaris” spell to blind them before going through (the first time I cast the “ulterior humana” spell which made me go invisible to pass the gargoyles, but I needed that spell later to pass the troll on the bridge a second time after going back to the rickety bridge…cheeky bastards!). Past the gargoyles is a well room, which is surprisingly easy to get past. Pull the lever to open the well and then throw one of the coins collected on the lookout in (the one with a well printed on it). A wind starts blowing up through the well, allowing you to hop in and float down. There’s no coming back once you’re down there though, so you need to have everything you need before hopping in. The first couple of times I went down there, I didn’t have the completed staff, but the last time I was prepared.
The door on the left is a total red herring, but a reasonable one
Exiting the bottom of the well brought me to a river, with a large gong. I hit the gong with the accompanying mallet and a ghostly ferryman appeared, demanding a fare. The remaining coins I had from the bag on the lookout all had skulls on them, so I gave him one of those. He accepted it, and took me across the river to a vault on the other side. This is where things get a bit weird. There is a large door which acts as the mouth for a skull decoration, and three holes on the wall. Each of the holes have a symbol above them, with the first being a sword, the second a crown, and the third a gem. My immediate thought was that I needed to find items to represent each of the symbols, and put them in the appropriate holes, but a quick look at my inventory showed me that I had no such things available. I couldn’t possibly have missed three more items, so I instead went to the parchments for clues. “Five to find, three are one.” That would be the three items I used to make the Staff of Ages. “One gives access, the bladed sun.” Well, that must surely be the talisman, but what has that got to do with a sword, a crown, or a gem? I saved my game and placed the talisman in the first hole. It fit, but nothing seemed to happen. I continued reading the parchment: “The silver orb, to banish the below. The staff of ages, to vanquish the foe. Joining two, the golden thorn.” That must be the orb, the staff and the spike, all of which I combined into one item. “The last to invoke, the platinum horn.” So the horn invokes something…but what? With nothing else to try, I “operated” the horn. The skull door opened!
There's nothing more embarrassing than putting things in the wrong hole
Did I miss something? I have no idea why there are three holes if you only need the talisman, and I have no idea what the symbols represent. I also have no idea what blowing the horn invoked and how that caused the door to open. This can all probably be explained by one of the parchments, but I feel like I was just fortunate enough to try the right things. Entering the door took me into a cavern where I witnessed the Warlock Lord summoning the dreaded behemoth. Operating the staff of ages on the behemoth destroyed it, but not before it took the Warlock Lord out and the game was won! I then found myself in front of King Otto, receiving his rewards of title, vast riches, and the hand of his daughter. Wasn’t I the last in a line of kings already? Oh well, what do I care?! I have my High Lord of Westland certificate to go with my Ace Harding Private Investigator and Master of the House of Abraxas certificates! I may not have got through any of those games without some sort of help (I can’t actually remember whether I needed any hints for Déjà Vu), but I can be happy with the fact I gave them my all. The ridiculous thing is that now that I know how to finish Shadowgate, I could do it in about 15 minutes!
The ending is actually pretty cinematic. Just as well after such a long journey to get there.
Session Time: 4 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 30 minutes