This game both starts and ends an era for Infocom. This is the final game jointly designed by the team of Marc Blank and Dave Lebling. Marc remained at Infocom until 1986 but did not have time to develop any other games; he would return to produce Battlefield and Journey in 1988 and 1989. Dave will write four more games but we aren’t quite done with him yet. We will be looking at his Spellbreaker, the third game in this trilogy, in a few months. (Steve Meretzky of Planetfall-fame will be given the helm of the second game, Sorcerer.) Enough introduction, let’s play!
|Beautiful but tremendously difficult to read.|
I know that I have frustrated some of you with my draconian approach to Zork manuals, refusing to read them if they weren’t shipped with the original game. Many of you fell in love with those manuals when you played Zork for the first time so it is entirely understandable. I had said on a post or comment earlier that Enchanter was the game that broke this streak, but this was entirely wrong. Other games at this point in our story (Suspended and Planetfall) had their final documentation at launch, but it really won’t be until after Sorcerer that we reach the end of this strangeness. This time I feel reasonably confident thanks to my discovery of Paul David Doherty’s “Infocom Fact Sheet” which gives the skinny on what documents went with which version of the game. I will hold off discussing all of the manual additions until after Sorcerer; I am trying to track down when the “grey box” releases of Zork came out so I can take about the additions in the right place in the timeline.
Enchanter is perhaps the strangest case of revised documentation because this “folio edition” came with some amazing documentation in the so-called “Guild Directory”. It not only features some fantastic textual layouts and art, it also provides in-universe explanations for the various commands you need to run while text-adventuring. There a sheet on the “Thaumaturgic Guild” which explains how spell-casting works while the “Guild of Cartographers” describes how to move around. The “Orator’s Guild” explains the Infocom parser and there are several others including the Scriveners, Physicians, and Fletchers, all with fun ways to describe playing the game. It’s so charming! If you haven’t seen this original documentation, you can check it out on the Zork Library site.
|This may be my favorite manual of all I have reviewed|
Like too many Infocom games to date, you cannot successfully play without a thorough reading of the manual. In this case, we have to learn first about the universe’s magic system, a near-direct copy of the system from Dungeons & Dragons: you, a magic user, carry around a spellbook that contains all the spells that you know. But you cannot read spells out of the book. No! You have to memorize the spells first to cast them later. This means juggling a limited number of spell slots and having to deal with things like re-learning spells in the morning. We can also find scrolls which we can be used to cast a spell once or we can copy them into our book. (We’re also told that some spells are too complex to be copied.) This is all very different from the wand-based magic of Zork II, but it seems easy enough to understand.
The plot seems simple enough: a long time ago, there was a prophecy that a Warlock would come and try to take over the world. He would be defeated by an enchanter “promising in magic” but without a full set of skills. The young spellcaster would be beneath the Warlock’s notice; only when he or she gets within striking distance will the Warlock realize the danger he is in. The introduction text when you start the game reveals that the Warlock’s name is Krill. Scrappy novices always manage to win in those sorts of stories and I am looking forward to it!
|A point of decision: Zork or not?|
I explore further to find a long circular track around the mountain to the east. I take it clockwise and discover a small shack containing essential adventuring equipment: a brass lantern, a jug, and a loaf of bread. While the lantern looks typically Zorkish, it’s broken and doesn’t turn on. Is it a gag item? Or will I find a way to repair it later? The elvish sword is missing but since I am a spellcaster instead of a fighter, that makes some sense. While exploring, I get a message that the sun is starting to rise. Just like Planetfall, this game seems to have an internal clock. The bread and jug are portentous-- will I need to eat and drink as well? Further around the mountain I find a stream where I can fill the jug followed by a chained and locked gate leading to the castle. I make a note of it and will come back in a bit.
|A lonely mountain, but not THE lonely mountain.|
With the whole mountain explored, it’s time to head to the locked castle gate. It’s pretty clear that I have to use the “rezrov” spell that the crone gave me, but I take stock anyway to see if any of the others might be of use:
- “Blorb” - To protect an object as if in a strong box
- “Nitfol” - To talk to animals in their own language
- “Frotz” - To cause something to give off light
- “Gnusto” - To copy a spell to your spellbook
I did not see any animals that I could talk to in my explorations so far but “frotz” might be useful until I get the lantern fixed. I cast “rezrov” on the door and the chains open. Time to explore the castle.
|No key? No problem!|
- There’s a tower in the northwest corner but I just passed it without exploring what was up there.
- The north end of the castle is a long hall of mirrors that reflect on “another world”. Sometimes, we can see an adventurer carrying an elvish sword and lantern on the other side of the glass. It’s a view to Zork! I vaguely remember this puzzle from when I played as a kid and I think there is some way to bring the adventurer to your side of the mirror but I don’t have any spell to do it quite yet or any idea why I would want to do it.
- The castle’s north gate is just beyond that. It’s rusted shut but “rezrov” works on it to get outside. I find a “krebf” spell (repair willful damage) in the wilderness as well as a swamp filled with frogs. My attempts to talk to the frogs fail because I am too tired to memorize any new spells.
- East of that is a massive and excessively guarded door to another tower, perhaps where the Warlock resides? It’s defenses have defenses so I’ll just skip that for now.
- South of there is a library where a book burning recently took place. Why would the Warlock burn his own books? There are rat footprints leading to a hole in the wall but I can’t quite seem to find the right words to look in the hole since it’s too dark.
Just south of there, I meet my doom: some strange cultists capture me and send me to a prison cell. I try to escape, but a few turns later they escort me to a sacrificial altar where I get to re-enact my grisly death from Zork III. I’m dead and I think that’s enough for one week.
|The start of my map!|
Inventory: Spellbook, brass lantern (glowing), bread, jug of water
Spells: blorb, nitfol, frotz, gnusto, rezrov, krebf
Time played: 1 hr 00 min