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Video Game / Castle of the Winds

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Part one: A Question of Vengeance
Part two: Lifthransir's Bane

Castle of the Winds (CotW) is a tile-based roguelike game for Windows 3.x., published in 1989. It was released in two parts: A Question of Vengeance (Released as shareware) and Lifthransir's Bane. The game was later released as freeware, and while the original download was lost due to a server crash, there are many other abandonware sites and online emulators one can play the game on.

The game begins in a small hamlet. The player's parents were murdered, their farm burnt down, and an amulet they were holding for the player's coming of age were stolen by monsters infesting a mine to the north. The player dives down into the mine, only to learn that some random Big Bad ordered your village destroyed while you were away, in attempt to kill you (because you are the Chosen One!). Cue the quest for vengeance.

Does not work on 64-bit versions of Windows, as it is a 16-bit application. However, using DOSBox or Windows XP Mode, you can still enjoy this classic on modern PCs. It can be played online here.

This game provides examples of:

  • Bandit Mook: The Smirking Sneak Thief can steal your money or whatever's on your belt, then randomly teleport to anywhere else in the level (including hidden rooms). Very agile and requires three fireballs' worth of damage to kill. You can get your stuff back if you can find and kill it.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The player is allowed to keep casting spells after running out of mana by drawing on their own constitution, (rapidly) lowering their max HP (and turning their mana level negative) until the player suddenly dies. This can be exploited in a Good Bad Bug, though.
  • Character Customization: You can customize your stats at the beginning of the game, but since EVERY sprite in the game is saved as a ".ico" file, any Windows-3.x-era icon editor could be used to alter or replace your sprite, allowing you to add armor, change skin color, or play as a naked person, or anything else you could possibly draw.
  • Chosen One: Your character turns out to be the true heir of the Castle of the Winds, your father being the last survivor of the massacre and depositing you with your amulet in your small village as he lay dying, the amulet being the key both to your identity and entrance to said castle.
  • Covers Always Lie: The box art for the first game inexplicably features copper pterodactyls. Neither game has them.
  • Critical Existence Failure: You can keep fighting with a single hit point, but take another point of damage and it's game over.
  • Cursed Item: Cursed items are faulty versions of proper equipment. They also reduce the sale value of the item to only 25 coppers.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: At the start of Part 2, you find out the attack on your hometown was orchestrated by Surtur, the lord of Muspelheim. In addition to this, said being is also being supercharged by the Helm of Storms, a weather manipulation artifact stolen from Thor. You eventually make your way to the bottom of the Castle and beat the being that will literally kickstart the end of the world to the verge of death and banish him back to Muspelheim.
  • Doomed Hometown: Triggered by either deliberately reading or leaving the beginning mines with the parchment found at the bottom, which when read is discovered to be the Big Bad's orders. This also provides a jarring Gameplay and Story Segregation moment. If you drop the parchment just before the exit of the dungeon, you can exit and visit the still intact town as normal. As soon as you return to the dungeon and either read the parchment or exit with it (which triggers the autoread) the town is instantly destroyed, even if you immediately turn around and come back.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world is loosely based on Norse Mythology, but also contains demons, vampires and generic fantasy monsters.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: The main attack spells are Fire Bolt/Fire Ball, Cold Bolt/Cold Ball and Lightning Bolt/Ball Lightning.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: The final boss of the second game teleports away from you when near death, as do several tough enemies (the Wizard, the Necromancer, and the Smirking Sneak Thief).
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: The game uses these, along with platinum, in 10-piece steps, as the currency.
  • Hot Bar: You get 10 buttons at the top of the window to set commonly used spells to. Unfortunately, 12 of them are frequently useful. Have fun! (Of course, you can always access any spell through the spell book, but that takes longer)
  • Human Sacrifice: There is a prisoner for the player to rescue from this fate. Once you first hear his screams, you have a limited amount of time to clear out all of the enemies in the sacrifice room and untie him. Don't try and untie him if there are still monsters in the room, however!
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The game keeps track of time for you. Unfortunately, the only things it's used for in the final version is for when stores restock their inventory, and there's a small number of magic items that have a spell they can cast once per day.
  • Mirror Match: Shadows and Shades appear as transparent versions of the default male player character. However, it's only the monster's appearance, as it uses the default AI. And, the effect is lost if playing as female (or, with a custom icon).
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: The Big Bad killed your parents in an attempt to kill you, The Chosen One. Your parents knew it was coming, however, and left little baby Player in the hands of a elderly farmer couple in the Doomed Hometown.
  • Old Save Bonus: Activating the pendant found at the end of the shareware game for the second time allows you to create a save that can be loaded in the second part, allowing your character to continue exactly as you left it. Not so much a bonus, though, as a necessity, as the game is designed with a high-leveled character in mind. The second part does spot you some levels and equipment if you start from scratch, but such a character is still at a significant disadvantage.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: An amulet belonging to the protagonist's biological father. Recovering it is the goal of the first game.
  • Our Demons Are Different: A couple varieties summoned from the depths of Muspelheim by the Big Bad.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Four elements of dragons (fire, lightning, ice, and poison). Older dragons are stronger, with "Ancient" dragons being the most powerful.
  • Palette Swap: Many enemies share graphics. Sometimes they're recoloured, sometimes not. Related species tend to have similar graphics, though.
  • Power Glows: Enchanted items are generally depicted as having a blue aura. On the other hand, cursed items have a red aura...
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: The only effect of the gender is which icon you have. And, if you use a custom icon, it's totally irrelevant.
  • Procedural Generation: The dungeon levels are generated in such a way that it is always possible to reach the other rooms in it, should you be patient enough to Search for hidden doors (or willing to spend magic on Phase Door, Teleport, or Clairvoyance).
  • Rare Candy: Draughts of Increase Strength and so forth for each stat and whole level, as well as cursed counterparts that permanently do the opposite!
  • Regenerating Health: Hit points regenerate over time, but not instantly.
  • Save Scumming: Combine with the Detect Objects spell and reload after first entering a new dungeon level until you get a favorable selection of items, like Books of Spells. You can also use this to feed shops unidentified cursed items, but it's not really worth the trouble. Also useful for identifying uncursed items for sale and use at the beginning of the game, before the Identify spell is acquired.
    • You CAN sell unidentified cursed items at the shop, but only so many times. Do it too much and the shop will refuse to buy it, telling you "You've sold us too much worthless junk already. Get it identified first!"
  • Scripted Event: Although most of the dungeon floors are randomly generated, certain rooms are guaranteed to show up in certain places, and certain enemies are guaranteed to drop plot-relevant items.
  • Shareware: The first game was shareware, while the second one was commercial. Eventually, the creator released both versions as free ware.
  • Shop Fodder: Virtually every type of equipment has a broken or otherwise useless form — from broken daggers and ripped cloaks to rings of adornment and dead wands. You don't need to carry around flasks of water because there's no thirst meter to watch, and you can't write anything onto blank scrolls.
  • Shout-Out: When you die in the game, you get this message: "Another one bites the dust..."
  • Stronger with Age: Dragons come in a variety of ages, the strongest being the Ancient ones.
  • To the Pain / Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Once you start to acquire magical weapons, the descriptions of what you do to your enemies when you hit them get rather... colorful.
  • The Undead: Zombies, Skeletons, Wraiths, Ghosts, Shades, Vampires; you name it, it's got it.
  • Unidentified Items: The game has the Identify spell as a single-use scroll, multiple-use staff, or (permanent) spellbook. Each town also has a sage that can identify items for a fee. Equipment may be enchanted or cursed, and magic items like potions, scrolls, and wands are completely unknown until you dare to use them or use one of the identification methods.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Can sometimes appear to be the case: since the dungeon levels are randomly generated, it's possible to come upon levels where there is solid rock between you and the stairs down. Whenever this happens, there will always be a hidden door leading to the area with the stairs - you just have to find it. (The Clairvoyance spell is handy for this.) Alternatively, you can avoid having to search by using the Phase Door spell, provided you have it.
  • We Buy Anything: Averted. Shopkeepers will generally only buy items that they can sell (and promptly puts them up for sale). The Junk Shop will buy anything (and is the only one to accept cursed and broken items)... but only for a paltry 25 copper pieces or less; sold items disappear for good. However, other shops will still accept unidentified items that the player (through Save Scumming) might know are actually cursed... up to a point. Sell a shopkeeper enough actually-cursed items and they will refuse to accept unidentified items anymore.
  • With This Herring: Somewhat averted. The local ruler in the final town won't believe you're The Chosen One or give you the time of day until you've proven your worth in the dungeon. At certain levels of progress, though, he gives you an item or some cash, but what items he does give you aren't all that impressive. Regardless, the shops are more than willing to charge full price for all your needs.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: But only in the story-relevant texts you pick up, mostly in the form of substituting "f" for "s"...