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Video Game / The Immortal (1990)
aka: The Immortal

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And no, that's not Gandalf.

"An image of the old wizard Mordamir leaps from the candle and begins to speak:
'Dunric, you have come to save me. I am in the dungeons far below. I know I can count on you.'
This explains your old teacher's mysterious disappearance, but there is one thing strange about the message...
Your name is not Dunric."
The introduction

The Immortal is an isometric-perspective adventure game created by Will Harvey, originally released in 1990 for the Apple IIGS and ported to the Amiga, Atari ST, Nintendo Entertainment System, IBM Personal Computer and Sega Genesis; the NES port was rereleased on the Nintendo Switch Online Service in July 2020. Your character is a wizard searching the deadly ruins of Erinoch for his lost master Mordamir, who appeared to you in a dream and prompted your quest. The story is told largely through character interactions and your own inferences based upon clues you collect; however, you will spend most of the game dying horribly. For instance, one of the very first things that can happen in the game is that you are given a warning to move quickly. It's more or less the only free warning you will get, and if you choose not to heed it, you are eaten by a worm and instantly killed.

Instant deaths are something that you will become very familiar with over the course of the game. Walked over the wrong square on the map? Worms break through the floor and instantly kill you. Touched that slime? It's viciously acidic and your flesh gets melted. Searched a body too many times? Oh, look, he was killed by that slime hiding in his bones, and since you just touched it you join him. Beyond this, the game also includes hand-to-hand combat sequences with trolls and goblins and other creatures, puzzle-solving, and lots and lots of reloading. Spellcasting is somewhat less prominent than might be expected. Your spells are very situational: it's almost too convenient that a "spell to charm Will-O'-the-Wisps" happens to be found near some Will-o'-the-Wisps. Other spells are mostly tools, rather than a bunch of flashy attacks: you can turn yourself to stone, blink momentarily out of existence, and magnetize your hands. Your spells are all limited-use, and you need every charge you're given.

If you get to the end, you're rewarded with a twist on what seemed a standard fantasy plot, as well as a punishingly tough puzzle for a final boss—and in a game as hard as The Immortal, that's saying something.

The Immortal provides examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted with the Goblins. You do face a number of them, but eventually you make something of a truce with them and gain their help if you aid them, especially against the Norlac. Played straight with the Trolls, who are at war with the Goblins and will attack you no matter what.
  • Batman Gambit: Mordamir didn't need rescuing at all. In fact, he assists your passage through the dungeon so as to kill a dragon for him, because if he did it himself he'd die in the process. His whole 'rescue me' act was purely to get you to kill yourself and take the dragon with you. At the end he dies, but you and the dragon live.
  • Blob Monster: The acidic slimes that roam around some parts of the dungeon will dissolve you on contact. Early on, you can acquire "slime oil" that repels them, but it lasts only for a short time, so you need to save it for when you cannot avoid walking through slime.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The amulet Mordamir created to kill the dragons kills its user, which is why he sent you to do it for him.
  • Charm Person: On one level you encounter a dwarf, who's carving a gem. He makes it clear that you need the gem, and he's not going to give it to you. The solution is to find and use "dust of complaisance", which makes the dwarf happy to give you the gem.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: While there's little in the way of checkpoints, you do have 3 lives to make it through a level. Dying sticks you in the room prior to where you died with your health maxed out. Unfortunately, the final level is pretty much nothing but the final confrontation, which is a very long puzzle sequence centered around picking the right spells for the right time and using them at the right time. During the confrontation, dying at any point is an immediate Game Over that forces you to start the final level from the beginning.
  • Damsel in Distress: Dunric's daughter Ana, whom you help out by returning her father's ring (it teleports her to safety). In the end, if you befriended her, she gets you out of the dungeon after Mordamir is reduced to ash, with the implication that the two of you end up together.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Put simply, "The Immortal" in the title ain't referring to you.
    • If you approach a hole with a ladder from the wrong side, rather than grabbing the ladder you will fall down the hole to your death.
    • Some games have inventory items that are deadly if you use them incorrectly... or at all. Usually, it's pretty obvious that you shouldn't play around with them. This game has at least three out of a dozen or so items that have this property, and you use all of them during the course of the game. Even your stuff hates you.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: One of the things the game was known for is how many gruesome ways you can die in. Even the NES version has some nasty (albeit not as bloody) deaths. Mercifully (or perhaps annoyingly, depending on your point of view), the NES version completely cuts out the stage with the most nightmarish death, where walking upon egg sacs causes you to promptly GET COVERED IN LIVE SPIDERS. The only thing making this fair? Mordamir himself gets one at the end - once you steal his amulet, the dragon turns and incinerates him before going back to sleep.
  • Finishing Move: There are various (and graphic) ways the wizard can finish off trolls and goblins. You can see the aftermath of whatever fate befell your victims once combat has finished.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Whenever you rest in the piles of hay, your character has various dreams that shed some light on the things going on in the dungeon, including the reveal of the dragon who escaped destruction, setting up the conflict between the dragon and Mordamir.
    • After giving the Goblin King water to cure his poison, you find him alive and healthy in the next floor. This is because the water comes from the dungeon's Fountain of Youth.
  • Fountain of Youth:
    • One of the features of the dungeon, as you come to hear about. It's also the reason why Mordamir wants the dragon dead: Mordamir's people wiped the dragons out to get at the Fountain and the associated immortality, but they missed one, which returned the favor on the conquerors but missed Mordamir.
    • The ending of the game implies the player has become affected by this, as the water used on Level 5 to halt the loss of HP after the shrinking potion wears off is noted to be bringing back the old man's youth in the ending.
  • Giant Spider: And her many, many baby spiders. You actually get to fight her in melee... unless you're playing in the NES version, where her level was Dummied Out.
  • Gorn: Heads exploding or being lopped off, your character being eaten alive and rather brutally at that, being turned into a pile of goo and bones by slime... it's not a pleasant game even if you don't die.
  • Guide Dang It!: Every item and spell has one and only one circumstance where it's used. If you try to use one in the wrong place, you'll either die or waste it and die at the point where you should have used it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mordamir, whose amulet protects him from the dragon he intends to use to kill you. Conveniently, you find a "Magnetic Hands" spell shortly before fighting him.
  • Hope Spot: You will fall into lots of pits, which is usually instant death. Sometimes you'll catch yourself with your long staff and have a chance to swing back up by hammering a button. Sometimes the staff breaks.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Justified - Mordamir wanted you to reach him, so he left useful equipment for you... even though he set it up to where you still need to use a little care to get most of it, just so it doesn't look TOO convenient.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: You actually set this up between a couple of trolls. One item you come across is a ceremonial dagger that trolls use to symbolize a challenge to a duel. Later on, you find a pair of trolls, toss the dagger, and watch as they perceive the challenge from each other and fight to the death. You only need deal with the leftovers.
  • Kill It with Fire: You got fireball spells, the dragon belches long plumes of flame at you, the dungeons have plenty of fire-based traps, and the amulet's runes are a massive fire spell which kills you and everything inside the dungeons. yeah.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are a variety of animations for your inevitable, repeated demises. Magazine ads for the game were basically nothing but a list of the various ways you could be killed. Kind of ironic for a game called "The Immortal"... or not, given that you are not the title character.
  • Nintendo Hard: Terrifyingly, the NES port may actually be easier than some of the others. It's missing the spider stage and a few of the puzzles.
  • No Name Given: The wizard. The introduction is based around Mordamir calling him by the wrong name, but you never get a correct answer.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: Wearing the Protean Ring changes your shape into that of a goblin, but the king figures you out as an imposter and promptly drops you down a hole. Not surprising given the nature of this game, but given there's little reason to show up before him with the ring on...
  • "Not So Different" Remark: At the end of the game, the wizard realizes that Mordamir and the dragon had a lot in common.
    As you travel, your thoughts return to Mordamir and the dragon. They were alike, in a way, each the only survivor of a civilization destroyed by the other more than a thousand years ago. They were an equal match also, and it seems strange that you would tilt the balance of a conflict forged so long ago...
  • Oh, Crap!: Mordamir as you gank the amulet from him in the final battle.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Partway through, you begin dreaming of a civilization of dragons, which were peaceful until an army of humans attacked and destroyed them. One survivor counterattacked, but there was one survivor from that group... The last living dragon is at the bottom of the dungeon, and you must survive its fire breath until it wears itself out, at which point Mordamir will arrive to begin the final puzzle.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They're at war with the trolls, and eventually offer to assist you if you'll get a monster out of their water supply.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: A rare inversion of this trope. If you act like a jerk by refusing to help anyone, such as giving the dying goblin king your bottle of water, you'll pay for it somehow. Said consequence will either leave you stuck or possibly dead.
  • Perilous Old Fool: The player is an old wizard, but one with no readily available spells, who enters this dungeon anyway and manages to survive all its perils and put to rest a feud that's been raging for centuries. Worthy of note is that despite being a wizard and clearly oldnote , he can go toe-to-toe in melee with his enemies (including Giant Spiders) and win. The ending implies you start regaining a bit of your youth after your adventures, but how much so isn't really stated.
  • Puzzle Boss: Every 'boss' character is fought using wits and spells, rather than the combat interface. Except the giant spider and Ullindor.
  • Recurring Traveler: The merchant, who has exactly what you need when you need it. Justified when Mordamir bitches at you near the end: "Look at me. Do I remind you of a merchant, perhaps?"
  • Schmuck Bait: "You see something green and squiggly dangling between the bones. Do you want to investigate further? Y/N". That pile of bones having some very good loot (an elven sword of quickness) doesn't really help.
    • Just TRY reading those runes on the amulet...see where that gets you...!
  • Spanner in the Works: What you eventually become to Mordamir. The game comments on how ironic it is that neither he nor the dragon could get rid of each other, and it was only by your intervention that their feud ended. Bonus points for the fact that you were meant to off the dragon, not Mordamir, who had been aiding you getting to the dragon in the first place.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted in that although you are an aging apprentice wizard, you are a reasonably competent swordfighter. Played straight in that, despite this (and your health bar), most traps kill you instantly, and most larger monsters (and swarms of smaller enemies) don't give you a chance to fight back, with similar results.
  • Suicide Mission: What Mordamir attempted to trick you into performing, hoping you would use the amulet to nuke yourself and the dragon in the dungeon's depths to complete his revenge for him without having to personally get his hands dirty. He even remarks that he has other students that can replace you when you refuse to cooperate.
  • Taken for Granite: You get a spell that lets you do this to yourself as a protective measure. You're a statue for the duration, frozen in your dodge pose and invulnerable until it wears off. Naturally, waste even a single spell charge, and you will regret it.
  • Temple of Doom: The setting. Flame traps under the floors. Flame traps in the walls. Arrow traps in the walls. Pits (plus invisible ones). Items you must consume to progress that are also lethally poisonous. Innocuous-looking items that literally kill you if you look at them wrong. Giant worms under the floors.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Mordamir. His disappearance is just a Batman Gambit to try and get you to destroy the final boss with one of those items that kills you if you look at it funny.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mordamir, who gloats after you run out of defensive spells that "as long as I have this amulet, the dragon won't attack me". In fairness, he had no reason to expect you to have one final spell, courtesy of Dunric: the Magnetic Hands.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: The game is made of this. Some of the puzzles are explained in-game, but the cryptic clues might not help you as much as you would like. Mostly, you just die until you luck into the solution.
  • Violation of Common Sense: How to defeat the Norlac. If you coax it into chasing after you but climb back up the ladder, it'll snatch you and drag you back down to your death once you reach the top. The answer is to have the Norlac follow you and basically throw yourself into the drain at the end. If you did so before on your own, you would have died, so it's understandable that choosing to do so again is a little bit of a stretch if it weren't for the fact that it's what the goblins told you to do.
  • Wizard Classic: Protagonist of the game, as well as Mordamir in his late-game appearance.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Of the lethal variety. You use it as a Finishing Move, Mordamir as a direct attack.
  • Your Head Asplode:
    • Mordamir can do this to you with a sonic spell during the final battle.
    • It's random how you kill them in the Genesis version, but one of the finishing attacks on Goblins makes their heads expand until they burst. Messily so.

Alternative Title(s): The Immortal