After the genuinely climactic conclusion to Zork 3, the Infocom people wisely decided to shelve plans for a Zork 4 which could only have undermined that ending. Instead, they began a new trilogy of adventure games — or interactive fiction, as they were now being called — set in the same universe as the Zork games, but taking a different approach. The first of these was Enchanter (1983), to be followed by Sorcerer (1984) and Spellbreaker (1985).
I’ve played this once before, many years ago, and now I am trying again. Happily, I remember almost literally nothing about the game, so I am getting to solve the problems as though from fresh.
The most obvious difference between the Zorks and the Enchanter trilogy is the addition of magic to the game. You are a novice enchanter with a spell-book. You can use the spells in your book as often as you want, so long as you first prepare them — and there is a limit on how many you can hold in your mind at once. As the game progresses, you discover spell scrolls: you can either cast the spells directly from the scroll, which only works once, or transcribe them into your book for multiple use. The most powerful spells can’t be transcribed.
Aside from this change, the mechanics of the game are identical to those of the Zorks: a purely text-based wander through a fantasy environment with locations to explore, objects to find, and (most importantly) puzzles to solve. But the addition of spells really does bring another dimension. It means there are always a wider range of possible solutions to problems. The spells are mostly very general-purpose, so could work in a variety of situations:
> read book
My Spell Book
The exex spell (make things move with greater speed).
The zifmia spell (magically summon a being).
The gondar spell (quench an open flame).
The cleesh spell (change a creature into a small amphibian).
The krebf spell (repair willful damage).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The blorb spell (safely protect a small object as though in a strong box).
The nitfol spell (converse with the beasts in their own tongue).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday at how far I got without recourse to cheat-sheets, invisiclues, maps or what not. I don’t know that Enchanter was explicitly marketed as an easier game than the Zorks, but so far it feels like one. All the puzzles I’ve solved feel like the solutions make sense, and I have none of that frustrating feeling of trying to guess how to phrase my desired action. (One exception: reach into hole was not intuitive to me, and I arrived at it only because I remember running into something similar in The Lurking Horror.)
Some of the puzzles are profoundly satisfying: one that springs to mind is getting the scroll from the control room beyond the machine room that has all the clanking hammers (no spoilers here, though!). Better still, getting the scroll from the translucent maze without destroying the world is possibly my favourite puzzle in any adventure game, combining mapping, a leap of insight, and a logic puzzle.
That said, I am now somewhat stuck, and I thought that for my own benefit it would be useful to make a list of the problems I am trying to solve and the resources I have. So — problems:
- How to get into the temple without being captured
- How to leave the junction (e.g. for the stairs) without being captured
- How to escape when I am captured
- How to open the jewelled box wrapped in magical rope
- The significance of the implementor legend in the dusty book (since the imprisoned-spirit legend was significant)
- What the adventurer can do for me (after having been made friendly and been given the jewelled egg)
Things I have available and have not yet used include:
- The gondar and blorb spells (above)
- The one-shot filfre spell scroll (“create gratuitous fireworks”), which I suspect may be a red herring.
- The one-shot guncho spell scroll (“banish the victim to another plane of existence”), which I assume will be how I defeat the Big Bad at the end of the game.
- A silver spoon (probably just scenery)
- A square block of stone (also probably scenery)
And then of course there are all the spells and objects that I have already used, which I may well find further uses for — but most of the objects are unpromising aside from their obvious use in sustenance: a loaf of bread, a jug of water, a lamp.
One of the nice things about Enchanter is that it anticipates ideas you might have that are not the correct solutions. For example, I thought that the jewelled box tied up in a magic rope might be amenable to the Gordian solution of simply cutting the rope, so I summoned the adventurer (zifmia), made him friendly (vaxum), and then asked him to cut the rope for me:
> adventurer, cut rope with sword
“Ooo! Nice idea!” He slashes at the rope with his sword, but to no avail. The rope is impervious to the magic of this weapon! He looks crestfallen.
Frustrating, but so much better than a generic “What”? or “The adventurer doesn’t seem to understand you”.
I’ll let you all know how I get on. Please, no spoilers in the comments (at least not without rot13)