Shadowkeep is a superb but highly underrated graphical text adventure for 8-bit computers that in my opinion is the best cross between the interactive fiction and RPG genres ever made. Telarium not only managed to translate RPG mechanics to interactive fiction format (thank to a robust text parser), but even made it an epic adventure with a well-crafted fantasy story. In fact, the game is so good that it inspired a book of the same name by Alan Dean Foster – the very first novelization of a computer game in history that is written by a major sci-fi author :)
The plot goes as follows: the mighty Shadowkeep was seized by a demon, who now threatens to engulf the Earth. As the Earth's best hope, you lead a team of nine adventurers who must invade the tower, overcome its guardians, and defeat the dark lord. Although this sounds mundane, the game itself is much better than the story, featuring well-designed mazes, creative monsters (the "death sheep" are my favorite), and excellent writing and interface.
Like text adventure games, you enter commands such as "get gold" or "Rubywand, invoke the Rod of Power" in simple English to your team of adventurers. In a great design choice, several common RPG elements such as buying weapons/spells, combat command, and character creation are handled via prompt windows instead. As in a typical dungeon romp, the deeper you go in the keep, the more dangerous your quest becomes. Character growth and acquiring more powerful magical artifacts are crucial to success. Fortunately, each of the keep's nine 16x16 mazes offers its own special rewards including weapons, spell scrolls, and passwords to other mazes. Like your own party, monsters in Shadowkeep vary widely in such attributes as strength, dexterity, and the ability to use magic. Traditional adventure-style puzzles are better than average, although if you finished Zork on your own you shouldn't have a problem with any of them.
Although the pace is plodding at times and some fights are frustrating, the combination of interesting inventory-based puzzles and solid RPG gameplay should attract both adventure and RPG fans to Shadowkeep. The wide scope for character development, diversity of challenges, and even some alternative solutions make Shadowkeep one of the most treasured games I have ever played. Two thumbs up, way up!
(The book is not as good as the game, but it is a fun and relaxing read that highlights the differences between the game's four races. Try to finish the game before you read the book, though – there are some spoilers.)Reviewed by: Underdogs