Without a doubt one of the best RPGs ever made for any computer, FTL's Dungeon Master is an epic RPG masterpiece that revolutionizes and rejuvenates the genre in much the same way as Baldur's Gate did over a decade later. More than anything, the game epitomizes the "gameplay over graphics" tenet that is fading fast in today's preoccupation with 3D accelerated games. At the time when the game was released (whether Amiga, Commodore, ST, or PC), there were many better looking RPGs on the market. Few, however, could match the game in sheer addictiveness.
The premise, which isn't one of the game's strong points, is very tenuous and simple: you control a party of up to four adventurers of various races who must find their way through a 12-level dungeon and defeat its owner (an evil wizard, of course). There are naturally all sorts of encounters along the way that will enable you to improve your character's strengths and skills, and pocket a few nifty magical items. It's a dungeon crawl, nothing more, nothing less. So what's new?
What Dungeon Master lacks in terms of storyline and writing, it more than makes up for with sheer playability, ingenious puzzles, and incredible atmosphere. The puzzles go above and beyond simple "find key to unlock door" puzzles of a typical RPG -- they include fiendish riddles, physical puzzles, and inventory-based puzzles that fans of adventure games will appreciate. No matter how difficult they are, though, they are very logical and addictive. I fondly recall the number of nights I've lain awake in bed, thinking about how to get past that blasted mysterious door at the end of the corridor... on nights that I wasn't hooked with the game far into the wee hours of the morning, that is. The game's immersive atmosphere is achieved by the combination of real-time play (allowing the monsters to attack you by surprise, for example), great sound effects, and depth of role-playing elements. Many races in the game had hitherto been unavailable in any RPG, and the spellcasting system is very rewarding to learn). The game's anal-retentive attention to detail, such as the fact that you must always pay attention to your party members' thirst and hunger levels and feed them when necessary, may be a nuisance to beginners or casual RPGers, but for anal-retentive gamers, it's a dream come true.
Overall, Dungeon Master is one of the most addictive RPGs you'll ever play. Although the game's depth and scope may scare beginners away, its adventure-game style puzzles that take precedence over pointless combat should entice them to try it out. For an in-depth dungeon crawl, there's no better game in town. Too bad FTL never ported the sequel Chaos Strikes Back on the PC.
It's highly recommended, as with most games of the era, to actually get a good glance in on the manual and reference cards to get yourself up to speed on the basics as well as introduced to the back story.Reviewed by: Underdogs