It’s a strange thing, this aging. I was watching the Futurama movie Bender’s Game the other day when I started thinking about my first D&D experience (now twenty years ago) SSI’s Curse of the Azure Bonds. Admittedly, the cover of the box is what caught my eye. “Chick’s in low cut chainmail? I must know more.” Of course the box was the only thing with low cut anything on it but it didn't matter. Ten minutes into the game my life had changed forever, I knew it then as I know it now – I was into Dungeons & Dragons.
Twenty years of dragons, role playing and nerdly pontifications later I felt a need to play Curse again. There was some difficulty finding a 5.25” drive and a fun discovery that my machine now is lightning on a leash compared to the turbo 286 I explored the world with back in the day. However, a little time and a little help from Mo’Slo and I was back in business, old school style.
My first giggle was that not only did I still have my codewheel (that's analog DRM for those of you too young to know) but I had also saved the logbook and journal. Mostly because half the story was something written there, “You hear Tavern Tale# 23” and so on. The second chuckle was remembering Curse is TRUE turn based combat with... wait for it... no mouse! Cower before its keyboard laden interface knaves!
I had another giggle when I saw the class names. For instance, do you know what a magic user is called? Magic User. Here’s another good one: Magic Users can’t wear armor… period. And a Fighter is a Fighter. No matter how badass or high a level your Fighter is, they can’t do magic unless you split their class and that’s gonna cost you.
Oh, and rare items are rare. Yeah, that plus 3 sword (Frostbrand) you have there is just about as good as it gets. If you can’t kill whatever it is with that, you need to rethink your attack strategy.
Which leads me to encumbrance, learn it, love it. You can actually carry so much loot around in Curse that when in battle, you can’t move. Choose your loot carefully.
A dragon attacking you is actually cause for panic. None of those heroic Paladin standoffs where a single guy holds 10 dragons at bay while the party gets set up. You’ve got 3 turns my friend before that one, single, dragon turns your frontline tank to goo - think faster. (Or slower really, this is turn based combat take all day if you need to) You’re not going to wear him down with the front line and finish up with the ranged guys in back. If it comes down to your Thief and a spent Magic User facing down the dragon – you're boned.
I know, I know, I’m some old curmudgeon spouting off about how the world should go back to walking like decent folk and forget all this new fangled horseless carriage business. The fact is, I love modern RPG's with a passion. I'll play almost anything and love it. It’s just, even in all their EGA 16 color glory these games managed to capture the imagination and bridge the gap between table game and video game - and that's worth something at least.
To my delight as old bridges go, Curse remains as solid an experience as it was back in the day. Of course you're gonna have to lean heavy on the ole' imagination - but then I believe that's the point.