The Master of Magic, Commodore 64

Well. Come. Back.

The Master of Magic was the first RPG I ever played on the C64 and whilst it isn’t as hardcore an example of the genre such as titles like Wizard’s Crown, The Bard’s Tale and Abandoned Places, it is certainly rock hard and it contains all of the elements and traits of the usual dungeon delve.

From one of the Darling Brothers: Richard, the man that brought us BMX Simulator, comes an extremely rich text and graphical adventure that is as challenging as it is engrossing. One of it’s crowning glories is its unique and innovative interface. The screen is split into four main sections: an overhead moveable playing map with ‘fog of war’; a localised graphical depiction in glorious pixel art detail of interactibles you can currently see; a horizontal “choices” bar; and the standard dialogue box and GUI. Every action you want to carry out within the game is available via a “pause” menu with a click of the joystick button.

From the offset and indeed, from the beautiful loading and title screens you are embroiled within the dark and dank atmosphere of MoM and with the compellingly sublime Hubbard (see another Mastertronic / Darling classic – Spellbound with a magnificent Hubbard soundtrack) score running in the background, the sense of dread and the fast-elapsing timescale become almost tangible.

Your task is to locate and retrieve an amulet to return you home (standard) and you are pretty poorly equipped to do so from the offset, however you can swiftly find many items and equipment to bolster your innate ability to cast a few specific spells. Some of the items are critical to your success, some of the items… less so.

The game looks stunning (particularly the graphical representations of all the things you see within the game), it also plays and flows with great ease and much like a lot of similar games of its time, can be (rolling top banana on a score of D10s whilst doing so) completed in around 20 minutes, to one who knows the know, but – playing for the first time, or revisiting, the game retains its vicious level of difficulty and its original sense of longevity.

The C64 version is vastly superior to the gaudy Spectrum outing and it really is – in almost every sense. Navigating the tricks and the traps and locating the most useful items and potions takes perseverance and patience, but with that glorious tune playing in the background all the while, you have to be in a pretty foul mood to not enjoy the opening 5 or so minutes, as you try to remember the route to the Backpack... It is always just so much fun.

The game is now almost 40 years old and it still even now stands up on its own merit as a bloody hard and bloody beautiful, both visually and aurally, early C64 RPG.

Play it if you haven’t. Die. Repeat. Get better. Learn the route of the caverns. I have only ever completed it once, but along with Bubble Bobble, Wizball and Lords of Midnight – it makes me feel all gooey inside when I think back to doing so.

Zzap64 Issue 12: 88%
Download: The Master of Magic
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