Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 24 July 1998. Last updated on 12 August 2009.
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Enchanter is a spin-off from the Zork series.

Enchanter is the first game of a new spin-off from the Zork series. Both series takes place within the Zork universe, but the former differs from the latter by the addition of a new device—magic spells. In addition to getting items and using them with others in the game, you find and use magic spells to help you on your quest. The quest in Enchanter also differs from that in Zork. This is no longer just a dungeon crawl for fun and profit. Instead, you must save the world from an evil enchanter. Although some fans consider Enchanter simply to be the fourth installment of the Zork series, others argue that the games from the Enchanter trilogy (Enchanter, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker) should stand together as a separate epic.

The enchanter Krill has been wreaking havoc. The Circle of Enchanters can stop him, but ancient prophesy advises against it. Instead, a novice enchanter with only a few weak spells is sent to learn of Krill's secrets and hopefully his weakness. Unfortunately, this novice is you.

You march into his castle with little opposition. After all, you are no threat to Krill. Instead, he sends his evil minions to collect you. You must avoid his henchmen until you discover the spells that enables you to overcome them. Once you are free of Krill's minions, you must find and retrieve the scrolls that contain the spells to enable you to defeat Krill. However, the scrolls are guarded by a powerful and evil monster that you must first outwit. Finally, Krill has a few good bodyguards which you must also defeat.

Enchanter is a text only adventure game. It uses a text parser that accepts an intuitive subset of English commands. The text descriptions are short but not overtly terse. The original working title of this game is Zork IV, no doubt as a reference to its origin from the Zork series.

The game is written by Marc Blank and David Lebling. It is based on the concept of interactive fiction told through a story interpreter pioneered by Infocom. The Infocom story interpreter is platform independent, and the game themselves are complied for a virtual computer architecture called the Z-Machine. There have been 5 versions of this game released since 1983 using Version 3 of Z-Machine. The last version is dated 1986. The game supports 74 rooms and 33 objects, with a vocabulary of 723 words and 8,070 opcodes.

Gameplay in Enchanter requires careful exploration and attention to detail as well as clever puzzle solving. The necessary magic scrolls are not all just lying about in plain sight. A few are cleverly hidden, where you must pay careful attention to the text for clues to their whereabouts. You are not completely alone in the castle. There are a few allies who help you past some obstacles. You must recognize them and enlist their aid. There is a bit of role-playing too. You must find food and water to keep going in the game. As time passes, you get tired and must sleep. The passage of time works well in this game, since the story unfolds at various times of the day. You may also have enlightening dreams while you sleep. The eating and drinking are tedious in Enchanter. Their only purpose is to put a time limit on the game, since you can only have so many turns until you run out of food. This may be okay if there is any challenge to getting the food and water, but both are readily accessible in the game.

Enchanter contains a design flaw that is typical of the text adventures from the Zork series—there is no way to win without dying. There are several times where you must have the correct spells prepared in advance, but there is no way to know which spells are needed without first facing the challenge and dying (You can only have a small number of spells prepared for casting at a time.). There are also some random events that can stonewall your game, especially given the time limit due to the finite food supply.

The puzzles in Enchanter are very clever. They are all reasonable, but they also require moments of "Eureka" insight. The little bit of story in Enchanter adds a lot to the typical dungeon crawl in Zork. The grim and gritty ambience is great. ON the other hand, the gameplay flaws that are typical of adventure titles from this past era require you to save your game often. In some cases, it leads to a cycle of save, explore and learn, and restore to repeat in order to find the optimal path.

Overall, Enchanter is a fun game. The few gameplay flaws are more than balanced by the ingenuities of the puzzles. While there is not a lot of story in this game, it is well told and is a nice diversion.

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