Wrath of Magra, following Black Crystal in the Third Continent Series, is a mammoth work consisting of a substantial text, The Book of Shadows, a smaller booklet giving interesting and detailed playing Instructions, and three episodes of the adventure contained within two cassettes. Episode 1 differs markedly from the other two and the game must be played in sequence since the data given at the end of episode 1 is needed to begin episode 2, and so with 2 and 3. Each episode requires a considerable effort in its own right and you are unlikely to proceed very far without SAVE. The packaging goes to great lengths to point out that the characters are entirely fictitious; any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is coincidental. More curious rubric warns you of the dangers of meddling with the occult. You are advised not to drink acids, eat Deadly Nightshade or turn people into frogs. Sound advice indeed.
You play the Knight of Star Jewel, Hero of the Volcanic Dungeon, who although only a man, has won the esteem .of the elves for slaying the witch Magra and rescuing the elfin princess Edora. But now all your efforts would seem in vain. The witch's body was retrieved by the Ice Giants and now lives again in the Black Mountains due to the restorative powers of the Black Arts. Princess Edora is now chained to a wall in a cold, dimly lit cell deep within the bowels of Amosthen 'Ugal, her once beautiful face disfigured with running sores. She is possessed and the only way to save her is to destroy Magra.
The episodes have a table in the top right hand of the display. There are eight factors, some of which are inextricably linked.
STRENGTH: if your power drops to zero due to tiredness or wounds, you die. SPIRITUAL STRENGTH and FAITH: the more spells you successfully cast the higher your faith. MOON PHASE. PERCENTAGE: chance of killing a monster, changes during a fight. WOUNDS: effect your strength and ability to fight. GOLD: bits. TIME: 24 hr dock.
Time plays an important part in Wrath of Magra. Five minutes real time represents one hour in the game. You use the passing phases of the moon to help weave your spells and as the days pass you must satisfy your hunger, thirst and tiredness. Your early forays are frustrated by your inability to enter buildings until they open next day.
Episode 1 has you in the village at night where some strong force prevents the casting of spells. This section, featuring high resolution graphics, is designed to allow you to collect, buy and exchange treasures and ingredients using BUY and SELL. You have a silver sword, a shield, Fendal's ring, fur for warmth, and the Star Jewel, a gem from which you are never separated. Not every feature is described and so you have to guess where it might be feasible to pick up Deadly Nightshade, for example.
Episode 1 certainly has exceptionally good graphic representations of the locations but the circuitous route taken to achieve this result in delays of up to fifteen seconds. It requires the time taken in many adventures to draw a picture simply to remove the graphic from the last location. When entering a building the last graphic isn't removed at all - you are inside a cottage and yet you see the cottage. Not such a heinous crime you may think, but we're dealing with a dedicated 40K of program here, a preliminary to the more complex adventure itself, and I think no byte should have been left unaltered in the attempt to put some exceptional graphics at each and every location. The doctor's look like, and is, the farm house... and the woodcutter's cottage - eighteen seconds worth of graphics.
The vocabulary is confoundedly unhelpful. Its friendliness has you puzzled at ENTER TOWER. The program requires the full entry, ENTER WIZARDS TOWER and I mean full - no abbreviations. Were this all there might be hope, but what about this for a supposed 'megagame', GET VAMPIRE BAT SALIVA marks a fifteen second wait while GET RED TOADSTOOLS requires seventeen seconds.
A huge task confronts you here. There are some pouches in the Wizard's Tower and you must guess their contents. This has you searching the back pages of the Book of Shadows to see which spell ingredients you might pick up. This task proves laborious when you consider the delays when no abbreviations are allowed and the shortest wait you can expect is fifteen seconds for each attempt. When you move off to the next location the screen scrolls in a manner which lets down the otherwise tidy presentation; the last location's description only partly scrolls up off the screen leaving its possible exits behind. So I leave episode 1 with what may well prove to be an unshakable conviction. This program is badly coded.
Episode 2 finds you in the mines beneath the Black Mountains where you cast spells and build up your faith. You follow the three maps provided showing the three levels you must tackle, being careful not to fall down any chasm to your death. In episode 3 you are in Magra's fortress hunted by the evil witch herself. As you move around the fortress rt is mapped out at the top left of the screen. The monsters are created by the computer and if you dodge these you must face and destroy Magra to survive.
Episode 2, alas, does not fair any better than 1. In fact things have taken a decided turn for the worse. When loading, the maze takes so long to set up you could be forgiven for thinking the program had crashed. The impressive high resolution graphics of episode I are replaced by token graphics, but what really jars is the wholly unimpressive input routine which is so inept as to border on the ridiculous. The best way to get round this unnecessary obstacle is to count as in music 1 & 2 & 3, or in this case, G & E & T etc. The problem is compounded by the insistence on the entry of complete words with a few abbreviations permitted. A main feature of this episode is the combat routine which is notable for the seeming unassailability afforded to you should you choose the shield for defence and the silver sword for attack. An overused, yet still effective, Anglo Saxon word denoting procreation is accepted, and after a few moments struggling with this input routine, you'll need it.
Wrath of Magra is a significant work full of imagination and atmosphere. It comes with a large book which resembles a cross between a Tolkien novel and a Dungeons and Dragons handbook. The playing instructions are full and creditable.
The program itself is entirely in Basic and suffers from an absence of that expertise which separates a magazine listing from a top class game. The delays in the program are a disappointment; the poor input routine is scandalous. Taken together they are ruinous.
Wrath of Magra is a package with an exciting theme. What is missing is an equally exciting computer program to develop that theme.
Difficulty: Average but time consuming
Graphics: Some, excellent
Presentation: Very good
Input facility: Average to awful
Response: Very slow
Special Features: 3 programs with different playing styles