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In the very depths of Hell, do not demons love one another?, March 17, 2023
I played this as a child and never got out of the first area. I figured I was young and impatient and decided to revisit this with additional forbearance and wisdom. I got exactly as far as I did thirty-five years ago before pulling up a walkthrough.
Demon’s Forge is the first game Brian Fargo designed (and self-published!) at the age of 19. Two years later he would start his own company, Interplay, and helped designed some well-received games including the Bard’s Tale series, Tass Times in Tonetown, and Neuromancer. He definitely got better at his craft as time went on.
The plot of Demon’s Forge is hilarious; you were caught murdering four of the king’s guards, so your punishment is to be thrown into the forge which spells certain death. But if you manage to escape, the king will be like, “Impressive, you may go. I didn’t really like those guards anyway.” Along the way you will need to throw everything including the kitchen sink at every problem in hopes that something works.
The first puzzle that most people will never solve (and the one that got me stuck both times) involves accessing a room that is not mentioned in the previous room’s description and can only be found by using a non-directional verb. And it can only be accessed during one specific turn. A very stretched imagination could consider this fair if the verb required was mentioned in the manual or hinted at in the game in any fashion. But, alas. Thankfully, future puzzles are not quite as cruel, but they are also not alone in their moon logic.
To no surprise the parser can’t compete with Infocom’s at the time, but man oh man there are almost no synonyms implemented. There will be several times you are on the right track but you can’t guess the correct verb. Sometimes “use” is the correct choice while most of the time its more specific. Also frustrating is the inability to just look at the room you’re in; if you want to read the sparse description you need to exit and come back (which is not always possible).
There are a few puzzles that are indeed reasonable, though these are mostly near the endgame when you’ve already resorted to a walkthrough. Strangely enough, defeating the demon itself is probably the easiest puzzle in the game.
The graphics are standard for 1981 and similar to what Sierra was putting out with their Hi-Res adventure games at the time. It is generally easy to tell what’s what and in a few areas the pictures enhance the mood.
There is no real reason to play Demon’s Forge outside of curiosity’s sake, though I want to give credit to Fargo for making me laugh a couple of times. At one point you can find a secret room by going north when there’s no actual exit; you enter an empty closet with just one clothing rod and the game yells, “What are you doing in the closet!” But my favorite is when you come across a bunny. It’s in the same room with a wand and a top hat, so I was looking forward to a potential magic trick. Nope!
“The rabbit bites you and you die.”
Best instant death ever.