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The source files and a precompiled ZMachine storyfile of this adventure were recovered from a salvaged "Infocom hard drive", and made publicly available on GitHub in an effort to preserve them.
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by David Welbourn

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Spellbreaker

by Dave Lebling

Episode 3 of The Enchanter series
Fantasy, Zorkian
1985

(based on 54 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

Spellbreaker, the riveting conclusion to the Enchanter trilogy, explores the mysterious underpinnings of the Zorkian universe. A world founded on sorcery suddenly finds its magic failing, and only you, leader of the Circle of Enchanters, can uncover and destroy the cause of this paralyzing chaos.

The very core of your civilization is under siege, and only a perilous journey through the black foundation of magic itself will yield a chance for survival.

And although your triumph over this unknown Evil is uncertain, you must embark without hesitation and prove yourself the worthiest mage in the land.

Difficulty: Expert


Game Details


Awards

36th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

21st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Adventure Classic Gaming

On the positive side, this game is crowded with both characters and puzzles, making the land of Quendor come alive. The puzzles are interesting and vary greatly in style. On the negative side, there is no focus to your trek through the cubes. You do not find out where you are going and why until the end of the game. I also like to know more about the shadowy figure as I progress through the quest, in order to lend some urgency and direction to the trek through the cubes.
-- David Tanguay
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SPAG
The Enchanter Trilogy
What you will discover is a game which deals with metaphysics and magic with equal facility, along with challenging puzzles and wonderful writing. In short, Spellbreaker is a game with almost no equal. Be warned, however, that it is HARD -- much more so than either of the previous two games in the trilogy. However, the puzzles are all quite logical, and most involve the intelligent applications of the various spells which you will again find, along with the collection of strange white cubes which when invoked in the proper manner transport you to alternate places and times.
-- Molley the Mage
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SPAG
[...] one of Infocom's very best.
Though the plot of the game amounts to, as with the first two entries, "save the world from an evil force through your use of magic", there is far more going on here -- and the plot is much more integrated into the game as a whole. The initial development/hook, though very different from the device in Sorcerer, has considerable shock value -- and, incidentally, serves to draw the player into the story rather than sounding a false alarm. Learning the "rules" of the game takes some time, and there are numerous opportunities to make the game unwinnable, many more than in Enchanter or Sorcerer (including one juxtaposition early in the game that seems like a "pull-my-finger" joke of sorts) -- but the unconventional nature of the story makes every new development a new discovery in a way that cannot be said of your average collect-the-treasure cave quest.
-- Duncan Stevens
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Member Reviews

5 star:
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3 star:
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Marvelous illusion of freedom, September 18, 2009
by Mike Ciul (Philadelphia)

Despite the fact that this game is incredibly linear, especially at the end, it has a remarkable way of making you feel like you can do anything.

Part of this is because your main form of transportation is a sort of teleportation. You can go to any area of the game you have previously visited, at any time - although certain rooms in that area may become inaccessible.

Many of these areas have scenes that play out when you arrive. If you go back too many times, this may start to seem silly and repetitious, but the nature of the story and the puzzles tends to keep this from being an issue.

Another reason the game feels so "open" is because so much of it is outdoors. A very small number of connections between outdoor locations makes it seem like you could travel anywhere even without the teleportation ability. Probing the environment reveals this to be an illusion, but most of the time it is a perfectly acceptable one. Occasionally this gets annoying, though. (Spoiler - click to show)One pet peeve of mine is that if you leave the Bazaar by carpet, and then immediately go straight back down, you can't return to the Bazaar. I suppose the reason is that you get lost in the clouds, but I don't find that entirely convincing.

I found Spellbreaker incredibly difficult - BOTH times I played it. The first time was 15 or 20 years ago. It's curious to examine which puzzles I found difficult and which were not so much. The matters of pure logic (Spoiler - click to show)(The Plain and the "weighing" problem in the Outer Vault) were no problem, but knowing which objects and locations needed more exploration were a complete mystery to me. I turned to hints for several of these: One puzzle is pretty straightforward once you are presented with all the pieces, but it is in a location I was discouraged from revisiting, because of the tedious precautions needed to get there without getting yourself stuck. (Spoiler - click to show)(returning to Mid-Ocean after you get the snavig spell)

I had to use hints on both plays in order to get through the "maze." (Spoiler - click to show)(The octagonal rooms) It's not quite a guess-the-verb puzzle, but it's the sort of thing where you know roughly what you need to do, and you're still completely unable to figure out what action will do it. Once you find the right action, there's still the actual traversal of the maze to solve, but being of a logical nature, I didn't find that part difficult at all.

I was as stumped as Peter about that inventory object with hidden uses. In fact, there were several aspects of Spellbreaker that might have made more sense with more room to explain. I don't think I'm giving away anything to say that the jindak spell works only on takeable objects in your location. Magical scenery and magical items in your possession will not register when you cast it. It took me quite a while to figure that out. Several puzzles in Spellbreaker depend critically on timing and repetition - if you don't do them just right, you might think you're barking up the wrong tree. I think Peter might have had this in mind when he said that Spellbreaker "messes with you!" On occasion, this makes it more fun, but it's a very fine line, and I think Spellbreaker crosses it more than once. Curiously, there's one occasion when this makes a puzzle easier in a way. (Spoiler - click to show)I didn't realize that the real cube in the Outer Vault might either glow less or more than the fakes. This makes the puzzle harder to do correctly, but I just assumed I'd made a mistake and went back to my savegame in the Inner Vault until I got the solution I expected. After I read the details in the hints, I went back and devised my own solution just for fun. Another thing I missed by using a savegame until I got the solution was that the alarm is only triggered by spellcasting and taking the treasure, not by taking turns or picking up cubes. The uncertainty gave the puzzle an imagined time pressure that didn't really exist.

There's one other timing issue at an early point in the game that I still haven't figured out. (Spoiler - click to show)If you go down from Packed Earth too early, you can fall to your death without the roc picking you up. I have absolutely no idea why.

I needed hints for the final puzzle in Spellbreaker the first time I played it, but the solution was so memorable that I couldn't forget it the second time around if I tried. In hindsight, it's so elegant that you almost forgive Lebling for failing to provide the slightest clue as to its nature...

Finally, Spellbreaker has the absolute best carryall object I've seen in any IF game. Not only is it a wacky brilliant idea, but it makes gameplay smoother in a way that doesn't break mimesis.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Sticks the Landing, August 24, 2023
by Drew Cook (Acadiana, USA)
Related reviews: infocom

I suppose many people think excellence is a zero sum game. It sometimes seems that one must pick between Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging. They cannot both be transcendent, some must believe. Only one game can rest at the tip of Infocom's spear. It's common - expected, perhaps - to see someone enter a conversation about A Mind Forever Voyaging only to say "I like Trinity better." The opposite is true, as well. One of these games must soar at the expense of the other, these exchanges seem to prove.

Such partisans do not realize the full complexity of their situation, as there is, in fact, a third game worthy of consideration: Dave Lebling's Spellbreaker. It seems that it has escaped the notice of star-givers and list-makers for most of the past four decades, though its critical fortunes have changed over the past few years. In 2019, it made its first appearance on an Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time poll with a placing of 36.

Spellbreaker is the sixth and final game in Infocom's two consecutive trilogies taking place in their famed Zork setting. This world, alternately whimsical and dark, finally makes good on its many promises throughout the series. What has it been promising? Change. This concluding episode delivers in what seems a final and irrevocable way. Spellbreaker's conclusion feels rewarding and philosophically complex. It is the narrative equivalent of a shower, then dinner, after a long hike on a warm day.

As the third game in the Enchanter trilogy, Spellbreaker uses a familiar, well-loved magic system. The player casts spells to solve problems and open new areas to explore, which in turn leads to the discovery of new spells, and so forth. It is an addicting loop. For 1980s games, the Enchanter series is quite deeply and generously implemented. These are, for their days, mechanically generous games. If you haven't played any game in this series, start with the first (Enchanter).

Since this is the third and final game of a trilogy, the protagonist of Spellbreaker is a powerful Enchanter, both in political and magical terms. In fact, they are the most powerful Enchanter to ever live. As the game begins, magic across the kingdom of Quendor (is it a kingdom? There seems to be no king) is failing. Since magic is the center of life in Quendor, this is a dire threat. Food production, economy, even public safety depend upon it. When guidmasters from across the land are transformed into small amphibians by a shadowy figure, the protagonist gives chase.

This pursuit drives the Enchanter through what is arguably Infocom's most complex and varied geography yet. Somehow, miraculously, it is all part of a single, complementary pattern. This world is a marvel of design: surreal, dangerous, and fascinating. Dave Lebling's prose has the density of poetry. This is his finest writing and an underrated competitor to Trinity's excellent prose. The ending, which not only concludes a game or a trilogy but a six-game series, is impeccable: unexpected, ambiguous, thrilling. It seems impossible that anyone could stick such a landing, but Lebling makes it all seem rather effortless.

Why has its recognition been so long in coming? I think it is a harder game than many would like, but players have fortunately grown more comfortable seeking hints. It's art, not an ironman contest. Experience Spellbreaker on your own terms, but please do experience it. The writing alone is worth the trip. For those who enjoy puzzles, though, many brilliant, satisying, and, yes, difficult puzzles await. With only one exception, I found them as rewarding as they were fair. This is a game that filled its Commodore 64-compatible story format to the brim. There is no fat, and there are no misspent words.

One of the greatest works of interactive fiction ever made. I mean this sincerely.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A gigantic epic with intensely hard puzzles. One of Infocom's hardest games, February 3, 2016

Spellbreaker must have been the inspiration for games like Mulldoon Legacy, Lydia's Heart, Jigsaw, and other intensely long puzzle fests (I feel like Curses! is slightly easier). This is Infocom's last game of the Enchanter trilogy, which follows the Zork Trilogy.

This game is incredibly long and difficult. I played to about 150 points out of 600 before turning to a walkthrough (eristic's), and most of those points I got because I had played Balances by Graham Nelson, which copied many items from Spellbreaker (to show that Inform could achieve the same results). The game is purposely murderously hard; I suggest that everyone use a walkthrough after reaching a predetermined number of points.

Magic is failing, and you must chase a mysterious figure to learn why. The game is pretty disjointed, but purposely so, much like Jigsaw, where you enter and exit various areas miraculously. It has a very different feel from Sorcerer, and especially from Enchanter, which was very easy to map and simple in its presentation.

Many people have talked about the time travel puzzle in Sorcerer, which I enjoyed, but felt a little down because there was so much hype. Unfortunately, I am now hyping the last big puzzle of Spellbreaker to you. What a puzzle; to me, it was great because it completely ties in with the game's theme of loss and ending. It is a puzzle integrated with the plot.

As a final note, I should really emphasize that this is a LONG game, 2 or 3 times as long as any other Zork or Enchanter game. When using a walkthrough, I finished each of those games in a total recorded time (not counting my numerous restarts) of about 16 minutes; this game, including several restarts to shave off the starting time, took 1 hour and 22 minutes.

I played this game on iOS's Lost Treasures of Infocom.

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Spellbreaker on IFDB

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This is version 8 of this page, edited by David Welbourn on 26 March 2021 at 5:49pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page