In 1980, the pencil-and-paper, dice-rolling fantasy roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons introduced “Mystara” as a nation of the “Known World”. A popular campaign setting that was rolled out in the adventure module, “The Isle of Dread”, this would serve to be the setting for our adventure game, “Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom”.
(I have personally spent many a night sitting with friends at a kitchen table covered by a large amount of unique dice, papers and books in front of us, playing role-playing games such as D&D, so this game review holds a special place in my heart…)
Released in 1993, Tower of Doom was the first of two arcade games created by Capcom, based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. The arcade version of Tower of Doom allowed up to four players to fight side-by-side, in a side-scrolling “beat ’em up” game, against iconic creatures from Dungeons & Dragons lore. Each Player takes control of one of four Character Classes, the Cleric, the Fighter, the Elf, and the Dwarf.
The Cleric, “Greldon”, billed as a “Man of war & healing” is a defender of the faith, and while unable to use ranged weapons such as throwing knives or arrows, wields a mace and is able to cast magic spells.
The Fighter, “Crassus”, empowered with “Strength & endurance”, has a longsword that gives him great reach and powerful attacks. Unable to cast any magic spells, his fighting skill is his main advantage.
The Elf, “Lucia”, a “Magic-using warrior”, has low hit points but amazing agility to dodge attacks and avoid enemies. Her short sword is good in the clinch, however, her magic ability is her true strength, attacking foes with devastating power.
The Dwarf, “Dimsdale”, embodying “Power & resistance” is a sturdy warrior. Almost as strong as the Fighter, but with resistance against magic spells, he is a force to be reckoned with while wielding his hand axe.
Traveling through the countryside, our stalwart adventurers fight through waves of attackers on their quest to defeat the final Boss of the game – the Archlich, Deimos. With enemies grabbed right from the pages of Dungeons & Dragons Monster Vault rulebooks, such as Kobolds, Gnolls, Golems and Troglodytes, and with each having their own fighting style, skills and abilities, make no mistake – this is not your run of the mill beat ’em up game.
At the end of each of the seven stages, the Players are faced with a Boss, each of which are extremely challenging. Faced with creatures like giant Ogres, a Manticore, and a Black Dragon, these Boss battles will definitely test the characters’ mettle, and this is where the game can quickly go from entertaining beat ’em up to quarter munching monster in a matter of seconds. It isn’t uncommon for a four-player game to degenerate into a fight to plug in more quarters before the entire party dies at the hand of the Boss!
Of course, once the Boss is defeated, the celebrating begins. Our Party has triumphantly put down the biggest challenge of their short game, and we aren’t even close to finished yet! This usually means that they are congratulated by those who have been put upon by the evils that these creatures have embodied – and our heroes are lavished with powerful gifts that will help them on their journey, whether by increasing their fighting strength, healing their wounds, or otherwise buffing their stats.
Tower of Doom features highly technical gameplay mechanics not seen in most games, including blocking, strong attacks, turning attacks, dashing attacks, crouching and evading, as well as the use of intelligent tactics, as most enemies will have the same abilities as the heroes and can actually beat them from outside of the heroes’ range.
As our adventurers progress through the game, Players are given the opportunity to shop for items to improve their natural talents not already affected by the gifts that have been bestowed upon them or the items found in the environment.
Daggers, hammers, arrows and burning oils can be used as ranged weapons, and many enemies can carry similar weapons. Spells can be used by means of magical rings, by any character who picks them up or buys them in a shop, or through the natural abilities of the two playable spell-casters – the Cleric and the Elf.
As our heroes progress, Players find themselves presented with choice in which path to take to continue progress. Each choice takes the adventurers to a different area, and it is impossible to visit every area in a single play, making re-playability high on the list of this game’s strengths.
So, with their path chosen, and the mission clear, our Players adventure on towards a confrontation with maddeningly difficult enemies, immune or regenerating under-bosses, and ultimately, the Final Boss. Will they make it? Will Mystara survive the tyranny of this evil creature, or can our small band of adventurers defeat the Archlich, against all odds? You – and up to three friends – could be the turning point in this quest, the saviours of Mystara and the Heroes of Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom.
Pop in a quarter, grab your sword and spellbook, and take up the quest!
Special thanks to iYogurt, from his reply on Reddit, for recommending “Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom” for our Retro Review Friday. If you have a game that you would like to see Gameroom Designs review, Submit a game for Retro Review Friday!