Commodore User1st September 1986
Published in Commodore User #36
If you've been in any arcades lately you can't help but notice the crowd of people standing around Gauntlet, the biggest game of 1986. It was only a matter of time until a software company produced the first Gauntlet-type game for the C64 and now it has arrived.
First off the mark are Firebird with their Druid game which beats the officially licensed version from US Gold by a clear two months. Actually, Druid is not quite Gauntlet - for a start it is only a two-player game whereas the Atari coin-op can cater for up to four players all playing simultaneously. This four player novelty is what first got Gauntlet noticed in the arcades.
You could be playing merrily away on the machine when a complete stranger would come up to the console, insert a coin, and start battling it out with you and anyone else who happened to be playing.
Druid employs the same basic play technique as Gauntlet in that hordes of nasties materialise in front of you as you explore the game's huge scrolling terrain.
The storyline for Druid is that the land of the Druids has been taken over by various nasties. Horrid things they are in the shape of Harpies, giant beetles, ghosts and various assorted ghouls. To rid the land of this evil the Druid must destroy the Four Skulls scattered through the land's eight levels.
Each of the levels is fairly large - but not so big you need to map as you go. There are various chests scattered around the land. In these you will find quantities of the spells. Some of these you will have had when you started and some are completely new.
Selecting the right spells is the key to success in Druid. At the beginning of the game, you can more or less pick what you like and it won't make much difference. But if you get further into the game, what you pick up and when becomes of much greater importance.
This is your Druidonian laser. Blasts most things and kills them quicker than Electricity and Water. Worth keeping well topped up.
Is a good nasty killer, though it may take up to three direct hits to finish off some of the tougher characters.
Useful against certain water-sensitive creatures. This is a short life spell.
One of the best spells and definitely the most fun to use. This spell produces a gorilla-like character who can be made to follow you (the Druid) around the screen providing protection whilst you explore the terrain, trying keys in doors or searching chests. This is where the two-player fun begins. To get a Golem the Druid first has to find a Golem spell in a chest then stand in an open clearing and bring the Golem to life.
When I got my first Golem I nearly flipped. It was a dream come true. I was Arthur Daley with my very own Minder. You should see that Golem laying into those ghosts, effortlessly vapourising them with the slightest contact.
At first the temptation is to get the Golem to kill everything in sight for the hell of it. This is not the best policy as Golems, like Druids, have limited energy and there are often large distances between energy-boosting Pentacles so you need to conserve as much energy as possible.
The Golem is a long life spell. The danger with this is that you can get used to the Golem being with you and then suddenly have him disappear. Some hard-hearted Druids I know actually kill off their Golems rather than risk being suddenly deserted and pick up a new Golem when a new spell represents itself. Personally, I don't approve of this ill treatment of Golems - it smacks of euthanasia [Look it up - Ed].
The main thing about Golems is that they allow you to have great fun with a friend - taking on the nasties as a team, and planning your strategy as you go.
Possibly a more powerful spell than the Golem. It acts a bit like a Smart Bomb in Defender, killing everything in sight and restoring your energy level.
The main advantage of the Chaos spell is that it allows you to get through particularly tricky parts of the terrain, like the narrow paths between the Lakes at the bottom of Level Three. You'll also need a Chaos spell to kill a skull should you happen to find one.
Chaos spells also have a short life, literally about twenty seconds, so they are not to be wasted. Take it from me - if you find a skull and don't have a Chaos spell on you, you'd feel pretty sick about it.
You need these to get through doors restricting your entry to certain levels. They last a long time and are used by lining the Druid up and are used by lining the Druid up against the door and firing away until he hits the spot.
Pretty obvious what this one does. Lasts a fair amount of time and stops the demon servants chasing you. Be warned, it also freezes your Golem.
There are stacks of different strategies in Druid. It's going to be tough to get to that eighth level and I am sure that we will see many heated arguments in Play to Win over the next few months as to which one is the most effective.
When you die (the Druid gets only one life) you are given an Elite-style rating. I predict that pretty soon people are going to be boasting about their Druid status just like they did at the height of Elite mania.
Just so you'll know how well you're doing, here are the ratings: Halfway (I was one for a whole weekend), Apprentice, Acolyte, Seer, Lore Seeker, Spirit Master, Cleric, Potion Master, Lore Master, Priest, Illusionist, Magic Master, Conjurer, High Priest, High Druid and Light Master.
Druid will launch a whole new gaming trend. Just as Fist-type games characterised late '85 and '86, prepare for an onslaught of Druidesque games. Don't bother waiting to find out which one will be the best. Get the eight notes out, put away the suntan lotion and get the computer out again. Now buy a copy of Druid and invite a friend round. I promise you won't regret it.