I didn’t know that Dragontorc existed on the Amstrad until recently and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it did. Dragontorc is one of my all-time favourite ZX Spectrum games and it translates well to the CPC, flickery graphics included.
Dragontorc was designed and programmed by Steve Turner (of Graftgold fame) and is a sequel to the game Avalon, both of which feature a levitating mage called Maroc on a quest to defeat the forces of evil.
Maroc moves between rooms by levitating towards pathways or doors that are shown in each location. If he can’t move though something he’ll simply bounce backwards. Doors must be opened before going through them, and some doors require specific keys to open. All of which must be found as you progress.
Controlling Maroc is done via a combination of joystick controls, and a rotating menu system. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the menu system is a little challenging to use (you press the fire button when Maroc is resting and then push up and down to cycle through the commands, pressing fire again when you’ve chosen the one you want). The menu has commands like “move”, “servant”, “energize”, and “bane”. “Move” is self-explanatory and thankfully is the default action when pushing the joystick left or right (Maroc will then immediately start levitating and move around). Using “Servant” brings up a little ghost type avatar that you can move around to pick things up and use things on the landscape, or on non-player characters, of which there are quite a few in the game. To carry an item that the Servant is holding you simply move it towards Maroc and he will take it. He can only hold two items at once, though. “Energize” will re-fill Maroc‘s health bar (represented by a fiery dragon’s flame), if you have any healing items on you. And “Bane” will activate a shield around Maroc that he can use to either kill or ward away certain hostiles. Bane uses Maroc‘s life energy, though, so must be used sparingly. Other commands can also be added to the menu system as the game progresses (one being “Missile” which allows Maroc to aim and fire magic missiles at enemies) – and it’s quite a large game, considering that it only fits into a small amount of memory.
Enemies can sometimes be a real handful to deal with, which makes the game very tense at certain points – especially when you hear the footsteps of multiple demons or skeletons stomping towards you. These fierce opponents can also open and move through doors to chase you, which makes the game even scarier.
Players who haven’t familiarised themselves with the controls might find the experience frustrating, but those who know how to play Dragontorc effectively will love the proto-RPG feel of it. It’s a complex, involving and challenging game that was well ahead of its time and is still an interesting game to play now. If you have the patience to get to grips with it.
Dragontorc was a game I bought as a young gamer and spent hours, weeks – even months – playing it, and even hand-wrote my own guide (which I still have). Playing the game now, I remembered what to do and managed to get quite far into this conversion, before giving up. Completing Dragontorc requires an investment of time that I can’t give it right now, although I may return to it later. It’s a game with a special place in my heart.
More: Dragontorc on Wikipedia