In 1989, a game was released for Windows 3.x called “Castle of the Winds”. It was a variation of RPGs (like Ultima or Dragon Warrior) that had your single character explore dungeons, most of which were randomly generated.
In a way, Castle of the Winds was a precursor to the “roguelike” genre that is so popular nowadays, with games like The Binding of Isaac and FTL: Faster Than Light. The basic idea of a roguelike is that most of the content you experience is randomized, and each death is permanent, meaning a death results in a fresh attempt, with default stats and none of the items and/or power-ups collected in the previous attempt. The dungeons you explore have a randomized layout, with different enemy spawns each time.
At the start of a new game, you create a generic male or female character, and roll some basic stats, much like a Dungeons & Dragons game. Once you settle on a set of stats, you start your quest. There’s a basic story about your home village being burned and you having to go on a quest to defeat whatever villain caused the destruction. Then you head north and enter the first dungeon.
From what I remember, the first dungeon always has the same layout, but further dungeons are never the same.
As the game progresses, you attack enemies by clicking on them. You have either weapons or spells at your disposal, and leveling up unlocks additional spells. As you explore dungeons, you find an assortment of items, from weapons and armor to potions and scrolls and gold, as well as traps. Most of the items you collect cannot be fully used until you identify them (this is most true for the scrolls and potions). Some items might turn out to be enchanted, others might turn out to be cursed, most will be normal.
I remember playing this game a lot as a kid, on my family’s old Windows 3.x machine. I think I even still have the floppy disk for the game somewhere. This was a fun game, and required a lot of careful planning. It’s interesting how, what with the roguelike genre being such a popular thing nowadays, that this game was released at the end of the ’80s.
There were actually two Castle of the Winds games. The first was a free shareware title, and included an advert for the sequel, which was sold commercially. I think I eventually got the sequel from a yard sale, or maybe some dollar store in town.
The two games look and play the same, the second just provides even more dungeons to explore.
(Side note: I like to look at the system requirements for these older PC games. I hope your computer is able to play these games. Here’s a look at what the games ask for: 640×480 graphic display, 80286 CPU, 2MB RAM, Windows 3.x or above, 32 bit version of Windows or below)
However, back in 1998, the games’ creator, Rick Saada, made both games freely available on his website (as of this writing, that site seems to no longer exist, but the games can be easily found elsewhere). Of course, getting the games to work nowadays will most likely require DOSBox (or maybe it doesn’t, it’s been a while, I don’t remember). Either way, if you don’t remember the game (or if you do and would like to play it again), you can do so rather easily.
The games are rather simple, but I still find them fun to play. In any case, they are a neat look at how the roguelike genre existed even back in the early days of PC gaming. Does anyone else remember the two Castle of the Winds games?