Years ago, shortly after my family’s Commodore 64 died, my parents bought a used IBM. It came fully loaded with Window 3.11 and everything! My young brain immediately started dreaming of all the new games I could cram on to the thing. It would be many chores and weeded vegetable beds later until I had the cash to start buying new games, but providence was on my side. Whoever had sold the PC to my parents had left a floppy disk in the drive: Castle of the Winds: Lithransir’s Bane.
A roguelike with a graphical tile-set, Castle of the Winds: Lithransir’s Bane was my first introduction to the genre. I was stunned to discover the game’s depth, the vast range of items to be found, and the zoo of monsters to fight. In the game I soon found a love for battling elemental dragons, finding swords specifically enchanted to fight giants, and for chasing purse-stealing thieves. Castle of the Winds gave me my first experience with “character builds” where you didn’t just develop your character by assigning particular skill points but you also collected certain magic items to complement those choices.
Recently I have been delving deep into the world of roguelikes, learning their history and how modern releases continue to draw inspiration from the game for which the genre is named. Now armed with a bit of knowledge I see where Castle of the Winds borrowed heavily from the genre and even blasphemously deviated from it with mouse-based mechanics and save states.
Sadly, re-visiting the game after getting a little bit of education about the genre makes Castle of the Winds lose a little of its luster for me. I have quickly grown to enjoy the emergent game play roguelikes tend to encourage and there really is not any of that in Castle of the Winds. Now I want to be able to throw items at monsters, interact more with the environment, and run into random situations I may never encounter again in another session with the game.
Even so, I continue to load Castle of the Winds from time to time as it, like many roguelikes, is the perfect game for the person who likes to multitask. If I suddenly get the urge to check Twitter or need to check my email, it is very easy to Alt+Tab away and come back later as the game waits for you. Also, to the game’s credit, it is not easy to beat, especially now that I’ve restricted myself from saving the game.
I do not know if the person who sold my parents our old PC meant to leave Castle of the Winds: Lithransir’s Bane in the disk drive and I certainly would have missed the game if I were them. But I like to imagine that they did it on purpose, somehow knowing that some kid needed a video game for their new computer, and for that I am grateful.
The games’ creator Rick Saada used to offer downloads for Castle of the Winds 1 & 2 on an ancient webpage of his but that seems to have gone down. So it’s my duty to pass on these games like that stranger did for me. You can download them here. You will need to figure out how to emulate them as they’re Windows 3.11 and newer Windows hates that.