Review: Rite of the Druid

(A beautiful adventure made with Adventuron aimed at oldschool platforms. Download for the Spectrum or DOS, or play online. Rite of the Druid - Details (ifdb.org))

A Druid’s Path

An aspiring Druid nearing the end of your apprenticeship, you stand before a final daunting task. You must imbibe the dream-potion and leave this world to go on a Spirit Trek.

In the Dream World lies your Druid Way, and you cannot return until you have found it.

An original premise for a text-adventure, a framing story I found very attractive.

The setting of the Dream World helps to defuse some common sources of disbelief. Various improbable, even physics-defying things can happen here, and it’s not that weird to find a desert three steps from a glacial mountain flank.
On the other hand, although the setting unites vastly different ecologies in one world, the map in general retains a very natural feel. The easy way, especially in an oldschool adventure with 23 rooms only connected by cardinal directions, would have been a geometric grid.
Instead, the author has delicately pruned the room connections and skewed the map in a slightly asymmetric form. This gives it an organic feel, a shape almost like a bush or shrub. The more I mapped the game, the more this form became apparent. It’s subtle, but it certainly added to my appreciation of the game.

Rite of the Druid was developed to be compatible with oldschool limited-memory platforms. A lot of scenery is unimplemented, and a lot of commands are met with “You can’t do that.” This is to be expected and didn’t bother me much. However, the limited memory comes with more grating issues.
When the player enters a command that would be useful in another room or situation, even a very general “Not now”-response would be a helpful nudge. Instead, it’s impossible to differentiate between a failed command and a near-miss.
Sometimes finding the right verb to appease the two-word parser is a pain, but it comes with the territory. However, when I suddenly found, after fishing up and juggling every seemingly plausible two-word combination to form an intelligible command, that in certain situations the parser does accept a compound phrasing… Let’s just say that an unspecified amount of hair previously on my head is no longer there…

Apart from these issues I had with Mr Parser, the puzzles are delightful. There is a nice flow to the sequence leading the player from one solution to the next object to the next puzzle. Many solutions require that undefinable little snuff of moon-logic that makes for a nice “Aha!” once you find it.

When booting up Rite of the Druid, the first thing that catches the eye is the superb pixel art. Truly beautiful. But this is a text game.
I am very happy that the sparse descriptions do not fall behind. Whereas the pictures are luscious and vibrant, the sparse, stark white-on-black text pinpoints the salient details and carries the magical mood in well-chosen sentences.

I liked this a lot.

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