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Moraff's Revenge (PC) artwork

Moraff's Revenge (PC) review

"Out of the three dungeon hacks that Moraffware released in the late eighties and early nineties, Moraff's Revenge is the first, has the most basic graphics, the least depth to its gameplay and the smallest scope - yet also the by far the biggest challenge. Nostalgia aside, Revenge is likely to be the least appealing choice out of the trilogy, unless you want to work for your victory, which the much more popular Moraff's World never really makes you do, and Dungeons of the Unforgiven only to an e..."

Out of the three dungeon hacks that Moraffware released in the late eighties and early nineties, Moraff's Revenge is the first, has the most basic graphics, the least depth to its gameplay and the smallest scope - yet also the by far the biggest challenge. Nostalgia aside, Revenge is likely to be the least appealing choice out of the trilogy, unless you want to work for your victory, which the much more popular Moraff's World never really makes you do, and Dungeons of the Unforgiven only to an extent.

Moraff's Revenge was an unassuming game back in its release year of 1987, and by now it looks downright primitive. The game can be played either in black & white or optionally in a glorious 4 colours, and either way there isn't a lot to see. Most of the playing field is taken up by a top down map of the dungeon, in which walls, doors and other features are indicated by simple lines, squares and circles, and the player's position and direction indicated by an arrow. To the right of this are four first person views, one for each direction, in which you can see monsters coming at you. These too are drawn very simply; graphically Moraff's Revenge was nothing to get excited about even back then.

As a dungeon hack, Moraff's Revenge is a game with inherently simple gameplay. Your job is to descend from the town level into the dungeon, chop up monsters, collect experience, gold and magical items, and hopefully get back to town in one piece to rest up at an inn, gain a level or two and go back down to do it all over again. It's a tried and true formula that's been done better a hundred times since, but it's nice to see it all brought back to its roots by titles like these. Moraff's Revenge lets you brave its 70 level dungeon as either a Fighter, who starts out strong but soon loses potential, and a Wizard, who dies all too easily early on but soon grows more powerful than the Fighter could ever hope to be. The two classes are poorly balanced in this sense, so that the Fighter is basically only useful as a beginner's character to learn the basics of the game with, and the Wizard is who you'll need to go with if you ever hope to finish the game. "Finish" in this sense would mean to reach the Fountain of Youth at the very bottom of the dungeon; drinking from it will basically start a new cycle of the game where your character goes back to level 1, but with better stats and stat growth than before, and a newly randomized dungeon to try and beat.

You start the game off armed with just a knife and (if you're a Wizard) some very basic magic to use. Over time, assuming you live that long, you'll be able to buy a sword and a mace as well as better armor if you're a Fighter; a wizard will have to make do with robes and a knife all game, but he'll quickly build up a good reservoir of spell points instead (the Fighter gets these eventually but never in the same quantity). There are 24 magic spells to cast in the game - 12 for combat and 12 for exploration - but none of them are particularly interesting. It's the usual mix of healing, direct damage and a few buffs, as well as spells to descend or ascend in the dungeon when there's no ladder nearby, and a sort of fun last resort spell that randomly either gets you back to town safely or kills your character.

Speaking of killing your character, expect the game to do this a lot and to laugh at you in the process. Level 1 characters can be killed in just a few hits, and while monster levels are mostly tied to the level of the dungeon you're on, they do vary a bit. It's perfectly possible to go down to the first level of the dungeon, wander into a randomly generated level 5 skeleton, and die before you can even run away. Monsters move in real time around the dungeon but battles are turn based; you can usually flee if you must, but there's a good chance of suffering a hit while you do. Early on, that one hit can be enough. Furthermore, with money still very tight at the start of the game, healing can be tricky. There's a temple in town providing it, but they're expensive early on. Another problem lies in the inns that a character must sleep in to restore spell points and gain levels (assuming enough experience); a starting player may be forced to stay at the cheapest one, where he has a good chance of getting his weapons stolen during the night and maybe catch a disease for his troubles, as well. A little exploration of the town and a decent haul of treasure will allow for better accommodations, but getting a character properly started is a tricky process, especially with a Wizard.

Once that part is over with, the going gets easier, but Moraff's Revenge never really gives you a break. The dungeon is populated with a lot of different monsters, although most of them just require you to mash the attack button and keep an eye on your health. There are a few exceptions, however, such as the level drainers who will take away experience levels from you permanently if you let them hit you. The game is lacking in reliable ways to kill enemies before they can strike back, so that fighting these creatures is almost impossible without magic and even if you *are* a Wizard, you'll want to escape as often as stand and fight. This is perhaps the only part of the game that really compares favorably to its successors - World and Dungeons of the Unforgiven are much deeper games, but you never quite have the feeling of constant danger lurking that you do in Revenge. Even as your level gets higher and sudden death isn't an issue anymore, there is still the risk of losing levels and with them, hours of progress. It's commendable how Moraff's Revenge always keeps you on your toes, even if the concept of level drainers is inherently frustrating.

For most players - even those who are interested in old dungeon crawlers at all - Moraff's Revenge is going to be the least appealing choice out of the trio of Moraffware dungeon hacks. It's nice to have a look at to see what Moraff's World was based on, but unlikely to hold your interest for very long. It simply doesn't have the necessary depth for this. But there is one thing it got right and that Moraffware never really recovered since; that feeling that you're really down there on your own in a very unfriendly dungeon, and it's not you who is in control. A wrong move, a careless decision and even a bit of bad luck can put your character in serious danger. For me, that's what I play these games for in the first place. If it's the same for you, don't forget to look at Moraff's Revenge.

sashanan's avatar
Community review by sashanan (June 22, 2009)

Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.

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zippdementia posted June 24, 2009:

I don't like the tone you chose for this review. You start off with a sort've "hey, it's old, but check it out!" tone which makes me feel like this is going to be a nostalgic review praising a game for what it does right.

But you don't do that.

Instead, you point out and detail (very nicely, I should say) an experience which sounds like the gaming equivalent of having someone draw a rusty nail file repeatedly across the tip of my member. Honestly, this is much more set up for a bash review, and I think it should've been one. It would've lent some emotion and humour to an otherwise monotone description of how the game plays out.

In the end, your review ends up as middle of the road as the score you've given the game. Fitting, perhaps, but not very engaging.

What I DO like about the review is that you manage to explain the gameplay in such a way that I know exactly what kind of experience I'm going to get out of the game. That's hard to do, and you seem to do it effortlessly here (though I can see you took your time and thought about the crafting of this).
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sashanan posted June 24, 2009:

It's funny. The review is in part inspired by an actual bashing review (which you'll find up on GameFAQs next to this one), and I couldn't resist specifically jabbing at the other reviewer for something he failed to notice (the presence of other inns next to the el cheapo one that results in robbery and disaeses).

The way I feel about this game is something I probably didn't make very clear in the actual review. The game DOES pretty much suck...and yet I can't help but appreciate it for how brutal it is while still *usually* remaining fair. When it comes down to it, I guess I didn't pull punches where I saw an easy opening, but I didn't have the heart to beat it into submission.

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