Castle Wolfenstein

Released in 1981 by Muse Software, Inc. and written by Silas S. Warner, Castle Wolfenstein was a computer game which was originally made for the Apple II and Apple II+, but was so popular upon release that it was eventually ported to the Atari 800, Commodore 64 and IBM PC and PCjr.

Marketing

The plug from the original box reads:

World War II rages across Europe... Castle Wolfenstein is occupied by the army of the Reich and converted into battlefront headquarters. You have been captured and brought to the Castle for interrogation by the dreaded SS. From a hiding place behind the stones of the dungeon a dying cellmate produces a Mauser M-98 pistol fully loaded with ten bullets and gives it to you. Your new mission: Find the Nazi war plans and escape Castle Wolfenstein alive.

Gameplay

Castle Wolfenstein was a remarkably robust game for its time. It was also very difficult to get used to the controls, if you lacked a joystick (which I, in my youth, did). In addition to 10 directional keys (q,w,e,a,s,d,z,x, and c) there were 10 aiming keys (i,o,p,k,l,+,<,>, and ?). The aiming keys, were obviously to point your weapon, and the movement keys were to move your brave soldier from room to room throughout the castle. In addition to these, T would throw a grenade (in the direction your gun was pointing), u would use the contents of a chest or looted guard body, RETURN would show you your inventory, and ESC would exit and save your game.

Some of the really memorable aspects of this game were the guard behavior and some of the things you could do with your items. The guards would try to speak (through the Apple speaker, mind you.) and it sounded horrid, but you could sort of understand what they were saying. They had a rather robust spoken vocabulary, for the time, with such phrases as:

  • Achtung! - Attention!
  • Halt! - Stop!
  • Feuern! - Fire!
  • Folgen - Follow
  • Kamerad - I surrender
  • Kaput - I'm screwed
  • Schweinhund! - Pigdog! (It's actually a serious German curse, regardless of how silly it sounds in English.)
  • and Was ist das? - What is that?

Another interesting aspect of the guards was how they would act. Most of the time, they would actually try to capture you, rather than simply blow you away. Of course, if you resisted, they would be more than happy to blow you away. If you happened to get the drop on them, however, they would surrender, raise their hands and submit to a search. This sort of interesting gameplay is why I consider the original Wolfenstein far more of an adventure game than a shooter.

You could also blow up doors and chests with grenades, shoot open chests (sometimes with less than desirable results), and blow holes in walls (which I believe was a bug, but it worked all the same).

The eventual aim was to obtain the Nazi war plans and then find the exit, which was a far more difficult task than it sounds, as the map was generated randomly with each new game. If you manage to escape with the plans, you would get promoted, and be able to play again, at a higher difficulty level. The promotion levels were:

Legacy

Castle Wolfenstein was succeeded in 1983 by its only true sequel Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. Strangely enough, others found the game so exciting that in 1992, a first person shooter was released under the (now franchise) name Castle Wolfenstein 3D. November of 2001 saw the sequel to that, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, released by Activision, which contained a grevious error regarding the original game in its documentation, which was both the impetus for this node, and a letter from me to Activision (They said the 'original Castle Wolfenstein' was released in 1983 and said the object of the game was to blow up Hitler's bunker. They were right on the money, if they had meant Beyond Castle Wolfenstein).

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