“Forgotten Classics” is a celebration of obscure PC games that weren’t released to widespread fanfare – or simply fell of the radar of gamers at the time of their release – and deserve a second look. In this instalment: The Immortal, originally an Apple II RPG/adventure game by Electronic Arts ported over to the IBM PC in 1991, and designed by Will Harvey, who also designed Marble Madness and, (at age 15, no less!) the Music Construction Set.
The plot of The Immortal revolved around a young magician intercepting a call for help meant for someone else from his master, Mordamir, located deep within a labyrinth. Since you – as the young apprentice – were the only help available, you set out to rescue Mordamir. Once there, the young wizard discovered that things are not as straightforward as they are presented by Mordamir, and many plot twists unfolded. The dungeon was home to warring clans of goblins and trolls, whom you interacted with throughout the game, mostly through combat, but you could ally somewhat with the Goblin King for quests, information, and treasure. There were other allies to be found in the game, but not everyone had altruistic reasons for giving you aid. And there were other creatures living underground that considered you a possible tasty treat, as well as a variety of traps, so it was necessary to stay alert!
Much of the back story was given in the form of dreams that came when the young apprentice slept (on little piles of hay conveniently located throughout the dungeon levels). The information these dreams contained was absolutely integral to surviving the quest, especially in the final sequence when Mordamir’s young apprentice had to make a choice of which powerful being he must ally with, and thereby end their stalemate. I don’t recall a game that used this kind of lucid dreaming game mechanic quite as well as The Immortal, though opinions may vary.
The first thing you noticed when playing The Immortal was that you tended to die a lot. Some players forgot they weren’t playing a buff warrior, but a magician’s young apprentice, so they forgot that running headlong into combat isn’t the wisest move for even an experienced wizard. The trick was to either avoid combat (if you could!) or keep dodging around until your opponent tired themselves out, and then move in for the kill. Sometimes this was easier to say than to do, however. To make things more difficult, if your character didn’t die during combat, there were always the myriad traps for him to trigger. Learning to navigate a room could result in many, many reloads, which is why The Immortal was considered a very difficult game to finish.
The next thing you noticed while playing The Immortal was the sheer level of violence. The combat screen graphics were fairly detailed for its day, and the level of gore they contained was a little over-the-top, which culminated with Mortal Kombat-style “finishing moves” with similar graphic details, such as decapitations, exploding skulls, eviscerations, and more. For an early 1990s game, The Immortal was pretty intense. (Oddly enough, the MS-DOS version wasn’t nearly as bloody as the Apple IIGS or Commodore Amiga versions. The Nintendo Entertainment System version had much of the gore removed, but the Sega Genesis version might be the goriest of the all.)
The game played in an isometric perspective, and an argument could be made for claiming The Immortal as the forefather of Diablo in its style. It certainly taxed the system specs of the day, with particular attention paid to the death scenes (as mentioned above). Did Blizzard find inspiration for their epic click-fest from memories of playing The Immortal? Play it and decide for yourself!