Sword of Fargoal: The History of the 1982 Classic
Sword of Fargoal is a roguelike from a time when the word ‘roguelike’ didn’t exist. Gaming’s early history isn’t as well-documented as we’d like, but Sword of Fargoal’s 1982 release on the Commodore VIC-20 was only a couple of years after the release of Rogue, putting it somewhere around the earliest five to ten games in the genre. It’s the 1983 Commodore 64 release of the game that is most fondly-remembered, with the game making its way onto many a shared floppy filled with pirated games, and presumably at least a few sales of the actual game. It received critical acclaim at the time, though it was often described as being particularly difficult, even by the standards of its time.
The game was originally created by one guy, as was the style at the time. Jeff McCord, barely out of high school, put the game together based on an earlier game he created called Gammaquest II for the Commodore PET. Interestingly, the VIC-20 version was written entirely in BASIC programming language, though it was rewritten for the C64 version with the help of Scott Corsaire and Steve Lepisto. Although there was no follow-up, it remained a well-regarded cult classic through the years, eventually being brought to the PC and Mac in a more or less preserved form, before getting its official remake in 2009 courtesy of a team-up between Jeff McCord and Paul Pridham, who is perhaps better known to some as Madgarden, the developer who would go on to work on titles like Punch Quest and Death Road to Canada.
The remake was a particularly ambitious one, adding tons of new items and completely redoing the game’s visual style. It also added new difficulty settings and the option to play as a male or female adventurer. On the whole, the remade version is considerably more approachable, massaging out some of the more frustrating random elements and including items that address status ailments that previously had no solutions beyond waiting them out. This version of the game hit at just the right time in the App Store’s history, well before the genre started really hitting its stride on the platform. Indeed, it seems likely that the success of Sword of Fargoal iOS inspired many of the similar titles that followed. Reviews at the time of its release were favorable, and the game received an enthusiastic response from players.
Sword of Fargoal received a number of updates in the years after its release, even getting an update to its visuals after the release of devices with Retina display technology. Unfortunately, like many games from the early days of the App Store, it wasn’t updated to keep pace with larger screen sizes and was left behind when 32-bit support was removed from iOS. Luckily, some legends never die. The game was made part of the GameClub line-up and is now updated and ready to play once more.