Akalabeth: World of Doom came out in 1980 for the Apple II. Written by Richard Garriott aka Lord British aka the guy who created the Ultima series, it features a lone adventure exploring a dungeon-filled wilderness.
I downloaded every game mentioned or referenced in the Almanac, from Akalabeth to Zaxxon. — Ready Player One p. 64
Akalabeth starts by guiding you through character creation, complete with randomized starting stats. You then choose to be a warrior (who can use all kinds of weapons and armor, but no magic) or a mage (who can use magic, but no weapons or armor). You begin in a store, where you can buy your gear and food (food being just as important as the gear). From there, you can visit Lord British’s keep where he gives you a quest to find a dungeon and kill a viper.
The overland map features crude renderings of mountains, structures and the all-important dungeon. Each move in the surface world costs one food … which causes problems far more quickly than one might think. When you venture into a dungeon, it switches to a simple, first-person, 3D view. It’s the Apple II, so the renderings are exceptionally crude, but in 1980 they got the job done.
While in the dungeon, your movement costs 1/10 of a point of food per step. While in the dungeon you’ll fight monsters, fend of thieves, and retrieve loot such as gold pieces and weapons. Your goal is to survive and return to Lord British for another quest.
The Ultima series dominated my middle school and high school years. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I spent playing Ultima II and its sequels. That having been said … I never played the original game, and I didn’t even know about Akalabeth. When I researched the game for the Ready Player One Replay, I was pleasantly surprised at the connection. Playing the game, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for those Ultima II dungeoncrawls of old, as well as good ol’Lord British himself.
As for the game itself … the first time out, I played a mage named Tac (all my computer RPG characters are named Tac, and appropriately enough, it’s because of Ultima II)
I managed to find Lord British and received the quest to kill a viper, but then died of starvation while wandering the countryside. Clearly, I did not buy enough food.
The second time out, I was a fighter. I received the same quest, but this time – equipped with my trusty ax, a shield, and a lot more food – I made it to a dungeon. I fought my way past rats, orcs, and thieves, and as I did so, I had the thought that maybe I should be mapping this dungeon, just like I did in the old days. But then I pushed the thought aside and continued onward and downward. I made my way to Level 3 where I battled (and slew) a viper).
Then I had to fight my way back to the surface. I made it back to Level 2 easily enough … but then fell through a trap back to Level 3. There I went up against another viper as well as a thief who stole my shield and one of my axes before I killed him (sadly, killing him didn’t allow me to recover my stuff). Whittled down to 3 hit points, I continued my desperate skyward climb. After making it back to level 2, I was able to scrounge a bow and some arrows and continue to add to my pile of gold. What I didn’t find though, was food. And my food was slowly running out. Not as fast as in the surface world, but fast enough that I needed to be efficient about getting out of the dungeon.
I started to regret not drawing the map. My doom came when I fell through another trap, got stuck on Level 3, and starved to death while fending off a rogue. This may sound like a miserable experience, but I was smiling the whole time. This is what the games of my youth were like, and honestly, this is why I’m doing the replay in the first place.
The Ready Player One Replay is an exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
- My High Score: Made it to Level 3, then starved to death.
Where to Play
- Internet Archive: Akalabeth – Browser-based emulator.
- GOG: Akalabeth: World of Doom – Downloadable game.
Featured Image Meta
A viper lurks in the depths of one of Akalabeth’s dungeons.