Thor's Hammer

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Thor's Hammer

Post by MrFlibble » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:31 am

A while ago I discovered Thor's Hammer, an originally DOS shareware game that has gone freeware (in 2009). It's a first-person action game with strong RPG elements (quests, improving character stats but not via XP) in a fantasy setting. Typical for the time, it was released via the so-called Apogee shareware model, meaning that the entire game was split into three chapters, with the first being free to distribute and play, while the other two were only available upon registration.

In spite of its low-res graphics and somewhat choppy performance in DOSBox (the latter probably not noticeable on modern machines and/or using the DOSBox SVN Daum), I immediately loved the game for its atmosphere. The first episode (which actually may have been intended as a stand-alone game) puts you in the shoes of a Dwarven warrior who is sent on a quest to rescue a village from a powerful necromancer that occupied a nearby castle. This in turn is just a trial to deem if the protagonist is worthy of the real quest: to find Thor's Hammer and use it to defeat a powerful villain.

You start in the village hub and take quests from there. First, defeat the leader of orcs that terrorise the villagers. Find a more powerful weapon and armour, etc. You increase your stats (life and mana) and learn new spells a long the way. It's not a "true" RPG as there are no XP points: life and mana are increased by picking certain potions, spells are items to be picked as well. Yet the RPGish feel is quite there.

Every location the game takes you to has its own unique feel, achieved both by the textures used and the music. Level geometry is pretty Wolfenstein 3-D like (will probably remind you of Arena or Legends of Valour) with 90 degree walls only, but this never feels intrusive or too obvious, as the engine's capabilities are skillfully used to create nice, appealing visuals. The open area around the village is very nice, and the adventure takes the player though distinct locations, including the orc's underground stronghold, and abandoned mine, caverns, a castle etc. There's some non-linearity because you don't have to complete the dungeons in a fixed order. I think this aspect was taken out in the registered episodes.

As far as I know, the game never got popular as it first came out in 1995 when its underlying tech was very obviously outdated. But looking back now Thor's Hammer is a very nice game. I played the first episode several times and it did not fell dull or repetitive. Combat may not be implemented in the best possible way but overall it's a great example of how you can create a vibrant, unique fantasy world with some pretty limited resources.

A couple of videos:

For running this game, the suggestions in the Ancient DOS Games review (setting cycles above 50,000) are very much of an overkill, and will likely degrade performance. Thor's Hammer runs fine for me in vanilla DOSBox 0.74 with cycles limited to 26,800:

Code: Select all

cycles=max 75% limit 26800
I think that limiting cycles works a bit better than a fixed cycles count.

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