Closer Look: Warlord's Temple

Six arrows. More than enough to kill anything that moves.

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: May 30, 2019
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This time we're going to be taking a look at Matt Williams's Warlord's Temple, a mid-90s release under Software Visions. This project hasn't really covered Software Visions much at all, only looking at Alexis Janson's first ZZT game, BugTown. As far as ZZT companies go, they've never really been more than some teenagers playing pretend. And while it's easy to compare SV to other big name ZZT companies like Interactive Fantasies (whose works we've seen a lot more of), Software Visions is unique in that there was some success outside of ZZT. Granted this success is essentially just Alexis Janson creating the only ZZT clone that ever went anywhere with MegaZeux, but if any shall we say, third-party, ZZT company out there ever made money off their work, it had to be Software Visions. There are even a few DOS games that are just standalone games entirely.

Matt Williams was another big name in the company, and so I decided to explore more of Software Visions's output with an early-ish ZZT fantasy RPG. By 1996 there were plenty of RPGs in the sense of games like Beth Daggert's Ezanya, but I don't think there were quite as many that had the Final Fantasy style of combat that really blew up in ZZT a few years later.

So Warlord's Temple is a a pretty basic ZZT world by today's standards, but it got in early enough that if anything it was setting the tone for what these kind of games should be. The game is a name that comes up reasonably often when naming ZZT classics and it's pretty easy to see why as the game progresses. There's a lot here in what's in fact a rather short game.

The game opens with a rather nice looking title screen, and a short introduction to the game's story. Evil took over, everything's been abandoned, and you're going to show up and lift the curse. This is told quite nicely with some fades showing the sky running red and some nice music.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ WARLORD'S TEMPLE โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข


   โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Software Visions Members โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Alexis Janson
Matt Williams
Clint Nielson

             โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Author โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Matt Williams

             โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Music โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Matt Williams
Luke Drelick

           โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Programmer โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Matt Williams

             โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Artist โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Matt Williams

          โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Beta Testers โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Alexis Janson
Jason Meadows
Stephen Williams
James Wong
Matt Williams
Luke Drelick

          โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Special Thanx โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
Tim Sweeney for starting it all
Alexis Janson for STK
Carlos daSilva

          โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ Story โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘

A young, dark skinned man walks from the
forest, quietly observing all that is
around him.  He walks, stealthily to the
stream, gets a drink, washes off, and
then rises from his squatting position.
Next, touching the tatoo concealed below
his torn, ragged shirt, he walks around,
looking at his surroundings.  Little does
this man called Marcus know what he will
find in this new land......

         โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ Gameplay โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘

Warlord's Temple plays differently from
most ZZT games.  The main different
principle is that you gain expierience
points to learn spells later on in the
game.  Each enemy that you defeat (built
in or otherwise) will give you points.
Also, some events may also give you

Due to the way this works, it is best to
try and defeat every enemy you see, and
to not be hit, as extra health is scarce.

Good Journey!
  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

As explained, Warlord's Temple isn't your traditional ZZT adventure. It incorporates an experience system with points being gained for defeating enemies and performing good deeds. The game warns you about the importance of doing so and avoiding damage, which is good advice as your score will go on to determine what spells the character can learn for the final battle, and as far as healing goes, there's really only one room to gain more health. It's tough, but feels fair.


The game itself has some very nice graphics. The title screen looked pretty good, but this technique of cutting the board in half to add a background layer works really well. Visually it's very impressive, and all done in an era where getting these special colors meant switching from board to board and plucking each character/color combination needed one by one.

The river vanishes into the background, the mountains have shadows and are darker in the distance, and there's plenty of little detail in what's in fact a beaver dam made up of sticks and stones.

The outside world is entirely horizontal like this, with the player only going left and right from here. Video game convention is defied here and the player should head to the west first.


The western path immediately leads to a dead end, with a man crying over a wrecked home with bits of lumber scattered around everywhere.

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข
You walk up to him, and see him crying.
You wonder what's wrong, so you ask, and
under his soiled beard, you see his mouth

You see, just days ago, a dark beam
came from the sky, causing great winds,
rain, and darkness.  It leveled what
home I had, and the remainder of the
people that have lived here fled.  I
have no where to go, and have lived here
my entire life, so I have chosen to
remain.  I am worried, however, that the
dark lord from long ago has returned.

Now, I am left without any protection
from the wild and the elements.  It is
impossible to survive in this tropical
valley without some sort of place to
stay.  I would build my home back, but
alas, all of my tools were washed away in
the storm.  I have not even anything to
cut a simple rope with for which to bind
the boards of my former house together.
If only I could find something that I
could rebuild my house with.

You decide that you had better help.

Oh, thank you!!  I would appreciate it
  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

The hermit shares his tragic story and our hero is more than happy to do what he can to help.


Talking to the hermit a second time leads to this amusing message.


Without much else to explore yet, it's worth checking out the intricacies of the dam. One of the rock is considerably sharper and can be used as a crude tool for cutting, but it's not what the hermit is looking for.


To the east lies the temple, overgrown with vines and now ruled by a dark and sinister force.


The rock can be used to break through some of the vines covering up the entrance. This is amusing since later on somebody will talk about how they were unable to get past the vines to get inside the temple when apparently all it takes is a sharp rock.

The player also gets to take one of the vines they chopped down.


And just like that the temple is open.


Chopping down some vines has more purpose than just opening the temple. It can also be used as construction material for the hermit. In exchange, the hero gets a mere string, but they weren't in it for the reward in the first place.


Continuing to put off exploring the temple itself and exploring the wilderness leads to a large cave mouth. Like the temple, I think this is also a powerful looking board. Caves are an incredibly common location in ZZT, especially in fantasy settings, but this is no tiny gray wall with a passage. It's enormous and has a wonderful sense of scale.


The inside of the cave, doesn't quite feel so huge. It's just a small room with some rather large centipedes and a spring.


For a refresher on underground geology, Williams kindly informs the player whether they're looking at a stalagmite or stalactite.


The use of large centipedes is a good choice for an enemy here. The large length makes it so that they slowly lumber around since most segments on one cycle will still be a segment on the next, this makes it easy to dodge them, which is essential if the player explorers here before obtaining the bow as the arrows can't be collected.

Collecting the arrows has a cute little detail where they animate from "โ•‘" to "โ”‚" before disappearing, giving two arrows one at a time. It also means the player is finally armed, but with only six shots given out, it's not worth attacking the giant centipedes just yet.


The last thing of interest here is the spring which has some peculiar water. It looks (and plays sounds) just like regular ZZT water, so the player needs to figure out there's something up with the cave to give it a purpose.


And then I got distracted by these centipedes playing Light Cycles with each other.

But as much fun as it was to watch them cut each other off, there was no putting off entering the temple now.


Wow that's a lot of blood and arrows.

The inside of the temple is just as full of vines as the outside, but none of them really impede the player's progress. It's a three way split as well, but ends up being pretty linear.


The skeleton is very much dead. ZZT has such a struggle with gore since it's just shades of red and a smiley face talking about how awful and gross it is. It's not scary, but it might be a little intimidating.


This is the first panel of a meme.

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข
The sign seems to be written in blood.
The blood has smeared, but the text is
still legible.

โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–ˆ โ–ˆโ–ˆ    โ–ˆโ–ˆ
โ–“โ–ˆ      โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–ˆ  โ–ˆโ–ˆ  โ–ˆโ–ˆ  โ–ˆโ–ˆ
 โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“
   โ–ˆโ–“   โ–“โ–“   โ–“โ–“  โ–“โ–ˆ    โ–“โ–“
โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“   โ–“โ–’   โ–“โ–’  โ–“โ–“    โ–“โ–’
โ–“โ–’โ–“โ–“   โ–“โ–“   โ–’โ–’   โ–’โ–“   โ–’โ–’
โ–’โ–’     โ–‘โ–’   โ–‘    โ–’โ–’   โ–‘โ–’
โ–‘     โ–‘โ–’   โ–‘โ–‘   โ–’โ–‘   โ–‘โ–’

               โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ  โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–ˆ โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ
              โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–“ โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–ˆ    โ–ˆโ–ˆ
              โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–“ โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–ˆโ–“    โ–ˆโ–ˆ
              โ–ˆโ–ˆ   โ–“โ–“ โ–“โ–“   โ–ˆโ–“    โ–ˆโ–“
               โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–“โ–’ โ–’โ–’โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“    โ–“โ–’
                โ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’   โ–’โ–“โ–“      โ–“โ–“
                 โ–’     โ–’โ–’      โ–’โ–“
                โ–‘โ–‘    โ–‘โ–’       โ–‘โ–’

You decide to listen to the message,
because without a weapon, you don't stand
a chance.
  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

Spooky! Since the player is considered unarmed, they still can't actually venture into the temple. It's a little strange that Williams lets the player fire arrows from the cave on that board instead of checking for a bow before allowing the player to pick them up. Those arrows are the only ones in the game that can be acquired before getting a bow.


Heading back outside and investigating the dam more closely reveals a perfectly good bow now that the hero has some string to tie to it.


Returning to the temple, the player is now finally ready to do battle.


The entrance is absolutely littered with blood and arrows, and I was really caught off guard by having a limit of just 6 shots carried at a time. This is a very interesting design decision that really makes Warlord's Temple feel almost like a survival horror game. The player is very restricted on ammo with this limit, having to make their shots really count.

This combines with the fact that there's almost no healing in the game. It creates a very dangerous scenario, and it would be easy to ruin the game with this, but Williams handles it quite well. The penalty for running out of ammo after all, is just having to turn back to the hub here where there's (hopefully) still plenty more to collect.

Williams also doesn't let the player waste pairs of arrows. The code gives ammo one at a time, checking if the limit's been hit, so it's possible to pick up a single arrow from a pair.


There's no clear path to take, or goal to work towards, so I decided to go to the left to this hall of pedestals.

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข
You unroll the scroll.  It is only one
page, entitled:


โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Ascension of the dark creatures โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘

The creatures of the dark dimension may
be powerful, but certain conditions must
be right for them to go inbetween
dimensions.  All 4 moons, this world, and
the sun must be alligned:

    โ–‘โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–ˆ   โˆ™ ยฐโˆ™ โˆ™โˆ™

If this condition is almost met, the
dark spirits may have some control in
another dimension, but cannot manifest
themselves there in a physical form.
The order of the moons is not important;
Just that they are all alligned with the
sun and this planet.  This allignment
generally takes place once every half

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

One of the first pedestals has a scroll on it containing a little bit of lore. We aren't told how the planets are particularly aligned at this moment (and we can see that Matt Williams also learned how to incorrectly spell aligned with an extra "l" like ZZT-OOP uses).


The next pedestal has a statue of a demon which very quickly comes to life, and it's quite difficult!

It moves fairly slowly, but will constantly move and shoot towards the player. It can be killed, but it's more complex than just hitting it with some arrows. Whenever the player aligns with it, it reverts back to its stone form. At this point it can't be harmed. The way the code is ordered means that what frequently happens is the demon slowly lines itself up with the player, firing a lot of suppressive fire along the way, then it moves into alignment, fires a single shot, and then turns to stone. This makes it very difficult to hit since the window to do so is so tight. It took me some time to even realize it could be killed.


The best way to deal with it is to try and get it pinned in one of these corners made by the other statues so that it tries to walk into walls most of the time.


One of the pedestals has a sword embedded in the stone, but the player has no way of freeing it.


As if the sword wasn't enough of a tease, there's also a stone quiver.


These last two statues consist of one being too overrun with vines to see, and one that has a hidden switch once it's touched. Unfortunately, on my first pass through the room I was too distracted by the demon statue and didn't actually examine this statue.


The western portion of the temple ends with a rounded empty room.

This is of course, not actually the case, with the room's purpose being to fight a snake with a rather fiery introduction sequence.


The demon fight here is not winnable with my current ammo. I'll cover it properly when the player is able to win, but unfortunately, activating the boss fight results in a magic barrier preventing the player from leaving until the snake is defeated. That's a tall order when the player has six shots maximum and the snake takes five to kill.

Instead, it's time to turn back to the main hub, grab some more arrows, and try the right passage instead.


More arrows, more statues, more vines, and some books.

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข
It's a book. You open it, and look at a
page inside:

     The spell of destroy is one of the
most powerful spells known to man.  It can
destroy almost any creature in existence
with one single blast.  This spell,
however, takes a great deal of experience
to learn.  An expierience level of 250 is
It goes on to talk about what to do to
learn the spell once you are experienced
Should you try and learn it?


  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

The first spell discovered is the last one to collect, requiring a lot of experience to get. However it does mean you have a goal to work towards.


The other statue on this side of the room is a weird symbol that just so happens to match the hero's tattoo and a mysterious faded message.


It's always fun to read every book in a ZZT library, but sadly only four of the books here have names, and they make up the four corners. "The Devil's Handbook", "Ghouls and Other Supernatural Creatures", "Evil", and "Strange Phenomenons" make up the named portions of the books.

A cute little event here is that when the player crosses the shelves, the named books on the opposite end of the shelves fly into the air and swap places. They're harmless, but after that statue in the other hall it definitely makes you expect a fight.

  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข
This book is, strangely enough, made of
stone.  The words that are visible are:

One of the only legible pages is dated 500
years ago:
โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Diary of King David III โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘

   I awoke this morning after a night
plagued with horrible nightmares.  I
could not make any sense of these
fabrications, however.  I am afraid that
they may be of an evil origin.

   My wife and I worry that the dark
lord may return.  My family has ruled for
thousands of years since its original
defeat, but it may have had time to
form new alliances with the people of the
dark realm.

   I only wish to live in peace.

   Why must my kingdom, and mine alone
cower in the fear that Dreadfire may
return?  What is so important about our
small valley kingdom?

   I must try to control these evil
dreams.  I must make them stop.  I cannot
bare it any longer!

Another entry is dated 2 days later:
โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆ Diary of King David III โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘

kingdom, my castle, my wife.
I write this only so that one may find
it, and help me avenge this loss....I
must now leave this castle, possibly this
entire land.  James, wizard for my
kingdom when even my father ruled, is to
the best of his ability trying to keep
Dreadfire from coming through the portal
from the dark world.  I can only hope
that he succeeds, but now I must run, and
pray on my journeys that good shall

Godspeed, James.

   I lay this cross here to forever
help and protect any of the people from
my kingdom.  Only pure good can overcome
the dark lord.

A cross baring the name of the King and
a small sign lies between the pages.
  โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข    โ€ข

Now we're getting somewhere. The former ruler of this kingdom's diary offers some information on what's happened, and gives us the name "Dreadfire", informing the hero of just who they're up against.

So the pedestals here have had some pretty big items: a powerful magic spell, a statue of a strange symbol shared by the hero, and the diary of a doomed king. There's one left to examine still.

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