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Castle Wolfenstein (game)

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Castle Wolfenstein is a stealth-action computer game, one of the first in the genre, developed by Muse Software for the Apple II. It was first released in 1981 and later ported to DOS, the Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64. It was the first game in the Wolfenstein series, and was later followed up by Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, and Wolfenstein 3d by id Software.[1]

StoryEdit

Castle Wolfenstein is a slow-paced stealth game set in World War II. The game's main objective is to traverse the levels of the castle to find the secret war plans and escape alive. Progressively higher military ranks are earned upon each successful escape with the war plans, and the game becomes correspondingly more difficult as each higher rank is achieved. There are 8 ranks, beginning with Private, culminating at the rank of Field Marshall.

GameplayEdit

The game is played from a top-down perspective, though the characters are seen upright like in a platform game. The player traverses the levels by sneaking past guards, impersonating Nazi soldiers and sometimes even killing opponents. Castle Wolfenstein can be controlled with a joystick, paddles, or a keyboard.

Upon starting the game, the player is equipped with a gun and bullets, which were taken from a dead cellmate. Once the player starts moving, he attracts the attention of the guards, who will try to shoot or apprehend him. He must either run from the guards, or kill them.

There are two styles of guards, the basic guards, and the SS Stormtroopers who wear bullet-proof vests marked with the SS insignia. The basic guards are not very intelligent, reacting only to the sounds of gunshots and grenades, or after seeing the player wandering around without a uniform. Additionally, they are unable to leave the rooms they are stationed in. The SS guards are much smarter and once alerted, tend to chase the player from room to room. They require a large number of bullets or a grenade to kill.

The player has two means of killing enemies. The first is to shoot the enemy, but this expends bullets, a scarce commodity, and risks raising the alarm if another guard is present. Alternatively, a grenade can be used, though this will also attract the attention of nearby guards. The guards die with a scream of "Aieegh!", which is in the form of a digital sample. Once an enemy soldier is dispatched, his body can be searched for bullets, keys, grenades and bullet-proof vests.

An alternative to the player shooting his way out of the castle is to find a uniform (either in a chest or from a dead guard), at which point the normal guards will think the player is one of them. However, the SS guards are smarter than that, and will usually expose the player as an impostor. This typically means that the best strategy is to quickly obtain a uniform, then attempt to sneak by any SS guards found along the way, since it can be very difficult (especially at higher levels) to win in a shootout.

Guards do not always have to be killed, however. Pulling a gun on a guard usually will cause him to put his hands up, allowing him to be frisked for ammo, bullet-proof vests, grenades, and keys. The player can still choose to kill the guard at this point, but it is not strictly necessary.

Some rooms contain locked chests that can be picked and searched. Some are empty, but others contain useful items such as bullets, grenades, uniforms, bullet-proof vests and the war plans. Chests can also contain bratwurst, Liebfraumilch wine, Schnapps, Eva Braun's Diaries, cannonballs, and medals, though all are worthless in terms of gameplay. Edible items, when ingested, result in comments on their flavor. After drinking an alcoholic beverage, a message of "Hic!" is displayed on screen and the player's aim is temporarily thrown off balance, resulting in bullets and grenades missing their target.

There are a total of 60 discrete rooms in the castle, on five separate floors. Although the rooms are shuffled at the beginning of each game, the path through the castle always remains unchanged. Therefore, it is possible to fully map the castle, and then utilize the map during subsequent games. The end of the game occurs rather suddenly, as the final room appears no different than the rest and the final speech file is much louder than the other sound effects. Upon escaping the castle, the player is presented with a hi-res graphic and a synthesized voice saying "auf Wiedersehen Schweinhund", which translated, means "Goodbye, Pigdog".

AnalysisEdit

One of the main drawing points for fans was its unprecedented use of digitized voices. German words shouted by the guards, such as "Halt!" (stop!) and "Kommen Sie!" (come, you!) were frequent. Though hard to understand, the voices added to the game's atmosphere and made Castle Wolfenstein stand out from other games released at the time.

With an emphasis on trying to avoid detection for as long as possible, Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel are considered by gamers to be prototypical stealth-based games; the first in a genre that wouldn't gain popularity until the late 1990s. {C In the Apple II version, the player could hold down the spacebar while picking a locked chest resulting in a faster unlocking of the chest.

AuthorEdit

Castle Wolfenstein was written by Silas Warner (1949-2004). He was one of the original employees of Muse. In addition to developing Castle Wolfenstein, he wrote the sound engine (called "The Voice") and the game engine. {C Original artwork for the box was created by John D. Benson.

LegacyEdit

Muse followed Castle Wolfenstein with Beyond Castle Wolfenstein which is very similar in terms of game play and appearance. The objective of that game is to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Castle Wolfenstein inspired the game Wolfenstein 3D by Id Software, which was released in 1992 and helped popularize the first-person shooter genre. Some fans of the original game now call it "Wolfenstein 2D" to differentiate it from id's game.

ReferencesEdit

  1. From Sun Tzu to Xbox, Ed Halter, pg, 155

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