Castle Wolfenstein is an early stealth-based action-adventure shooter video game developed by Muse Software for the Apple II. It was first released in 1981 and later ported to MS-DOS, the Atari 8-bit family, and the Commodore 64. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein was a sequel. This game is notably considered to be the first game that had a World War 2 setting, and the first series in general that would popularize this setting across succeeding games and other unrelated game series in various genres.
Castle Wolfenstein is a stealth-based action-adventure shooter 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 eight ranks, beginning with Private and culminating at the rank of Field Marshal.
It combines adventure game elements with real-time action. The game is played from a top-down perspective, though the characters are seen upright like in a side-scroller. 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.
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Upon starting the game, the player is equipped with a gun and ammunition, which were taken from a dead guard. 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, and will gladly walk their patrol paths into your raised gun and surrender to a search. 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 rounds or a grenade to kill.
The player has two means of killing enemies. The first is to shoot the enemy, but this expends ammunition, 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. Once an enemy soldier is dispatched, his body can be searched for ammunition, keys, grenades and bullet-proof vests. The player will only take as many rounds of ammunition and grenades as he can carry from the body, leaving the remainder.
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 will usually expose the player as an impostor.
Guards do not always have to be killed. 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, depriving the guard of the full quantity of these he carries. Any in excess of the player's carrying capacity disappear from the game. 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 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 internal contents of 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.
Other than the outer walls of the room and the stairs, the entire room is destructible using grenades. This can be necessary in order to access a chest from another direction if a body has fallen in front of it: searching a body has precedence over opening a locked chest. Chests can also be destroyed with a grenade, but if the chest contains explosives (bullets, grenades, or cannonballs) it will explode and end the game. Chests can also be shot open, but attempting to do so also risks setting off any explosive contents.
Running straight into walls temporarily stuns the player, but vertical walls can be clipped slightly by the player's motion and not stun him. Also, some horizontal walls can be walked into from the side without effect. Fallen dead guards can also allow the player to walk through horizontal wall segments and chests, albeit not from directly below. Surviving guards and SS will not walk over bodies, so they can be used to block passage to areas of the room, trap guards in cul-de-sacs, as well as block entrance by the SS into rooms.
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 limitations in technology only allowed for a few distorted shouts, 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—some of the first in a genre that would not gain popularity until the late 1990s.
The disks save the player's progress as they enter each room; because they are continually being used, the disks cannot be write protected. This allows players to cheat by opening the drive door before the game can write the death status to disk; one can simply reload the game as if he or she had just entered the room.
In the Apple II version, the player could hold down the spacebar (Apple IIe and later) or use the repeat key (Apple II Plus and earlier) while picking a locked chest resulting in a faster unlocking of the chest.
Castle Wolfenstein was created by Silas Warner (1949–2004). He was one of the original employees of Muse. In addition to developing Castle Wolfenstein, he designed the sound engine (called "The Voice") and the game engine.
Original artwork for the box was created by John D. Benson.
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Castle Wolfenstein was favorably reviewed by Creative Computing. Ahoy! criticized the Commodore 64 version's slow load times and annoying wall-collision detection, but called the game "addicting. I am not all that big on killing everything that moves, but I really got caught up in the adventure". Antic criticized the Atari 8-bit version's use of the Apple II original's "lousy sound and black-white-green-purple graphics". A 1991 Computer Gaming World survey of strategy and war games gave Castle Wolfenstein one and a half stars out of five.
Castle Wolfenstein became so popular that perhaps the first commercial game trainer for a video game was created for it. Muse released a sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, which is similar in game play and appearance. The objective is to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase, similar to the 20 July plot as part of Operation Valkyrie implemented by Claus von Stauffenberg.
Castle Wolfenstein inspired the game Wolfenstein 3D and its prequel Spear of Destiny by id Software, which were both released in 1992 and helped popularize the first-person shooter genre. Id went on to release Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory in 2003, Wolfenstein in 2009. Wolfenstein: The New Order, using the Id game engine id Tech 5, but developed and published by MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks, respectively, was released in 2014.
- "Computer Gaming World's RobotWar Tournament" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. October 1982. p. 17. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
- Silas Warner page from Games.Greggman.com
- Andrew Brill, Escape from Castle Wolfenstein in: Creative Computing, January 1982, pp. 38-40.
- Herring, Richard (June 1984). "Castle Wolfenstein". Ahoy!. pp. 57–58. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- Bernstein, Harvey (May 1985). "Beyond Castle Wolfenstein". Antic. p. 83. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Brooks, M. Evan (November 1991). "Computer Strategy and Wargames: The 1900-1950 Epoch / Part I (A-L) of an Annotated Paiktography". Computer Gaming World. p. 138. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- "If they won't fix Castle Wolfenstein, we will.". Computer Gaming World (advertisement). February 1984. p. 15.
- Plunkett, Luke. "In Memory of the Original Castle Wolfenstein (the one That Wasn’t In 3D)". Kotaku. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
- "Triumph of the Mod". salon.com. 2002-04-16. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- Castle Wolfenstein at MobyGames
- Castle Wolfenstein can be played for free in the browser at the Internet Archive