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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #99: Dragonstomper

So, maybe you never played Dragonstomper on the old Atari 2600. Maybe you never plugged in the supercharger cartridge adapter connected to a cassette tape for extra memory. Maybe you JUST MISSED OUT ON THE FIRST GREAT FANTASY ADVENTURE VIDEO GAME EVER MADE. Yep. All-caps justified.

Released in 1982/83, Dragonstomper was a great leap forward for digital role playing games, the missing link in evolution between such early efforts as Venture or Adventure and later computer games like Ultima or A Bard's Tale. This was a dynamic world, one with turn-based combat sequences, spells, inventories, random encounters, characters attributes, and more. There were three distinct stages - roaming the countryside fighting monsters and gathering treasure, visiting the town to gird for the final encounter, and then braving the eponymous dragon in his den.

It's hard to convey just how new and different this was, the closest thing we'd ever yet seen on screen to match the tabletop D&D experience. Like with so many things now, it suffers in retrospect, but it was, quite literally, game-changing. I would sit and watch my brother play for hours, not even caring that I didn't get a turn. The damn thing was just that groundbreaking. And somehow, no one ever talks about it.

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