Sword of Saros

Sword of Saros

Company: Starpath / Arcadia
Model #:
Jon Leupp & Stephen Landrum
Year: 1983
Only available by mail order

Although the decade had started brightly for the Atari 2600, as the 80's wore on fortunes started to change.  Towards the end of 1983 the Atari 2600 market had become flooded with seemingly every major company starting a games division and pumping out cartridges.  Retailers could only stock so many games and worse yet, gamers only had so much money to spend.  By 1984 the market had entered into a state of free fall which wouldn't recover for several years.  During this time Arcadia (renamed Starpath due to a copyright dispute with Emerson and their Arcadia 2001 game system) was still in the process of making high quality game for their Supercharger add on.  Unfortunately with the market deteriorating so badly sales had started to to falter and their last few games (The Official Frogger, Rabbit Transit, and Party Mix), saw little time on store shelves.  By the time Sword of Saros and Survival Island were finished, Starpath had become a mail order only company trying to clear out their old inventory and keep the lights on.  Because of this Sword of Saros and Survival Island were only sold through mail order with black and white manuals in ziplock baggies.


Sword of Saros is one of Starpath's more ambitious titles.  The game consists of three different screens: The Maze, The Treasure Room, and the Wizard Battle.  Although it may sound like an RPG, Sword of Saros is more of a fantasy themed action game with some light RPG elements sprinkled in.  Think of Sword of Saros as cross between Escape From the Mindmaster and Dragonstomper.  Your goal is to make your way through all seven mazes and find all the pieces to the titular Sword of Saros.

The maze is where you'll be spending most of your time so you might as well become better acquainted with it.  There are seven different mazes (levels) in the game with eight treasure rooms per maze.  The mazes are randomly generated each game, so you can't cheat by using a guide.  On the first two levels you'll see the entire maze all at once which makes them fairly easy to navigate.  On levels three and four you'll only see the part of the maze right around you due to the 'Wizards magic' but at least you can see where you've been.  On the last few levels you can only see the area around you AND the areas you've already been will cover back up once you move far enough away.  This makes getting through the maze quite difficult if you don't make a map.  The goal of the maze is to get through the rooms and make it to the exit.  Of course you wont be able to just wander the maze unmolested...


Also wandering the maze are the Wizard and his 'Tracker Bats'.  The Wizard will  spend his time actively searching for you while his bats (which are basically the Wizard's familiar) will randomly wander about the maze.  If the Wizard sees you he will immediately start following you until you escape into a room, find the exit, or are forced into a battle (more on that later).  If the Tracker Bats find you the Wizard will teleport to their location and start following you bu the bats themselves cannot hurt you.  Occasionally the Wizard will teleport to a random location in the maze, when this happens you'll hear a sound.



Now would be a good time to talk about your stats.  You can see your status (and pause the game) at any time in the maze by pressing the fire button.  On the stats screen you'll see your life points (you start with 25 which is also the max), all the items you've picked up so far, the amount of gold you have, and any pieces of the sword you've found.  To use an item, select it and press the fire button.  Gold and keys will be used automatically when the situation arises  (gold can only be used on the last level to bribe monsters and keys will automatically open doors in rooms).  Items , keys, and gold can be found in the Treasure Rooms which you'll need to raid to stand a chance at winning the game.  There are eight different items in Sword of Saros:

Used for bribing monsters on the final level
If you collect 9 gems you can use them to create one or more of each item

Makes the entire maze visible

Recovers 4 to 7 life points

Causes the Wizard and Tracker Bats to run away from you for a time

Lets you see the Wizard and the Tracker Bats in the maze even when that portion of the maze isn't visible

Causes you to be invisible to the Wizard and the Tracker Bats

Allows you to move through doors.  You'll lose all the extra keys you have when you go to a new level

After wandering the maze for a bit you'll eventually find one of the Treasure Rooms.  These rooms are where you can stock up on all the things you're going to need to get through the maze and the rest of the game.  Treasure Rooms look like open areas in the maze and will automatically be entered when you step into the area.  Each Treasure Room has six alcoves with a random treasure in them that you can grab by waiting in front of it for a second or two (you can't grab an item if you already have 9 of them).  In each Treasure Room you'll see a guardian monster which will move around the room trying to touch you.  There are several different kinds of guardians, but they all act the same (except for the spider which can fire a web above or below itself for some reason).  If the monster touches you you'll be stunned for a few seconds and lose from 1 to 5 life points.  You have no weapons in this game so you're only defense when in a room is to run around and avoid the monster while attempting to grab the treasures.  This can be quite difficult on the higher levels as the monsters get faster and faster and you'll have to lead them around the room a few times in a circular pattern before you'll have enough space between you to grab a treasure.  To exit a room you'll need to push up in one of the corners (there are no visible doors) and you'll be deposited back in the maze on the same side of the room you exited from.  Keep in mind that both you and the monsters move in an odd jerky motion that can take a little getting used to.

As you move around the maze exploring the rooms you'll notice that in one Treasure Room in each maze has one or more doors in its alcoves.  If you've picked up a key the door will be open and you can try your luck.  If you've found the correct door you'll earn a piece of the sword and exit to the next level.  If not, you'll waste a key and reveal a random treasure.  The room that contains the door and the door in the room that leads to the next level are completely random.  You may find the room right away near your starting position or it may be in the furthest corner of the map.  You'll never know until you start exploring.

No matter how diligently you play, eventually the Wizard is going to find you and force you into a battle.  The Wizard Battle screen is rather odd.  You start at the bottom of the screen and a large figure of the Wizard appears at the top.  The Wizard will then start summoning skeletons that will move down the screen, weaving back and forth.  If a skeleton touches you you will lose 1 to 4 life points in addition to the 1 to 5 life points you automatically lose when the Wizard Battle starts.  If you can successfully make your way to the top of the screen where the Wizard is standing the battle will end and the Wizard will teleport back to where the Tracker Bats are and start looking for you again.  On this screen you move faster when you're moving diagonally than when moving straight up, so use this to your advantage.

The final level of the dungeon is a little different.  Instead of finding items in each room, you'll only see open doors.  Here you must pick the random door that you hope leads to the exit, otherwise you'll have to try another door or another room.  You'll notice that the monsters on this level are content to just chill in the center of the room as long as you have 100 gold on you.  Each time you try a door it will cost you another 100 gold to keep the monster from attacking you.  This is the only time gold is used in the game, so you'd better be extremely lucky or have a lot of it on hand.  If you run out of gold you'll have to contend with an extremely fast monster chasing you around the screen while you try to open random doors.  This final level is the weakest part of the game as it relies on nothing but dumb luck.  If you manage to find the right door in the right room you'll be presented with a picture of your stats, the completed sword, and your final ranking which will be Wizard as you've completed the game.  You can get other ranks (such as Necromancer) depending on how many pieces of the sword you found before dying.

Sword of Saros is an interesting game, but it feels like a collection of random ideas that were thrown together and never quite gelled.  The graphics are rather nice (although your character looks a little squat on the Treasure Room and Wizard Battle screens), but sounds are sparse.  The biggest problem may be that the Treasure Room portions of the game (where you spend much of the game) are rather dull.  Your character has no defenses and has to run helplessly around the room several times before having enough distance between the player and monster to grab a treasure.  Dragonfire had the same concept, but implemented it much better.  On the other hand Sword of Saros is a long game that will keep you busy for awhile and is fun while it lasts.  It's a shame that it didn't see a wide release because it shows just how far the 2600 could be pushed with a little effort (and a whole lot of RAM).

Version Cart Text Description
6/15/83 Sword of Saros June 15th, 1983
Incomplete!  For Demo Only!
Copyright 1983 Starpath
WIP version
Sword of Saros Aug 5, 1983
Late WIP version


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