In the time before Windows 95, when Windows 3.1 / 3.11 were around, there were pretty much 2 “classes” of games: DOS games that were as you knew them at the time, taking up the whole screen, the interface seamlessly integrating into it (of course dependent on the quality of the developer) etc.. And then there were the Windows games: since Windows at the time was not optimized for games at all (this was the time before DirectX even existed), they were usually pretty simple in comparison. Lots of board game adaptations, simple action games and the like, more in depth games seemed to be rare (though my sources were rather limited to be fair). So finding an RPG (even if it was a pretty simple one) on one of my collection discs was a neat surprise.
Castle of the Winds was a 2-episode shareware game. Shareware was much more prominent at the time and essentially a way to distribute part of the game for free as a “demo”. In the case of this game it was split into 2 parts. The first episode was freely distributed, you could complete it without any other limitations. Only to continue after the episode, you had to order the full game (at the time through mail-order via the distributor usually), then you could load your cleared save-game of the first episode and continue from where you left off.
The game itself is a top-down turn-based dungeon crawler essentially, with multiple dungeons to go through, each of them advancing the base plot (starts out with you trying to avenge your parents and the people of the village you lived in). To each dungeon, there was a town/city where you could heal up and buy/sell equipment, among a few other things. Items you found in the dungeon often needed to be identified first, either through a spell you could learn, a scroll with the spell or in the appropriate shop, as there was always (at least with equipment) the chance for the item to be cursed, dragging your stats down and making it impossible for you to unequip the item without removing the curse first. At the bottom of a dungeon you’d usually find a boss monster with a bit of dialog to continue the story.
Being a Windows 3.x game, it is very basic looking (simple looking graphics and the UI is built on the basic Windows 3.x UI) and uses no music or sound effects (apart from the Windows beep). Dialog and the story are presented simply with pop-up message boxes. Didn’t bother me at the time, figuring out the best distribution of stats for my character to venture out into the dungeons to find better gear, learn new spells and defeat more enemies kept me entertained for quite some time. I think I must have gone through the first episode multiple times before getting thirsty for more. But that is for another post… 😉