I'm going to be honest: I don't remember most of the 80s. For most of 1985 and '86 I was totally crunked out on the white stuff -- breast milk. For those that do remember, I think you'll find the DROD RPG fitting. This game doesn't hold your hand, there are no context sensitive menus or automated interface processes. You will repeat entire sections, perhaps half of the game, several times as you try to puzzle out the details. It's a brutal game, a rewarding game, a game that is only as fair as you force it to be. Every decision must be weighted, manual saves are recommended on a frequent basis. You thought the other DROD games were challenging? They were! But this game is MORE challenging!
Tendry is a stalwart from Tueno, a character almost the symmetrical opposite of the series' usual hero. While Beethro is a clever clod drawn like a Gary Larson character, Tendry is eloquent and chisled while also being a complete idiot. He repeatedly claims that his bravery trumps any measure of power or skill, when the mathematical reality of winning is quite the opposite. And yet, the game is based on charging in and slugging it out with everything, it's just a question of order, so the character you play acts as sort of a blunt id to your intellectual super-ego. A two-dimensional player character is sadly a rare find in games, so we'll take it. (How many three dimensional characters have there been?)
The gameplay is unforgiving, demanding regular calculation of every act. Usually you can unlock a door and/or kill something and then gain access to an HP potion, new keys, or stat power ups. In every move, you've got to ask yourself, "is this a profitable situation?" If you can come out with more HP than you lost, or more keys, or a stat boost in general, than that answer is yes. You're going to want to prioritize stat boosts, as they act like a sort of compounded interest on the level of HP and key retention you're able to carry through the game's interconnected levels. Save often, because you're often going to discover information that would have led you to make better decisions. The sparse plotting of automated checkpoints is probably this game's greatest knock, because the asymmetry of information tends to produce a lot of wasted moments. Except, they don't always feel wasted because of the joy of doing better and the satisfaction of having figured it out on your inner abacus. I could wax pedantic on the business models of 80s games and how this figured into saving patterns and death, but you'll see what I mean.
The level design is excellent as usual, and the layering of secrets works great later in the game.
The story continues the effective but minimalist tradition of the DROD series, you'll get to see what's become of Halph, as well as the ensuing events in the surface world that Beethro left behind at the end of The City Beneath. The voice acting is passable, which for an informally recruited effort is pretty admirable. I found it odd, a bit chilling, that the theme is the unwilling relocation of civilian populations at the hands of a technocratic New World Order, as if macro-geometric vibes approaching the omega are being picked up by artists unknowingly and reflected as myths of the near future. Or maybe I've been reading The Invisibles too much.