One of the best text-based RPGs ever made, Advanced Xoru is an excellent but little-known shareware dungeon romp that is reminiscent of Infocom's Beyond Zork, but with a much more effective use of RPG elements that actually impact gameplay. You play a nameless adventurer who, like the Avatar in Ultima, was inadvertently plucked one day from your familiar 20th century world into a dark dungeon in a fantasy world. Your goal, as the HELP screen helpfully advises, is to make your way through three levels of subterranean mazes, to find and vanquish the Ebony Titan from the lands of Xoru.
There are many innovative features that set Xoru apart from most RPGs and text adventures. Similar to Beyond Zork, an ASCII automap is displayed at every screen to show your location and possible exits. But Xoru uses the RPG mythos much more effectively in several ways. For starter, you can choose to play as one of five character classes: paladin, necromancer, barbarian, zen-druid priest, and shadowy tracker. Each of these classes starts the game with unique items. If you choose to be a zen-druid priest, for example, you will start the game with a useful spell in your inventory. Naturally, if you are a barbarian you can't cast any spells, so various scrolls found inside the game will be meaningless to you. This makes Xoru replayable similar to Sierra's Quest for Glory games: after you finish the game as one class, you may want to replay it as another to try different ways of solving the same puzzles. Puzzles are quite logical, but nowhere near as inventive as Beyond Zork. However, Xoru is arguably more difficult as you are given only 353 moves to finish the game. In contrast to other IF titles which increases the counter with each move, the move counter in Xoru starts at 353 and counts down to zero. Although this may seem like an unnecessarily strict number of moves, it is actually not that bad since non-movement commands such as LOOK etc. don't count as one move.
Xoru has a number of other useful features, such as allowing you to use arrow keys to move around. No more typing GO NORTH, etc. It also has a very useful HELP feature, and an excellent DIAGNOSE command which tells your character's armor value, strength level, score, rank, and overall feeling (e.g. you could feel "fine," "tired," etc.) Overall, I find Xoru to be an excellent, well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable text-based RPG. Well worth a look for RPG fans who are curious about the IF genre, and vice versa. Highly recommended!Reviewed by: Underdogs