Dragon Wars

aka: The Bard's Tale IV
Moby ID: 2026
Apple II Specs
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Description official descriptions

Dragon Wars takes place in the magical land of Dilmun, an island of salvation perverted into a world of horror by Namtar (as you might expect - the bad guy).

The player starts with a party of four in the city of Purgatory, equipped with nothing more than.. well - nothing. Worst of all your magic users won't help you out, either, because magic has been banned (to correct this unpleasing situation is one of your main objectives). Other main targets are surviving, getting out of Purgatory and toppling Namtar (maybe getting some decent clothing, one or two shiny swords and the like on your way out).

Gameplay instantly reminds of the Bard's Tale series. Step-by-step first person 3D, opponents materialize out of the air. The combat system is turn based.

Unlike its (spiritual?) predecessors the game features a full-blown skill system, auto-mapping and many places to actually use all these abilities.
Reasonable distribution of your skill points is rather critical.


  • ドラゴンウォーズ - Japanese spelling

Groups +



Credits (Commodore 64 version)

11 People (10 developers, 1 thanks)

Designed by
Artwork by
Produced by
Assistant Producer
Music by
Cover Art
Design Consultant
Manual by
Commodore 64 art conversion by
Special Thanks to



Average score: 74% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 42 ratings with 3 reviews)

Ever seen an RPG Legend? Well this one's an RPG God!

The Good
Dragon Wars is a rare RPG that represents everything any RPG gamer could ever want in a game...and no doubt a little bit more.

The game was released around 1989, technology capabilities was minimal, but that never stopped the developers imagination for the quest for immortality represented in this game. I have to admit the creators of this game overdid themselves in creating this one.

So what does it take to be an RPG God? Well I'll show you:

  • Specialized and Detailed Character Creation Do you know how many character skills this game has? (need to add screenshot) This game has more than 20 skills to develop, consisting of personal skills, magical skills, weapon skills and more. It's amazing that 20 years later some of those games out there that "claim" to be RPG's have yet to have the intelligence to even come close to what this game has to offer. Character development is always anticipated in Dragon Wars. You start weaker than worms but eventually you can develop them into Gods! Why? No level limitation...at least not that we know of. One of the most irritating things in an RPG game is when they tell you that the character has a level limitation. Who are they to tell you that you can't go all the way? This is one thing I will always hate about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons...although I love the series, I hate the fact that it (the series) intentionally limits the freedom of character development...as other similar RPG games out there. Another thing that is quite rare for an RPG. You can restart the game but still use your old characters with their gained levels! Although you lose your items (and logically so) it's great that you don't have to restart character development. The fact that there is basically no-limit in levels (at least to my knowledge) means you don't have to be stingy in planning your character. You can make "mistakes" in character development here, as during the course of the game you realize that some skills are best left to one character and other skills are better developed than others. With unlimited levels, you have a margin of error and not fearing that you wasted your character points.
  • Freedom of Choice: Non-linear storyline and Story Depth The game offers so many choices and paths to choose, I don't think I've ever done all of them. The first city Purtagory which you are banished to offer various ways to exit: You can fight your way through the gate (unlikely at first), You can sell yourselves through the slave market, you can swim to freedom, you can escape through the dangerous Magan Underworld. Each are different approaches and it really doesn't make much difference which one you take, as there isn't any better way. The funny thing is that some paths are easier than others and when you restart the game with you better developed characters, you can ultimately try the other paths that were almost impossible to do the first time around. Eventually you restart the game several times and try all the other options without feeling crappy as you still keep your developed characters. Amazing! It's amazing how many RPG games have linear stories. It's amazing how many RPG games "judge" your actions, discriminating your actions. Even the virtuous Ultima Series doesn't really judge you. Games like Arcanum needs to learn a thing or two about not making the player feeling bad for making a "lousy" path. Though the story is not so deep compared to what a lot of games have accomplished nowadays such as Final Fantasy, it's still has more depth than even games today have. What's going on in today's games. Doesn't anyone know how to tell a story anymore? Why does it always have to be dang graphics? Damnit, you developers are turning kids today into modern day idiots with these low intelligence games and your still blaming the government for that idiocy. You are the people that has the 2nd most direct impact to kids today, as you did to kids like me 20 years ago. If all you think about is money and graphics, than dang I will continue to insult the hell out you developers in my reviews but I will also no doubt kiss the feet of those who still have idealism to create games that have soul! Sorry I got a little carried away and out of context but really, give us stories to remember!

    **The Bad**
    Those "read paragraph ##" things can be rather irritating, especially if you don't have the manual. (probably why it took me 6 years to finish this one...haha). Some skills are pratically useless though and in many cases, you only use those skills only once. Sound was minimal although back then there weren't many games with sounds either. Can't get the opening music outta my brain! :)

    **The Bottom Line**
    An RPG way ahead of its time. This game represents the basic values of what every RPG should have, has to have and always will have. Anything less that what this games symbolizes and accomplished means that it's just another game without brains or soul. In short: RPG Blasphemy. A hundred more or so RPG's are introduced each year. How many do you know qualify to be deemed as an RPG legend...or better yet, an RPG god? Game developers= We're waiting.
  • DOS · by Indra was here (20750) · 2004

    A true classic CRPG I still enjoy playing

    The Good
    The graphics - Colourful EGA graphics with a nice 3D-view and large, animated monsters with a lot of personality.

    The sound - Nice title tune and digitized sound effects, all through the beeper. (So none of that pathetic AdLib stuff they used to have back then.)

    The gameplay - I just can't help but long for the days when moving from one side of the city to another in a CRPG took but a few seconds (what with block-by-block movement, controlled with the cursor keys), instead of clicking and waiting and clicking and waiting as per Baldur's Gate or Fallout (...and clicking and waiting...). I also prefer turn-based CRPG's to "real-time" ones.

    The automap - 'Nuff said.

    The Bad
    The graphics - So the monster close-ups look good, but I wouldn't have minded if you could see the monsters/NPCs from afar. (As it is, most NPC's don't have pictures at all.) Also, the monsters don't react in any way to getting their teeth kicked in - they just loop the same fancy animations.

    The plot - It's a good plot as far as it goes, but there really isn't much of it. Basically you just wander around until you're strong enough to kill the bad guy. It does have some puzzles, though, and what storyline there exists is well written.

    The combat - Doesn't allow for much tactics, but that was the standard back then.

    The Bottom Line
    I believe this was my first (legal copy of an) IBM PC game, and I really got disoriented when playing it for the first time, as it was also the first first-person game I had ever played (the same thing happened to me when I played Doom for the first time). I was instantly hooked, however, as the graphics were just as good as in C=64 games (compared to Alleykat), and the game seemed really huge.

    The game may not seem huge by todays standards, and it really isn't all that difficult, either, but it took me two computers two years to finish it, and I had a lot of fun with it. It is a fun and rewarding CRPG of its time, made by high standards, and I'd probably still play it if my 400MHz AMD would run it (I guess IBM PC-compatibles aren't all that compatible any longer).

    DOS · by Late (77) · 2001

    I finished it twice

    The Good
    The design - there's no single path to completing the game, nothing you're forced to do in order to be able to finish. One of the first tasks you're supposed to do, for instance, is find your way out of the city you start in. Well, there's at least four different ways to do it, each leading to a somewhat different game experience (eg., different NPCs with different skills will join your party). For another, there are puzzles scattered throughout the game, but you don't have to solve every one in order to win (good, because some I never did - probably didn't have the NPC with the proper skill).

    The size - this is a big game. I didn't visit all the locations the first time through. The second time through was very different from the first time - not a completely new game, of course, but like visiting another part of the same country.

    The Bad
    The manual - some parts of the plot are advanced by reading paragraphs in the manual. These contain vital information you won't learn any other way. They're read only when the game instructs you to read a particular one (the paragraphs are out of order, and some of them are distractors, having nothing to do with the game, in order to discourage you from reading all of them at once). These could easily have been incorporated into the game itself, but putting them in the manual enhances copy protection - the game is almost useless without the manual. What is irksome is that something designed to protect the developers against theft for the first few weeks or months of release still hampers you years later.

    The graphics - these are designed for an EGA display, and look very nice. But when I upgraded to a VGA display, the image pixels didn't blend as well as they had, and they looked worse.

    The Bottom Line
    As I recall this game got so-so reviews when it first came out, but it's really very good. I've played much more highly reviewed CRPG games that I've found ultimately disappointing - they look nice, but the gameplay is linear and the endgames surprisingly easy. Neither of those objections applies to this game. It's so satisfying, I was unsatisfied - I had to play it again right away!

    DOS · by anton treuenfels (34) · 2001


    Bard's Tale

    Dragon Wars was developed as The Bard's Tale IV, but three months before release the name had to be dropped. Interplay replaced Electronic Arts with Mediagenic as their publisher and Electronic Arts owned the Bard's Tale name. It was decided to rename the game to Dragon Wars. The developers had to rewrite the story so it would fit the new title.

    Default Party Characters

    The party in the beginning of the game consists of four default party members (which may optionally be deleted and replaced with new characters). The original party members are: Muskels, Theb, Elendil, and Cheetah. Three additional characters may also optionally be recruited in-game, these characters are: Louie, Ulric, and Valar.

    The Elendil party character in this game bears the same name with a fictional character created by author J. R. R. Tolkien, the first high king of Arnor and Gondor. One notable scene from Fellowship of the Ring, where Elendil dies fighting Sauron, his broken sword is then used to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand.

    Importable Characters

    The player may transfer (import) previously made character(s) from Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale, The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight or The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate into Dragon Wars. Transferring characters will unfortunately delete the previously saved game. The DOS version only allows importing from the first two games (the third one had not yet been ported to DOS when Dragon Wars was released) via the external command line tool DWTRAN.COM. Other versions allow importing from all three games and have an in-game utility for that purpose.


    Purgatory, the starting city in the game, comes from a legend or a myth referring to a place between earth and hell.

    Reversed Spelling/Semordnilaps

    Some of the names used in the game have a meaning if spelled backwards. Though it may be coincidental, there are numerous names that are used in this manner, among others: * Namtar, the bad guy's name read backwards is Ratman. * Another name used in the game, Lanac'toor, read backwards is Root Canal.

    Information here was also contributed by Late and Zzap.


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    • MobyGames ID: 2026
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    Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

    Contributors to this Entry

    Game added by Zzap.

    NES added by JRK. Commodore 64 added by Rebound Boy. Linux, Windows, Macintosh added by ZeTomes. Antstream added by lights out party. Apple II, Amiga, Sharp X68000 added by Terok Nor. Apple IIgs added by Scaryfun. PC-98 added by Unicorn Lynx.

    Additional contributors: Terok Nor, Indra was here, Alaka, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto.

    Game added July 21, 2000. Last modified April 8, 2024.