Gateway to the Savage Frontier (1991) is a Gold Box Dungeons and Dragons computer game developed by Stormfront Studios and published by SSI for the Commodore 64, PC and Amiga personal computers. The title was the #1 selling game in North America in August 1991.
When SSI began work on the Dark Sun game engine in 1989 after the completion of Secret of the Silver Blades, they passed responsibility for continuing the Forgotten Realms Gold Box games to Stormfront. Designers Don Daglow, Mark Buchignani, David Bunnett, Arturo Sinclair and Mark Manyen set the action for the game in an area of the Forgotten Realms that TSR had labeled The Savage Frontier, north of Waterdeep and south of Luskan along the Sword Coast. The area was far to the west of the region that hosted the action for Pool of Radiance and its sequels.
One of the major locations in the Savage Frontier, Neverwinter, spun off a new chapter. Stormfront gained the support of AOL executive Steve Case to create the first-ever graphical MMORPG, and to base it on the Gold Box engine. To leverage the existing game and cross-promote the titles, Daglow based the new MMORPG in Neverwinter and named it Neverwinter Nights.
The game's principal technical enhancement to the aging Gold Box engine was the addition of wilderness play, where the party traveled long distances on the map while following the basic D&D rules for combat with wandering monsters.
The game also featured character-specific side-quests, with two NPCs who can open these optional missions. The side quests in turn open different endings for the game.
The game revolves around a standard (for Gold Box adventures) party of six adventurers who inadvertently get caught up in a plot by the Zhentarim to conquer the entire Frontier area.
The storyline, in rough terms, follows:
- The party starts off in Yartar, having just escorted a caravan from the dwarven stronghold Citadel Adbar (ruled by the dwarf king Harbromm). At the tavern, while the party is enjoying the feast and spirits, something in slipped into their food that causes them to pass out, and they are robbed of all gold and gear, especially the magic longsword that one member used to slay a griffon at Longsaddle. Fortunately, each character keeps a purse of coins under their pillow so they can buy armour and weapons.
- Through rescuing the NPC Krevish, the party being hired by the Kraken in Yartar to assassinate a cleric of Bane at Nesme, only to discover that this evil priest was the only individual standing in the way of the conquest.
- Rescuing the magic user Amelior Aminitas from Everlund, an eccentric and somewhat absent-minded wizard who explains how to stop the Zhentarim. Returning to Yartar, the party is captured and imprisoned in a Kraken base below the city. There, the magic longsword stolen at the start is recovered but the party has to fight four giant squid in a huge tank before escaping.
- Finding four magical statues scattered across the frontier before the Zhentarim, led by a General Vaalgamon, gets to them.
- Traveling to the dead city of Ascore to end the Zhentarim plot.
Basically, Zhentil Keep plans to use these magical statues to open a way through an otherwise-unpassable desert for their armies. If successful, the party is hailed as the "Heroes of Ascore," which is carried over into the sequel.
The game spawned one sequel, Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992).
The game was reviewed in 1992 in Dragon #177 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.