Currently playing: The incredible adventures of Van Helsing, Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession

September 14, 2012

Devil Whiskey for Bard´s Tale lovers on good offer!

I thought I shought notify readers of a special deal of indie software that Gamersgate now runs an offer for. There are few RPGs amongst them but one game that immediately got my interest was the Bard´s Tale clone Devil Whiskey. That game was released in 2003 and is a new incarnation based on the same old structure as Bard´s Tale. I have never played it but will surely try this out as soon as I am able.
 
The bundle deals are very attractive. For example you get three indie games of your choosing for 2.99 EURO.
 

 



 

September 12, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - The neighbouring county

After only partly successful in the Elven Pyramid due to the fact that I have to return there later on, I thought about my next move. I could either go to the derelict castle or cross the mountains to the neighbouring kingdom to ask for help as requested by my count. I choosed the latter. Perhaps the story will get clearer by that. 

I went down in the dwarven mines and at the first or second level there is a locked gate in the northwestern corner. By using the Steelkey found in the mines I was able to open the door that lead to a stairway that took me to the other side of the mountain.

A locked door took me to some stairs...

When I got to the surface it was already dawn and the moon stood high in the sky. I had to navigate through the land slowly.

At night the fauna changes and monsters are more frequent

I looked for the town and fought some random monsters on the way. I passed the entrance to the Sagacita Monastery, but I thought I should go on. After arriving at the town I attended an audience with the count of Cyldane who ordered support troops to gather. He also advised me to visit the library of Sagacita to find information about the elves. Perfect! A direction that will lead to information.


The count would help and he points me to another direction
 
Before we left for the monastery we decided to explore the surroundings first and found the oracle in the northestern part of the land. When we entered an old man offered to guide us. I did not have room for him in my party but worried that I might miss something without him. I returned to the town to dismiss my priest temporarily. Then I recruited the old man. He soon gave me a leather pouch and indicated I should put a mask in it. I wonder if that mask is found in the elven pyramid? He also gave some hints before going to the elven Pyramid. I had obviously been exploring the world in the wrong order.


Anyway we entered the so called oracle that consists of four elementars, each with a riddle to be solved. This part was only slowly solved during a few years playing time in the beginning of the 90:s. Some I could figure out myself but there where always one of them that got me stuck until I found the solution in a magazine of the time. In the end you will be given a Staff of Age, supposedly a very powerful item but I don´t know its real purpose yet.


The answer would be "Daughter"

The answer would be "Echo"

The anwer would be "Eyes"

The answer would be "Fire"
After having given the correct answers to all of the elementals I came to a place where a thundering voice spoke that I must find the face of Balaan (is that a mask ?).


I returned to the town. Dismissed the old man and added my priestess Werca again. My group is now between level 4 and 6 and needs quite a lot of XP to improve. I must find a good grinding place. The best way would be to find XP heavy monsters in a complex and return there frequently to grind. Up and down. There is no fixed encounters in the wilderness so that is not the place to grind.

One of the most joyful things in the game, to check for training....
What I really am dying for to get is the smiths spell that works like the gunpowder, able to blow through any wall section. That would help me tremendously but it is still far, far away. The other spell I am waiting for is for my illusionist to get open locks. Not until then would I be free of the feeling that I still need a thief here and there.

One thing that is very irritating is that my mages Evaine and Perenne has had their main weapons broken (2 striking staffs and 2 staffs of light respectively). When a magical item is broken the smith can no longer repair it and neither can the smith in town. The only way is to get back to the complex where you find it. You have had to keep an eye on your weapons/armours when they reach down to 90%. If you are unlucky they will break and then it is too late. At least for magical equipment.
 
We are skulking around the Monastery
At one time in the wilderness the group got tired and I was forced to rest. One of my party members then had a dream in which there where a battle between dragons and the peoples of every race. It´s leader was very evil and the only ones able to withstand him was a group centered around a magician. The dream also told about a great sword embedded in stone, a great bow and battle axe. The weapons had the motif of a dragons head. This story hold up what I´ve learnt before of gathering weapons of a specific emblem. The sword is actually found in the first kingdom. But I have not solved how to drag it out of the stone yet.

The entrance to the monastery
I entered the monastery ....











September 9, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - The Elven Pyramid

It´s the elves that has gone mad according to the main story and the count is relying on me to either win the war or find out a way to return the elves back to normal again. Right before entering the elven pyramid I was asked by some elves for a password to be allowed in. "What is the name of Findals father ?" Luckily their ancestor tree could be found in the manual of the game so I was able to supply them with the correct name. 


When we entered the Pyramid I was not too surprised to be confronted by elven soldiers. They where neutral though and didn´t take much notice of us. The northern part consisted of the blacksmiths quarters and among its rooms I found a coal of sack. Perhaps I will have use for it later on.

Not far from there I heard a voice whispereing that "The mountain will only open after the night". That must surely means something. I have my guesses but my memory might have faltered after 20 years. I know that the way to the other county is through the mountains, but I don´t remember exactly how I get there.

The Pyramid consits of four levels of different sizes. I won´t go through them in detail but will describe the important parts of each level and what you must find in order to proceed. The level design is generally very well laid out with obvious sections like jails, guard rooms etc. There is thought behind the map design.

As a sidenot I found an old note on my maps that I´v played LoF at least 116 hours up until 930321. I don´t keep track of playing times today. 


Level # 1
  • New items are found like elven leather and elven chain. They weigh much less but give the same or better protection as their counterparts. For example, my healer could use the elven chain which rocked up her protection from 40 to 80%. Together with her Shaolinstaff I put her one step ahead in the fighting ranks.
  • I found a creeper that for 250 gold said that "Only gem, corona and staff make the key to the mountain". It is either the key to get to the depths or the key to get to the other side. I cannot remember right now. But I wonder if not my Keystaff is the staff I need.
Here is an example of a missed translation from german
  • I found a very locked door that I suspect I need a thief for to open. I have to return here. My know my illusionist will get open lock in two levels so I hope I can open this door then.
  • The first magical items such as Rod of Fear was found in a treasury. And another striking staff.
  • A few unknown potions could also be found. There is no way you could identify them as far as I´ve found out, unless by a spell later on. You could however try to sell the potion in town and then you will get the name of the potion like Healing II etc.

Level # 2

This level is where the elves keep animals. Among a dead lion I found 12 rations for example.

  • At one locked door here you should use  the Ruby key that you find on the same level. It gives you nothing more than some gold though. 
  • At the prison an elf asks you "Say something !". You answer should be "Something". You are then given the iron key with which you could enter the prison with. For some strange reason I forgot to explore the prison before leaving for level 3 so I have to return here later on.

This is the kind of riddles in the game


Level # 3

Now this level turned out to be more difficult. Here you need to gather a key of air, key of fire, key of water and a key of earth to be able to open up different locked sections. There are also hidden doors here and there that might give you access to areas. To top it out there are at least two or three buttons to be clicked where the effects is not obvious unless you search around the whole map. I also said in an earlier post that LoF don´t have spinners or darkness squares. I was wrong. Here is the first place they are used. Very sparsely but they exists.

Buttons are pressed by answering yes/no and not in the 3D-view
  • There was a very strange place here that you only could access by pressing two different buttons. It allows access to a square with a button as well. If you press that button the walls around you close in and you get stuck with no way of getting out. I don´t know if that is intentional, a joke, a red herring or whatever. This game is full of humourous comments otherwise so....
  • I found a Drum of fear and a Polymorph wand which I haven´t used yet but I suppose they are  used in combat. Also you could find an antimagic ring. I found a sacred dagger at an altar that seems to be a weapon rather than an item.

Level # 4

I couldn´t find my map for this level and so had to remap it once again. This is the last level and one of the smaller. I fould a glassy key here which I opened a locked door with but another door is still locked so I might have to return to here later. Besides, there are an important part in which you have to use the key of light to open a door to a corridor leading south. In the corridor black flames leap up to stop your progress. Here I need an item that I haven´t found yet so this is another reason for returning.

My attempt to trade with some dwarves

These gladiators gives valuable XP
There are some places that I have to return to later on in order to proceed. The order in which I choose to play might not at all be in the correct order to solve everything. I returned with my party with the hopes of training them to new levels at the town. Half my party was eligible for that. 

So what have I learnt so far ? I need weapons and armours of a certain emblem (dragon ?) to defeat the evil behind all. The mountains open at night and I need a gem, corona and staff as the key. These are fragments but very important notes. I should either try to get to the other kingdom via the mines as soon as possible or go to the derelict castle in the northwest. I cannot find my old maps for the castle so I have to remap everything. That will take time. I´ll give it a thought and we´ll see where I turn out in the next post.











September 7, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - The Temple

Before leaving for the Dragon temple that are located south of the town I had to return to the town to sell off stuff at the emporium and see which persons where eligible for training. Training gets more and more expensive for each level. The amount of gold you could carry in your party is limited by the weight and I had to deposit some in the bank to release space more space.

We then headed of for the temple. It is inhabited by a lot of lizardlike humanoids. From lizard warriors, to lizard priests and high-priests as well as ordinary priests. Add to that wandering random creatures and you notice it has its own fauna.

The first level is 32x32 hexes large and features a great hall, several rooms for accomodation of monks, priests, guards and the high priests. In many of the high-priests rooms where valuable treasures both in gold and items such as the large shield+ (better than a standard shield) and long arrows+2.

Early on I met a small creature willing to giving me a secret for 150 gold, stating that "You can avoid one of the guards by using the secret door in the south". With that in mind I headed on to first explore the great hall and then the irregular sections of the west and right wing. There where not much of interests in there except for an unknown potion.

In the south of the great hall where a portal that we went through that led to the inner section of the temple.


I avoided most of the fights and especially against magic users that are far more dangerous than what their XP yields. Instead I picked fights when I thought they where harassing me or I met some more eligible targets like mercenaries or bandits. Below you could see the ghostly white shapes that represents a group of creatures moving about two hexes in front of you.

Wandering creatures ahead

The south part of the map is where the riches lied. A lot of rooms for high priests and secret doors concealed riches both in gold and armours. There where at least half a dozen secret doors or more here. They are not hard to discover unless you pass them from a distance.

I stumbled upon a new portal to the far south that I could not pass. I don´t know if it´s just there for the display or actually could be used in any way. I also found the official great altar I don´t think there is anything I am supposed to do there. In the southeastern part of the level I found stairs leading down to level #2.

This level turned out to be far more interesting and dangerous. 

  • In the wilderness just outside the derelict castle I met a creature asking me if I knew how to defeat an vampire with the use of an mithril ball. I didn´t thought much about it until I found just such a mithril ball in the southeast corner of the temple. It is not hard to guess what I might save that for....


Hopefully I will use this against a vampire later on


  • We stumbled upon creature willing to tell us a secret for 200 gold. He said that there are a secret door in the south wall of the great library. I kept that in mind for the time being.


These creepers offers valuable information

  • The southeastern part of the second level contains one of the best grinding places so far in the game. There are some rooms that contains Skryt-Lizards and Giants. Both of them gives huge amounts of XP and even though they are dangerous creatures, it is enough that you damage them and then withdraw to be able to draw a lot of XP.

My healer impresses me with a whopping three attacks with her Shaolinstaff

  • In the far end of the great underground hall we found a very special item called The Keystaff. It could not be equipped so I believe it will be used on a certain place in the game later on. As could be seen below there is a secret door just behind it leading to the most important place of the second level.


This is a major quest item needed later on in the game
Behind it was a corridor that ultimately reveald a Staff of light and a Catchpoles hilt. The latter could only be used by a thief. I gave the staff to my magician Perenne. The room with those two items could be reached from the another way as well but if you come from the northern direction you will face a salamander asking you to solve his riddle in order to pass:

The answer would be the word "AND"
In this particular case the riddle is not very important since you could get around it from another way.


The only other valuable item on this level is a striking staff that I gave to my Illusionist Evaine. I have no idea what is better between a fighting staff, staff of light or shaolinstaff. 


We found one important pergament that told about 10 very powerful items among the the Inquisitors blade, the hammer of the gods and the shaolin staff. I will keep a lookout of the other ones during my adventures.

When I got the Catchpoles Hilt I was eager to return to the town to swap out my priest again for my level 2 thief. I did so and returned to the Temple in hope of gaining more XP for the thief. After 10 combats he had not hit a single time with the Catchpole or managed to stalk. Needless to say I now dumped him forever.

After having explored the whole second level and ascertained there are no more levels, we returned back to town to sell off stuff and try to train. Unfortunately we had not gathered that much XP and only one or two of us was ready to train. My paladin Trion is now at level 5 while my illusionist is still at level 3. Despite this we maked ready for our next task which was to explore the elven pyramid in the north.


Many of the descriptions are humourous
You might have seen the party has something called spirit in the lower left corner. The more injured you are and the less food you have the more your morale degrades which affects you ability to fight. As long as you rest when you are weak and have enough food this will never be a problem and it is nothing I keep my eyes on too much.

Now we have to leave for the elven pyramids....











September 5, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - The Dwarven Mines

Last time I was just about to enter the dwarven mines in the west. We went below and the first thing that struck me was that I only faintly could see the contours of the mine. Ahh...of course I needed light. My sorcerer got the honour of casting a light spell and then everything was like daylight. You could also use a torch or a lantern. What I like about the latter cases is that the light gradually darkens until it is almost pitched black when it burns out.

However, before going on I will tell you a little about the combat in this game. As an example I have a fight from the wilderness. I met 5 deers. Normally they are neutral and will not attack you unless provoked so I have to draw weapons first.

Killing them will not be my most heroic act
 
You could meet up to three rows (ranks) of enemies at the same time with a maximum of 6 foes per rank. The tactical layout is showned in the left corner with the enemies at the top. Your own party could be set into four different ranks. The further forward you are the better attack value you get but also lesser defense. I always have my paladin and smith in the front, with my priest just behind. In the retreat rank I have my three mages. They could still use melee weapons. They don´t hit as often but are more protected which is a neccessity due to the low hitpoints they have.
 
When meeting creatures you are given the option to attack them, greet them, talk to them or withdraw. If you choose to withdraw you are back at the same spot as before with the group of creatures just in you vicinity (at least down in the dungeons). If you talk to them you have to choose which person will do the talking, taking into account which languages you have learnt. You could either parley about withdrawal or trade with them (obviously this only works for humanoids). I am not sure what the greeting could lead to. Perhaps that is the way to recruit a creature which is not possible in my party for the time being.
 
I choosed to attack them....
 
The round overview is very userfriendly
 
You get an overview of your party with their previous choosen action preselected. We could see that my mage Canthia is defending. I suppose that increases her chance of avoiding being hit while Kulzak, my smith, is casting a spell. The rest attacks. The second column indicates which rank (row) the current party members are placed in (KIL = Killing rank). The arrow point to 1, I guess 1 means which rank of the enemy you are attacking should it be several. You could press the corresponding number key for you character and immediately change the action if you regret anything.
 
You could now either execute the combat round by choosing Attack or make the computer calculate the full round for each individual and give you a summary. When the foes are easy to defeat I usually use Quick Combat. It will be over in 10 seconds or so. But for now I attack normally.
 
The initiative is determined by your dexterity. Now each individual carries out its orders as seen below. If you miss you might damage your weapon in the foes armour/skin. When you are hit your armour could be damaged as well.
 
When you gain levels you could hit more than once in a round
 
If something breaks you will be told
 
When each and everyone has had their action the round is over and you are given a very informative summary that tells you which succeeded/failed in their choosen action any hitpoints lost, as well as if someone has had their weapon or armour damaged. Then the combat repeats itself from the beginning. When all foes are dead you get a summary of the combat as a whole as showned below.
 
 
It shows that we got no gold, but 5 rations each for the deers. Each individual gets XP based on his performance. Characters that don´t cast spells or miss their targets gains nothing. My only loss this combat was 2 hitpoints for my healer Canthia.
 
Foes could run from combat and you could withdraw in the middle of combat. You will still get the XP for the damage you have dealt. That makes this combat system far more flexible than Bard´s Tale or any other similar game in my opinion. It is smooth and quick and you could use the quick combat for the lesser foes.
 
Back to my group in the mines....
 
We went ahead with the intention of finding chests to loot and new monsters that would give more XP while not being too difficult to defeat. Also, we where on the lookout for clues as to what is happening in the kingdom. As I said in my previous post, in the beginning you are very weak and must choose your fights carefully. The first level is full of dwarves, goblins and lesser animals like rats, bats and spiders.
 

You need all the gold you can find in order to pay for your training

The major difference in the mines apart from the wilderness is that here you are given descriptions of rooms, halls and certain places. The texts are quite elaborate and not without humour. It really adds to the atmosphere and prevent the game from feeling so empty like Bard´s Tale did.

Now, the first thing you will notice is the silhouettes of white ghosts down here. They symbolise groups of living creatures, friendly or foe. That means you always know where and when you will encounter them but they still move if you don´t so nothing is turnbased except for the combat. And if you defeat them they will be removed for as long as you remain in the same level. A perfect way of handling the constant random encounter problem in my view.
 
In order to save time I used my previous drawn map of the first level of the mines. Encounters are pretty frequent depending on where you go but unless you either defeat them or drop a bait they will continue to harass you if you stay around. If you withdraw from combat the same foes will still be around harassing you. I like that. The monster types are fixed for each level. You won´t encounter tougher opponents until further down in the mines.
 
Naturally dwarves was very frequent down here but I tried to avoid fighting them unless I had to. I was more eager to defeat goblins, orcs or other animals living down here. They don´t give much XP though but if nothing else, they give me some gold, perhaps some equipment and rations.

You need rations to be able to rest and recuperate and the blacksmith needs rations during the time it takes to repair your equipment. I have never, ever felt that I lack rations. It is so easy to get by if you kill some animals or other monsters. That part of the game is really not an issue. At least not here. Rations also takes valuable weight from your carrying capacity so you could exchange them to other members if you need too.
 
While exploring level #1 of the mines we came across furnaces, stores, dwarven blacksmiths, living rooms and a lot of other minor places. You are frequently given information of what you see. Not far from the entrance I found a shimmering ball that lied hidden in a corner. It turned out to be a crystal ball, that when used, showed an automap. You could not make any notes, nor do you see any special places marked, but you see where you are in relation to the whole level and you could scroll it with the arrow keys. It will not replace making your own maps though but will definetely help you with them. The poor thing is that if you leave the complex the crystal ball will erase your previously visited areas. Making your own maps is still mandatory in my opinion. There are no teleporters or spinners in this game so doing maps is quite easy.
 
Using the Crystal Ball you get a simple automap
 
After some time and exploration I found stairs that led down to level 2 and later on to level 3. Some reflections about my experiences in the dwarven mines:
 
  • In the southeast corner of Level #2 I had the opportunity to rent a spade for 20 gold. I had just prior to that found a place not far away which was collapsed with the added description that "...a pathway through it seems to be impossible". I bought the spade and returned to the collapsed place and used it there.


I was very glad I did because just a few steps behind the collapsed section I found a Shaolinstaff depicting a dragons face amongst the remains of its previous owner. Not all of my party members could use it, but one of my mages could so I gave it to him to replace his quarterstaff.

Wow! A special fighting staff.....

  • At some part in the mines I met an imprisoned creature that I had the option of releasing. When I did he told me the first interesting thing about the overall mission, "In order to kill Balaan you will need weapons and armour that bear a very special emblem." Hmm...that says quite much. I now know who to kill and what I will need. Where and why is so far unexplained but I will remember what the creature said.


  • At level 2 of the mines I found a Steelkey. It will be important to something but to what I don´t know yet. Eventually I also found a copperkey on level #4.

  • At the third level of the mines I found a room full of chests and sacks. While looking through them I found a very special item, gunpowder! This is an essential item in the game because with it you can destroy a section of wall and thereby find new ways if you get stuck or hidden places. Not just in the mines, but everywhere in the game. In fact, I think that without it, it will be difficult to solve the game. But let me return to that statement later on because right now I have no intention of using it. There is only one piece of it. I did however try it out on a few sections which had enough space to potentially hold new rooms and right in the northern wall in the room I found the gunpowder I could blow up the wall that opened up a corridor that led to half a dozen chests full of gold. Naturally, I reloaded at this stage since you only have one use for it, but it is just an example of how many potentially hidden things exists in the game.

This is one of the most important items in the game. It will be obvious later on....
 
Deep down at level #4 in the south part I met a creature giving me a riddle in order to proceed. I remember the answer from 20 years ago though I am not sure I figured it out myselves then, but the  answer is plough. You are then let pass to a portal in which you have to use the amulet given to you at the start of the game. That transports you back up to the first level so all this is just a shortcut.
 
One last note is a dwarf I met that said "Are there no greetings unto another, you ignorants!?". He seemingly waits for an answer. I have yet to figure that out.  It was around this time I noticed that my enter key didn´t work since I was playing a simulated A1200 with kickstart 3.1 on WinUae. I will return to him later on.
 
After having filled our pockets full of items, looting chests and fighting monsters I made it back to the inn to sell my stuff and train my characters. After about two or three visits back to the mines I was ready to enter level 3 for all of my party members. The problem was not that I lacked XP to train, but gold to pay for it! I therefore had to go back deep into the mines to plunder the chests again. Already at level two, combat begun to feel easier since my weak mages would not die as quickly.

One drawback about the game is that you could return to a complex and all chests and items will still be there on your next visit. That is not valid when you move through the levels of the same complex. Only if you exit to - say the wilderness - and then return. You could thereby cheat by running in and out to get the most valuable items several times. It is a pity that is possible but on the other hand it secures that you will never get stuck because you have lost an important item. I will return to this point when I have finished the game to really know how much it affects the challenge.

During one of my first revisits to the town I decided to get rid of my thief. He is utterly useless at this stage. He more often than not miss his opponents and fails in stalking during combat (he is discovered while creeping). I have not found an immediate need for him. The traps we have sprung upon in the mines give us damage but we could always stay and rest for awhile. There are no doors or locked chests that needs the thief. Actually I don´t think there are any locked chests at all in the game as far as I remember.

Always make sure you have one watching your sleeping comrades
 
So I ditched him for an Illusionist. That spellcaster has some very interesting spells later on. My thought was to put the thief on rest and then take him back later on to give him some quick level advances when I needed him. With my new female illusionist Evaine we returned to the mines a few more times to give her proper XP. When I returned to the town she was also trained to level 3.
 
I still have things to explore in the mines but I think we might be strong enough to visit the Dragon Temple at the south of the town. Tougher opponents means more XP and that is just what we need at level 3.
 
So far I am content with my group. My paladin manage to hit twice in combat now and then and my spellcasters are getting more powerful spells that affects the whole rank of an enemy party like the spell Mud that makes them move slower. The blacksmith is a must. My cleric and healer are the only ones that haven´t proved themselves yet. Perhaps when better spells gets available. The priest is so-so in melee fights.
 
Even though I have played this game before I am still having much fun with it. The excitement of returning to the town to train to a new level and get new spells is very, very strong. Combat is still fun when you meet tough opponents and progress are generally going fast, much because I have 75% of the maps intact. If I where to play this for the first time drawing the maps it would be even more fun.
 
It is with good spirits I will take my party to visit the Dragon Temple now.....
 
 



























September 1, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - Revisited

In christmas 1990 I saw a new game on the local gameshop shelf. A huge dragon on the frontcover was challenged by a group of adventurers. I asked for a closer look on the box.


I read on  the backside and looked at the screenshots. It looked awesome. Great graphics for being an RPG. But was it any good ? No magazines in Sweden had yet to review it and foreign magazines was too expensive to buy so I took a chance. I really wanted this game and it went to my christmas wish list. A few weeks later I eagerly opened up the package at christmas time and begun installing it. Since then hundreds of hours have been ploughed into this game and while I know I was at the last levels I never managed to solve the last riddles.

I am easily grasped by boxes like this


This turned out to be one of the RPGs in which I have invested most time. Well over 100 hours on my beloved Amiga. It is remarkable how little is written about this game on the net. I really think this game was under the radar for a long, long time and hard to get by at the time. It´s like Ambermoon and Amberstar. Those games where also hard to get by. This time it is my intention of completing the game once and for all and let it rest in the hall of fame of good RPGs. 

It is obvious I am biased towards the game right from the start. The question is, how has it aged and stand up to the test of time ? Will it fail so miserably in being playable today as Bard´s tale III ? Well, we´ll see. The competition is fierce and I know by experience that your first love could have it hard to stand the test of time. Two good examples is Bard´s Tale and the first good fantasy book I read (in my case a dragonlance novel called Legends of Huma).

So what can this game offer ? I think the developers was kind of humble in their feature list, so I´ll add some more things here. 
  • 8 graphically different dungeons with several levels each. 
  • Over 80 monsters (many with its unique graphics)
  • 6 races and 12 classes
  • Over 300 spells
  • Day and Night cycles
  • Morale
  • Food consumption
  • Equipment degradation
The game is contained on three discs and I used WinUae Amiga 500 v 1.3 version as configuration. I first tested with Amiga 1200 and kickstart 3.1 but I noticed a bug further into the game that the enter key did not work. Fortunately that was solved when reverting to the original specification for the game.

So how will my approach to the game be ? I still have most of my hand-drawn maps from the game, having saved them for over 20 years! I will use them during my playthrough. I don't consider it cheating because I have experienced everything firsthand at one time anyway.

Story

This game came with a thick ring-bound manual that are among the best I have seen for an RPG. Easy going and entertaining to read. The first pages contains the story of the game.

You start in an inn and during the evening you overhear the guests complaining about the war with the elves that are draining the land Thyn of soldiers. But most of the time prominent guests speaks of strange creatures that have been seen in the lands, far stronger and more dangerous than the orcs. When the Inn is about to close and most guests are about to go home, a wanderer introducing himself as Sarian tells you that the king of Thyn is aware that the war is not going well and needs help. He is looking for men to carry out a mission to the neighbouring land of Cyldane to call for supporting troops. Riches and fame will come to the ones who succeeds in that. Since you are a poor farmer you listen in. He continues saying that you of course will have to recruit a few companions. Go to the palace and mention my name and the King will surely help you out to look for the companions you need. The next morning you turn up at the palace and the count asks you for help. He says his blacksmith will provide your companions with equipment and suggests you start to look out for your companions and get away as soon as possible. And he adds that if you could find out why the elves are being so strangely aggressive and find a way to stop that, it would be of great help. Time is running short for the count could not hold on for much longer.

A pretty average story but with two distinct goals. From here you are on your own and start up in the first inn you have come to in order to recruit your followers.


Party Creation

One of my most joyful tasks in an RPG is to create the party. It took one or two hours before I was satisfied with my party. It is quite easy to re-roll your stats with just a few keystrokes. The hard part is to find out the best composition for the party. I don´t remember anything from my old party so I had to start from scratch here.

At the starting inn you have the opportunity to look for new adventurers by selecting sex, race and trade. Sex actually matters since female characters have higher wisdom and constitution while males have higher strength. The races are Human, Half-Elf, Elf, Halfling, Dwarf and Half-Orc. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. The five attributes are strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence and wisdom.

The inn where you could find any companion you are looking for

You could choose up to 6 characters. If you leave the last slot you could recruit wandering monsters on your way. Also, the fewer party members the more experience to share from combats so this requires some thoughts. 

The trades are Paladin (could cast a few spells), Blacksmith (could repair equipment and cast spells), Warrior, Barbarian, Thief (backstabbing ability), Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Mage, Illusionist, Healer and Monk. I opted for one Paladin, a blacksmith (I think that is mandatory because repairing things costs much money), a cleric, mage, thief and a female healer (healers must be female). The party is a little weak on the fighting side but has strong healing abilities and I hope, later on, will catch up with spells. So I am prepared for a tough start.

When the party were assembled we got out from the inn and found ourselves out in the wilderness. The real manual gives you a map of Thynn but I only found the real manual in german. You start out right outside the town in the middle right.

The map of your county




You don´t need to take many steps before you notice the random encounters. They are not always hostile and if you negotiate with them you will even be able to trade items or recruit people. Since I have filled all my six slots I will not have more rooms for any recruitment. What differs random encounters in this game from others in this genre is that you could always - yes ALWAYS - run from combat. This makes you pick your fights since they span from easy rats and ants to Grizzlys or Ogres which are very hard - if not impossible - to defeat at this stage. But remember, in order to progress to more dangerous areas of the game you have too be of sufficient level even though I imagine you could run from most fights. We´ll see how it develops further on in the game.

My own goal would be to run around in the wilderness to get acquainted with the land and to build up my characters to at least level 2 before making longer trips. Every character starts with some initial equipment and gold but you will very quickly want to get better armour and weapons. The number of items in the game is huge. There are hundreds of weapons, armours and miscellaneous items scattered around and most of them could be bought in the starting city. You will soon discover that gold is a precious commodity that you must try to gather as much as possible of to be able to afford your training into higher levels or learn new spells and languages.

The first few hours was spent on gaining experience, gold, equipment and rations from the foes. Depending on creature you could get equipment (only humanoids), rations (animals mostly), gold (thieves, bandits and the like) or a combination of all. Equipment could be sold at the town. Rations is used when you are resting your party or when the blacksmith is repairing equipment. If you run out of rations you will starve and the morale will degrade which affects your combat effectiveness. I don´t know yet if you could starve but you could surely not be able to rest and heal.

My priestess Werca

Before proceeding it could be a good idea to go through the character sheet.

Above is the character sheet for my priestess Werca. Hitpoints and magic points are shown together with the characters health status (could be stunned, paralysed, poisoned etc), experience points and weight. Every item has a weight and though there is no limit in how many items you could carry, you could not exceed your weight maximum which depends on your strength.

The percentage of each character at the top represents the armour rating (higher is better)

The next page show the characters items. E indicates the item is equipped and a + sign that the item is prohibited for this class. Also on the same row is the items condition and weight. When you parry or fumble attacks you take damage to your equipped weapons and armours. If their condition decreases too low they run the risk of breaking. As items got weared down they loose value as well. That´s why it is - in my opinion - so important in bringing an blacksmith to the party. The drawback with the smith is that he could only wear leather armour but he gain spells later on and quite powerful spells that is.


The last page show the skillvalues of the character. Negotiating ability is used when selling items. The higher the better prices you could get. Attack and defence ability is self-explanatory and could increase during levelling up. Concentrating ability is used by spellcasters to determine if they succeed in casting spells. That is a very important skill that could be improved during level ups and increased by learning new languages. The other five skills are mostly thieving skills.

When we left the starting town I was given an amulet but nothing was said about its intention or power. It was soon forgotten since I started to grind up to level 2 as soon as possible. I moved around within 20 hexes of the starting city. I died a lot - or at least some characters like my mages so it took some time before we where ready to progress. When you are eligible for training you go to the city  to train. They will tell you how many XP you lack if you are not ready yet. The problem is that you will need quite a lot of money to train one character. You are therefore dependent of selling items in the beginning and also pick your fights for those who carry gold.

At one place in the east I found a priestess who stood waiting for something. I had no idea what to do but since I only had one special item I used it. By pure luck it did have effect. She begun to talk and gave me a healing staff. That staff went directly to my healer in the group. Which brings me to my next comment. You could not determine which weapon is better than another except for checking with the shop how much worth it has. I believe the healing staff is better than to fight with an ordinary quarter staff though.




After some time you see the night approaches. The view gets darker, the sound of birds are replaced by that of grasshoppers. At night the fauna is different and you could run across even greater evils. If you need to heal your characters or recover spell points you could take a rest. You will be given the choice of having a watch. That character will not recover anything but will prevent the group from being ambushed. The amount of time resting also affects your store of rations. Personally I have not had to buy any rations yet, but depend of getting them through killing animals. 

After a while I notice that my characters are earning more experience than what I have gold to train them with so I begin to look farther and farther away, trying to take on more and more dangerous creatures in order to get more gold. I have to prioritize which ones to level up first and choose my spellcasters. In the southeast side of the map I found a healing fountain. Its power are unlimited and with that as base I stayed for awhile to gather experience. 

Combats in the game are fast and fun. Everything you do with the interface has some key as shortcut and most things are very well implemented to give a smooth gameplay. There are no slowdowns or awkward things like handling the inventory and such. I will return to how combats are performed later on, but it is turn based and remembers each characters previous action in the current turn which minimises the micromanagement. You also have the option of using quick combat and skip all animations and information texts.

One single catchpole could be dealt with quite easily, but not a party of them

When you level up you gain more hitpoints and spellpoints. Both are random but based on your attributes. You also have a chance to improve in any skill but that is also random. If you are lucky one of your attributes might be increased as well. This makes levelling up very fun. New spells will be available for spell casters now and then but must be bought. You are never sure when the spells will be available or how many so it is always an exciting moment. Your warriors could gain more attacks per round also but not at level 2 as far as I have discovered. 

When half of my group was up to level 2 I decided to be more courageous and entered the lizards temple in the south. It took not many steps inside before I decided I was not ready for the creatures over there and soon I returned back to the wasteland again. I explored most of the wilderness and found a graveyard with different elves names, a derelict castle in the northwest which I could enter but the exit was then sealed so I decided not to at this stage. There are more inns scattered in the land but they only offer you to recruit more adventurers or sleep for the night so I have not found any use for them. Resting is not a major problem as long as you have a watch. Just keep track of the rations.

In the west I found an entrance leading down to the dwarven mines. I knew this was the most easy place to start with so I descended even though the whole group was not at level 2 yet.

What happens down there will be covered in my next post. So far I have had a good time creating and developing my party. I know it will be even more fun when I pass level 3-4 and could manage tougher challenges. The motivation to gather gold in order to pay for the training is great.

Many people has compared this game with the Bard´s Tale series. I think that is kind of unfair because this game is really more advanced and has more depths. The combat is the only thing which has some similarities with Bard´s tale but it is more fun here and easier to administer.

Ok, now its time for me to go into the depths of the mines....more of that in the next post.

But before that, the title music deserves mention. It is a very melancholic, beautiful song with good sounded instruments from the Amiga version. The song really represents the game.