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

January 9, 2013

Risen 2 and a overheated graphics card

I did start out on Might and Magic IX but since it is not run in Dosbox I had no easy way to make ingame screenshots and time went by. After several hours I am in the starting town and it doesn´t seem I will do a revisit of this game since I lack proper screenshots until then. I did however download a program to make fullscreen ingame screenshots and have a few gathered in town so who knows ?

But....

I abruptly halted my progress in Might and Magic IX when Risen 2 - Dark waters arrived a few days ago. That is a very promising title even though I have only played for two hours so far. I loved the first Risen so I have high hopes for this one but I am quite dissappointed that is has not received better scores. I will find out the reason for that. 

Then problem two struck me. I have moved my computer into a smaller table to fit it in the hall at home. Air flow is less good now and I cannot make my 4870x2 run well with Risen 2. It crashes a few minutes in due to heat, so now I am looking to replace that graphics card with a less powerful one but one that produces less heat and is less noisy but still superior to a single 4870. I found a second hand Radeon 4850 for 85 dollars that is on the way now so I will be up and running Risen 2 next week again.

Even though I might not start up a new revisit soon, I will definetely keep writing about RPGs in one way or another even tough it might be newer RPGs. This game genre is so small as it is so I cannot afford not to speak of the games released after the year 2000. I am very grateful for all indie developers out there that keep the spirit living of the CRPGS like Basilisk Games with their Eschalon series.


January 3, 2013

Where to go now ?

Now in the beginning of 2013 (hey! we survived the end of the Maya calender :-) I feel quite empty about what next game I will play. I have no clues right now. I have begun to play Gabriel Knight 2 which is an adventure game but which is one of my absolute favourites. The story is just so great and the music and atmosphere as well. However it is not an RPG and so I will not cover it here.

Today I downloaded and tried out Dungeon Hack from SSI. It is a dungeon crawler without story and NPC:s. Its only focused on getting an item in the depths and return it back up again. It is based on AD&D 2nd edition rules. I has an automap and I created a character and played out the first level. It reminds very much of Eye of the Beholder. But it feels so empty when I know it is a random dungeon generated for every play and that there are no story to follow at all. I gave up.

I have previously talked about playing Ambermoon/Amberstar but I am not looking forward to play them in WinUae without knowing how to install them on harddrive. So I´ll leave them as well for now. 

Might and Magic IX was yet another game I was attempting to play previously but I never got it to work in Windows 7.

So right now I am out of suggestions. I love the SSI Goldbox games but I don´t have the patience to draw my own maps. I am right now looking for overlooked RPGs in the latter half of the 1990:s. I am finding it harder and harder to find CRPGs that I want to play but I hope I will find anything soon.

Meanwhile I have ordered, Risen 2, that will arrive anyday. It feels nice with some variety.


January 2, 2013

Faery Tale Adventure II - Halls of the dead - Review



Game reviewed: Faery Tale Adventure II - Halls of the dead
Publisher: Encore, inc.
Designed: The Dreamers Guild
Released: 1997
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 5/10
Est. Playing time: 15 hours

As almost every game I have revisited, they start out very fun and you get addicted for some hours. All your sparetime is invested to play the choosen game. For some games that lasts well into over half the game and for some very few even right to the end. But for some, the glory fades after just a few couple of hours. Faery Tale II started out well but the sluggish and slow movement, the terrible pathfinding and the poor NPC  implementation and lack of directions or quests finally brought this game to a halt for me. 

Sure, If I am having nothing else to do and the time to spare, I could drag on for some more hours with this game and I would probably have my highlights here and there but in total I feel this game is a timesucker, and an escapism not worth the effort really. 

Gameworld & Story
There are some pages in the beginning of the manual telling us about some struggle between chaos and order. It ends with the three steads that fetches the brothers to this world to set the balance straight again. Actually, I don´t care about background information in manuals that have no real effect in the game. It is so boring to read when you just want to play the game. Sorry! I might have missed some hints here but I doubt it. I give half a point in bonus for ingame lore that shows up here and there. 

Rating: 1.5

Economy
I have only visited two towns and my conclusions are that the only thing of interests in these are the shops. You have the armourer, weaponsmith and peddlar and if you are lucky someone who could sell magical potions or scrolls. They are expensive and you cannot afford anything but the cheapest when you start out. You will definetely search and take every spare coin you could find anywhere in the beginning. One way of quickly boosting your equipment and money is by stealing everything from every house. 

In my game it didn´t take many hours before I had got the same equipment and weapons from looted enemies than what I could buy as the most expensive items in the starting town. Then I plundered the castle that gave me a lot of more coins and had nowhere to spend them. Not even in the second town did I find better weapons or armours. One place to spend them that definetely will suck up your coins is to give them to skill trainers. They are hugely expensive but I never bothered to train any skills since my feeling was that they where increasing quite steadily anyway through all the fights. 

There is quite a huge selection of weapons, armours and miscellaneous items in the game (most of the latter seems useless tough). Each type comes in different qualities determined by the metal it is forged in. Mithril would be better than bronze or steel for example.

Perhaps any of the other few cities on the continent would have a broader selection of items to buy from. I did however, not find anywhere to spend my close to 10.000 gold coins. Even healing potions and mana potions are not worth buying since you will find plenty of them.
Rating: 2.5

NPC & Interactions

There are hundreds of NPC:s in the game. Many with their own unique names. Unfortunately, most of them responds with the exactly same phrases. After awhile I got tired to even try to talk to everyone when there always where slim chances they would say anything interesting. I have not have any dialogue options unless in direct trade with an NPC. 

As I´ve said in my playthrough, the interface to communicate with NPC:s is terrible. You click on icons representing ideas you wich to communicate to the NPCs. First you click on the icon idea then on the NPC, that is if the NPC haven´t already walked off the screen! Then you have to repeat this for several Ideas to be sure you don´t miss out something, even tough you know there is a 90 % chance you will learn nothing.
Rating: 2

Monster, tactics & combat system
This part is pretty easy to rate. There is no tactics at all you yourself could use except clicking on your foes time and time again and watch out so that you don´t unintentionally click on one of your other brothers which then will be your active character. The only small part you could control is when you want a brother to disengage from fight or decide when you should use your spells. 

There are quite many different types of monsters but since you don´t see the damage dealt from them it is hard to distinguish them from one another. Some monsters could stun you and engulf you, some could attack from a range but most will go melee with you. The combat system seems to be based solely on your brawl skill in combination with your choosen weapon skill and agility. All is done automatically. 

The system is more advanced than in the first Faery tale but not by much. 
Rating: 1.5

Magic System
There is a skill called spellcraft and everyone has it. You must buy or find scrolls with spells on them to learn them. Once learnt you will alwasy be able to cast them as long as you have enough mana. Each spell belongs to one of several different schools. Your mana pool is divided between these schools which means you can cast a certain number for green spells and still have full mana left for - say - red spells. Each time you  cast a spell you have a chance of increasing your spellcraft skill as well as increasing the mana pool for that spell school. It is quite original in fact and works pretty ok. 

Since healing spells was the ones I most used my spell school of that color (green) also housed my largest mana pool. You regain mana points by time but you will also find frequent mana potions of different colors.

The spells in the game seems varied on the outside. I think direct attack spells actually does quite an amount of damage and if you are low on hitpoints they could often turn a battle in your favor.
Rating: 3

Character generation & development
There are no experience points or levels in the character development process. Each skill and attribute increases automatically as long as you are using it or taking part in actions like combat. In combat, most common is that your health increases, followed by skills in brawl, sword, agility and shield. You have no control over that except you could choose which character will be a melee fighter and which one would serve as a spellcaster. 

I have to admit that I like this system, even tough you cannot control it. It makes sense. But since you lack the control the score in this part can´t be high enough. There is only one way to affect your development in your skills and that is by finding and pay for trainers.
Rating: 2

Map design


The overland map is wonderful and opens up a totally free world to explore in every direction. The underground locations could span in any direction for many screens and contain underground streams, lavas and other places of interest. It is not possible to know the boundaries of the underground maps beforehand and they could span over several levels. That is a strong advantage. You never feel the boundaries of the game engine.
Rating: 4

Manual
I found the manual as one long word document and text only. I cannot judge the disposition or the illustrations of the original manual. The manual itself explains things fairly well but is nothing special.
Rating: 3

Graphics, sound and interface
Faery Tale 2 have quite nice 2D-graphics, including buildings, interiors, monsters and layout in general. The biggest complaint I have with it is that it is slow. Very slow. If the brothers would have been more responisive to mouse clicks and the screen would have scrolled more smoothly and faster this game would almost gain half a point in gameplay. Still, having said that, the graphics aren´t that much superior to the first Faery Tale from 1986. Sure it is better but not 10 years better that holds the titles apart.

The music in the game is a major dissappointment. After the orginal Faery Tales wonderfully and catchy music I was grossly dissappointed to hear poor soundblaster tunes, far inferior to the original amiga soundchips. The only thing worth mentioning is digitized speech in dialogues and some nice environemental effects like from water and such things.

The interface is unique but the decisions made for how to interact with NPC:s is a major breakdown of the whole interface in my eyes. It is easy to shift between the three brothers but their skills, spells and ideas are shown in a poorly designed way. If I wouln´t have read the manual I would not understand how to shift between them in an easy way.
Rating: 2

Gameplay
 I had fun with this game in the beginning. The whole world is accessible to you from the very beginning and you can go anywhere. To gather more items, better armours and weapons is as fun as always, but after awhile one actually want to have som clues or hints of where to go and why. There are a few lore books spread out here and there but they speak about small tales or describe particular events and doesn´t actually direct you anywhere.

Steering and control is hard in the beginning until you get the grips of things. It then becomes easier but the controls are still cumbersome to use. The world is nicely drawn and hides a lot of interesting places but the lack of interesting NPC:s or dialogues makes you feel quite alone after awhile.

This game could have been so much better if they fix the slowness, and completed the game with more content regarding NPCs as well as give some better directions. Relatively speaking, the first Faery Tale is far superior since it offers basically the same thing (albeit not as rich) but was done 10 years earlier.

If you have a lot of spare time and patience I do recommend this game though because somewhere down this road you will be rewarded. For me, I am moving on to another game.
Rating: 3



Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1.5
Economy
2.5
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
1.5
Magic system
3
Character generation & development
2
Map design
4
Manual
3
Graphics, Sound and Interface
2
Summary CRPG value
21.5


Gameplay
3