Currently playing: Icewind Dale 2, Demonicum

July 9, 2013

Dark Disciples 1 - Revisited


Game revisited: Dark Disciples I
Designed by: DodgySoft
Released: 2004
Formats: Pc
Availability: Freeware


Thanks to Anthony_Xue in my previous post I was suggested to try out the Dark Disciples games from http://www.dodgysoft.com. It is a freeware game and developed in Microsoft Visual C++. The last update was delivered in 2006 but the game seems to have been released in 2004. There is also a sequel, not surprisingly called Dark Disciples 2. I prefer to try out the first one though. 

The manual - which is a good read by the way - states that the influence is heavily taken from Rogue. I have never played Rogue so for me this game will be judged totally on its own.

After starting up the game (no installation is required!) you are taken to the main menu where you can see a map of the world and you could look at the library which lists some macial glyphs. 



After having read the manual (the game does not allow alt-tab to windows back and forth) I started out to create a new character. First you select a gender and then your alignment. You are then given 12 attribute points to spend on your attributes which consists of strength, stamina, agility, dexterity, perception and intellect. All attributes starts at 5. 




There are no classes or skills in the game. I created a warrior style character and increased strength, stamina, agility and perception. Perception allows you to detect traps and secret doors automatically. 

The story is a little different to what we are used to. Your father was a rich merchant - albeit not entirely lawful - but after several years he managed to get a gambling debt of 100.000 gold. That is a huge amount of gold and he knew he couldn´t repay that. Turning to alcoholism he eventually took his own life. You and your mother are then asked to pay his debt but decides to flee the city and hide. Now you have been found and given one year to repay the full amount or you will both be killed. With no other option than to try to raise the money somehow and hope to plead in front of the guildmaster you set out from your home.

The game starts with you right outside your home and with your mother nearby. She tells you to take your fathers belongings (amongst them a leather armour) and give you a small cache of 80 gold she has saved. Then you are on your own. I naturally immediately tried to explore my neighbourhood and entered the nearest house. It took me less than one minute to get into combat with rats which slained me despite my best efforts. I was quite surprised about this early and simple death but then I remembered that I had forgot to get my fathers belongings so I fought without armour or weapon. I reloaded and this time I was much more careful. 


Sweet mother, I promise I will return with the money or at least die trying


The graphic is very simple but clear and movement are done by the arrow keys and the game is veryt quick to respond. This is something I gradually come to like about this game more and more. The right part of the screen shows your health, stamina and mana as well as food, gold and armour rating. Everytime you sleep to regain lost hitpoints, stamina and mana you loose some food. Fortunately your mother has unlimited food supplies as long as you return back to her. For a long time in the game your own house is the only place to rest in.

Your attributes, current level and experience points could also be seen in the right window. Here you could choose to display an automap but I have never used it.

Now, after having grabbed all items my father left behind of which the leather armour and hand axe was the most important, I returned to the neighbours house to enter my first combat in the game. Everything is turnbased which means that if you don´t move the keyboard, nothing will happen. Just like in the Eschalon games. One step for you yields one action for your enemies. Combat is very easily taken care of by hitting the direction of the foe to strike. You either miss or hit and inflict damage. I killed the two rats for only some minor injury and explored the house.

This is the place to be in the starting area

I moved around the entire map which has a fixed size. Sooner or later you reach its boundaries that either lead to another part of the world or is impassable. On this first place I met a druid that wanted me to gather some ingredients if I was interested in getting some free potions and an archelogist that wanted me to find a certain scroll hidden somewhere in the ruins in the east. Apart from that a few other minor tasks could be found like locating missing people.


In the middle of the world I found a merchant that sold a few items and a trainer that allows me to gain levels if I have enough experience points (and gold). Since I had very few gold coins in the beginning I only bought rope (for climbing). Just in case...



When I explored the regions around the major roads I found some entrances that led to some caves. In one or two of them I found the ingredients I was looking for. In another one I found another druid that apart from offereing basic healing also could remove disease, poision and injuries. Fortunately that was something I have not had any experience with yet.


This shrine with its altar is crucial to find early on
Some caves was inhabited with two trolls that ruthlessly killed me the few times I tried to take them on. If you are lucky you could sneak past your enemies and loot a place without getting into close combat and certain death but it is not easy. It just shows you don´t have to kill everything you see. 

Killing monsters does not give you any gold or items. Such things always exists in chests, hidden caches or on tables. You don´t event get much experience points killing one. Sometimes only 1 xp. 

The caves I found could come in any size and with several levels. Even offering NPCs here and there. If there is something that marks this game it is that it is heavy on text and dialogue. You could choose your answers and talk to most neutral humans/monsters you meet unless they attack you first.






After one hour I was ready to leave my starting map and headed west to a farming place. Here I helped a young girl found her pet spider which I found by accidently crush a barrel in the south. I was extremely lucky because in a tree which looks like any other tree I found a secret stash with a magical ring. Gradually I got more and more experience and gold and could train to level 2. You get a fixed amount of health points, mana points and stamina. But the most important stat increase is to combat. It is a relative number used in fights to compare your abilities with your foes. The higher the number the better chance you have to make a successful strike. Strength add to the damage dealt as well as depending on the type of weapon used. Each weapon clearly tells how much damage it deals which is great. I eventually found better armour that increased my armour value. That absorbs some of the damage dealt to me. 


The character sheet.
The manual states that the games contains several puzzles and several solutions to problems. I had yet to find anything to apply that statement on until I found a magician out in the Farmlands. He offered me to solve a problem by building two pyramids in green and red. Normally I am not too fond of these things but seeing as it was not mandatory to fulfil some major quest I tried it and actually solved it pretty quickly. It gave me a valuable item in return. 




After having finished everything I could in the farmlands by doing some other small tasks to gain more gold and experience points I returned to my starting place and headed north. This housed some sort of temple but I was forced to give a password to enter which I had no clue about so I returned from this area. But not before I had rescued a goblin from some knights in a cave.

I now headed east instead and got close to the ruins the archaelogist talked about. This turned out to be a pretty hard and big complex to take on. First there was no obvious way in. The main doors was shut but there was a room with levers or vials that could be set to different colors. I found out the sequence by reading a script on a stone not far from there. 



It gave clues in which order the colors should be set. Voila! the main entrance could be open. But before I solved that I had already taken the backdoor to enter by gradually fighting my way in through the ruins amongst skeletons and bats. I had died a lot of times and returned dozens of times to my house to rest after my fights and each time I came a little further into the ruins and temple. 

Unless your perception is very high you cannot be sure that you might risk missing secret doors. To be safe I usually try out the walls indoors at places where I think there might be a chance a door could exists. Of course, most of the time that yields nothing but I have been lucky to stumble upon a secret door by this tactic and usually they hide very valuable items like better weapons or armours or even magical weapons. So it is well worth trying. 

In the firestone ruins below I have just located a secret door by chance....




Nothing is more rewarding than to open a chest

I think I spent a few hours trying to make progress in the ruins. It consisted of both upper levels and lower levels. The upper levels eventually led me to a lever that opened up the backside portcullis and allowed me to pass the ruins for a new area.

The lower levels hide an old temple which only could be entered by using a disc I received from the Imps farther to the east after helping them with some quests. The lower levels are filled with very dangerous mummies that for me are impossible to kill at my current level 5. They are also infested with other creatures that could poison you which means you loose one hitpoint every step unless an antidote is used. And they are scarce. All of this forced me to return all the way back to my house to rest and heal and return. And repeat that sequence several times in order to take out one or two more enemies every time. It was tiresome but it really was worth the effort since I got better and better items all along the way. 



As I said in the beginning. My main mission is to get to Middengrave to try to plead with the guildmaster about the debt. The problem is that the coachmen for that route has dissappeared. My explorations found out that they where held as prisoners amongst the Imps. The only way to free them was to let a circus owner release his three imprisoned circus imps and give them back to the imps. 


To get here, I had to use a raft across a lake

In return I was getting the three coachmen. After much trouble they eventually returned to their ordinary occupation of transporting people and I could take a coach to the capital. 

Thse knights are looking for an escaped goblin that I rescued

Through a secret door I found out that the tavernkeeper
aren´t as legal as he claims at first

Now at level 5, with a lot of gathered items (but nowhere to sell it so far) I am ready to tackle any challenges met in the capital. I hope there will be some place to sell surplus items and a new shop with new inventory to spend my gold.

Before I forget, I have to mention magic in the game. To use scrolls or wands which you find occasionally, you have to have enough points invested into intellect. I haven´t and so haven´t tried any magic at all so far. Amongst the more useful scrolls are a beacon and teleport scroll that surely would save a lot of time. 

My inventory is getting full
Underground lakes could be found. Note the trap my perception skill discovered as a cross

There are hidden things in the game and hard to reach areas. Two very valuable places I´ve found is magical fountains that permanently increase your attributes. They are very well concealed.

I like the character progression so far. I do notice that I slowly becomes stronger for every level gained (by increased combat attribute) and by finding better equipment. Make no mistake, this game is not easy! I have died dozens of times and had to give up on certain places until I´ve got stronger. Just like a good CRPG should be I think.


These blackwidows dies at a single stroke if I hit but are dangerous

Until next time.....I found an interesting interview with the author that could be read here.











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