Currently playing: 7 mages, Drive to Moscow, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

June 21, 2017

Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession - Review




Game reviewed: Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession
Version: 1.0.4
Created by: Dreamforge Intertainment / SSI
Released: 1994
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 8/10
Price$8.89 (both Ravenloft games at gog.com)

Gameworld & Story

Storywise I think the writers succeeded in conveying a dark and sinister atmosphere throughout the whole game. The writing was really good. I can tell after all my games in this genre that it is well above average. While the main story per se - travelling to a new county surrounded with mists - might not be the most logical or original, it works out quite well. Right from the beginning where you get to hear about Strahd you know something is wrong but cannot point your finger at it. Then gradually you will get pieces of information from both living and dead about the true character of Strahd and the story behind it.

The world feels a little more living because of your characters comments about the environment and what they perceive. This was not that common for rpgs of this time and is still a fresh bit of content even today. I like when they remark about the deserted and almost dead village or about other places being visited.

Rating: 3

Economy

In short, there is no economy in the game. No shops and no currency. Everything you need you will find and you will have to stash away things in deserted houses because you will get overloaded very quickly with potions and scrolls. But as far as traditional economy goes this is a rating at the bottom.

Rating: 1

NPC & Interactions

There are a few NPC throughout the game. Mostly persons giving quests or followers you can pickup. They are all voiced in a pretty good manner and you have a few dialogue options to choose from even though it is a very simple system. Thanks to the voicing and the well written texts and dialogues the interactions are very interesting  in this game and definetely a highlight.

Too bad there are too few NPC out there though.

Interactions in the gameworld is done by pressing buttons, pulling levers, looking for secret doors or just use the ground to pile up on things. Nothing spectacular on this point.

Rating: 1.5

Monsters, tactics & combat system

Well, combatwise the game is a disaster. Even tough it relies on the AD&D ruleset you just click with your mouse on every monster or foe until they are dead. Add to that the free roaming 3D-world where monsters run around you and you have to fiddle with the slow keyboard to change your heading before striking and this system turns out to be really bad. A pure bottom low rating for the combat system. To cast spells is not easier. You have to press upp a menu of spells, choose spellevel and then click on the spell and then on the target. A slow and cumbersome system without any shortcuts.

Tactics ? What tactics! There are no tactics employed from the monsters at all. They fight to the death all the time. The only exploit I myself found - or I wouldn´t call it an exploit - is that magic missiles seems to be the most effective spell in the whole game. From the beginning of the game to the end of the game the magic missiles never failed to help me out on any foe. One or two hits and most enemies at my feet. They where even more effective than fireballs and ice storms whose radius of effect is impossible to calculate for in the game.

There are quite many monsters and many of them are atmospherically described in the manual. I never found much variance between them except for those that can inflict level drain. Such a terrible design of the developers to include that thing. Fortunately you have to save and reload a lot to progress in level-draining-infested-monster-places.


Rating: 1.5

Magic system

The magic system depends on the AD&D rules. If you have played the SSI Goldbox games you know that you have to memorize spells or pray to learn spells to cast. The same goes here. Fortunately the game allows you to rest almost anywhere in the game without any hinderance.

The game contains most spells that are found for wizards and clerics up to level 6. I never used healing spells or healing potions because it was so easy to rest between fights that this was unneccessary. 


Rating: 2

Character generation & development
I don´t remember now but I think you were allowed to roll up two characters in the beginning of the game and the famous re-roll was there. Bonus for that! The characters are also not starting at level 1 but several levels higher. I don´t remember know but I ended the game at level 9 for my characters.

When you do level up you are automatically given a random amount of HP (hitpoints). You will never get any skills or attribute points so the only advantage of levelling is that you might improve your THACO and get more and better spells. Therefore I wouldn´t say the game allows for much variety and flexibility here.

Rating: 2

Map design

Outdoor maps are in general quite irregular and indoor maps varies in size as well. I like that. You never know beforehand how large a complex will be. There are some thoughts behind the layout.


Rating: 3

Manual

As is often the case with these old games the manual is pretty well written and contains much interesting information on both enemies, rules and the setting.

Rating: 4

Graphics, Sound and Interface


The graphics in the game is poor. Especially today and without and good way to scale the windows down it looks terrible. I imagine it wasn´t that good for its time either. Even Ultima Underworld features at least as good graphics but was released two years earlier. It is almost impossible to see what enemies are trying to look like or what things are in the environment without much fantasy.


The sound is fortunately better fared. The voice acting is pretty good, there is new music for every place and though that music is not very good (except for a theme in the Catacombs) it still adds to the atmosphere. There are also digitized sound effects like screamings, door slamming and the like that those are really good and build upp the atmosphere.

The interface in the game is extremely clumsy and I was close to give up in the beginning because of it. To use items is clumsy, to read scroll, open containers etc. Everything requires to much micromanagement to succeed.

Rating: 1.5

Gameplay
This is a strange game. It is hard to get into but if you give it time and press yourself the first few hours you will see the game grow on you. The atmosphere is good and I can imagine how much better it was in its time. You will learn to handle the combat in a more smooth way but it will never be entertaining. It is the story, the hunt for items and treasure and the occasional level up you play for.

The middle game was perhaps the best part of the game and the last part when entering the castle was a tough and boring part and I was close to give up the game but I persevered. It has many problems going against it but at the same time I love the Ravenloft setting, the voice acting, the environmental texts and the curiosity of what comes next.

The final gameplay rating will be 3. It has some tough titles with the same rating like Dungeon Master II, Faery Tale 2 and Wizardry VII. Even tough those games are better in total I still had about as much fun with this as with them.

Rating: 3

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
3
Economy
1
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
1.5
Magic system
2
Character generation & development
2
Map design
3
Manual
4
Graphics, Sound and Interface
1.5
Summary CRPG value
19.5


Gameplay
3


June 14, 2017

Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession - Won!

Last night I finally won the game. It was a race of time and of my patience. I had come to the stage where my patience dwindled and I just wanted to get the game over with.

Last time I had just returned from the castle and bought the Vistrani potion that was said to make me able to traverse the fog surrounding the land and make my possible escape from this damned place. I had no other leads than to return to the first area I came to in the beginning and enter the fog.

Undead forest

My group just prior to the end part

Right before entering I drank the potion and it was split among my group. I then saved the game and entered the fog. I came out on the other side and was immediately surrounded with moving, agressive trees that feriously attacked me from every side. I had to run from them to get my orientations right. When checking my automap I found out I had come to a totally new place called the undead woods. After running around for awhile I found a few seeds on the ground which seemed important and connected to the last ritual I had read from Sascha in the old church. The attacks from the trees quickly forced me out from this area though and I had to flee back to the village and rest the group and prepare for a fight against them but also to completely search this new area.

When returning I took the fight with the trees and unleashed up to ten magical missiles, six fireballs and four ice storms. Even tough I killed 6 or 7 trees the place was full of them and I had to repeat my run-and-rest-procedure until I had found every item of interest in the wood. Still the trees would never be entirely wiped out so I gave up on those. Instead I found a teleporter in the east part that took me to another part of the forest. Here I fought both trees and found more seeds in the ground but also a stone circle with a tree inside. Besided the tree where four piles of stones. One for each of the seeds I had found. I had to run away to rest and then reenter this place, carefully saving at strategic positions along the way. I knew I would be assulted by all trees while planting my seeds but I had no choice. I ran to the stone circle and begun to plant the seeds in the middle of the stone circles. Meanwhile the trees could sneak into the circle and attack me but I killed a few and was drained of all my spells but not before completing the ritual. 


The tree lightened up and revealed the holy symbol of Ravenkind: My weapon to destroy Strahd. I run as quickly as possible from this very difficult area back to the village to rest and then headed for the castle. This was my final visit.



Ravenloft castle
This time I had to get up a few stairs in front of a lock I had never opened before. But by using my bat key I opened it and was led to the dungeons. Now started my search for Strahd. I explored every room, opened every door and fought every undead. Except for the ridiculous hard level draining monsters which names I have forgotten. I make myself invisible and try to run past them instead. At this stage in the game I followed the cluebook to know where to run to press two hidden buttons to open a locked door. Everywhere there where powerful leveldraining undead which was impossible to defeat for me so I just ran and ran. After a few tries I managed to enter the final crypt. Now it was between me and the evil vampire lord Strahd.

Lord Strahd himself in combat

I equipped myself with the Ravenkind before I finally found Strahd. As all evil denizens in roleplaying games he mocks me before he intends to kill me. He then attacks by hurling fireballs and disappears and reappears. I was killed the first two times when I fought him with conventional weapons and magic without any effect. Then I used only the Ravenkind which bursted out a fire beam. After only three hits Strahd died on the floor and I could take the final amulet that was stolen in the beginning of the game. 

But what was I suppose to do now ? Well. Impatient as I was to complete the game now I looked through the cluebook and the only thing I was to do was to read a book I had found that depended on a few special items I had found. Amongst then a feather and an elven crown. After reading the book the ending sequence started. 
 





The end was a joy until a mist flowed down to a chest and a terrible laughter was heard. I finally made it but will there be a natural connection in the sequel Stone Prophet or will it it not ? I don´t know but I will find out in the future. Right now I need a pause from this type of game and my next post will hold my review.


June 13, 2017

Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession - To the bitter end

If you thought I would have given up on Ravenloft you are both right and wrong. Yes, it has been over a month since my last post but I had planned to continue my adventure when time allowed. Which is right now. And it was a very tough restart. To continue in the castle of Strahd with all the stairs leading up and down and never really knowing where to go was not the most attractive start. However, I did load my last save and I really did try to continue - alas with the help of a map of the castle and with some hints on where to go.

So after 30 minutes I felt like I was going forward again. I had already explored a large part of the castle. The problem was to find the stairs I had not explored yet when they are not marked on the automap. I found the last keys required to progress and finally found a prisoner in a tower that I released. He was thankful and offered to help me if I would contact his network in the village tavern. I also found another prisoner which I released which offered to join me but I declined. I never found Strahd tough. This wasn´t meant to be any final battle.




I was quite surprised that my only achievment in the castle would be to get a contact for the Raven network. I returned back to the village and immediately set out for the tavern where the raven group was said to be located. I had already been give a code word to say to the bartender and so I did. I was instructed to a meeting point in a deserted house in the village. There I met three people who demanded me to be blindfolded by using a drug if they would take me to their leader. I had no choice but to do as they said if I would like to get any hints of what to do. So I did.



The leader - a Raven - told me that only one item could destroy the vampire lord Strahd and that is the holy symbol of Ravenkind. Noone knows where it is though except for the now dead priest Sasha that had prepared three manuscripts detailing the whereabouts of the symbol but in encrypted texts. The leader could give me a key leading to a closed door in the old church where he believed those manuscripts could be. He also gave me a scrying glass to decypher the texts should I find them. Needless to say, our new goal was to head straight for the church because I remember there was one door I couldn´t open there. There was only one problem. The meeting place with the raven had left me in the greater catacombs beneath the village of Barovia and I had to find a way out. It was a huge complex filled with terror.

In order to leave the place I had to find different keys that unlocked doors leading to my freedom but I was also told when I finally found a way out that I should carefully look for money to buy the vistani potion to pass through the fog that surround the lands. I had to go back down to the catacombs again and after carefully searching every place I finally found 15 coins which was exactly what I needed to buy the potion. I was almost to give up that search I can tell you and I had to check in an online map where my last two missed coins where hidden. Having done that we immediately headed for the church.




Valuable items in the catacombs

We quickly found the still locked door and used the key from the Raven which unlocked that part and led us down to another floor. An unexplored floor full of black horrors. Fortunately none of them had any level draining capabilities and I always used magic missiles against them. Most of them died by only one hit. Behind a few hidden buttons and secret doors I eventually found three manuscripts. I used the scrying glass to read them but was none the wiser except that I had to perform some sort of ritual outdoor.

The hidden level of the old church

I returned back to the village and took the opportunity to buy the vistani potion. This led up to a cutscene where we where invited to a gypsy camp with the intent of foretelling our future. But the fortune teller said one card was missing from her deck and we where not given any informtion. Back at the village, it was time to explore the foggy parts of the wilderness and perhaps try out the potion ?

A magic missile on its way to the black figure
I feel I am very close to the end but it still remains a mystery of how and where I will defeat Strahd. First I have to find the item but right now I am quite clueless on how to do that. My hope is that in the next post I will have won the game.

We will see...