I probably should have made an intervening post, but I went ahead and marathoned my way through Rings of Zilfin. It did get a little harder, with enemies having more hit points and doing more damage in the second two kingdoms, but it never got very hard, and in the entire game, my character never once died. That's a sure sign of a too-easy CRPG.
The game is full of mushrooms and plants that maximize your damage while minimizing the damage that enemies can do to you.
Rings of Zilfin is not a pure CRPG; it's more of a RPG-adventure game hybrid. I say this because there are a lot of inventory-based puzzles in the game, and you can only win after performing a series of tasks in a precise order. You'll recall that in my last post, I was leaving the kingdom of Deloria for Begonia on a quest to find the kidnapped King Rolan. This, to the best of my recollection, was the sequence of events that followed:
- Went to a cave and used a series of words (given to me in Deloria) to open a passage
- Met with the lost Zilfins, who told me how to rescue Rolan from the Dark Tower, home of the demon assassin Dzomon, and gave me the code word to use the Rings
- Bought a pearl and took it to a sorceress named Zara, from whom I got a magic seed, which I planted to grow a tree from which I fashioned a Staff of Grumm
- Entered the Dark Tower using the code word, used the Staff of Grumm to defeat its mystical guardians, got to Rolan in time to hear his last words, which were to seek the Ring of Zilfin from a halfling named Sam in Sumaria. (By the way: "Rolan" and "The Dark Tower"? Were the creators of Rings of Zilfin reading Stephen King's The Gunslinger or were they, like King, inspired by Robert Browning's poem?)
- Killed Dzomon on my way out of the Dark Tower
- Moved on to Sumaria
- Collected a bunch of quest items from stores: a rope, a key, a flute, a magic cloak, a cookie, a book of riddles
- Defeated the dragon Bogum to find the Treasure of Fulgarsh, which included a magic harp
- Gave Sam the halfling a book of riddles and showed him King Rolan's amulet, which made him trust me enough to give me his Ring of Zilfin (Dragos had the other)
- Used the rope to descend into a dungeon called "The Well," battled past monsters to find the lost kingdom of the Elves, enchanted them with my flute playing, gave the elf king the magic harp in exchange for a horn to summon a mystical flying creature called an Ankha, which could fly me to the otherwise-inaccessible Castle Graz
- Bribed a water dragon with a cookie to reach an island where a wizard gave me a magic shape-changing elixir
- Flew to Graz, got past the guardian by bribing it with drugs
- Fought my way through the castle to the evil Dragos
- Fooled Dragos by using the elixir to transform myself into the appearance of his demon god, ordered him to give me his Ring of Zilfin, used the code word, turned him to ash
Oh, there was some character-building stuff in here, too--I maxed out my strength and got to spell level 3--but mostly I was running around with these various errands. It felt a great deal more like King's Quest than, say, Might & Magic.
How did I know how to do all of these things? Well, the game offers you numerous ways to get clues, including wandering monks you meet on the road, helpful bartenders, fortune tellers, and passers-by in towns. The game forces you to visit each location, interact with everyone, and assemble your task list from sometimes-arcane clues like "Three words will do it!"
I didn't make a screen recording of the end game, but here are a series of screenshots that show how it progresses:
The game ends with a series of questions about unresolved mysteries, suggesting that a sequel might be in the works...
...but if one was ever made, I can't find any evidence of it. I'm not complaining. Rings of Zilfin was passable light entertainment, but it was not a great CRPG.
Let's do a quick final reckoning on the GIMLET scale:
1. Game World. Reasonably good back story about the lost Zilfins and the rise of the evil Dragos. If a bit derivative, at least offers some original elements like the inaccessible castle and the drug-addicted guardian. Generally the gameplay itself does not live up to the manual's backstory. Score: 5.
2. Character Creation and Development. Barely a CRPG in this regard. No creation decisions, assigns you a default name, only a few basic character statistics and hardly any control over character development. Nothing customizable about the character at all. Score: 2.
3. NPC Interaction. Only the basest sort. You talk to them and they tell you things. No dialog, no opportunity for role playing. NPC interaction is necessary, though, to figure out the plot. Score:3.
4. Encounters and Foes. A handful of monsters, some unique to this CRPG, but most of them only distinguished between those that cause physical damage and those that cause magic damage. No random encounters. Areas do respawn. Score: 3.
5. Magic and Combat. Very, very basic. Only combat options are to attack with sword, shoot an arrow, or cast a spell, and there are only 12 spells. No role-playing opportunities in combat. Score: 2.
6. Equipment. All kinds of different items, but most are either quest items or trade items. Only four types of weapons and three types of armor, none very well described. Score: 2.
7. Economy. Horribly unbalanced, too easy to get rich, hardly anything to spend your money on (except healing, which is cheap). Score: 1.
8. Quests. One main quest, very linear, no side quests. Main quest has only one outcome. Score: 3.
9. Graphics, Sound, Inputs. All primitive, even for the era, although there is some fun animation in the cut scenes. Score: 3.
10. Gameplay. Very linear and constrained, more like an adventure game than a CRPG. Far too easy, and not replayable at all. Only bonus is that it doesn't take very long. Score: 2.
Final score: 26. The best I can say is I liked it better than Ultima II.
It was a nice, easy game for a month in which I have been extremely busy, but I'm looking forward to SSI offering better fare down the road.