|I realized late in the level that I had misread the compass in the beginning. I ended up mapping the entire level upside-down.|
The levels are taking a bit longer in Dungeon Master, but I'm on the cusp of being halfway through the dungeon.
Level 6 was a long and difficult experience, with tough monsters and interesting puzzles. A few postings ago, I faulted the game for lacking any real "story," but it's starting to make up for that with other challenging gameplay elements.
Coming down the stairs, I was greeted with a large room containing four small alcoves next to four inscriptions on the wall:
- "I am all; I am none."
- "Hard as rocks, blue as sky, twinkle in a woman's eye."
- "I arch yet have no back."
- "A golden head and tail but no body."
2 and 4 I got almost immediately--a blue gem and a gold coin. #3 took me a minute of checking through my inventory before I hit on a bow. #1 I never got. I mean, I figured out the object by trying random items in my pack, but I don't know what that particular phrase corresponds to a "Mirror of Dawn." Nonetheless, the solution opened an alcove containing a key as well as the exit to the room.
I lost count of how many keys I picked up on the level--something like six. With only a couple of exceptions, each key opened a door to areas that were not strictly necessary to finish the level, but which contained treasures (including two vorpal swords, which I assume are pretty cool).
But each key required solving a puzzle. Near the entry room was a crypt marked "the grave of King Filius, explorer of combinations." The room contained four buttons which I had to press in a particular order to open a secret door. With no clue as to the order, I simply had to write out each possibility (1234, 2341,4123, etc.) and cross them off one by one until I figured it out.
Next to Filus's grave was the grave of "King Milias the Golden, who even in death searches for bullion." A gold coin dropped into a slot in the wall opened that one.
There were several puzzles involving pressure plates--mostly having to throw objects onto the right ones. One kept me occupied for a long time. It seemed simple enough: the plate opened a nearby wall. But none of my items would trigger the plate; I had to be standing on it. After a long while trying to figure something out, I hit upon the solution of having monsters stand on it--there were plenty of respawning skeletons nearby. But wouldn't you know it--they wouldn't stand still long enough for me to run through the door. So after a period so long I'm not entirely comfortable admitting it, I remembered I had a number of magic boxes that would freeze enemies in place for a spell. That victory tasted sweet.
The critters on the level were reasonable difficult. There were three new monster types: beholders (that's what I'm calling them anyway; the game doesn't tell you their names), skeletons, and giant bees. The skeletons weren't too much trouble except in one place where they trapped me in a corner and attacked me in waves. Beholders were medium difficulty, pummeling me with spells but falling fairly quickly to my weapons. The giant bees kicked my ass, wiping out my entire party twice. I had to resort to firing poison spells while rapidly retreating down the corridor. Fortunately, there weren't many of them.
- I've done a good job balancing out my character levels. Each of my four characters is at least a "craftsman" (fifth level) in each class. The more I play, the more I like the skill-based development system.
- Back when I was writing about Shard of Spring, I noted that there weren't many games that allowed you to adjust the power of spells. Here's one that does. The first rune that you speak in each spell determines its potency.
- This level didn't have any walls to walk through, but it did have plenty of tiny hidden buttons. These are virtually impossible to see from the side, so you have to turn and face every wall.
The not-knowing-how-to-evaluate-weapons-and-armor thing is getting more difficult. I found a lot of new stuff on this level, and I'm just making guesses about what's best. Y'all keep suggesting that I cheat on this point, and I admit I'm sorely tempted. So out of curiosity, if I did want to give in and look up weapons and armor on a table or something, does one exist? If so, how did the author figure it out? It's not like the weapons do a consistent amount of damage every time you strike.
I know this is a weird time to say this, but it occurred to me today that the graphics are quite good in Dungeon Master--perhaps even the best of any CRPG I've played so far. You can't see it in the screenshots, of course, but the monsters are animated, and the designers took the time to work in neat little touches like shadows. If only the dungeons had some variety to their textures--but I suppose that since the dungeon was supposed to have been one man's house, it makes sense that they don't.
I'll think about recording some video for my next posting.