Saturday, December 25, 2010
Game 36: Legacy of the Ancients (1987)
Before I get in to Legacy of the Ancients, I should mention that I haven't moved on from Le Maitre des Ames yet. I'm just doing that thing you said you wouldn't mind where I play two games at once. I'm still in the midst of translating the manual for Maitre and getting used to the interface. I think the game has a lot of potential, but it seems a lot like work, and I'm feeling lazy this weekend.
Legacy of the Ancients is the opposite of "work": it is an uncomplicated, plain little game--almost a throwback, really. It uses the same game engine as Questron, the first CRPG I ever played, about 26 years ago. I didn't play it as part of this project because of my PC/DOS restriction--a restriction that has come to feel a bit foolish, since this is yet another game in which the DOS version offers the poorest graphics (you can see a comparison of the C64 and DOS graphics at the game's MobyGames site).
The game starts with the basest character creation possible: I simply name my character (I chose "Lailoken") and the action begins. I play a poor peasant in the land of Tarmalon who one day comes across a dead body on the side of the road. It belongs to a nameless previous adventurer who was in the middle of the quest to destroy a powerful and dangerous magic scroll called the Wizard's Compendium. I loot his body for the Compendium, two jade coins, and his magic bracelet and soon find myself transported to a mysterious building.
The building is the Museum of the Ancients, an edifice constructed in times of yore by a race of aliens. It is apparently one of many scattered on different worlds. The museums allow the Ancients to view life on different worlds, but they are forbidden from interfering with the worlds' developments (a video monitor warns me not to "feed the Tarmalon natives"); the caretaker of the museum on Tarmalon apparently decided to break this rule.
As I continue warning the hallways, the bracelet begins speaking to me with the voice of the previous owner, charging me to "neutralize the evil Scroll of Spells before it destroys everything!" The rest of the museum is filled with similar monitors that take coins of various denominations. With the two jade coins found on the body, I view exhibits titled "Art of Weaponry," which allows me to take a dagger, and "Thornberry," which tells me about a typical Tarmalon town, in which rich and poor live separated by a stone wall. Having used my last coin on the latter exhibit, I take the exhibit's offer to transport me there.
And thus the game begins. Thornberry is a typical CRPG town, with a weapon and armor shop, a bank, and a transportation shop. Gameplay is isometric, with graphics on par with Ultima IV. Commands are all through the keyboard, with available actions listed on the left side of the screen.
At the food shop, I got a quest to deliver a bag of mail to the town of Big Rapids:
I also found a gambling parlor, where I indulged in a few rounds of blackjack featuring rules I would love to see on my next trip to Atlantic City.
In the wilderness, I encountered creatures both hostile and friendly. So far, I have fought and killed pulp crawlers, bone dwellers, slash nettles, blistopods, scorpods, ventro flailers, carrion manglers, pit stalkers, venom floaters, and wind stalkers. All slain foes give up gold or items, and some of them can be converted to food--yes, this is another game in which you must maintain a rapidly-dwindling food supply.
Combat is, unfortunately, no more tactical than in Faery Tale Adventure. You just keep mashing "F" until you or the creature dies. There is a magic system in the game, but it reaches all the way back to Ultima I for its inspiration--you buy spells at shops and cast them until they run out, then buy more.
Not all encounters are hostile. I bought some food from a bandit, a museum coin from a farmer, and a potion from a merchant.
As I slay creatures, I don't have any idea if I am developing experience or anything. My level remains firmly fixed at 1. The game manual seems to suggest that the museum caretaker will be the one to level me up, but I haven't figured out how to get back to the museum yet. I did figure out how to develop at least one statistic, though: one of the towns has a neat mini-game in which you have to fend off fireballs.
You do it by simply turning in the direction they're coming from, which sounds easy, but it gets pretty dicey at high levels when multiple fireballs are coming at the same time from multiple directions at different speeds. I did okay my first time out.
I had hoped that each town would feature a different side quest, but apparently they all involve mail delivery to the other towns. Nonetheless, I get about 100 gold pieces for each delivery, and it's an easy way to make money while I explore and figure out my next move.
If it seems like an unexciting game, well it is, a bit. But the mini-games and gambling are a neat touch, and it's a good game to mess around with while I'm supposed to be watching It's a Wonderful Life with my family.
There's a big blizzard approaching New England, and I don't feel like dealing with it, so I managed to get a last-minute ticket to San Diego tomorrow morning. I know my blogging usually falls off when I'm traveling, but this time I don't have any particular business to do, and I'm actually looking forward to the idea of hanging out on my hotel balcony, playing games, and only leaving my room to restock my wet bar. If I have any readers in that city, I'll be glad to meet you for a drink at the Green Flash.
Tomorrow, we'll see what strikes my fancy the most: the interesting-but-difficult foreign game or the slightly-boring-but-simple Legacy of the Ancients.