Monday, December 27, 2010

Le Maitre des Ames: Trés Agréable

"Menu of the day: disgusting sheep, rancid peas" (?)

I admit I started playing Le Maitre des Ames with the idea that I would probably just put in the six hours, collect the bonus points for trying out a non-English game, and then move on. I was almost relieved when it seemed technical problems would keep me from playing. But with those problems solved and thus no excuse, I pushed forward, and I'll be damned if Le Maitre des Ames doesn't have a real charm about it. It contains several elements that I'm finding for the first time in a first-person CRPG; it's somewhat of an evolution from Dungeon Master on the way to Ultima Underworld.

Let's cover some of the ways this game distinguishes itself from its predecessors:

  • Each room has its own character: different furniture, different wall-hangings, and a different look to the doors.
  • The game (or, at least, this first level) is arranged in a logical manner. There's a dining room next to the kitchen, for instance, and an armory next to the barracks.
  • Monsters are in logical places for logical reasons. Orc guards patrol passages, rats hang out in storerooms, a cook is working in a kitchen, and an exhausted fighter rests in a bedroom.
  • You can talk to almost all sentient creatures (not the rats, obviously). Most have interesting things to say.
  • You can pick up a lot of the things in the rooms. Unfortunately (see below), I don't know what many of them are.
Picking up a key.
  • The game is full of secret doors activated with switches and chains on the walls.
  • There are messages all over the walls. Some help me, some taunt me. Some I'm having trouble translating; one seems to say "Nothing will die, but you have to start somewhere." My favorite: "Your passage, only the dust will remember."
  • You can split your party and have them explore separately. I found this out when it happened accidentally: one of my characters fell through a hole in the floor and ended up alone. Fortunately, I was able to reunite them.

My dwarf has fallen down a hole and is "absent."

I had several interesting encounters in today's gameplay. The first was with a cook in the kitchens. I'll offer my entire conversation:

  • Me: Who are you?
  • Cook: I am the cook of the royal high court of Vanir
  • Me: What are you doing here?
  • Cook: I'm making a vinaigrette dressing out of wood lice [I think]
  • Me: Who is your king?
  • Cook: My king was the greatest of all. He died.
  • Me: Who is your master?
  • Cook: The great Akkad, but he disappeared a long time ago.
  • Me: Who is your god?
  • Cook: Nilgar, patron of the traditional high cuisine.
  • Me: Do you want to help us?
  • Cook: I have no time, what with lunch and everything.
  • Me: Give me a clue.
  • Cook: Nothing is free in this world, you know?
  • Me: Name your price.
  • Cook: It will cost you 22 gold pieces.
  • Me: Done.
  • Cook: Beware of the singing howler mushrooms.
I ran into them later.
  • Me: Come with us.
  • Cook: Are you kidding? With all the bugs swarming around here?
  • Me: Goodbye and good luck.
  • Cook: Your destiny is down the road. Goodbye.

Later, an orc tells me he is a guard of the castle and he's there to keep out intruders like me, that his god is Gol Goroth, the incarnation of evil (and taken from Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories!), and I should "tremble as the demon lord arrives on earth." When I ask him to come with me, he says something like, "Over my dead body, sons of dogs!"

Moments later, we discovered his statement turned out to be quite prophetic.

I run into a man named Rockeux who says he's searching for his old master, Sir Maltorn. I ask him to join me--he seems an obvious candidate for the empty slot the game leaves you for NPCs--but he says he's too exhausted to follow in my footsteps.

Now, not everything is la vie en rose with this game. Obviously, the color sucks. You can't name your characters. Your characters get hungry and you have to eat the food you pick up. Unless I'm missing something, combat lacks the tactics of Dungeon Master and just consists of hitting "fight" repeatedly; when you hit your target, it says "Paf!"

The wimpiest combat sound ever.

Most important, I can't tell what most of the equipment I'm grabbing is, and since each character can only hold up to four items, this is a bit of a handicap. There are some things that look like potions, and weapons and armor that I can't find a way to evaluate against what I already have. And I've yet to figure out anything about the magic system.

Some of you (especially you, Georges) have been a lot of help in translations--if anyone feels like helping me a little more, can you take a look at the manual and see if you can tell me what it says, if anything, about a) the different types of items you can pick up, and how you can tell what they are; and b) casting spells? (I OCR'd the manual but the watermark screws up the text order and keeps me from translating it all at once.) [Later edit: one of my readers got a friend who speaks French to translate the entire manual for me. I can't thank them enough, but I don't know if they want to be mentioned by name on the blog. Suffice to say: merci beaucoup to EH and JVR!]

Pending that, I'm going to probably dip back into Legacy of the Ancients for a day.

A good day's work. A bientôt!


  1. How did the CRPG makers choose these color schemes? Why wouldn't they just go with black and white? I don't think I could tolerate the pink/teal combo for more than a few minutes.

  2. You can cycle through foreground and background colors with F1 and F2.

  3. Unfortunately, none of the alternate color schemes are much better. None of them offer any real contrast.

  4. I'll take a look at that manual tonight and see if I can help a bit.

  5. Tragically, the game looks like it would've been gorgeous if it hadn't been done in CGA.

  6. Yes, it seems a real pity. A monochrome Hercules version would probably have been easier both for the developers to do and our sore eyes to endure.

  7. Georges, I hope you haven't invested a lot of time in it. One of my readers got his friend to translate the entire thing for me--see the edit above. I appreciate your willingness to help, though, and I'll keep posting in-game text that I have trouble with.

  8. This sort of game coverage is why I love your blog. I'd have never heard of this game without it and not only that, we get gameplay details. Bravo.

    I wonder if there's a hack for dosbox where you can replace the CGA/EGA palette with colors of your choice. If so, I can provide a few pleasing combinations, since I am a pixel artist by trade.


    something like this for example.

  10. Don't worry, I just fell asleep and didn't have time to look at it, so it's great if you have it all translated!

  11. Would you be able to post the translated manual?

    Also, re: hacking the colors, all that requires is modifying the DOSBox source, which doesn't seem to be too hard to read, but I'm unable to locate the exact part.
    The subdirectory /hardware has three files of relevance: vga_other.cpp, vga.cpp, and vga_draw.cpp. In particular CGA_4_Table (called from cga_other, set in cga, and used in vga_draw) might be the correct thing to modify, but I'm not sure how it is set.

    Easiest to modify I could find is in vga_other when in Tandy mode the settings are fairly clear:

    if (vga.tandy.mode_control & 0x4) {
    VGA_SetCGA4Table(val & 0xf,3+base,4+base,7+base);
    } else {
    if (val & 0x20) VGA_SetCGA4Table(val & 0xf,3+base,5+base,7+base);
    else VGA_SetCGA4Table(val & 0xf,2+base,4+base,6+base);

    that is, it is picking the three colors off the 16 color palette (3, 5, and 7 or 2, 4, and 6).

    Also I don't have gcc (or whatever they used) installed so I wouldn't be able to compile right now anyway. Help, anyone?

  12. I'm French, maybe I can help you.
    To cast a spell, the manual says you have to select the "dialog" option and move it onto the magician. A menu should appear with the spells list.

    The spells are :
    - Pouvoir dialogue = you're able to understand any language
    - Pouvoir guérison = you can heal any wounded person
    - Pouvoir protection = you create a defensive shield around someone
    - Pouvoir force = you decuplate the strength of the person
    - Pouvoir vision = this spell gives the power of extended vision

    About the inventory, the manual explains how to pick up objects or sort them in the backpack. But it does not give any details about the items you can collect.

    I'd like to add a comment about your translation skills, you're rather impressive because the game uses old French ! I'm having fun reading your posts as you play this game like a "blind" guy! About the first picture with the "menu of the day", "dégueuli de brebis" means something like sheep's barf / vomit / puck ...

    You're doing a great job venturing in CRPG-Land!

  13. Jason, thank you for the info. Sadly, though a pixel artist I might be, I am not good with code itself. If you find out more about hacking the CGA support in dosbox, do tell, even if not for this project, it might be a useful activity to 'recolor' old CGA games over at Pixelation (

  14. Sarababilim, I appreciate the effort. As per my update, a reader was kind enough to translate the manual, but I do appreciate your clarifications on the in-game text. I wish I could say my attempts at translation have been solely due to skill, but Google has helped a bit there.

    Jason, the translator gave me a cleaner copy today, so I'll post it probably on Thursday when I go back to LMDA. Tonight, I'm going to plow through LOTA.

    As for the color issue, I appreciate your effort, Jason & Helm, but I know nothing about either coding or pixel art. Let's see if the game lasts long enough to even make it worthwhile.

  15. I'm pretty sure I can hack the source, I just need to get the thing to compile. (I downloaded MinGW which seems to be what they used, but there's some extra stuff I need and the makefile is giving me a headache.) I think it's worth it because this isn't the only CGA game that could use recoloring.

  16. That's really nice work Helm! Jason, if DOSBox doesn't indeed already support such recolouring, patching the feature into it would be awesome!


  17. And very nice post once again too! (This time I just read the comments first.) Also, the "PAF!" sound effect is awesome, I remember it from French comics such as Asterix.


  18. If you find a game written in Sanskrit, are you going to play that as well?

  19. Might be conflating Gol Goroth with Shub-Niggurath.

  20. For clarification: Gol-Goroth was created by Robert E. Howard of Conan fame, and it was subsequently picked up and reused by various Cthulhu mythos authors. So, Lovecraft himself never used it, but is is "Lovecraftian".


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