Legacy of the Ancients is an okay game that moves along at a decent clip. I spent enough time playing today to get several entries out of it, if I wanted. My major accomplishments were to:
- Accumulate a lot of money through gambling and use it to buy magic items
- Have the Wizard's Compendium stolen (this doesn't sound like an accomplishment, but the game suggests it was necessary)
- Build up some of my character stats
- Raid Castle Kelfor for gold and items
- Plunder a pirate cave
- Get some quests from the Museum and its caretaker
|This didn't make any sense, but I realized later that (for some reason) I needed to visit the museum exhibit on healing herbs before I could buy any.|
The game lets me buy up to 99 of each of its 6 spells. The first two, magic flame and firebolt, are the most valuable of the lot, usable in both outdoor areas and dungeons, and they do about 10 times the damage of my best attack. The other most valuable magic item is healing herbs, of which the game lets me carry 40. But buying the full complement of this kit costs around 10,000 gold pieces, and monsters deliver only about 10-50 per kill, so I thought I'd raise funds through gambling.
There are two gambling mini-games: blackjack and "flipflop." The latter game is like a giant Plinko board in which you bet on where a ball will land. It's interesting but too time-consuming, especially given that the rules of blackjack in this game are extremely favorable. I find my edge is around 115%, so as long as I keep my bets modest, I always wind up ahead in the end. This seemed a bit too simple and it was: it turns out that after you win about 2,000 gold pieces, you "break the bank" and guards swarm and pummel you (you can get the same outcome by robbing the bank). The only way around it is to travel from city to city, never winning too much money. What with the monsters I had to fight on the way, this took a little while.
In the midst of it, some thieves ambushed me and stole the Compendium. Lest I reload, apparently, the game warned me that this step was a necessary part of the game. Scripted events that you can't avoid no matter how badass your character are staples of CRPGs, of course, but it's handled oddly, and I'm not sure why it wasn't just part of the backstory to begin with.
I lost track of all of the different types of monsters I've encountered. Only a few of them, such as "Eaton warriors," have names reminiscent of any other CRPGs. Some of the names include bone dwellers, carrion manglers, mime ghouls, neural clouds, pit strikers, practon piercers, slime weirds, stinging rakishes, venom floaters, ventro flailers, wave skimmers, and wind stalkers. I would give the game points for originality except that the creatures aren't very well distinguished except by name. A few of them (at least, the ones in dungeons) have special attacks, like dissolving your armor, breaking your weapon, or draining your endurance, but for the most part they're interchangeable by name and unmemorable by icon.
Part of the game's tactic is supposed to be that certain weapons work better against certain foes--you can figure this out by trial-and-error or by buying clues from seers. But either way, it's hardly worth the time to swap out weapons when most enemies die from a few blows anyway.
Weapons, I should mention, come in several varieties--knives, clubs, bladed staffs, and so on--and in various conditions ranging from "shoddy" to "great." I learned the hard way to keep hold of a couple of different weapons for when one gets shattered.
Things picked up when I raided Castle Kelfor, but the game follows Ultima I's and Ultima II's traditions of turning me into a mass murderer for the sake of the plot. I must retrieve certain artifacts from the chests in the castle, but opening chests causes the guards to swarm me, leading me to mercilessly slaughter them.
The castle also featured a mysterious woman named "Cassandra" who increased my "charm" attribute.
Ultimately, I got hold of a magic tulip that, when returned to the Museum, netted me another boost to my "charm" skill an an extra level.
Oh, yes--leveling. From what I can tell, I don't gain levels in this game through combat. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any reason for combat except to get enemies out of your way (and make a few paltry gold pieces). Instead, the Caretaker levels me up when I solve certain quests. I'm level 3 now; I don't know how may levels there are in the game. I had to find my way back to the Museum first, which turns out to occupy a corner on the westernmost part of the continent. Entering it involves answering some copy protection questions with the help of a fan page.
After raiding the castle, I followed another monitor in the Museum to the Isles of Three Sisters...
...where I explored an eight-level pirate dungeon. The dungeon was in first-person view and featured a variety of tough monsters, chests, and traps (I learned the hard way that I needed to "examine" each corridor before striding on down.) I got very rich (>10,000 gold) from this trip and also found a jeweled crown.
When I returned to the museum, the Caretaker gave me a quest to recover the selfsame crown and a scepter. I returned the crown immediately. I'm not quite sure where to go for the scepter just yet--I think I've explored all of the places on the map--but this seemed like a good place to knock off for the day.
I did die twice. Dying has very few consequences: you are immediately resurrected with your full complement of hit points, but with only a handful of food and gold pieces. Fortunately, the game lets you stash money in the bank (where it gains interest) just for such a situation. When I noticed this, it reminded me to take a break from the game to check on my IRA account, which--just like watching Veronica Mars in the middle of Faery Tale Adventure--is a good sign to me that the game isn't really captivating. I'm sure I'll still finish it, since it doesn't seem like it's going to take much longer, but we're talking Ultima II-level game play here, and we've seen a lot of CRPGs advance much further than that.