Sunday, January 2, 2011

Le Maitre des Ames: De Retour au Château

"Together we shall vanquish the evil. I am swearing."

Le Maitre des Ames continues to offer up interesting gameplay elements and tantalizing clues. Wandering the halls, amidst slaying orcs, mushroom people, and rats, I managed to pick up an NPC, learn from a disembodied spirit that looks like a bee that someone named Baldigorn holds the key to victory, and to learn from a sign that to kill someone (presumably the big lizard an orc told me about), I need to protect myself from his claws.

Okay, is he saying he's a spirit enslaved to Kharam, or that he is Kharam's spirit?

As I mentioned in my last Maitre posting, reader Eugene Hung was kind enough to refer my translation request to a friend of his, Julien Van Reeth. Julien kindly translated the entire manual for me, clearing up much of my confusion about the game--particularly how to cast spells. Thanks a lot, guys!

There are still a couple of mysteries to the game: I've found items that look like potions but for the life of me I can't figure out how to use them, and I don't know how or if my accumulated experience translates to levels. When I create a party, my characters don't seem to keep the same statistics that I originally rolled (maybe this is a bug instead of something I'm confused about).

I take it "miam!" means "yum!"

The manual tells you how to eat, but it isn't very helpful as to the question of when to eat. Each of my characters has a "hunger" (faim) score, but I can't tell what it means. Sometimes when I eat it goes down, sometimes it goes up. So does a high faim score mean you're hungry or full?

As I continue to play, I'm realizing how futile it is to map the castle. First, the game gives you no indication--no stairs, no ladder, nothing--when you go "down" or "up" a level. You just go through a door that ought not to be there and wind up in a place that's impossible on your existing map, so you figure you've gone up or down. On Level 2, meanwhile, I ran into a series of rooms with signs next to the doors that read "Those who enter here never come out." Prophetically, all the doors seem to double back on themselves, locking you in a series of about six rooms. It took me a while to find the right door would get me out.

One of the game's more annoying features is that you can only equip two items at the same time, and yet the game offers three basic items: weapons, armor, and shields. I guess the shields are a bit superfluous. But that pales in comparison to a maddening interface element. When you click on your characters to see their stats or inventory, instead of briskly popping up the relevant screen, the game runs through a tiresome on-screen animation. It only takes a few seconds, but those seconds add up and get on my nerves.

On the plus side, dying offers one of the more memorable on-screen graphics of any game:

My characters deaths have doomed the whole world!

I know I've been going a bit nuts with videos lately, but DOSBox just makes it so damned easy. The brief video below shows the process of several combats, finding hidden doors, reading signs, picking up items, and using keys. I used YouTube's commenting features for the first time to add some commentary and translation to the action. When I get a chance, I'll explore video editing software that will also allow me to add audio commentary (suggestions welcome).

While I continue to like this game and think that it has promise, I don't look terribly forward to my gameplay sessions. First, the process of constantly translating is a little tiresome--why do the French games have to be the wordiest games? (If Mission: Mainframe was in French, it would hardly be any different.) (And yes, I know how lame that complaint must seem to those of you who said you learned English from CRPGS; by the way, Rizla, where did you go?) Second, the overall uncertainty the game leaves me with respect to items, food, and leveling makes it hard to just sit back and enjoy it.

I figure I'll keep playing at least until I encounter this giant reptile that the NPCs keep going on about--I'm guessing it's the "big boss" of the first part of the game or something. Then I'll reassess.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of any Spanish CPRGs, do let me know. I'm going to Argentina in a few months on business, and I really need to start brushing up.


  1. This game looks cool. That youtube video demystified the gameplay a bit for me, thanks.

    As to video editing, adding a commentary audio stream and all that, there's few resources as informative on the subject of playing videogames and telling the internet as this thread in Something Awful:

    You're looking for a multichannel editor where you can mix video streams, do edits and add/remove audio.

    Even Camtasia Studio would be enough for that, and very easy to use. If you want to get more into it, check out what Avisynth does and also AvsPmod.

  2. In my experience, French games often tend to be intriguing and strong on atmosphere, while sometimes strangely lacking certain basic gameplay elements Add to that the eventual language barrier (my grasp of it is probably not much better than yours).

    Watching that video, I was reminded of the adventure game Kult (Mobygames and Wikipedia also file it as an CRPG, but it really isn't), which was released in 1989.

    While this is a Sci-Fi title and doesn't suffer from a horrific CGA palette, I still feel there are similarities in screen design. Coincidentally, it has one of the weirdest settings I've yet encountered - that's probably while it has survived 20 years in my memory, the gameplay wasn't very good.

    Don't think I've ever played a Spanish CRPG - excuse my ignorance in advance, please, but are there any commercial ones?

  3. You're a stronger man than I am, Gunga-Din, playing games in non-english languages. I keep thinking I might try this bloody game, but I have a hard enough time playing english ones :) add this to the mess, I won't have any self-esteem left.

  4. Please keep the videos coming - they give a good idea about gameplay. Here I didn't have a clue what was going on except for the fights and I don't think it was really anything to do with my understanding of the text either. It looks a confusing layout. See what you mean about the animation too.

    Trudodyr, I was just thinking along similar lines. It reminds me of old Amiga titles like Drakken and Galdregon's Domain where rooms weren't represented in the traditional wizardry / might & magic grid view. I can remember Kult though I never played it.

  5. hum I thought I posted a comment here, now I don't see it. I hope I didn't write the captcha keyword wrong! Perhaps it has been filed under 'spam' because I mentioned a url?

    Kult is a good game once one gets used to the strange UI. I wouldn't call it a traditional crpg for sure, though. Exxos eventually did 'Captain Blood', another french near-masterpiece.

  6. trudodyr, your comment about a CRPG called K.U.L.T. had me in a panic for a minute because it's not on my list--I was worried I'd missed yet ANOTHER host of games--but I see that I have it as Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Princess. Anyway, I looked at the screenshots, and it does seem vaguely similar.

    My list of CRPGs from MobyGames and Wikipedia doesn't have any Spanish CRPGs, no. So if there are any, they aren't very well known. Naturally, more recent CRPGs offer Spanish versions; I'm just not aware of any Spanish originals except one 2000 MMORPG called "La Prision," which I won't be playing for obvious reasons. One of these days, I'll scan my list and do a "special topics" posting on foreign CRPGs in general. There are dozens of Japanese ones, of course (the first shows up in 1990), and several French (the next one is 1991's L'Empereur), but I think that's about it. I don't know if other countries didn't really make CRPGs or if they're just not well-represented on English-speaking web sites.

  7. Congratulations on keeping on... and I am one of those who did learn English through CRPGs - my time wasn't all that wasted after all.

    In your screenshot, he is saying he is the spirit of Kharam. Depending on the genre, "de" or "du" between two nouns means "of", which is where you will see these words most often. In more rare cases, they could also mean "a part of" when in the beginning of a sentence or after a verb, but with google transalte you should be able to make the difference.

    For example, "Je veux de l'eau" means "I want some water", but "Je veux l'eau de la fontaine" means "I want the water of the fountain".

    PS: Sorry for the delete, I wanted to edit the post. Is there a way to do it?

  8. @Helm
    I also think Kult is overall a good, if a little weird game experience. But were it not for the unorthodox setting and nice graphics/music, I wouldn't really have cared for a pretty much standard point-and-click adventure with some (to me, annoyingly) time-based puzzles. The brain-like interface I actually rate as one of its fortes.
    Capatin Blood preceded that game, I think, and I never got around to playing it. I did check out the sequel Commander Blood, though, but couldn't really get into it.

    Drakkhen was also among the first computer games I ever bought. But opposed to Kult: The Temple of Flying Saucers (apparently released overseas with that other name), this game didn't really grab me - considering that back then, I was an avid 10-year-old yearning for anything CRPG-related, that's not really flattering, I suppose.

    Galdregon's Domain sounds familiar, but checking out the screenshots I'm afraid I never played this one. One more thing to look forward to in this blog! :)

    PS: A thougt just struck as I reminisced about the Kult box art - maybe France's strong history of comics and fantastic storytelling has something to do with their perceived preference for aestheticsa and atmosphere?

  9. Thanks, Georges. I guess I was confused because I thought Kharam was the game's villain. I must have misunderstood something another character said.

  10. Since this game is no longer marked as "in-progress" with the arrows on your status list, is there going to be a post with a GIMLET ranking?

  11. Oh, why won't you people just let me sneak away from this one? I don't think I penetrated enough into the game to justify a GIMLET. Sigh...I should probably go back and try a little harder.

  12. Keep the videos coming, particularly if they are not time-consuming to create. It is a nice way to supplement your writing and to see firsthand some of the things you talk about (e.g. how the interface operates and how gameplay flows).

  13. I appreciate that, Patrick. They're not that hard to create in DOSBox, and I guess anyone who doesn't like them can very easily skip them.

  14. There are dozens of Japanese ones, of course (the first shows up in 1990), and several French (the next one is 1991's L'Empereur

    The only 'L'Empereur' I remember is the turn based strategy game by KOEI, a Japanese company, and it was released in English as well. Definitely not a CRPG though, turn based strategy game like other KOEI games of the time (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nobunaga's Ambition etc)

    I see that Moby Games lists it as an RPG, which is rather odd, none of the other KOEI games using the same engine is classed as such and thus someone must've made an error along the line.

  15. MobyGames seems to err on the side of calling things RPGs if they show any RPG elements. I weed out the ones that clearly aren't as I get to them.

  16. But Uncharted Waters (1991) and Uncharted Waters 2 (1995) are DEFINITELY RPGs released by Koei but are listed as Simulation/Strategy on their list! And yet, Gemfire (1991), having more Strategy elements than those 2, are classified as RPGs in Mobygames! Mystifying!

    1. Mobygames does not have a single source of reference when judging genre. Games are added to the database by users much like Wikipedia, so you get a good number of opinions about what is or isn't an RPG (other genres suffer from this too). There are moderators that need to approve a listing, but you can't expect them to know or check out every game submitted.

      And, that's not even the worst of it. I've seen driving games where the only possible explanation is the character gets experience and ranks for each race; this was called an RPG on Mobygames.

    2. I figured that, in general, crowd-sourcing the categorization scheme would result in more inclusion rather than more exclusion. Fortunately, I picked up the two Uncharted Waters games from the Wikipedia list. I'm fairly confident that between the two of them, I got almost everything that could possibly be a CRPG, but I do rely on readers to alert me to deficiencies.

    3. You should probably recheck the wikipedia list each year (Either real time or at the start and end of each year of games) to see if more games have been added, since it is a living document.

      Heck, that is an easy way for us to add RPGs to the list; Find a citation and add them. (I mayyyy have a few Wikipedia edits dating back to 2005)

    4. Yes, I've started doing that. I re-checked both Wikipedia and MobyGames for my 1989 list--which I'll hopefully get to one of these days.

  17. I take it you ultimately decided to stop playing this one; can't say I blame you, I would've done the same. Still, it would be nice though to make a small update at the end of it noting you decided to move on in case someone new comes along and reads this :)

    1. Fair enough. I don't think I ever really DECIDED to stop playing; it was just enough time had passed that it kind of fell off my radar.


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