I've been on the road the last few days and not playing much, but partly I've been so silent 'cause I can't seem to get anywhere. The beginning stages of Phantasie III are surprisingly hard--at least, unless I'm missing something. Battles routinely leave my characters bereft of limbs, and I cannot find a single town that sells healing potions sufficient to repair the damage. My quest to do so took me into some areas I wasn't yet ready to face, and as you can see from the screen shot above, I ended up losing most of my party. This has happened multiple times. Yikes.
Even the first dungeon is a bit too hard for Level 1 characters, so I decided to spend a little time wandering the wilderness and building up my statistics--specifically, wandering right around Pendragon, the starting town, since the monsters seem to get more difficult the further you get away. Still, it's clear from my limited wanderings that either Scandor is a busier place than the Phantasie I kingdom, or the game world is smaller. There's a town on practically every screen. Too bad none of them sell Level 7 healing potions.
To try to get anywhere in the game, I've been resorting to a tactic I'm usually loathe to employ: running away. The consequences of a bad battle are so severe that I turn tail if it looks like I can't handle it. It doesn't always work, though, and of course I often misjudge whether I can "handle it." In my current party, most of the characters are Level 4, but I have a wizard with no legs and a priest with only one leg. What am I missing when it comes to healing? Could SSI have really made a game this punishing?
The difficulty doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it. In fact, Phantasie III returns me to something like Wizardry-level tactical combat. Specifically:
- Since I cannot save in between towns and I can only fully heal in towns, the difficultly rests in the accumulation of encounters more than individual encounters. I must carefully weigh whether to press on to the next dungeon room or whether to just get out of here. Combats are random and frequent, and I always need to plan on the possibility of several fights on the way out.
- Within individual encounters, there are tough choices. Aiming, attacking, thrusting, and firing bows have different levels of effectiveness on different enemies. I must also consider how to target my attacks by enemy rank and when to use my limited spell points.
- Fleeing is a gamble because if it doesn't work, the enemy gets a free round of attacks.
SSI has also introduced its skill system from Wizard's Crown, so every time I level up, I can allocate points to attack, parry, swimming, listen, find trap, disarm trap, find item, pick lock, and fire bow. Even this requires a bit of strategy. At first I just concentrated on attack skills for most characters and allocated the thief skills only to the thief. Later I realized that at this rate, my thief would never really advance far in anything.
When death arrives for the entire party, you find yourselves on the Astral Plane, where a great demon judges each character and decides whether to a) resurrect him; b) turn him into an undead. If the latter option occurs, it appears that the character advances to Level 20 but can no longer be trained or advance in skills after that. Resurrected characters lose their gold and one point of constitution.
Due to the game's difficulty (or my ineptitude), I couldn't play long enough to give you any more insights, but I did make this recording of the gameplay. In it, you can see my crippled party do pretty well against a succession of enemies before I press too far into the dungeon and get my ass kicked by a couple of giants. My battered party tries to limp its way to the exit, but repeated battles leave all of the characters dead. Three are ultimately resurrected and three are made undead; I ditch those three.
Finally, I'm having the same problem that I had in Phantasie with my characters being ready to level up but not having enough gold to pay for the training. I need to pay more attention to charisma next time I roll new characters. Oh, and one other kicker: the characters age, meaning I can't dither around Pendragon forever.
I've got to be missing something regarding the healing, right?