Reader Arkadesh left some advice after my last post that made sense (and that, frankly, I should have been able to figure out for myself): channel as much experience as possible into the priest character until he's able to cast Healing III (which heals amputations). Once this happened, things got a bit easier although not "easy." I still had a lot of character turnover. Ultimately, I got my party stabilized at around Level 8. Danger remains until I acquire resurrection, though.
Phantasie III, like its predecessors, gives you the ability to alter the "shares" of experience received by each character for each successful combat. You do this upon entering a town. You can't give each character less than 1 share nor more than 3, so it's not completely unbalanced. And while it makes no sense from a roleplaying standpoint, it is a great feature when you find your party in a constant state of turnover.
With my party no longer in constant fear of dismemberment, I explored most of the Town Archives south of Pendragon. As in Phantasie, exploration slowly reveals parts of the maps, with special encounters represented by little balls. These can be treasures, NPCs, or puzzles. One was reminiscent of Telengard:
Among the items found in the archives are scrolls that (again, like in Phantasie) slowly help explain the game world and its history, geography, people, and features. They also summarize the previous games but without acknowledging the fact that Nikademus died in them.
I learned that the current continent, Scandor, is the "center of the civilized world" and that the continents from the previous games are to the south. North of Scandor is the Great Northern Continent, occupied by trolls and giants that occasionally raid the mainland. Nikademus has been tied up in his conquering of the northern part of Scandor by Kilmor, a great dwarf leader. There was also a general (but largely useless) map on Scroll IV.
I say that I explored "most of" the dungeon because on the west side there's a long corridor that throws numerous encounters at me, escalating the difficulty swiftly. I lost my entire party in this corridor twice, so I think I'll save the rest for later.
Um...WHY would he never suspect us, exactly?
More important, an encounter with a "wise old sage" named Filmon provided my first quest: to rescue Kilmor from the Hall of Giants. The Hall of Giants, located by the sea in the southern part of the continent, proved to be difficult but not impossible. The giants themselves (there were several varieties) yielded a large amount of experience, equipment, and gold (although my gold still lags behind the amount I need to fully train), and I entered a wrestling match for a +1 constitution increase. When I found Kilmor, he was dead...
...but he left a scroll that recounted his capture and torture at the hands of Nikodemus. Returning to the sage Filmon, I was given another quest to go to the Dwarven Burial Grounds, attend Kilmor's funeral, and mingle with the VIPs there.
Like the first game in the series, Phantasie III is shaping up to be fairly linear in its quests. I suppose theoretically, I could stalk off in a random direction and explore whatever dungeon I choose, but practically I'd get myself slaughtered.
Three other miscellaneous things:
- The game features a very annoying form of copy protection. It appears that every time you move your party to a special encounter, there's a random chance that a question will appear, and it seems to happen about 33% of the time. The questions ask arcana from the game manual. It wouldn't be so bad if it was 5% or 10% of the time, but as it is, I have to keep poring through this PDF file.
- You have the option to reset dungeons upon re-entry, at which point the game "forgets" the map and all the encounters you already experienced. It's a good way to load up on gold and experience, but it somewhat breaks the fourth wall when you can find Kilmor's body again and again.
- The monsters yield consistent equipment by type. Every party of rangers offers up hammers and medium shields +1. Scribes always have level 3 healing potions and robes. Undead gnomes: small axes and small shields +2. I don't exactly mind, as these items sell for decent money, but some randomization would have been better. Since there doesn't seem to be any downside to keeping equipment, I'm not sure why the game even bothers to ask.