The last two days have been full of complete bull$%&*.
Yesterday I timed it. With the bard song "The Rhyme of Duotime" playing, spell points regenerate at a rate of two every 30 seconds. My characters had around 160 spell points then, so if they came out of a dungeon needing to regenerate 140 of them, that took 35 minutes. But there are other complications because "The Rhyme of Duotime" only lasts about three minutes, meaning I'd have to keep resetting it, which defeats the purpose of doing other things while I wait. That means that a real regeneration took closer to 55 minutes providing I remembered to reset the song once. However, this also doesn't take into account that spell points only regenerate during the daylight, and day and night both last about 10 minutes. This effectively doubles the amount of time it takes to recharge spells unless I stand outside the refugee camp and remember to enter and exit every once in a while (you always return to morning when you leave the camp).
The upside is that I had to wait at least 35 minutes, but practically more like 70 minutes, in between trips to the dungeon. It's hard to believe I'm not missing something, but I don't think I am. I've only found one "harmonic gem," which does indeed regenerate all spell points for a single character, but I kind of feel like I need to save that for emergencies.
What makes this particularly unforgivable is the multiple dungeon squares that sap your magic points. There's nothing like waiting an hour to recharge your spell points only to head into the dungeon and watch half of them drain away.
While I'm complaining, here's a few other things:
- Spellcaster leveling makes no sense. Once you've achieved the seventh spell rank (character Level 13) in your first class, there's no reason not to switch to the next class. Switching starts you back at 0 spell points, but with no detriment to your health or spell points. Leveling comes extraordinarily quickly at this point. It took my characters about 3 hours of playing to get to Level 13 in their first spell classes, then only about an hour to get to Level 13 in their second classes and less than that to get to Level 13 in their third. During the time that the two spellcasters went through 13 levels the third time around, all my other characters rose maybe 1.
- I don't like the way the characters find items at the end of combat. The game forces you to take whatever you find, but with no way to sell the items, 90% of the time, you immediately go into the character's inventory and discard it. A better game would ask what items you wanted to keep.
- The only way to tell if a bard song is still playing is to have the volume on, but the bard songs--the only sound the game, as far as I can tell--just loop over and over and over again every 10 seconds or so. While the sound quality isn't bad, you can't listen to it for long.
- I don't mind random encounters in dungeons, but what annoys me is that enemies can attack when your only move is to turn. This makes mapping very frustrating. There certain squares where it seems like every move produces an encounter. You finish fighting and then take a couple of turns to remind you where you are, and suddenly you're in battle again.
- The game doesn't seem to register a lot of my key-presses. I'll hit "8" twice to go north and map the walls assuming I've gone north twice. Then I find out it only registered one of them.
In between times in which I was standing around waiting for spell points to recharge, I finished exploring the dungeon and ultimately killed Brilhasti, the Mad God's servant. To do this, I had to first solve two more riddles on Levels 4 and 5. Both stumped me for a few minutes, although there were other clues on the levels as to the answers (select the text to see the answers):
- "I am noting, I make nothing, but my opposite creates me even as it destroys me" (SHADOW).
- "I have no lips, yet my kiss is deadly. I am not a razor, but those I caress need never shave again. Your best friend, I will kill you" (SWORD).
Answering them got me a message to the effect that maybe I am strong enough to defeat Brilhasti and a clear path to the stairs. Reader Eric nailed it: it's more fun if you imagine these messages were scrawled in blood by a spy as he tried to escape. That leaves the question of why he magicked up a mouth with a riddle, though.
Both levels featured plenty of spinners, anti-magic zones, silent zones, spell-point-draining squares, and invisible walls--things that seemed like novelties in the first Bard's Tale but are just tiresome now.
Level 5 was also full of clues as to "three wards" that would "try my soul" on Level 6. Well, I don't know what they were talking about. Level 6 had spinners and dark zones and such, but it was easy enough just to plow through it and make my way to Brilhasti's lair...
...where I promptly had my ass handed to me. Bad. I didn't even come close. He was surrounded by four "dark guards" who cast pillars of fire at me, did 80-100 points of damage in melee attacks, and basically just slaughtered me even when my spellcasters were casting REST (full party health restore) every round. I reloaded about 30 times before I finally was able to kill the dark guards through DEST (destruction) spells. But then I had to "advance" across 60 feet to Brilhasti, and he wasted me with RIME (serious frost damage) spells along the way. When I finally reached him, two of my characters were dead, and then he started summoning greater demons. I didn't stand a chance.
Discouraged, I returned to the surface--which was no picnic, by the way, walking back up four levels (the APAR teleport spell failed)--healed, and started to level grind. For an entire day, I killed easy, medium, and hard monsters throughout the Mad God's dungeon. My spellcasters finished mastering conjurer, magician, and sorcerer spells. But my regular characters only advanced a couple of levels throughout the entire day. Still, with my new spells and strength, I returned to Brilhasti's lair a second time.
This time, I only had to reload about 15 times before I finally defeated Brilhasti and his guards, although I lost two characters in the combat. Yay! And my victory was accompanied by an automatic teleport out of the dungeon. Thank you! But this is where the final BS appeared.
Returning to the review board, I found that killing Brilhasti gave me enough experience points to advance from Level 16 to LEVEL 36! Moreover, my two spellcasters, who I hadn't even changed to wizard, let alone archmage, suddenly had all the conjurer, magician, sorcerer, wizard, and archmage spells. What the hell?! I spend an entire day level grinding only to have the game hand me 20 levels and two full classes' worth of spells for a single combat? Could it maybe have balanced that a little better? Was the entire purpose of the first dungeon to get my characters to the level they would have been if they had finished The Bard's Tale II? This is bad, bad, bad game design. Aside from the new chronomancer class, my spellcasters have no where to go. My thief has 99 in all the thief abilities. Playing with way overpowered characters is no fun even if the monsters are hard; there's nowhere for my characters to develop.
So the "last of the guild elders"--the guy in the review board--wants me to go to some realm accessible through some trees and to bring back a bow and arrows from another adventurer named Valarian. To do this, I have to take one of my archmages and make him or her a chronomancer, leaving me with only one archmage unless I take the time to develop another. I'm going to bed now to sleep on whether I want to even keep playing this dumb game. I'll leave it running overnight, though, so maybe my 350 spell points will be recharged by the time I wake up in the morning.
Sorry to sound so negative, but at least I know one thing now: my reviews of The Bard's Tale II were not simply because I was in a "bad mood." I was in quite a good mood two days ago, and I was eagerly anticipating this game. It's the game, not me. This series sucks. Why is it considered a classic?