Sunday, February 27, 2011

Demon's Winter: Miscellaneous Stuff in Bulleted Form

A puppet? That doesn't sound too hard.

Bulleted lists of "things I've discovered" always seem like a hackneyed way to convey information, but they do have the advantage of being somewhat simple to write and, I hope, read:

  • The game couldn't possibly be more unhelpful in its initial distribution of characters during combat. Almost always, my characters are facing away from the enemy, and my spellcaster in the last rank is almost always closest to them. This may seem like a nitpicking complaint, but since even turning costs moves in this game, I'd rather they started facing towards the enemy. Not being able to attack or move on the diagonal is also a bit annoying.

The characters bravely prepare to attack to the northwest. Too bad the enemy is to the southeast.

  • The game suddenly makes you camp every time it decides your characters are "sleepy." If you don't have a unit of food for everybody when you camp, you lose hit points. The need for food is slightly annoying. I ran out in a dungeon and had to take a break to go outside and hunt.
  • Leveling up turned out to be matter of finding a town with a "guild," where they either train you or tell you how many experience points you have left to earn.


 
  • Priestly types can "convert" to another deity. I haven't tried it yet.


 
  • Like Ultima IV, the game has a day/night cycle. To mimic night, the peripheral areas of the screen go black until you can only see for a limited box around you. I guess this is where that "visionary" class would come in handy.

Developers: this adds nothing to the game.

  • The game is fond of random encounters. They're not regular as in Shard of Spring (where they came every 33 moves), but they are frequent.
  • A clue that RJ left me in my last posting informed me about a baffling interface design: shops show you only one item at a time, and you have to keep hitting (c)ontinue to see the others. Nothing on the screen informs you of this. The cool thing is that there's some expensive equipment that I'll have to have much, much more gold to afford. I like having economic goals.

This item is pretty far in my future.

  • As you explore dungeons, you must periodically hit the (i)nspect command; otherwise, you miss treasure and special encounters. This took me a while to figure out, and then I had to retrace my steps through the Temple of Gamur.

A dungeon room with the "inspect" activated.

Moving, examining, taking objects, and moving objects seem to be the four ways that the characters interact with the environment and solve puzzles. The Temple of Gamur took me a long time because I was trying to figure out the interface.

The clue to the next dungeon, I guess.

The entrance area gave way to a long secret passage in which I really couldn't see where I was going, and it took a while to map. There were a couple of inventory puzzles: I had to find a mallet to smash a glass case holding a prisoner, then heal him with a blue potion in order to get a clue about the entrance to a place called Zoorik, a mythical city beneath the earth whose existence I'd learned from a scroll. There was some good equipment in one wing of the temple, but in obtaining it, my wizard was killed by a column of fire from a will-o-wisp. There was another tough battle with a pair of skeleton mages.

Boss lady.

A secret door revealed itself when I moved a wooden altar, beyond which was a room in which my part kept getting crushed (and killed) by walls before I realized that the safe path through the room had been given to me in an inscription in another room. The boss of the dungeon was a woman named Remondadin, who fell fairly quickly to my blades. Afterward, a message informed me that the dungeon was "only part of a small cult that worships Xerxes--the demon who destroyed Ildryn." The game gave me the next quest of finding Xerxes himself. But since he's named Xerxes, not Malifon, I suspect he's the "puppet" mentioned in the opening screenshot.

Consulting the game map, I see that Idlewood, southeast of the dungeon of Zoorik, is on another island. I'm not sure how I get there yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Fighting skeletons.

Combat ought to be tactical, but it's already striking me as somewhat boring and repetitive, just like it did in Shard of Spring. I can't quite put my finger on what makes this combat fundamentally different from the similar combat in the Gold Box games, and I have to leave myself open to the possibility that it isn't different--that the exciting tactical combat I remember from Pool of Radiance is pretty much identical to this, and I'll be just as bored when I get to it. I hope not.

I'm having a weird feeling about the entire game. This feeling has hit me before with other games: even though I understand it, and there's nothing I'm really confused about, it seems oddly inaccessible, like there's something I'm not quite "getting" about it, like it somehow wasn't written for me. I know that doesn't make any sense, and it's possible I'm just in a weird mood--this was my last week of classes, and I haven't been getting much sleep. I'll see how I feel after a solid 14 hours tonight. I should be back on a regular posting schedule after that.

10 comments:

  1. Judging by the screenshots, the story bits, the features you mention -- it sounds like an interesting game. But it also sounds like it's just not clicking together as a whole!

    --Eino

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  2. It could well be a lack of sleep, or maybe you just need a break from this kind of game/entertainment? I certainly swing into periods like that (like now), especially if I haven't been out enough lately for whatever reason, though what defines "out" or "enough" varies quite a bit!

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  3. Just a quick FYI, It's Ultima V that introduces day/night cycles, not Ultima IV. It's always daytime in Ultima IV.

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  4. if you didnt fight a pair of willow wisps I think, in the temple dungeon, you missed some good loot. its in the invisible passage, if you go east in that far dungeon cell... for mapping, look VERY closely at the top left or top right pixel, it indicates a space you can move into...

    mapping that sucker was a pain but its worth it.

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  5. Your description of how you feel about Demon's Winter sounds exactly like what I experienced with Morrowind and Oblivion. Everything with the games seems good and fun, my few gripes about them are not major detractors from playing, but I just can't for the life of me get excited about or while trying to play them (I mentioned something earlier about my experience with a NES port of Pool of Radiance being too tedious for me despite the praise people have typed about it).

    Aside from that, why the heck do these early developers ruin plot twist opportunities like they did here by giving away the demon's name and plans in the instruction manual long before you experience these facts in the game, not to mention giving the game a self-explanatory title (even the highly praised Betrayal at Krondor is guilty of this)?

    P.S. What are your thoughts on my proposal made near the bottom of the B-Day post comments (also, I mixed up the word Xyzzy with Syzygy which I had just learned about in "The Ultimate History of Video Games" by Steven L. Kent, so never mind)?

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  6. Having just come off playing 4 or 5 of the Goldbox games and going right into Demon's Winter; here is what I find different:

    1. It did take a lot of getting used to that you
    can not fight diagonally. It downright sucks, but I can see past it.
    2. Magic really doesn't mean anything in this game, other than HEALING (Spirit Runes) and MAGIC FLAME (Fire Runes), I never used any another other spells than those two. (except at the end).
    3. You find a LOT of junk items after battles, and it costs you 75 GP to identify them, only to sell them after identification for 2-10 gp. Later on, I learned to only pick up items when AURA DETECTED came up.
    4. I really have no idea where the Worshipping of God's comes into play. I never did it once. All of the temples just seemed like a waste of time to me.
    5. I thought the "skills" part was the best feature of this game... (and when you find the dwarves later on who help you with weapons). It's a shame they dropped "skills" from Gold Box games.
    6. I liked the way the outside world and the dungeons were set up. It was nice to take a break from the 3-D dungeon crawl for a while.

    All in all, this is one of the first games that after I beat it, I wanted to immediately play it again. Hope you stick with it, CRPG ADDICT.

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  7. I under stand the feeling you are having about the game. I get that feeling quite often about certain games. I'll have read the manual, read some notes about it on the internet, but when I am playing it... it's like I am doing something wrong while playing. Like I reached a wrong conclusion about how I should be playing it, so now it's not coming together like it should. It's a very frustrating feeling.

    Or maybe I am just functionally retarded :) Nah, that can't be it! :)

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  8. The feeling was due mostly to tiredness. I played a bit more later and started to take to the game a bit better.

    Thanks for the additional tips, RJ. I particularly agree with #2. Except for healing and direct damage spells, none of my spells seem to work very well and I'm getting through most of the game via brute force.

    Stu, I did miss that extra loot. Thanks.

    Giauz, we're talking like 100 games before I get there, but I inserted it into the list with a note to check back to your posting when I get to it. I appreciate the effort.

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  9. "Priestly types can "convert" to another deity. I haven't tried it yet."

    If you tried it you'd find that it doesn't convert priestly types - it teaches the Priest or Shamen [sic] skill to a character that doesn't have the skill already. You can't convert a Priest or Shaman.

    I agree that the religious system is mostly useless. My Dwarf Berserker became a Shaman when he converted to Acics. Praying actually helped in combat, but I could only target one character whose courage was dramatically boosted, making him automatically hit with every swing. Hardly worth it when it costs 100-200 (maybe more with advanced levels) to Pray in a Church! Having a Priest of Illo may be worth it though, since Resurrection costs 100 per level at the Healers.


    "I can't quite put my finger on what makes this combat fundamentally different from the similar combat in the Gold Box games,"

    Apart from the already mentioned absence of diagonal movement, the game also lacks ranged combat. Apart from spells that is.

    Since all characters gain spell points I think it may actually be a good idea to give them all magic skills. Then you have access to ranged attacks against other spell casters, and if any of your guys becomes Bound by Ice, Chains or Still Air you can cast the counter spell instead of having to go to a town and pay for it.

    I was sceptical to this game since frankly it _looks_ boring, but it is actually an ejoyable game, with a large world to explore and a pretty good combat system. Should have been more dungeons to explore, though.

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  10. @RJ's comment: "4. I really have no idea where the Worshipping of God's comes into play. I never did it once. All of the temples just seemed like a waste of time to me." A cynical person might say that they implemented religion perfectly then. =)

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