Saturday, March 12, 2011

Demon's Winter: The Main Quest At Last

The main quest finally surfaces.

The ruined temple, which I had just entered at the end of my last posting, turned out to serve up the main quest. First, I witnessed an ancient conversation, replayed between two ghosts. One ended up sacrificing the other to his "god," who was stuck in a dormant volcano. I accidentally skipped part of the conversation, but the neat thing is that the game has a "(r)ead description" command that lets you re-view any text you encounter; sort-of a spiritual ancestor to games that let you re-watch cut scenes.

I'm sick of CRPG NPCs calling me "fools."

Soon I ran into Jesric of the High Temple of Malifon (the name making its appearance in-game for the first time) who said he was seeking the Demon Crystal. (Thanks, Jesric! I wouldn't have even known to look for it otherwise!) He attacked me by himself, and I was able to use my "surround him with my four best fighters and pummel him to death" strategy. He served up a lot of experience (1000) for not being so tough, plus a "heavy amulet."

If you could only attack diagonally in this game, Clinscho would have something to do.

A nearby cave contained a "prayer scroll," and towards the bottom of the dungeon, I found an ice door with a hole in it, which turned out to accept the icicle I had found yesterday. This teleported me to an altar room, where using the prayer scroll summoned an ancient god who gave me the main quest.

Could they have been a little more descriptive about "drawings of the creation of the universe"?

It transpires that some beings or gods called Ancients imprisoned Malifon under the mountain with a spell. The spell weakened over time, and with "outside help" (presumably Lanfear and the other Foresaken), the spell has been broken. Unless he is bound again, he will "sweep Ymros clean of life." Fortunately, an ancient order called the White Knights created an Orb of Great Power that can channel the One Power of the Ancients and create a new binding. I needed to go get it from the Vault of the White Knights.

I had done pretty poorly on my first trip to the Vault, which was only one level ago, so I decided to hang around a port town and do some level-grinding, alternating between ship combats (which give the most experience but no gold) and land combats (which give paltry experience but are the only way to get gold). The number of experience points needed to advance ended up getting so large, though (>10,000) that after a couple of hours, I had only gained one level. Fortunately, it was enough to get Fire Runes for my wizard (at last) and get one of my other characters skilled in Spirit Runes so I have two healers.

A gleeman recounts my past glories.

I also explored a huge continent on the western side of the map that, near as I could tell, had only a couple towns and a dungeon and otherwise mostly empty space. Like Faery Tale Adventure, the game brags about its size ("32 times larger than Shard of Spring," the manual says), but like Faery Tale Adventure, I find the world to be mostly empty and boring. To be fair, the enemies change with the terrain, which would be a positive if the enemies themselves were more memorable.

Returning to the Vault of the White Knights

Even though I didn't feel quite ready, my crew headed back to the Vault of the White Knights to obtain this Orb. The Vault was the largest and most interesting dungeon in the game so far. A spirit guarding the Orb of Evertime told me that I needed to pass a number of tests to prove myself worthy of it.


The tests all involved single combat for each of my five characters against a foe specific to that character. My wizard had to fight an imp, my barbarian a dragon, my monk a "karate master," and so on. None of them was terribly difficult, except for the ranger, who isn't very skilled at...well, anything.


There were rooms for characters I don't have, and the spirits in those rooms just "let me pass." I'm curious what foes the game would have provided for scholars and visionaries. At the end of the combats, the spirit let me march up and take the Orb.

Except for one battle with some high-level magic users, the game didn't throw many tough combats at me, meaning my first visit must have been a fluke. I should have held to my old Might & Magic credo: wait until an area kills you three times before you declare defeat.

Next up, I guess, is a trip back to the ruined temple so I can give the Orb to the ancient god.

A few other miscellaneous things:

  • The day/night cycle is starting to annoy me a bit. Every 200 moves or so, the game world closes in on you to simulate getting dark, and the game forces you to camp and sleep. Triple that number of moves would have been nicer.
  • I just discovered today that you can flee combat. I did it accidentally, while moving a character near the edge of the screen. This will make traveling by ship a little more feasible.
  • Of my five characters, the most useless is probably my ranger. His hunting ability became moot once I started to make money, and his vaunted "monster lore" ability is really pretty useless. He sucks in combat (partly because I didn't hold out for a high strength score). If I wasn't so far into the game, I'd ditch him for another monk.

Presumably, this is to help you plan your battle tactics, but I haven't found much use for it.

  • Getting the Kung-Fu skill turned my monk into a real bad-ass. Now he ends up stunning his opponent on about 30% of his hits.
  • Enemy spellcasters keep freezing my characters, a condition that lasts permanently until you cast the "melt" spell, which I didn't have until after the ruined temple because I didn't save enough intelligence points to get my wizard Fire Runes. Every freezing means a trip back to a town with a healer. Another common problem is to be bound in chains, the antidote to which is a "break bonds" spell, but it's part of Metal Runes, which I also don't have.
  • Final judgment: there are a random number of moves in between land battles but a fixed number in between dungeon battles.
  • A weird buggish thing: when I enter a dungeon, only the few squares around me are visible, presumably because it's "dark" and the game wants me to use a torch or a "magic torch" spell. But if I just go into camp and exit again, everything is lit up and visible.
  • A few times, when desperate, my monk has prayed to his god. Not once has this had any results. The game manual and all the churches in the game make a lot out of a religious system that has virtually no effect in terms of actual game play.

I wish I had some idea of where I stood in terms of total game progress. In some ways, I feel like I'm just beginning, but there aren't that many dungeons on the map!

One final, somewhat amusing, note: although I've done surprisingly well following my rules (especially the no spoilers rule), today I found myself exercising an obvious loophole. My rules say that I can't quit and reload just because I don't like a certain result. If a character dies in battle, I need to raise him myself, have him raised in a town, or replace him. Naturally, this is something of a pain in the neck when it happens deep in a dungeon.

If my entire party dies, on the other hand, not much choice there. I need to reload. You can see where this is going. If a battle goes poorly and I lose a couple of characters, suddenly my other characters lack a certain motivation for victory. You could even say that their depression makes them distressingly suicidal. This hasn't cropped up in a lot of other games because most of them are either single-character or limited-save. In Might & Magic, when I could only save in towns, it was always worth it to haul dead characters back to a temple, lest I lose all that adventuring time. But in games where you can save every step, like Demon's Winter, the dynamic changes.

In modern games, like Oblivion and Baldur's Gate, I get around the problem by forcing myself to only use auto-saves. If the last auto-save was 30 minutes ago, no way am I going through all that again just to avoid spending the 3000 gold to raise Jaheira. In this era, without auto-saves, I either have to establish a rule limiting my saves or just force myself to try to keep my party alive, no matter how convenient it would be if they all died.


15 comments:

  1. Lol, the Dark One ...

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  2. Hi,

    I enjoy your blogs immensely and hope that I will be enjoying your blogs for years to come.

    Now about your concern regarding following a certain set of rules. If I were you I would follow the rules you have set yourself.
    However the longer you commit yourself on a certain RPG, the more lenient you can become in interpreting those rules.

    You have spent some considerable time on this RPG so when you feel the need to bend the rules or reinterpret them, then by all means do.
    Cheers, Rob.

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  3. still a ways to go yet. should see winter soon

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  4. Hi,

    What a great blog this is, I enjoy it very much! I have also tried to play some of the games you have done already, now that's a big challenge. But I certainly will continue reading your blog.

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  5. Those first couple screenshots confused me for a bit; I thought this had turned into a 2D platformer somehow :)

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  6. CRPG Addict Said:
    "A weird buggish thing: when I enter a dungeon, only the few squares around me are visible, presumably because it's "dark" and the game wants me to use a torch or a "magic torch" spell. But if I just go into camp and exit again, everything is lit up and visible."

    Maybe what is happening here is that your character's eyes are adjusting to the dark?

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  7. How about this for a rule of thumb - after 18 hours, if you're still interested in playing, anything goes. So. 6 hours to see if it's fun, 12 hours to get frustrated, and then just finish the game.

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  8. "The spell weakened over time, and with "outside help" (presumably Lanfear and the other Foresaken), the spell has been broken."

    Maybe Robert Jordan was inspired by this game? After all it was released a couple of years before Eye of the World.


    I thought investing 2 skill points in Monster Lore was worth it. Seeing the enemies' Speed, Strength and Armour Class can be useful in planning some of the tougher battles. If you know that a Giant that can deal 20 damage a blow only has 6 Speed you can use hit and run tactics against him, for example. One of the joys of turn based combat with no "opportunity attack" rules. :-)

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  9. I think that, more likely, it was just a common trope. I'm glad you played the game different than I did, though, and found out all these other things.

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  10. I'm trying to catch up...love the WoT references...caught the "gleeman" reference too.

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    Replies
    1. It really is a good series if you ignore some of its weaknesses. I think Sanderson has done wonders with it.

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    2. Yeah, so do I. Keep it up. :)

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  11. "A few times, when desperate, my monk has prayed to his god. Not once has this had any results. The game manual and all the churches in the game make a lot out of a religious system that has virtually no effect in terms of actual game play."

    Once again, sounds like they implemented religion perfectly, it works just like it does in the real world. =)

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  12. I know this is pretty old to be commenting on and you may have found your own happy medium by now, but I thought I would chime in on the "taking advantage of the save mechanism" thing because I really wanted to mention something on your (again, old) roguelike (Rogue, Nethack) posts with permadeath and now a similar situation has come up again.

    I'm not a fan of permadeath or overly harsh ("hardcore") death penalties, but there I have played a few games that were a lot of fun despite my distaste for those mechanisms. In order to retain some of the difficulty but make the game more palatable, I would backup saves. However, I would backup my save when I was able to reach a safe location. In fact, I almost exactly emulate Might & Magic's save system, by forcing myself to return to town before making a "permanent" save. If I can't make it back to town, I lose the progress since my last backup instead of having to start from scratch.

    I like this system because it rewards caution, but doesn't require total paranoia. One of my biggest issues with permadeath isn't that your progress is lost, but that it encourages the player to do what is optimal rather than what is fun. Optimal often means grinding until the next set of fights is trivial or similar behavior which is risk-averse, but being challenged is usually part of the fun. This saving scheme also serves a secondary purpose of protecting against save corruption and game-stopping bugs and what not.

    I know you already have your rules and have been sticking to them for a long time now, but I thought I'd mention it in case you run into a game you'd rather compromise than give up in frustation.

    Also, I really enjoy your blog! I hope you're still doing it and I'm not just typing this to myself!

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    1. You're not typing to yourself! I read all comments, even on very old posts. I agree with you about saving and the superiority of M&M's system. I won NetHack honestly, but I've allowed myself to back up files for other roguelikes, and I've been a lot more lax about reloading in recent years than I was here in 2011.

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