Monday, March 7, 2011

Demon's Winter: A Slight Thaw

I don't like this guy.
When we last left Demon's Winter, I had finished two dungeons and I was a little uncertain about the game. But I was also exhausted, having just finished an entire month on the road, and my perception was a little skewed. Since then, I have warmed to the game a bit.

My next step was to travel to a dungeon called Qoorik on an island south of the mainland of Ymros. (I kept calling it Zoorik in the last posting; the odd game font is a bit confusing.) To get there, I needed to purchase a ship from one of the port cities. Once I had the ship, though, I was in no particular hurry to get to Qoorik, and I spent some time sailing around the game world and visiting various temples, and training guilds. There are a lot of temples in the game, which is odd given that they have such a limited purpose.

The world of Demon's Winter, courtesy of Andrew Schultz, who I talked about in a posting last year. I'm not 100% sure that a game map came with the game, so I might be viewing massive spoilers here.

There are a bunch of places to train, but with only a limited number of skills that each character can learn, I was a bit wary about spending any of my points. I had my paladin master fencing, I gave berserking to my barbarian, and my wizard mastered wind runes.

Is it just me, or does this sound a bit lewd?
On the sea, I was introduced to the joys of sea combat, which hasn't changed appreciably since Ultima II: I basically hit the (f)ire key and shoot at other ships and the occasional sea snake. These battles give an absurdly high amount of experience--at least 10 times the average land battle--but it comes a high cost. If the ship takes on too much damage, it sinks, so I have to repair it frequently, which costs a lot of gold. Some of the battles inexplicably take place in areas surrounded by walls, and if I miss the enemies, my cannonballs ricochet off the walls and smash back into my own ship! I fought on the sea until I was out of gold and then headed for Qoorik.

Bland but rewarding combat with pirate ships.
In a couple of towns, I got interesting hints about the main quest. I had thought that the game didn't reference Shard of Spring, but I was wrong:

The next town served up a reference to the villain in this game:

After reading both of these, I realized with a start that the main quest of Demon's Winter hasn't even begun! For all my characters know, they're just trying to figure out why the pack of goblins attacked Ildryn. In other words, the "Demon's Winter" of the title hasn't actually started. This comment by Giauz had gone over my head the first time I read it, but he's right. If SSI had made Baldur's Gate, they would have titled it Child of Bhaal.

Qoorik turned out to be invisible, but I knew where to look and ended up stumbling into it. The experience I got from ship combats served me well, as the dungeon knocked up the level of monsters significantly, throwing demons and high-level spellcasters at me. My wizard become essentially a healer only: I needed his healing spells too much to waste spell points on offensive spells. I had to resurrect characters a couple of times.

This troll turned out to be a lying bastard.
The dungeon was huge and multi-leveled, and I don't know if I explored all of it (I find it too hard and unrewarding to make maps for isometric games). Amidst a number of fixed encounters with Xeres's minions, I solved several inventory puzzles. A troll blacksmith game me a broad sword that he said was designed to kill Xeres, but when I had it identified in town, it turned out to be cursed. I found a black wand that I had to use on an archway to teleport between levels. A skeleton key opened a door in a crypt and took me to a shifting maze of tombstones that I had to navigate.

An old bookcase concealed a secret door that led to a skeleton holding a piece of paper that said "Ymros is Mine!" There were runes painted on the wall, that have the same number of characters: perhaps this is a code key for a later puzzle?

In another room, I found a bag, used it to scoop up some red dust that I then burned in a censer, and I got an image of a demon who said: "The father of demons sees all. Only those who possess the demon crystal can escape his sight." Other items I haven't figured out the use for, including a piece of papyrus, an ancient tome, vials of goblin's and unicorn's blood, and a microscope (it doesn't seem to do anything with the blood).

A Ouija board in a "gypsy room" told me to "walk along river Styx until you find the ferryman." I did that, and gave him some black coins I'd found to take me across a river. There, I encountered a tough battle with a "gravekeeper":

When I finally killed the gravekeeper and his minions, my characters were nearly dead and my spellcaster was out of spell points. I limped my way through a fire-shrouded maze and, at last, encountered Xeres, whose screen shot leads this posting. He slew me without much trouble--several times.

One thing hasn't changed from Shard of Spring, although in the first posting I thought it had: the game throws a "random" encounter at you every 43 movements, no exceptions. This makes it particularly hard if you're stuck deep in a dungeon with low hit points and spell points; you can't trust luck to carry you back to the exit. This is where I stand now: stuck between Xeres, who I can't defeat, and the long return to the entrance, which I can't make. I'm also almost out of food, so walking around and repeatedly resting isn't an option.

Though I'm not looking forward to starting over again, there are several things I've come to like about the game. The inventory puzzles have been intriguing and the encounters more memorable than in Shard of Spring. The dungeon was a fun challenge to navigate (though I wish I hadn't gotten myself stuck).

I'll keep throwing myself at Xeres and let you know what happens. I may have to start over. In the meantime, here's a video of my most successful battle against Xeres. You can see how combat works. The monsters move around the screen in odd patterns, making it tough to gang up and kill them one-by-one.

I actually managed to kill the demon himself, but his minions finished off my characters. I never got this close again in six or seven other combats. I suspect I erred in assuming that the cursed sword was a fake and tossing it; maybe it really was intended to kill Xeres.

Keep in mind, this is still the beginning of the game! I can't imagine it gets easier.


  1. I dont remember this fight being so tough. And the big event is still to come. One thing that really stamds out is that this game was the last I remember with puzzles like this. Im glad to se you kep going on this. If it was released a year earlier it would have been a much popular/more well known game, ut was too late to the party considerong the competition of the same year. And no map came with the gae

  2. UGh android typing skills suck

  3. "This troll turned out to be a lying bastard."
    HA HA!!! That is awesome!
    I can totally see having this huge quest where the PCs find the secret uber-wqeapon designed to kill some Dangerous Dragon, only to find out that the sword (or whatever) is cursed, and thats why someone locked it in that dungeon eons ago....

    I am totally going to use that. :-)

  4. I tossed that sword too. No need to carry cursed crap around with you. I don't remember that battle being that tough either. Maybe you need to upgrade your weapons. Haggle some fancy pants merchants down on some good + weapons. If possible, give all fighters FENCING and BERSERKING. It will greatly increase HACKS POINTS. Armored skin is also helpful.

    I was impressed with how HUGE the world is in this game. It would have been much more difficult without a map. I never found overhead world maps to be cheating.

  5. re: the Schultz map, GameFAQs doesn't allow outside links, which is why it won't display.

    And seriously, him again? That man is a beast.

  6. Finally! I finally caught up! *pants, falls over*

    The downside is...I finally thought about old games that I played as a kid, and want to see you play and they look to be a ways away for the most part.

    Castle of the Winds: A Question of Vengeance (The only Roguelike I know of that takes advantage of a GUI and windows and such): 1993, so about 200 games in the future. Also one of 3 CRPGs that I can remember beating, the other beating, the others being Skies of Arcadia Legends for the Gamecube and Golden Sun for the Game Boy Advance.

    Moraff's World: Man, I never did figure out that game, since I was young and never thought of mapping or writing anything down. I think I still have a copy of it on a CD somewhere. 1992, about 150 games away.

    Moraff's Revenge: Huh, I never played this one, but it is 1988, and judging by the graphics of what you are playing now Moraff's World is going to be really similar ...why the different font from the rest on your list? Also, why is it right after Autoduel? Didn't you play that already?

    Wasteland is also 1988, and I've read a cool lets play of it, and love post apoc stuff, so that one should be cool.

    Wait, what is The Oregon Trail doing on that list? It is not a CRPG at all! If that is a CRPG then you need to add, I don't know, X-COM! At least you get XP in that one!

    Alright, I'm going to stop skimming the list looking for games I recognize now, as any other games I've played will be way too recent for you to reach in the near future, and I'm now mostly recognizing game manuals of my Dad's that I found in the basement and read as a kid (Bard's Tale something or other, Might & Magic II, The Magic Candle, and some of the Gold Box Games).

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to 1988, it is a...special year for me, so it will be interesting to see what games came out that year.

  7. Ok, I finally got a chance to watch the video. You have 4000 gp and really crappy weapons. Buy better weapons!!! If you have enough strength, get some 2-handed swords. If nothing else at least get some broadswords or some +1 weapons from some traveling merchants. It is painful to watch your guys hit for only 2 or 4 points.

    Also, you should go make a level or two and get some more HP. Early on like this you can go fight some ships for easy experience, granted you have the money to keep on repairing your ship.

    Keep on keeping on!

  8. I'm always bemused that early game designers were in many ways so talented but at the same time so aesthetically incompetent. It's not that the graphics were bad (they are); but even I, with partial color-blindness and no art skills, would never have used the colors combinations they used when I was making QB4.5 RPGs back in the early 90s. And the large graphics seem to detract more than they add.

  9. Some games have cursed items that are still useful in some ways. Is it possible that the sword is helpful for killing Xerxes, but then you need to go find a remove curse afterwards?

  10. Bollocks. Thanks, Stu. I'm ditching the map, but I think I've memorized most of it by now. Thanks for the note, Jason. Oddly, it worked on my computer but not elsewhere. I just saved the map and reposted it. I tried to contact Andrew Schultz when I first wrote about walkthroughs but I couldn't track him down.

    Canageek: Oregon Trail is on the list because MobyGames has it as a RPG. I agree that it isn't, but I've never played it and everyone talks about it, so I thought I could use MobyGames's questionable categorization as an excuse to give it one or two postings, just like I did with Pirates!

    RJ, I didn't have 4000 gold until I finished this dungeon. I only had a few hundred going in. A couple more levels is what saved me, though.

    Eric: good question, don't know, too late. I'll be more careful next time.

  11. Oh, wow, never? I agree, you should give it a try. The different versions are very diffrent- let me know if you have trouble finding the pretty windows version when you get close- the famous one is an ugly dos/apple II version.

  12. Somehow I have it as a 1990 game, although I know that's not true. I guess that's just when the DOS version came out.

  13. Odd, since Wikipedia doesn't list any edition from that year: 1971, 1974, 1985, 1992, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2011.

    The versions of interest are:
    # 1981 to 1985 The Oregon Trail (Apple II).
    # 1992 The Oregon Trail Deluxe (MS-DOS).
    # 1993-96 The Oregon Trail Ver 1.2 (Windows).

    The 19801-1985 version is the famous one, if you want to see what people are talking about play it. I know it breaks your rules, but you won't have to screw around with emulators: works quite well.

    However, I played the Deluxe or v1.2 (I think it was v1.2) and found it quite a lot more fun as hunting wasn't nearly as painful.

    It is also a short game...I just beat it in oh, half an hour.I do think you should try at least the Apple II version when you need a break from grinding.

  14. Well, MobyGames is proving unreliable in several ways, so that probably explains it.

  15. Ouch! That video was painful to watch. Seems your party was a bit unprepared and your last man standing was a bit unlucky.

    I actually restarted this game myself. I underestimated how much I'd like this game so I used Schultze's map to complete it as quickly as possible. That meant I was too low level and too unskilled to complete Xerxes' dungeon.
    Exploring the game, finding all the trainers (which actually reminded me of Might&Magic 6) and leveling up to lvl 6-7 before entering Xerxes' domain was much more fun. It certainly helps having more skills and better weapons. I found that using two skill points for my Palading to get the View Mind skill was a good investment. When a merchant offers a Morning Start +4 for only 350 gold it sure is good to know he's honest.
    Having magic skills also helps. There are three different spells that immobilizes enemies, which is great when they work on the toughest ones. But it doesn't always work...Rust Armour OTOH always works and is quite cheap and useful against enemies with high AC. And Wings of Victory (a Ranger needs only 5 or 6 skill points to learn Wind Runes and can then use his spell point to something useful) can be useful in a pitched battle. Cast it on your fastest fighter and he will hit more often.
    I was a bit disappointed that none of the fixed encounter, like Xerxes' High Priest, yielded any magic items. Maybe in this world most of the magic items have been already looted by adventurers and sold to merchants?

  16. Great info, but how are you just reading this now?

  17. Actually I read it the first time, up untill the point where I decided to try the game myself; then I only skimmed your postings. So I wasn't in a position to comment much then.

  18. Maybe you should've had some spartans in your party before engaging Xerxes ;-)


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