The adventurers find an armory. That's a secret door below the active character.
Determined to get at least one quest finished before I called it quits on Paladin, I kept assailing the house and finally won. In doing so, I learned a little bit more about the game's tactics, although I still maintain that they're not significant enough to hold my interest.
The most difficult aspect of the game is that if one fighter (either one of yours or an enemy) faces the other with his full movement strength, he can almost always slay that enemy during the round. Full movement grants between 8 and 10 swings, and it only takes 3 hits to kill most foes (including your characters). Thus, if you are unlucky enough to end the combat round with the enemy right in front of you, you will almost certainly die.
This leads to a little bit of tactical maneuvering, in which you try to get your enemy to come to you. If they refuse to budge, you have to assemble your party at a staging point (for instance, just outside the door to a room), and then charge when you're sure you have enough movement points to reach the enemy and engage him in the same round--or when you know you can blast him from afar with bolts or fireballs.
Fireballs, incidentally, turn everything in a 3 x 3 square to rubble, so you have to be careful using them around objects that you might want to pick up. I lost the quest once when I cast it too near a quest item and destroyed it.
I won the scenario on perhaps my sixth attempt, mostly by exercising more tactical caution. The goal again was to find the deed and the land grant for the house. One scroll was in the sub-basement, and the other was naturally in the attic. To get them, I had to slay rival fortune hunters and several ghosts.
Exiting the level involves marching back to the "exit pentagram" and ending the turn:
At this point, the game gave me a simple message that "you have completed the quest" and told me that my paladin's accuracy had improved:
The quest is then over, and the game saves my improved paladin file for use in another scenario. This is the only thing that really qualifies Paladin as a quasi-CRPG.
Knowing this entry wouldn't be long enough at this point, I started another scenario, called "Trojan Hoax," and was put in charge of two swordsmen, two mages, a ranger, and a thief.
The paladin is the only character that you get to name. Apparently, I have a significantly handicapped thief.
The quest in this scenario sounds a bit dumb, but here it is:
I stormed the castle (not a good tactic) and found a the entryway full of guards who slaughtered half my party in about two rounds.
The entry hall was a dead end, but I found a teleportation pentagram that took me outside the tower, where my party was attacked by dragons.
The dragons fell surprisingly easily given that they were dragons. Making my way around the tower the long way, I finally made it to the tower's upper levels, where I found the princess surrounded by monster guards:
I managed to kill them, losing all but my paladin himself in the process, but then I ran afoul of the game's extremely short time limit for this quest.
The second time around, with some foreknowledge of the layout, I was able to rescue my beloved and once again given the game's wonderfully rewarding quest completion message:
I got another message that my accuracy increased.
I admit that I found the game slightly more enjoyable today than when I first posted about it, but not enough to complete a bunch more missions. The game would be more interesting if the quest were unified under some kind of general theme. Fractured as they are, playable in just about any order, some of them not particularly chivalrous...
...the game doesn't have a very good overall game world (1). Compare this to Sorcerian, which had the same sort of quest-based structure but tied it together with a kingdom and town that you visited between quests. Paladin doesn't even tell you the name of the world in which you're operating.
If the game didn't allow some basic character development, it wouldn't have any CRPG credentials at all, but it's very basic character development. When creating the character, the only option you have is the paladin's name, and the attribute increases you receive at the ends of quests are determined by the game, not anything you decide (2). There are scattered NPCs, usually there to greet you at the beginning, but they tell you nothing interesting and you have no dialog options (1).
There are a handful of monsters that the game uses over and over, not even bothering to tell you their names, and no way to role-play encounters, although the monsters do act differently depending on type (2). Combat is tactical, which is the purpose of the game, but you have fewer options than in most real RPGs and the selection of magic spells is paltry (4).
There are some scattered bits of equipment--potions and missile weapons, mostly--around the levels, but in general you don't get to upgrade your weapons and armor, and the game barely meets my rule or CRPG minimums here (1). There is no economy at all (0). The game has no main quest; it's composed of various limited-duration side quests that have varying levels of interest and difficulty, but only one outcome (3). The graphics and sound are reasonable enough, but whether you use the mouse or keyboard, the controls are horrible (3). Finally, the gameplay within each quest is very linear, but the quests have the virtue of brevity and the overall difficulty is balanced well for a strategy game (4).
The final score of 21 puts it on the lower tier of games, but of course I'm rating it as a CRPG, not as a strategy game, which is closer to its correct category.
I have to figure out what I'm doing with Omega before moving on to Pool of Radiance. I'm trying not to let my eagerness for the latter ruin my experience of the former.