Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paladin: Two Quests Down (with Final Rating)

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.

Assembling outside a door before charging a room.

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.

A room blasted by a fireball.

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.

A ghost keeping me from the deed.

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.

A mage and a swordsman stood where this rubble is now.

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...

Ah, a noble quest for wealth and power.

...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).

Good one.

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.

18 comments:

  1. As someone who just finished "Pool of Radiance" two days ago (not my first time, more like my 9th time), I can tell you that the game is still awesome and the wait will be worth it. Either way, I can't wait until you finally review it.

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  2. (I can't seem to sign in, but this is LameBrain)

    When you do Pool of Radiance, can I request a character named after me? I think a wizard named LameBrain would be hilarious!

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  3. I loved Omega growing up and there's not a lot on the internet by way of walkthroughs, so I would like it if you spent more time on it before moving on.

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  4. If your going to play PoR, make it the only game you play till its done ;) no distractions.

    make sure you have all the manuals handy too, journals, rule book etc.

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  5. It's tough to put it off, but I will play Omega for at least a few more days before moving on. Lam Brain, I think a barbarian would be a better character for you, but I don't think POR has those, so I'll figure something out.

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  6. I agree with what Prophetsword said. I've replayed that one last year and it still is a lot of fun.

    Doesn't hurt that I played it when I was a kid and was blown away by it. I used to call it the Pool of "RAD"iance (yes, rad was still used back then :))

    One one problem with POR is that there is no heal option when resting. You have to individually cast Cure Light Wounds on each character and then rememorize them. Later goldbox games made it a lot easier to heal your characters.

    Still that is a small price to pay for this great game.

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  7. I played both Omega and PoR at the same time, back when I was stationed for half a year at an outpost with an ancient PC and equally ancient games on its hard drive. PoR was more impressive from the technological perspective (as far as that sort of thing matters today), but I actually had more fun with Omega. Its world was full of wacky details and hilariously mean-spirited insta-deaths, and when you finally got somewhere in it, you really felt like you had accomplished something. There's a certain feeling of triumph you can only get by stomping through a fantasy world, wearing power armor and wielding the scythe of Death.

    I actually beat it. It seemed to get progressively easier as it went along, your personal power scaled up faster than the enemies'. I remember that one of the late game spells (the name escapes me), made you functionally unkillable.

    Of PoR I remember mostly just that I hit the exp cap really, really fast. It seemed like less than half of the game was over when my characters had already met their level ceilings.

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  8. I'm going to disagree with Stu and vote that splitting the difference between Omega and Pool of Radiance is OK. I like the variety when reading alternating game posts.

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  9. Why don't you skip Pool Of Radiance and work on another game while you do Omega? You could go back to one of the ones you have skipped over even, just play them until you finish Omega then move on to Pool of Radiance. That way you won't be forced to play all the games you skipped at the end of 1988, which I could see being somewhat torturous.

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  10. PetrusOctavianusMay 25, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Refarding POR, I assume you will use the same characters in later games in the series? If so, make sure you are aware of the level caps.
    Also, I'd be honoured if you named one of your characters after me.

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  11. Using characters from PoR may not necessarily be advisable, as PoR doesn't have all the AD&D classes available. Might be worth it to wait until CotAB before committing on a party.

    Importing characters is fun, and it's a shame so few games do that anymore. The only house I know that even tries is Bioware, and even they only have half-assed "references to events from earlier games but you don't get to keep the actual stats and gear" imports anymore.

    Back in the day they used to enable imports even between franchises and development houses. IIRC Bard's Tale 3 (Interplay) allows imported parties not only from Bard's Tale 2, but also from Phantasie (SSI) and Ultima series (Origin). Wouldn't it be great to, say, import Geralt from Witcher into the newest Dragon Age game?

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  12. I replayed PoR last year as well and I think it still holds up. :) I do hate it when you have so much money and nothing to spend it on that you're dropping sacks of coins so your characters can walk, though. Coin weight is realistic but nowhere to stash it and leaving gold and platinum littering the wilderness isn't. Oh well.

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  13. I'm glad you're all looking forward to POR. I am going to finish Omega first, though. I want to start POR with a clean plate, and more important, I want to start it when I'm not in the middle of a roadtrip. I get back home this weekend for two full weeks, and that's a perfect time to devote a few hours a day to POR.

    Anon, I did some scouting in the POR manual, and you're right: no paladins or rangers in this outing, although I think they do appear in the next game. Worse, POR seems to have a low level cap. But if I read the manual right, it's a LEVEL cap, not an experience cap, so is there any disadvantage to multi-classing? Don't answer now; I'll puzzle through it all when I get there.

    Sure, Petrus, but I'm only going to be able to use part of the name, probably. Is your first or last name more important?

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  14. PetrusOctavianusMay 26, 2011 at 1:06 AM

    "Sure, Petrus, but I'm only going to be able to use part of the name, probably. Is your first or last name more important? "

    Either is fine with me; whatever you think sounds best. Thanks.

    BTW, there seems to be a way to use Paladins and Rangers in PoR (except using the slightly buggy FRUA version). It is discussed in this thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=53737&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=

    (Guess who I am in that thread).

    Haven't actually tried it but there are more details at Ozzy's web site: http://rhwiii.info/blog/category/games/add-goldbox

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  15. I was never an AD&D fan although I played a bit of the real game in school. I found Pool of Radiance limited (only level 3 mage spells) and the combat could take an hour to resolve. Any combat in an RPG needs to be done in less than 5 min for me or forget it. I am enjoying Baldur's Gate 2 now however, but the first BG reminded me a bit of Pool in that it was limited. I can't get off casting magic missile when I could cast some of those really powerful spells like Mangar's Mallet from Bard's tale 2 that kills everyone. By the way, where's Wasteland on your list? This game came out before Pool anyway.

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  16. Mmm, Pool of Radiance. I look forward to these entries very much. I have the game files, perhaps I'll even reinstall and give it another go myself.

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  17. Thanks, Petrus. I'll consider it. But hex editing is a bit like cheating. I don't think I'll suffer a lot of heartburn if I dump one of my fighters from PoR and create a paladin of the same name at the beginning of CotAB.

    (Knowing how Jason feels about quotes, I'm afraid to find out what he thinks of abbreviations.)

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  18. Haha, when done wrong they grate, but you obviously know what you're doing there. :)

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