Friday, June 17, 2011

Questron II: Massacre

How dare these guards do their jobs by stopping me from looting their liege's estate?

We need to consider what the creator of the Questron and Legacy of the Ancients series has against castle guards. Was he sodomized by Beefeaters as a child? In all three games, you are forced to advance by going on murderous rampages through castles whose denizens are actively helping you. This one goes even further by actually leaving visible corpses in your wake.

Ah, my old nemesis, Locked Door, we meet again. Clearly, none of my fireball spells will do anything against you.

The game follows the general schtick of its predecessors by having only a couple of locations and forcing you to travel back and forth between them multiple times. In Legacy of the Ancients, I complained about making repeated raids on Castle Kelfor, each time picking up something that I had to take to another location to get something that would take me back to Castle Kelfor. In this game, the linear dependencies were between Castle Redstone, Rivercrest Cathedral, and Rivercrest Tomb. Let me see if I can remember the specific steps:

  • In Rivercrest Tomb, I found a Moonstone Amulet that let me through a mystical barrier in Rivercrest Cathedral and speak to the "Holy One," who sold me the "Bread of Life" (basically healing potions) that made it possible to survive a long trip through the Tomb. (Later, I found a chalice that, when given to the Holy One, increased the amount of bread he was willing to sell.)

The "help" turned out to consist of getting out of the way.

  • Returning to Rivercrest Tomb, I found a Brass Key.
  • The Brass Key opened a door in Castle Redstone, leading me to various treasure chests. Looting these chests roused the ire of the guards, leading to the aforementioned slaughter.

  • Some of the chests in Redstone contained Iron, Brass, and Copper keys.

Apparently, the copper key was very heavy, and I picked it up and put it down 300 times.

  • The Emerald Key opened a heretofore impassable door in Rivercrest Tomb, beyond which I found the Wand of Power.

  • The Wand of Power, shown to Mesron in Castle Redstone, got me elevated to "scout."

  • Being a scout was enough to take the Orb of Enchantment from Castle Redstone (before, it kept saying, "Come back when you are better!").

  • Bringing the Orb to Morle the Magician in Rivercrest Tombs, I was transported to the Realm of Sorcerers, the second continent.

As you can see, this required me to go back and forth between these two locations about six times, making Questron II a rare game that both is completely linear and involves a lot of backtracking.

I videoed some of the game and uploaded it below, so you can see a little of what it's like to play it.

In the video, you can see me check my inventory, enter a town, play a few hands of blackjack, check out the armor shop, buy some spells and food, get a tip at an inn, donate at a temple, enter the Tomb, and blast a few monsters with fireballs. Note how quickly my food decreases as I walk through the dungeon. Either each food unit represents, like, one Cheerio, or my character is a real glutton.

Oh, a few other notes while I'm in the mood for bullets:

  • You can't just go charging down dungeon corridors by holding the arrow keys. Monsters appear very suddenly, and then can get 5 or 6 free whacks at you while the buffer clears.

They also tend to appear in large batches.

  • Monsters are basically indistinguishable. Yes, each one has a little icon, but all they do is hit you. There might have well have just been one creature called "monster."
  • A guy in Castle Redstone sold me stat upgrades--one per level--for a lot of money, but with my knowledge of gambling, money is no object.

A hideous pluck! Am I getting attacked by a giant chicken?

  • In the castle was a "Hall of Maps," where I was shown screenshots of two continents and a dungeon for 1,000 gold pieces. I don't know if this means there are only two continents in the game or what.

I do suspect this screen shot is going to come in handy.

  • Possible inventory is tied to your level. Only after I became a scout did I gain the "ability" to buy "bar armor," a mule, and time sap and sonic whine spells.

So now I'm on a second continent, with a bunch of towns and stuff that seem rather the same as the first continent. Is it too much to hope that I'm halfway through the game?

Wasting time killing monsters outdoors remains pointless with the imbalanced gambling systems. But I regard this as a good thing: Honestly, I can't imagine how much I'd hate this game if I had to spend hours grinding against Vivid Fishes and Boring Shrubs (thanks!). I can't say that I haven't died a few times, but this is still fundamentally an easy game. It is devoid of complexity in mapping, tactics, puzzles, NPCs, encounters, magic, or role-playing. I understand the need for "easy CRPGs" to lure new audiences, but to me this is a huge disappointment after Pool of Radiance.


  1. I remember seeing the ads for this in magazines like Antic when I was a kid. I'm glad, after reading your posts, that I never tried to talk my parents into buying it.

  2. I have always wanted to play the questron games, LOA, and another one I can't remember but it has a black or a silver or a deathbringer in it, I think :) I never could get into them more than like 10 minutes or so, but now can see that I DON'T WANT TO GET INTO THEM! Man!

    Keep up the good work and hey, check out my blog: for my blogging on the NES version of Pool of Radiance, he said, cheaply advertising his own blog.

  3. I have never liked CRPGs that require you to eat every so many steps. If you are going to bother including a hunger system you should make it reasonably realistic. It shouldn't be a chore to stay satiated. You shouldn't have to truck around wheelbarrows full of food.

    You are an extra-ordinary champion who has set out on a quest only you can complete, but you have the most inefficient metabolism ever imagined!

  4. This game is perfect... at demonstrating why I can't really get in to most CRPG's of the era. Many of the mechanics present in this series have either undergone significant evolution in the last 25 years (magic), or died almost completely (food).

    You are seeing a microcosm of what I am talking about. After playing POR all the faults of this game are magnified. All the archaic design decisions stand out that much more making it almost impossible for you to enjoy. POR was an evolution (and a big one at that) and everything gets viewed against this lens.

    In POR I saw many things that would have made it a game I would like, but a few that would almost certainly ruin it for me. Level drainers would certainly call for save scumming at best, outright quitting at worst. The treasure= loot, where farming trolls broke the economy.

    CRPG's at this time are too obsessed with trying to match D&D mechanics, some of which don't translate to computer well. There is inherently more combat, so certain enemy types imbalance the game (level drainers, treasure troves). Food just adds busy work to a game, with very little added to enjoyment (D&D food offered alternatives like scavenging if food ran out).

    Anyhow weird rant aside, Questron just reminded me of some of these things that have been bugging me about the games. It's why I love reading your playthroughs with little desire to do one myself.

  5. @Elijah:
    The star that burns twice as bright eats twenty times the food.

    I wonder who in the (obviously short-order) fiction named the Boring Shrubs. "I saw them kill my brother. What a yawnfest that was!"

  6. P.S. That step-by-step walking animation is oddly charming. I wouldn't mind seeing it used in a newer tile-based RPG or roguelike.

  7. I hate making another post so small, especially for this subject, but I blew the url bad in my last post. the URL is and sorry about that.

  8. Craig, what I hope my postings demonstrate is that this game is unusually simplistic, even for the era. We've also seen some superb games.

    I agree that it's tough to regress to such a simple game after a leap like Pool of Radiance. On the other hand, I didn't enjoy Ultima II or Faery Tale Adventure much, either, and neither of them is so different from Questron II. The real test would be whether I could enjoy a game like Might & Magic or some other game I enjoyed the first time around after playing Pool.

    Sid, I just made up "Boring Shrubs" and "Vivid Fishes." I was obscure about it, but I linked to a random adjective/noun generator. That's what it seemed like the creators of Questron II had done.

    William, thanks for the reminder. I bookmarked your blog, but I forgot to return to it after the first couple of visits.

  9. What if the food measurement is per calorie or joule? (Or kcal or kJ?) that could explain why you go through it so quickly.

  10. That might be...drum roll...Cana-geekiest explanation I've ever heard.

  11. That's not actually that unreasonable, though - in B.A.T. (coming up in 1990) food is measured in calories.

  12. B.A.T.? Google failed me when trying to find out what you are talking about, care to share a link?

    1. I'm talking about this one:

      It's really more of a Graphic Adventure with some light RPG elements, but it's still quite nice. I'm currently working on an FAQ for GameFAQs in case anyone's interested.

  13. Comment regarding "A/The Wand of Power" = Hahahahahaha

  14. One thing that ‘stands out’ in the screen-shots of the corridors is the position of the light source - it’s at the *bottom* left corner of the screen. GUIs settled on a convention of the light source originating in the *top* left corner, but in the mid-80s this wasn’t yet endemic. The result, to my eyes, is that rather than the walls appearing to be closer to the viewer than the floor, the floor appears to be the highest point, as if you were viewing a marble plinth from above. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it.


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