Well, I'll give Questron II this: it doesn't wear out its welcome. It's the first game I've played since Akalabeth in which I won before hitting my six-hour minimum. It never got a lot better, although it did unveil some interesting features towards the end. Let me take it chronologically.
When we last left the game, I had been transported to the other continent on the planet of Landor, called the Realm of the Sorcerers. It wasn't much different from the first continent except that the random encounters in the wild were more frequent and did more damage. Fortunately, this didn't last long.
I set out exploring the continent--I already had a rough map from the Room of Maps in Castle Redstone--and got some slightly better weapons and armor. One of the "travel" shops had a boat for sale, which I bought and sailed back to the first continent to make sure I wasn't due a level up from Mesron. The boat, oddly, didn't seem to have cannons, so when I met a creature I was still attacking it with my melee weapon.
It was a good thing I returned, because I was due a promotion, which got me some stat bumps and a new key:
As before, when I reached the new level, I not only got a new hit point maximum (600), but new weapons (axe), armor (chain mail), and transports became available to me.
One of the transport options was a "trained eagle," on whose back I soared! Not only did this take the place of the boat, but it prevented me from having any random encounters in the wilderness. That fact alone did a lot to get the game back into my good graces.
The Realm of the Sorcerers turned out to have four places to explore: a tomb in Twilight Cathedral, a "great fortress," an unnamed dungeon, and the Dungeons of Despair. At first, I thought the game was opening up its linearity, but it turned out I needed keys to enter both the tomb and the Dungeons of Despair, and my initial raid on the fortress was aborted because I couldn't get through locked doors, so it really turned out that the map was completely linear, requiring me to visit the unnamed dungeon, the fortress, the Twilight Cathedral tomb, and the Dungeons of Despair in that order. Fortunately, at least, there wasn't a lot of backtracking.
The dungeon was three-dimensional, and exactly as I remembered from Legacy of the Ancients. There are traps, and you have to search every hallway to make sure you don't hit them. Chests provide food, gold, and items. Occasionally, you find a healing potion or a coffin that effects a statistic increase. And of course there are monsters, but far fewer here than I remember from Legacy.
Then something unexpected happened: I found something called a "Scroll of Scalna," which provided an automatic automap on the right side of the screen. It's the most sophisticated automap I've seen in a CRPG so far, showing doors, traps, coffins, and potions (if you don't pick up the latter two) as well as pits to go up and down. And it's integrated to the main screen--you don't have to call it up with a separate command. It remembers levels (which do not respawn items) after you leave. Well done, Questron II!
Anyway, I found an Agate Key and an Onyx Key during my exploration of the eight levels of the dungeon. It wasn't a tough dungeon to explore. There were a few areas inaccessible unless you went down and back up again, but nothing tough, and rendered all the easier by the automap. When I got out, I headed for the fortress and, resignedly, launched into an attack of another castle's worth of luckless guards.
Looting the castle gained me some other keys. I left and returned and was able to march on in to see the king. I was about to remark that the guards have very short memories--they don't attack if you just leave and return--but I guess since I slaughtered them all, the more remarkable thing is how fast the castle is able to replenish its staff.
Just as in the first Questron, instead of ordering me executed for my needless massacre, the king--Kelfar, which is one letter off from Legacy's Kelfor--respected my power, increased my stats, gave me 5000 gold, and appointed me his champion.
I figured that meant yet another level bump, so I got on my eagle and returned to Castle Redstone. There, an interesting thing happened: Mesrom told me that Mantor was attacking one of the cities.
I couldn't remember where Cramford was, so it took a while to find it. When I did, it was properly destroyed. All the people had turned to piles of bones, and the whole place had a red tinge. It reminded me how the sorceress had destroyed towns in Shard of Spring, and I wonder if, had the game taken me longer, Mantor would have hit other towns.
With the key from Kelfar's fortress, I entered the Twilight Cathedral tombs, which were almost exactly like the tombs in the other continent. Fortunately, I had that map, which made the exploration of the very maze-y (but curiously monster-light) dungeon much easier. The only plot item was the discovery of the Black Key.
Returning again to Redstone, I was informed Mantor was attacking another city--Seaside--which, fortunately, I remembered where it was. When I got there, Mantor sicked the guards on me, but all I had to do was fling one fireball at him, and he fled like a bitch. The town reverted to normal and everything was cool.
Mesron promoted me to knight and sent me on the final quest to the Dungeons of Despair.
Before heading into the dungeon, I went shopping and found I could buy 2000 hit points! (More on this in a minute.) I got a fauchard as a weapon and ribbed plate mail for armor. The Holy One at Twilight Cathederal sold me 30 loaves of that healing bread. I loaded up on spells and headed into the Dungeons of Despair, which were also 3D.
As I explored the dungeon and drilled downward, I noticed that the healing potions I was finding kept adding to my hit points. Before, they wouldn't allow me to go over a maximum, but at this level, I kept going up--3000, 4000, 5000--and so I wasn't even particularly worried when a trap destroyed my armor and I started taking massive damage from monsters.
I got all the way to the bottom and into a fortress (no longer 3D) where Mantor and the sorcerers were creating the book. But the damned place hit me with 40-50 hit points damage for every step, not to mention what the guards were doing. I soon died.
I realized the game had changed the rules on me. Where before there was a hit point maximum, in the endgame, the goal was to get to Mantor's place with as many hit points as possible. With that in mind, I reloaded and checked out the hit point store again. It turned out that the 2000 hit point offer wasn't a one-time thing. Every time I entered the town, I could go to the store and buy another 2000. I spent all the rest of my gold.
In the dungeon, I cast "Time Sap" every time I saw a monster and killed him before he could even hit me, and I took advantage of every potion I could find. By the time I reached the bottom-level sanctuary again, I had over 15,000 hit points.
The video records the last couple levels of the dungeon and my assault on the wizards in Mantor's sanctuary. When I reached Mantor and the Evil Book of Magic, I was able to kill the six insane sorcerers, but none of my attacks or spells would do anything against Mantor himself. Nor could I pick up the book. I bumbled about a bit, trying to use different objects I had aquired (I still have no idea what the Unicorn's Horn or Crystal Goblet were about) before I finally hit upon using my copy of the Evil Book of Magic, in which there was now a "Destruct" spell.
Mantor "flickered and vanished" despite the game's assertion that destroying the book wouldn't change the past.
The end game sequence wasn't as good as I remembered in Questron, but I did get a nice promotion on both planets.
And the last screen promised a sequel that never materialized:
I'm glad it didn't, because the plot already sounded stupid--why is a child playing in dungeon ruins?
This posting is already too long to do the GIMLET here, so look for that tomorrow. For now, I'll just say that Questron II helped cure my guilt for not playing Questron last year, since it's pretty much the same game. It's harmless enough, I guess--a good option for beginners--but I'm looking forward to moving on to something meatier.