Saturday, June 30, 2012

Galdregon's Domain: Won! (with Final Rating)

I received this immediately upon returning to the king. The most anticlimactic game ending in history.
Galdregon's Domain
United Kingdom 
Pandora (developer and U.K. publisher); Cinemaware (U.S. publisher)
Released 1989 for Commodore 64, DOS, Amiga, and Atari ST
Originally released as Death Bringer
Date Started: 28 June 2012
Date Ended: 29 June 2012
Total Hours: 6
Difficulty: Easy (1.5/5)
Final Rating: 18
Ranking at Time of Posting: 8/72 (11%)
Ranking at Game #455: 122/455 (27%)

Galdregon's Domain was too easy not to win. Clearly designed for novices, the game had a simplicity that I found almost almost endearing, although this didn't make up for some awful gameplay and interface elements. The enterprise took almost exactly my six-hour minimum. I appear to be the only person online who has won the game (or at least talked about it). Later, I did manage to find a walkthrough in the form of screenshots from a contemporary magazine called Advanced Computer Entertainment, but I'm pretty sure it's wrong about a crucial bit.

Winning the game consisted of finding each of five gems. Each gem was held by a boss-level creature in some dungeon or tower: a lich, a medusa, a demon named Set, an assassin lord, and a rock monster.

A medusa is incorrect.
Defeating each "boss" required that I first find some item of offense or protection against him. For the lich, this was a cross; a mirror protected me from the medusa; the demon required me to have a sacrificial dagger; a cloak kept me hidden from the assassin lord; and the rock monster only died when I was holding a diamond. In almost all cases, the item needed to defeat the creature was in the same dungeon.

Thanks to the Elven Cloak, the assassin chief can't see me. If he could, he'd kill me instantly.

The exception, and the part of the game that took the longest, was the cloak. I had to get that from an elf lord, and to get him to give it to me, I had to bring him the bones of his father, who had been slain by Azazael. This took a while because I overlooked that the elf's ghost, who told me where to find the bones, was in a tower I thought I'd already explored.

A stage in the only reasonably complex quest in the game.
Anyway, the walkthrough suggests you can just kill the elf lord, and I'm pretty sure that's not true. In fact, if you do kill the elf lord, I think the game becomes un-winnable. So, future players of the game, remember that you got that hint here! But I would really encourage you to move on to something else.

As I mentioned in my first posting, there are no levels or experience in the game, and the only form of character development comes from finding better equipment. Slowly, you find a shield, a helmet, and armor for your torso, arms, and legs (each arm and leg has a different piece). I never found any boots, meaning I remained part-barbarian until the end.

My final character was invulnerable to everything but rats and roundworms.
There's a secondary form of "development" in the sense that every retrieved gem slightly increases your strength. The game got very easy after I started finding armor, and I made very little use of all the potions and scrolls I was finding. You can't load up on too many of these, however, since you're restricted by both the number of items and total weight. I generally ended up leaving useful items among the corpses.

"Arrghh" was indeed my reaction after too many of these messages.
There were about 10 total dungeons (towers, castles, fortresses, and forests) to explore in the game, and none of them were large enough to make me feel like I really needed to map them. I just used the "follow the right wall" trick. Not all of them were necessary to finish the game; a few of them just offered opportunities to find more equipment.

There were several major annoyances relating to gameplay and navigation:

  • To talk to an NPC, you click "Talk" and then the NPC. To attack a monster, you click "Attack" and then the monster. The selection remains fixed on what you last clicked on. I kept accidentally killing NPCs because I forgot I had last selected "attack." This is how I know that killing the elf lord doesn't produce his cloak. I accidentally killed him and had to reload, but I searched his body first and there was no cloak.
  • I carried around a lantern for most of the game and also found a bunch of "light" scrolls. As far as I can tell, none of them did anything.
  • When you face forward, the game does not show doors, and usually does not show passages, to your left and right. You have to actually turn and face them.

You can't tell, but there's a door to my left.

  • Weapons continually break, forcing you to find new ones. They're plentiful enough that this isn't a serious problem; thus, it's an annoyance rather than a challenge.
  • When you reach the boundaries of the limited game world and try to move onward, the game says, "ouch!" as if you've run into a barrier, even though it looks like there's an empty field before you.

  • NPCs talk to you in text that scrolls across the screen from left to right. You can't do anything while this is happening, so if you run into five or six NPCs on one screen, you have to stand there and wait until all the talking stops.
  • There is absolutely no feedback in combat. You just keep clicking, or casting spells, until your opponent abruptly turns into bones.

All in all, barely worth my six hours. I don't expect the GIMLET to be high. Before I get into it, you can see some of the gameplay in the video below. I took it shortly after my first posting, a little less than halfway through the game. This video is notable in that I die at the end of it.

The game world is rather silly, mixing a variety of fantasy archetypes, and the game doesn't really pay attention to its own back story. The quest concerns stopping a necromancer named Azazael from retrieving the five Gems of Zator (by finding them yourself first), but Azazael doesn't even bother to make an appearance in the game. On the plus side, the world does remember your actions, to the extent that even corpses remain where they've fallen throughout the game, and items with them (3).

As I said, character creation is nonexistent (everyone starts the same), and development is meager (1). NPC Interaction consists of one-line responses when you click on them. While it isn't strictly necessary to talk to NPCs, you do get a few hints as to objects that you need to find (2).

I get a clue from some elf folk.
Encounters and foes are standard fantasy monsters, and you don't have any role-playing options when dealing with them. The bit about having to find some special object before each boss is an interesting twist, but not that interesting. Areas do not appear to respawn, but I can't imagine why you'd care if they did (1). Combat consists of simply clicking on enemies; the only alternative is using scrolls like "fireball" and "death," which constitute the only magic in the game (1).

Five clicks and it's over.
Equipment might be the best part of the game, and that isn't saying much. It was mildly satisfying to find new pieces of armor. There are a variety of weapons you need to test out to find the most damaging (I think it was the halberd), and a variety of potions, food, and scrolls keep your character buffed and ready for combat (2). There is very little economy; monsters occasionally drop one gold piece or some gems (automatically converted to 2-3 gold pieces), which you can use to pay for food, ale, or healing. Potions were common enough that this wasn't really necessary (2).

The barbarian finds another bit of armor. I'm amused at the idea of a foe armed only with one piece of "arm mail."

The quest was just a variety of standard CRPG missions, without even a final battle to make things interesting. There are no side quests (2).

A ghost gives me one of the more interesting pieces of the main quest.
As you can see, the graphics are quite nice--really the only plus for this game--but I have to conclude that the DOS version shipped without sound. The interface was simply horrible, with virtually no keyboard support and far too much clicking around. It was too easy to accidentally click on the wrong menu command (2).

The gameplay was reasonably non-linear for such a small world; I think you can defeat the bosses and find the gems in any order. It's too easy and there is no reason in the world to re-play it, although at least the pacing is okay (2).

The final score of 18 is the lowest since Times of Lore almost a year ago, and it earns a place in the "superlatives" in the right status bar. The game just seems half-assed. It's name doesn't even make any sense ("Galdregon" is never referenced in the game or manual), and the dragon promised on the main title screen never appears. It feels like Pandora spent a lot of time on the graphics engine and didn't have time for anything else.

The game's box. Hey, it seems like I've seen that barbarian somewhere before.

Ah, yes.

Contemporary reviews of the game seem a bit more positive, praising its graphics and sound (the Amiga version apparently had some) while noting limited gameplay and extremely basic combat. Advanced Computer Entertainment said that "dungeon masters in need of a fix might be disappointed with this offering." The biggest mystery comes from an Amiga magazine called Format, which offers a review so positive I suspect someone was paid by the developers.

Galdregon's Domain is similar to the now infamous Dungeon Master, but it is set aside from the rest by its great graphics and atmospheric sound. You'll be wandering the territory for ages. And with a Galdregon II promised, you just know what you'll be doing every night for the next decade. It's a great game and well-worth the challenge. You'll be hearing a lot more about Galdregon's Domain from now on.

Every night for the next decade? Wow. CRPG players must have seriously sucked back then. Of course, not only has the game virtually disappeared from anyone's memory (there was no Galdregon II), but any comparison to Dungeon Master should have gotten this reviewer fired.

This was Pandora's third game. It's previous offerings were Into the Eagle's Nest, a 1986 World War II action game, and Amegas, a 1987 arcade game. I'll meet them again in 1990 with Xenomorph, a sci-fi RPG that from the screenshots might use the same graphics engine as Galdregon's Domain. Xenomorph appears to be the company's last offering before it faded into obscurity.

Let's have some more NetHack and then see what I'm going to do about Star Saga: Two.


  1. Congratulations on your win. Had I known the game was that short I would probably have stuck to the end myself.

    Xenomorph was much better than Galdregon's Domain. I played it a bit and this is what I wrote about it on RPG Codex:

    "there is very little info to find on the net. Not even Andrew Schultze seems to have played this one.

    The premise of the game is not very original, but it makes for a good game setting: your ship crash lands on a mining planet where all the miners have been killed, and you have to find a way to repair your ship in order to get back to Earth.
    The short story included with the game gives a nice background to the game and the inter pilot banter reminds me of Robert Heinlein's novel Double Star.
    Incidentally the mining planet is located in the Sirius system which itself is a double, or binary, star system. Sirius is an odd choice, since it's only a few hundred million years old and thus not old enough for any life to have formed. But maybe the aliens are not native, like in the first Alien movie?

    Anyway, the game is like Dungeon Master in space, only with one character instead of a party. But it's less dynamic than DM - you can't throw or examine stuff, for example. OTOH in one aspect it's more advanced than than even the later Doom games - you can aim the gun anywhere in the playing area.
    The game reminds me a bit about the old ZX Spectrum game Marsport, but most of all it feels like a precursor to System Shock - everyone is dead, you are fighting robots (or are the little runts you first meet aliens?) and every human is dead and all communication is done by reading data disks the miners have left. And it also seems to feature two of the things that put me off System Shock 2 - respawning enemies and severe shortage on ammo. In DM and even SS2 you could melee with the enemy; this seems not to be the case in Xenomorph, and with the little robots/alien (why the hell can't I pick on the remains and examine them?) seemingly respawning it seems the game may be more frustrating than fun. And the lack of a compass makes mapping difficult, as it seems you are often turned in a different direction when going up and down ladders. Even old Marsport had a compass.

    The game is nice in theory, but in practice it gets too tedious, especially the micromanagement of food, water and ammo. The levels are too large and empty, and downright illogical. "

    But still, a significant improvement over GD.

    1. If you think of it, remind me of your review when I get to Xenomoprh. (I should just develop the habit of searching my comments for mentions of games as I get to them.)

    2. Your search would pull up every comment section from the past year once you got to The Magic Candle.

    3. It just appeared on my list of "upcoming" games. I await the flood of giddy comments.

    4. Giddy readers might enjoy this long article on Magic Candle, written Scorpia in Computer Gaming Weekly, issue 58:

      Something to get all of you even more psyched, I guess. :D

    5. The word "by" seemed to have gotten swallowed up by Scorpia. Naughty Scorpia!

  2. "I never found any boots, meaning I remained part-barbarian until the end."

    I laughed.

    Thanks for covering this all the way through (well, all tha threre's to it).

    STar Saga: Two requires other human players to play (as well as printouts of the props), as far as I can tell. Perhaps it's time for your wife and/or friends to be recruited?

    B.A.T is a weird mostly-adventure game that is worth some of your six hours just for the atmosphere involved. Weird interface, might need the manual.

    Bloodwych is an Amiga classic. Proper RPG, in the vein of Dungeon Master. Best experienced with a friend, I've been told.

    1. Bloodwych splitscreen dungeon-crawling action has not been recreated yet, I believe. I had fun playing this with my brother back in the days. For single-player, I think it might be a little bland and repetitive.

      Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Princess aka Kult is another weird french adventure game. One of the first games I played on the ST, has an interestig setting but not too much to offer gameplay-wise (also a couple of annoying time-sensitive puzzles IIRC).

    2. I've finished Kult back in the day. It does have a time sensitive quest (the main one) but not everything is as it seems.

    3. I haven't tried downloading any of the materials for SS2 yet, but my understanding was that it didn't require multiple players, just supported them.

      I'm home for a couple of weeks, though, so if I was going to try to get into a game with Irene, I suppose this would be the time to do it.

    4. Star Saga 2 is going to suck as you didn't get far in the first game. The games are giant interactive books, meaning that this will probably be the first game you come across where you are severely punished for not completing an earlier game.

      It'll be similar to reading a few pages of a novel, putting it down, and then reading through its slightly inferior sequel in its entirety a couple of years later.

      Alternatively, you end up putting your six hours in and moving on. I can see this happening.

    5. For B.A.T. the manual is definitely needed, both for some gameplay elements and the backstory.

    6. @Anonymous: The game begins again with a 5 turn tutorial, and does a fair job at re-capping the story. Introduced in Star Saga Two is a new story. Really the first only set up the mystery, two smacks you on the side with the antagonist, and three was supposed to provide the answers; that's my understanding of it anyway.

    7. @trudodyr: Not nearly as impressive, but there was a console game that tried it. Check out Double Dungeons on the TurboGrafx-16. Screenshot.

    8. "Bloodwych splitscreen dungeon-crawling action has not been recreated yet, I believe."

      There was Hired Guns a few years later.

    9. @Zenic I think I still have the card for that packed away with my TurboGrafx stuff, it was a fun game back in the day.

      @Pedro have you played it and was it any good?

    10. @Pedro
      Right, I forgot about Hired Guns. With four players it's getting really cramped, though, both on the screen and in front of the monitor. ;)

      @Zenic Reverie
      Thanks, didn't know about that one.

  3. God damn, that shield is creepy as hell. I'm surprised that the NPCs don't run away screaming when they see it.

    1. You know what would be a cool shield design? One of those swirly optical illusion things. You could hypnotize your foe and then bash him. Too bad the age of shields is over; I'd patent that.

    2. Somehow I doubt anyone would have the time to get sick looking at it on the battlefield, but I bet initial sales would have a chance if you called it "magic."

  4. When I made my comment about your hero being naked last thread, I didn't know the game took that literally! (I just watched the vid.) Dude, your hero doesn't even have underwear.

    1. He's got a strategically placed pouch, though.

  5. For as nice as the VGA graphics look, I feel sorry for anyone who wasn't running VGA yet and was still stuck with CGA (which would probably have been a lot of folks, since VGA was rather expensive at that point).

    When you load up the CGA version of the game, you can't even tell what the hell is going on. Most games at least put in an effort to work out the graphics, but not this game. No sir, if you play the CGA version, you will not be able to tell one cyan blob from another cyan blob.

    You should take away points for that too...

    1. Good point. I just loaded it up. The CGA graphics don't even have a title screen. You're right that nothing is distinguishable. Even with EGA, which is marginally better, it's tough to distinguish shapes.

      Is it possible that it has something to do with DOSBox settings? It's hard to believe they released a game with a CGA option that's completely unplayable in CGA.

    2. Nope. They didn't even port the sound, it's no wonder they didn't rework the graphics to work in CGA. The reason is because it would require huge amounts of manual retouching. CGA is 4 colors on screen out of 16. EGA is using all these 16 colors. VGA is 256 colors, and how many are used for each screen element are up to the coder. This game has been ported from the Amiga, so it only has what looks like 16+16 colors on screen, using Half-brite. But the actual values for these 16 colors are picked from a much bigger bit-range. This means that it'd be difficult to port that 16 color ramp on the Amiga to a good result on EGA, as the Galdregon ramp is, as you can see, significantly darker (Half-brite contributes to this?). It's just insane to autoport from *that* to CGA and hope the result looks like anything. You'd have to redraw most of it.

    3. Yeah, this is clearly a quick port from a company who didn't even put much effort into the game to begin with. Get the cash and run to the bank with it. It doesn't take a genius (or an addict) to see that.

      The lack of sound (and no way to configure it), the terrible graphics in CGA and EGA (why not release it as VGA only?), and the shoddy gameplay pretty much sew it up. The choices are baffling, to say the least, and the only conclusion that one can come to is that the company didn't give a crap to begin with...and that means that nobody should care now either.

      Sure, the game has been lost and forgotten to time. And I think that's a fitting punishment.

    4. It may be that my playing and writing about it did, in fact, contravene the will of the universe.

    5. Maybe it's for the best if we never mention the game again. Otherwise, we may irritate the universe, and I get the feeling that's a bad idea.

      And why is it that these forgotten games are never gems in disguise? Wouldn't that be nice?

    6. The are once in a while! Wait for Dark Heart of Uukrul, which is as good as that type of dungeon delver comes, in my opinion!

    7. Is this guy the villain?,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=c4a85db60d06570d&biw=1027&bih=355

      dunno if the links will work in blogger

    8. In France CGA was probably still standard at the time, some French games supported nothing better, but I think in the USA it was already quite dated, so developers didn't bother very much.

      But if there's cyan on the screen, DOSBox doesn't get the palette right. It should be the other one, red, green, yellow, look it up on MobyGames. That often happens if you don't set DOSBox to actually emulate CGA and just pick it from the game menu. An extreme case is Bob Winner:

    9. As a minor technical note, the amiga could display 32 colours out of 4096 - no (extra) half-brite neccessary. EHB mode simply extends this to 64 simultaneous colours, the 32 arbitrary chosen ones plus their half "brite" ones.

  6. I would have played that game for 6 minutes not hours before giving up. You might be among a very small few who have finished it.

    1. Thankfully, I have a six-hour rule.

      You never know. Something very exciting or original might have popped up in the last act.

  7. I am so glad that I couldn't get into this game. Man, it sucks monkeys. And while the monkey might enjoy it, I sure wouldn't like the taste or the fur on my tongue.

    I'll find a good game that I'll enjoy any day now. I'm sure of it. Sigh.

    BTW, that roguelike Ragnarok/Valhalla from 1992 is pretty fun.

    1. I'm not sure that's a great metaphor given that't know that...I', just work on your metaphors.

  8. I remember seeing screenshots of this in a magazine back when I had an Amiga and thinking it looked good. Then last year I tried it on an Amiga emulator and quickly got fed up of the strange movement system. I read Amiga Format for a number of years but eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn't always accurate or written by knowledgeable people.

  9. I don't recall seeing this mentioned in the comments, but excuse me if it has come up already.

    Good Old Games currently has both Ultima World of Adventure games (Savage Empires and Martian Dreams) as well as Ultima IV available for free.

  10. Thanks for the head's up on Ultima IV - I just downloaded it!

  11. Your mouse allergy continues to befuddle me. Soon you will reach years from which onwards there will be nothing but mouse interfaces; will you dock points for every game's interface from then on?

    1. I certainly don't mind the mouse as PART of the interface; I just hate when it's the WHOLE interface. This game doesn't even let you use the arrow keys to move.

      Modern games generally integrate mouse and keyboard, so that you look around with the former but move with the latter. That's an interface I don't mind. Unfortunately, in this era, developers seem to treat them as either/or.

    2. I DAMN WELL HOPESO. *Lights a mouse on fire*

  12. It's a typical Amiga/ST thing. IIRC, in the STT version of SunDog you had to enter your name with the mouse by clicking on a virtual keyboard on the screen. No support for the actual keyboard, no.

    1. Oops, that should have gone into the "mouse" thread.

  13. hello - actually I found this site while searching for galdregons domain - We were discussing RPG's on Amiga and remember this game as being a good game - well back in the days of drakhen and Eye of the beholder anyway - I only played the amiga game as a kid and not recently but I remember fast movement and good music (if I remember it correctly - It's been so long ago)

  14. When do you start finding armor in this game? I have been playing both versions of the game (Death Bringer & Galdregon's Domain) with an Amiga emulator and I have already killed a bunch of people/creatures, but so far none of them have left any armor lying around.

    1. I'm sorry; it's been too long since I played to remember.

  15. This doesn't necessarily sound like a *terrible* CRPG--just a very basic one, best played by kids brand new to the genre . . .

  16. Looking at this, I keep thinking it might be fun if only there were a few upgrades: strategic armor and weapons choices, some leveling, more complex combat, more diverse foes, etc. Then I remind myself I probably just want to play Legend of Grimrock instead, though maybe a nonlinear Grimrock with an overland map, multiple dungeons, and an economy. There's probably something that's a combination of the two (Eye of the Beholder? I never played that one) that I'd be happy with.

  17. The walkthru in ACE magazine is in issue 20 (page 70) in case anyone's looking for it. There are a few scans of it on the Internet Archive.

  18. So, whatever happened to Xenomorph? Was it disqualified?

    1. I rejected it as an RPG. It was before I was doing BRIEFs for those rejections, so I just mentioned it as a footnote in some other entry. I may go back and BRIEF it at some point.

    2. @Random Gamer: It was also brought up in the comments section a couple months ago by Monty while reporting about his magazine findings on the first CRPGs in Spain and prompted some replies on its (lack of) CRPG nature - including a link I included to Chet's first impressions and thoughts about it and a couple comments in an earlier entry (2014 - just search for "Xenomorph" there).


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