Thursday, June 28, 2012

Game 72: Galdregon's Domain (1989)

This game was apparently released under this title in the U.K. and as Death Bringer in the U.S. But I can't find a "Death Bringer" version, and both MobyGames and Wikipedia seem to suggest that they're the same game (not even separating the articles), so I'm going with Galdregon's Domain. Hope that clears it up.

Galdregon's Domain is a game largely lost to history, with the exception of a Wikipedia stub and a MobyGames entry. I haven't been able to find any hints or walkthroughs (I thought they might be able to help me with the sound issue, as below). I used to get excited about such games, figuring that I had a chance to be the authoritative source on the Internet. But I've discovered that these games are forgotten for one fairly good reason: they're forgettable.

The game casts you in the role of a barbarian mercenary. You have come to the city of Secnar in the land of Mezron and have been granted an audience with King Rohan ("the Usurper"). You've arrived just in time. A rogue cult has resurrected a necromancer named Azazael, who intends to enslave mankind through the five Gems of Zator, artifacts of great power. One of the gems lies within the catacombs of Secnar, guarded by a lich king, and all champions sent to retrieve it have failed.

The king lounges on his throne, a harlot at his feet.
    
The introduction concludes that the king "hands you a dagger, lantern, healing potion, and a loaf of bread and bids you return with the five gems of Zator." (The other four seem to be in different dungeons.) Left unexplained is why I, a barbarian hero, have shown up in this kingdom with no equipment. Also left unexplained is who, or what, Galdregon is.

I face a contingent of castle guards outside the king's chambers. At least I don't have to kill them.

In its basic interface, the game seems inspired by Dungeon Master. But you control only a single character, and the number of possible actions is far more limited--basically, attack, drink a potion, use a scroll, view your statistics, and a host of "sub-commands" like opening and closing doors. The game also notably departs from Dungeon Master by featuring multiple dungeons and towers connected by an outdoor area, and by populating these areas with NPCs with whom you can chat (getting only one-line responses, however). It unfortunately keeps Dungeon Master's mouse-driven interface, though you can active some of the commands with function keys.

A forest, a hut, and NPCs outside the castle.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the beauty of the VGA graphics. I'm hard-pressed to think of a better looking game to date. The scenes, characters, and monsters are lovingly crafted and detailed. This made me unreasonably excited about the game when I first fired it up.

The arch-mage, an NPC, gives me a spell book.

Unfortunately, the same is not true about the sound. I read a review of the Amiga version that praised the sound, but I can't get a peep out of the DOS version, nor can I find any acknowledgement of sound in the game's files. Is it possible that they released the DOS version with no sound at all?

A map keeps you oriented in the outdoor area.

Even if I can solve this problem, the basic gameplay experience leaves a lot to be desired. Corridors and rooms force you to turn every possible direction to make sure there are no doors; you can't see doors and open passages in your periphery. Combat consists of clicking manically on your enemy until one of you is dead, and during combat there is no indication of how much damage you're giving or taking. There is a limited selection of inventory items.

Transferring equipment from a slain foe.

You don't create a character (everyone starts exactly the same). There don't seem to be any levels or experience points in the game. At least, the manual doesn't mention any, and I haven't been able to discern any kind of character improvement. Development seems to consist primarily of obtaining better weapons, armor, and items.

Today, I explored several of the dungeons, including a tower in which I killed a mad wizard and his demon cohort, looting from their bodies a number of spells and a cross. I explored various huts and houses in the outdoor area and received a magic sword and spellbook from NPCs. My biggest problem right now is that my health is low and I have no gold to pay for healing. None of my slain foes ever seem to have any.

Fighting a wizard and demon.

I died and had to reload a couple of times. The death screen is suitably bleak:


I'll keep playing for at least my six hours, but the interface is annoying and the game so far is unrewarding. If anyone else wants to download it and see if you can do any better with the sound, I'd appreciate the help.


64 comments:

  1. Apparently, this game was aka "Death Bringer" in some territories. I have review for the Atari ST release in an old print magazine, which is less than glowing (49%). There's another one for the Amiga version online, at
    http://www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=048&page=068&thumbstart=0&magazine=zzap&check=1

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops - didn't catch that first caption!

      Delete
  2. I dloaded the game a few days before you to try and one up you (ha!) but like you, zippo in the sound department. I frankly get lost inside the castle. I found it hard to get around even in the dark room that is the king's throne room. It's a huge room, weirdly shaped, few doors. And the NPC's pop up so weirdly- bizarre.

    I never could find my way out of the castle. How is that for loserville on my part? Sigh. I want to play the game, I want to figure this stuff out. I'll actually get back to you later in these comments if I get any further than where I am now which is- nowhere.

    BTW: My wife is in the hospital and it's entirely possible she is dying. She's been dying since she was 16 and had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and beat the odds to survive but I don't think she's beating the odds any more. She's 41 now and has survived so much it's insane. I've been going crazy myself since 2004 when our son as born and she had to have 2 heart valves replaced. Since then I have saved her life literally 20+ times with fast thought and fast action. But no matter how crazy this last hospital bout has made me it isn't saving her. I would gladly even maim myself if it would save her but I don't think that will work.

    I play computer games to try and stay sane because otherwise I would have gone crazy years ago. Maybe I can beat Galdregon's eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very tough, william. I frankly don't know if I can manage an appropriate respone, but still feel compelled to try: I hope your wife manages to best the cancer once more and that you and your family stay not only mentally sane, but also happy for as long as this is possible.

      Delete
    2. Giauz

      I'm very sorry for what's happened to your wife and you. Don't spend too much time in the game if you can mannage. I'll pray for you and your family, William.

      Sincerely,
      Adam D. Birkholtz

      Delete
    3. Giauz

      I'm very sorry for what's happened to your wife and you. Don't spend too much time in the game if you can mannage. I'll pray for you and your family, William.

      Sincerely,
      Adam D. Birkholtz

      Delete
    4. Dear William,

      I too am sorry for you and your wife. I will pray for you both and your family. May you both find peace, joy, healing and rest in abundance.

      Sincerely,
      Jason

      Delete
    5. William-

      I am very sorry to hear this. I lost my grandmother and father to cancer and it was devastating. I can only imagine my wife being affected by it, or having a sick child.

      You are in my thoughts with this battle, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

      Delete
    6. You have my sympathies, William. I myself have saved my mother multiple times from death. All I can say is that when your wife passes, you've done way more than many people would have done for her and she knows that very well.

      Delete
    7. Sincere sympathies for you and your family. Lost couple members of family and friend to cancer, but can't relate to such extended struggle you've witnessed and going through.

      Delete
    8. My brother just got out of hospital from brain surgery, after a year of unknown problems, followed radiation treatments. I can't imagine that going on forever, you are an amazingly strong person. Best wishes.

      Delete
    9. William, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your wife. I remember you mentioning her illness before, but I had no idea it had progressed so much. Keep us updated, and do whatever you can to take your mind off things if there's nothing productive you can do at the moment.

      Delete
    10. I can't start to imagine what that must be like, william, if I try my stomach starts turning. Best wishes, and try to take care of yourself. Kick that Azazael's ass!

      --Eino

      Delete
    11. Thank you all for the kind words. Greatly appreciated. I didn't really mean to open up and spill my heart that day, it's just been rather more difficult than usual.

      I don't sleep much because when I lay in bed while my wife is in the hospital it all comes crushing in hard and sleep is impossible. This is why I try and play computer games so much. But no matter. This time, no matter what I try and do, Galdregon's is impossible. I need something to REsanitize my mind, not DEsanitize! If anyone else can do this game, more power to you. I'm off to another game on our friend the Addict's list.

      Delete
  3. William - take care of yourself, man

    ReplyDelete
  4. "you can't see doors and open passages in your periphery." Hah! Way to be the first game on the list to offer VGA graphics (and well done, too!) and at the same time de-evolve a critical aspect of the Wizardry model that's been in place since the start.

    I don't think you're missing out on much here though I'll be happily surprised if I'm wrong. Many Amiga games of the day were made by one or two hobbyists without giving much thought to the crunchy parts (systems, balance, good gameplay loop) and entirely too much into presentation. As a good rule of thumb, any rpg where combat is resolved by clicking your mouse as fast as possible isn't an RPG where someone paid close attention to its systems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That really sucks, considering how nice the art looks.

      Delete
    2. I misled you on the mouse-clicking thing. Combat doesn't depend on clicking as fast as possible; you only seem to get so many attacks every X seconds. But since there's no feedback or sound that indicates a hit, miss, or any other indication that your attack has gone through, you just have to keep clicking. I actually have no idea how many of my clicks the game "registers," or how often.

      Delete
  5. I played this as Death Bringer... I think on my Amiga (but I'm not sure). It did have nice graphics for the time and some interesting ideas, but ultimately I got bored and gave up pretty quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This game has the same nonsensical premise we've seen in so many other CRPGs:

    "Hey you, naked man. Our kingdom is under the oppressive boot of an unconquerable evil. Our fate hangs on your success. You're our only hope.

    "Here's a loaf of bread. And if you get hurt, come to our temples and get healed for a reasonable fee."

    All the more nonsensical, since in this game nothing seems to distinguish you from the next naked man, since everything rides on your gear. Except the ability to go back to your last save point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if they actually are hiring everyone they can, figuring ONE of them will succeed.

      Delete
    2. This might explain why there's no discounts; otherwise, everyone would get a discount. Although, no one else ever seems to make any progress.

      Delete
    3. Well, yeah, no one is going to make a game about the 430,423 people who died on level 1.

      Alternatively: Who do you think all the people that die right before you reload the game are?

      Delete
    4. This is getting very meta.

      One thing I'm liking about NetHack is that it retains a memory (sometimes) of previous characters. You occasionally encounter their equipment or ghosts. Any other games that do that?

      Are there any games that have in-game justifications for reloads? Some special magic granted to the PC?

      Delete
    5. One of the best "reloads" must be at Prince of Persia: Sands of Time where magical sand allows you to rewind, but for RPGs I vote Planescape: Torment.

      Delete
    6. I don't think any of those actually gains you anything. Once, I had played around with the idea of game where dying would be a way to gain levels, extra powers, or make the game easier. I don't know of any games that actually do that though.

      Delete
    7. I like the Ultima Underworld tree of life (or whatever it was called) method, where one's soul was held in the tree (bush>?) and so one was reborn after dying. This concept comes from very old folktales. (I may be remembering this incorrectly; I last played it well over 10 years ago.)

      This auto-recover mechanism is better than safe-scumming; death requires some backtracking but does not require starting over or from the last save.

      Delete
    8. @CRPGaddict: Ragnarok ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnarok_%28video_game%29 ) is a game that comes to mind in which you encounter corpses of your previous forays into the game. It's a roguelike (which I didn't know when I played it back in the '90s) in a Norse mythology setting. It's a DOS game (now freeware) that'll probably be on your list for 1992? I had a lot of fun playing it and I actually beat it twice. In Europe it was also packaged with the name "Valhalla".

      Delete
    9. I remember seeing a (maybe PS2)game called "Baroque" that claimed on the back of the store card that dying was a part of advancing the gameplay and story. I don't own any Sony systems, and this is not a CRPG, but I wonder what the implementation was. Curious... hmm.

      @Anon: "No, no, no, that didn't happen... Shall I continue the story?" - The very best of reloads for a game so fun.

      Delete
    10. I have Baroque on my list, but being PS2, probably won't reach it for a good 15 years.

      Delete
    11. I have Baroque, it's... odd. It didn't get very good reviews and if you play it, you understand why. It's not terrible... it's just not very good. But the levels are random. You are correct- no permadeath. In fact, as stated, to advance the plot, you HAVE to die periodically.

      I don't play it very much :)

      Delete
    12. I've got this game. Baroque is basically a roguelike that has a hub town. There are around 5 obscure things that you need to do in the dungeon to advance the plot, and after you do one of them you finish your run (by either ascending or by permadeath), and then you reincarnate in town with a brand new character and with the plot moved forward by one step. Ascending also allows you to save 2 items of your choice in the hub town bank, which is really the only thing the town is actually good for. Advancing the plot also makes the dungeon deeper each time.

      Delete
    13. Forgot to mention, the game saves your file after each run. So you don't have to do all the runs required to finish the storyline in one sitting :)

      Delete
    14. Random EncounterJuly 2, 2012 at 3:56 PM

      Late addition to this thread, but Infinity Blade seems to have dying as game mechanic. Descendant of the previous character taking the fight on oppressor. Haven't played myself, though.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity_Blade

      Delete
    15. I've thought sometimes about a game that takes place split between some fantasy world and some afterlife world. The player has to die to accomplish plot points in the afterlife, then reincarnate to work on more in the physical world, in a couple of iterations. It seemed like a fun plot twist: "Argh! I died! Wait, the game isn't over? I'm *supposed* to be doing this stuff?" Thing is if not played extremely well it might frustrate players when they're forced to die. For instance, I still hold a grudge against the Atari version of Krull, during the opening scene of which you have to eventually let the princess be kidnapped or you can't move on. Some days I'd lose all my lives trying to fight off the kidnappers when there wasn't any point to it at all and loss was inevitable, and it would have been better to leave it out of the game.

      Delete
    16. Related to your last point, it always annoys me that I can't save the Emperor in Oblivion.

      Delete
  7. I tried this the Amiga version of this game back in October and this is what I wrote about it on the RPG Codex:

    "I tried it and was underwhelmed. Doors can only be seen if directly facing one, and walls look like they are one step away and they all look the same, making moving about unituitive.
    Combat is probably the worst I've ever seen in a CRPG. There is no animations and no visual or textual feedback, except your health bar goes down. Each time you attack you need to hit the attack button, chose weapon from a menu and then chose which enemy to attack from a menu - in a real time game?!
    The game got mixed reviews and some claimed for some reason it was a worthy contender to Dungeon Master. It doesn't even reach the toe nail clippings of DM.
    The story is also extremely cliched.

    It will be interesting to see if CRPG Addict will agree with my assessment."

    Seems we are in agreement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's funny. You got it right. Except you don't have to click the weapon EVERY time you attack. It remains equipped from the last time you attacked.

      Delete
  8. Giauz

    "Each time you attack you need to hit the attack button, chose weapon from a menu and then chose which enemy to attack from a menu - in a real time game?!"

    Believe it or not this worked amazingly well (for me, once I got magic and more options) in Final Fantasy 13's combat. The only thing that may have been different is that each side had to have enough action points to make a move (which spells could speed up or slow down plus normal and slow settings for battle speed) .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Checked back with Blogger and their cell phone loving recover wasn't hugged anymore so I'm logged in again.... for now.

      Also wanted to add that FF13 doesn't have clickickickickickicicking like this game (have they made a non-click-sound-making mouse yet? Because I gotta be honest that not having that sound is a big plus to a touch screen over my desktop).

      Delete
    2. That should say bugged not hugged, and I'm not sure where the loving came from, but it seems euphemistically appropriate. I LOVE! unintentional humor.

      Delete
    3. PetrusOctavianusJune 28, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      I've done worse. I once intended to write that a friend of mine kept bugging me, but ended up writing that he kept buggering me...

      Delete
    4. I can see how that could be awkward.

      I texted my 14 year old daughter to "slut up" once the same way, I think I meant to say shut.

      I've moved on to the more appropriate and polite "Be quiet" since then, less dangerous.

      Delete
    5. @Woodman- In that situation I would be like, "Oh, crap, crap, crap! TEXT: Delete that NOW!"
      Honestly I don't know whether to feel bad for you or to just raz you a little... nah I'm good. That was hilarious, though!

      Delete
  9. Be glad you're playing on the VGA version, the other screens on Mobygames are less than flattering. Actually, from your description, I'm not sure there's a reason to be glad you're playing at all.

    With games like this, maybe you'll be done well before your allotted year for 1989.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps. But I'm perversely dedicated to finishing this one.

      Delete
    2. Oh no, I know what you're thinking, Chet. "Nobody seems to have finished this online! I'll be the first one to document it all the way through!" Close behind this perverse thought is another "When I finish it I'll write a walkthrough too!". Be careful!

      Delete
    3. I've had these same thoughts... different games though.

      We know Chet has entertained this notion before, so it's quite possible he will follow through on a game like this.

      Delete
    4. I actually finished it a little while ago. I don't think I'll write a walkthrough, though. I don't want to encourage other people to play it.

      Delete
  10. From Galdregon's Domain's instructions:

    "BUY ALE - When stamina is low, go to an inn and buy from the barman."

    Gotta remember this excuse.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Since I did this for Trickster: There doesn't seem to be much trend in your ratings over time; A slight increase over time, but not much of one, and the spread of ratings each year is growing. The upper limit is growing much more quickly then the lower, which likely causes much of this trend.

    What is interesting, is that there is a clear link between the number of hours a game takes you and your rating of it. Up to 20 hours it is pretty random, with a slight bias to liking longer games, though in a logarithmic fashion (Roughly, but going from 6 to 10 hours is a big boost, 10 to 20 is a smaller one). There appears to be a trend of falling ratings after 80 hours, but there are only 2 data points there, so that is insignificant compared to the number of data points.

    Game World: Random over time, possibly upwards trend.

    Characters: Ditto

    Encounters: Almost no change over time.

    Magic/Combat: See Encounters

    Equipment: Again, I can't draw in a trendline, but some upwards motion over time.

    Economy: No change over time

    Gameplay: Possibly a slight downwards trend over time, but not much of one.

    Quests: While again, due to the small number of years I can't draw a good trendline, a strong upwards trend.

    What is odd is that graphics and sound hasn't changed much at all over time; I would think there would be a strong upwards trend there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, you are certainly living up to your name. Seriously, though, as a fellow data guy: this is interesting stuff.

      The graphics/sound thing doesn't surprise me. First, the top rating that graphics can get is "good enough," which games have pretty much reached already. Second, the category is actually graphics, sound, and INTERFACE. Each of these categories only gets 3 or 4 out of the 10 points. In a few years, I'll be giving near-perfect scores to graphics and sound and the only movement in this category will be on the interface side.

      I wish I could consider these all as separate categories but I've already got 10.

      Delete
  12. Oh, and while there isn't much of a trend in the average game lengnth/year, there is a strong increase in the maximum length a year (not countering Rogue and its 90 hours)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I remember this was one of the first cRPGs I played back on Atari ST. The fondness of the memories these images raise from my 9-years old time don't prevent the game for being utter crap IIRC.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, Geneforge 1-5 is on sale now, a fairly old indie game series, done in an even older style is on sale at GoG.
    http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/geneforge_15

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and Part 5 of The Quest for the Magic Candle is up now. http://canageek.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/the-quest-for-the-magic-candle-part-5/

      Delete
  15. Wow, VGA! Finally, DOS games catch up with the rest of the market in graphics. Also, the C64 version's title screen is hilariously bad compared to the rest of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was wondering when I'd finally cross that line.

      Delete
  16. If this is VGA screenshots I am really impressed. I was almost sure it was from the Amiga version. I remember playing this game and the music was quite good but I never got very far.

    Saintus from http://crpgrevisited.blogspot.se/

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think you are getting close to the time when PC graphics finally outstripped those of the dead end computers.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "I think you are getting close to the time when PC graphics finally outstripped those of the dead end computers." Well.. give it another three to four years for Doom to hit.

    ReplyDelete
  19. These are the Amiga graphics. Most Amiga ports on PC only use 32 colours in VGA mode.

    VGA mode could display up to 256 colours, but usually when games were ported from Amiga or Atari to PC, rather than redraw everything in 256 colours, they would just use the 32 colour graphics in VGA mode, essentially leaving the other 224 colours unused. VGA graphics get even better than this.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.