|This was supposed to have been my clue to remove a blue gem from the Serpent Tower.|
Continuing to play Bloodwych is a bit like eating something abominable--circus peanuts, say, or those awful wasabi snack mixes they have at some bars--for no other reason than a bowl of it is sitting in front of you. In a meta-cognitive way, I'm fascinated by my refusal to give up on it. Two days ago, I thought it was just the drugs. Now, I don't know. I only know that some part of my brain wants to continue playing it. I think it's the same part that continues to click on links on Reddit when it's 3:00 A.M. and the rest of my brain is screaming, "WHY did you click another link?! It's time to GO TO BED! Seriously, just get up right now--NOW--and GO TO BED! AAAARGH! You just clicked on ANOTHER one! Are you trying to kill us?!" Only in the case of Bloodwych, my brain is screaming about The Magic Candle.
|This was almost your last Bloodwych screen shot before The Magic Candle welcome screen.|
Since my last posting, I've encountered about 12 moments in which I thought I simply couldn't progress any further--delighting the more rational half of my brain--only to discover a solution just as I was about to quit. I was about to give up on finding the gem needed for the Moon Tower when I finally discovered it back in the Serpent Tower. On Level 2 of the Moon Tower, I discovered the only way I hadn't gone was through a locked door for which I didn't have the key. I was about to give up when I remembered that Helm said "magelock" was needed in the Moon Tower. Sure enough, it worked on the door that no key would unlock (usually, doors that respond to "magelock" also respond to generic keys). Another impassable door was opened by a key that was practically invisible on the floor next to a pillar. I had the perfect excuse there, but no, I just had to go and search one last time.
|The bronze key here is so invisible (just above my cursor) that I couldn't remember why I took this screenshot and I nearly deleted it.|
As I progress, I'm naturally encountering tougher monsters, and they're getting wise to the bob-and-weave trick. They like to wait until I'm at the end of a narrow corridor to pounce on me, or to outflank me in multiple groups. It annoys me that I can't tell what any of them are called. They are getting graphically more interesting.
Also as I progress, the game is starting to make things interesting with more complicated puzzles. "Interesting," mind you, in the same way that Wichita is more interesting on Friday night than Thursday. But you take what you can get. Many of these puzzles involve spinners, and while I normally see them as a trite and tiresome dungeon-crawling clichés, I have to admit that Bloodwych does them right. In most games, spinners occur at spots where it's immediately apparent that you've stepped on them by the screen going all wonky. You just have to consult your compass to navigate them. Bloodwych, on the other hand, strategically places them at spots in which the surrounding area looks same from both directions, and then compounds the difficulty by having the compass only last a few turns after you cast it. Clever bastards.
A lot of the puzzles involve buttons and pressure plates that lower walls and pillars. Here's a complex example from the Moon Tower, Level 3, combining pressure plates, pits, a spinner, and anti-magic zones.
The pit at point (1) is unavoidable. You have to have the "levitate" spell when you reach this point to get over it. If you don't have it, you're rather screwed, because monsters don't respawn, so there's no opportunity to grind and level up to acquire it. Helm alluded to this in a comment a few days ago. It seems a little unfair on the part of the game.
Crossing point (1) puts you on pressure plate (2) even if you're levitating, which closes the southern door. At this point, you need to exit the room via the northern door. Unfortunately, squares (9) are all anti-magic squares, which kill the levitation spell.
|"Levitate" fails just when I most need it.|
To get through, you need to step on pressure plate (4), which lowers pillar (8), allowing you to get around to pressure plate (7), which lowers the pillar south of (6) (I forgot to number it). Pillar (6) itself is lowered by pressure plate (5). Complicating things is the spinner at (3), which keeps making you go in the wrong direction. Once all of the pillars are lowered, you can edge around to the pressure plate between (6) and (9), which at last closes the pit at (10). I'm not saying it's going to compete with Myst for puzzle difficulty, but it was the most complex thing so far and thus a welcome surprise.
|This was the game's hint on this puzzle.|
A few other things I think I've neglected to cover so far:
- I had my archer/assassin in a melee position for a while, and I noted that he makes backstabs when the enemy's back is turned. He's not as useless as I thought.
- You can easily tell the worth of a bit of armor by its effect on your armor class, but weapons are more difficult to evaluate. I assumed a mithril axe was better than a regular axe, of course, but then I found a "troll axe" and wasn't sure whether to dump my mithral axe or not. Tracking and averaging hit point damages seems like a little too much investment. I've also found a couple of wands and rings that I'm not sure what they do. In these things, it shares another similarity with Dungeon Master.
|Equipping a new weapon. Note the armor class ranking below my inventory.|
- The number of points required to cast a spell decreases with each casting. Late yesterday, I finally got the "alchemy" spell and was able to convert unneeded equipment into piles of gold--no more rude shopkeepers. It started off requiring 15 spell points but after about 20 castings, it was down to 8.
- As I said above, monsters don't respawn. Or, if they do, it takes a long, long time. Dungeon Master had a few areas with constant respawns where you could grind.
- The game is inconsistent about whether foes can open doors. The best I can figure, they can open wooden doors but not metal doors and grates. This gives me some breathing room if I want to prepare some spells to fire off when the door opens. It's not a big exploit because they can step in the doorway quite easily and block you from closing it.
|The party steels itself for the monsters beyond.|
- There are no "extra" areas. Virtually every room and corridor must be traversed to get to your objectives, which means that the game is almost completely linear.
|Another gem recovered. Now to find the resurrection chamber.|
Plot-wise, my word-count-to-playing-hours ratio is quite low. In about six hours of game time since the last posting, I ascended the Moon Tower and found the Moon Crystal. There were other illusory walls and button/pressure plate puzzles on the way. Not much else to say about it except that unless the last three towers are exceptionally easy, I'm about 40% done. I'm not going to spend all of the long weekend on this, though, so one way or another I'll wrap up this game by Saturday.