Friday, August 31, 2012

Bloodwych: More than I Wanted to Chew (Final Rating)

Note that the ad tells a slightly different back story than the game manual.

Bloodwych
Image Works (Mirrorsoft)
Anthony Taglione, Peter James, Philip Taglione
Released 1989 (UK); U.S. DOS version from 1991
Date Started: 29 July 2012
Date Abandoned; 31 August 2012
Total Hours: 21
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 27
Ranking at Time of Posting: 42/66 (64%)

All right, I'm going to spare us all and pull the plug. I'm prompted partly by an e-mail from a Bloodwych fan who estimates that I'm only about 20% through the game, mostly because "the Chaos Tower takes almost as long as all the other towers combined." I'm already into this game for 20 hours, and I honestly can't see putting another 80 into it. That would make my game time exceed even Rogue. You can't say I didn't give it a fair shake. The fan also told me that the rest of the five towers offer simply "more of the same," with some slightly more difficult puzzles. I've had enough of this unvarying gameplay.

Nothing significantly new happened since last time, so let's get to the GIMLET.

1. Game World. Bloodwych opens with the breathtakingly original plot of an evil sorcerer having taken over the land and summoning legions of demonic minions. The "world" in this case is the city/castle of Treidhadwyl, which is essentially a featureless dungeon. There is virtually no reference to the plot during the course of the game, making me wonder if the developers invented the back story after the game was developed. (Except for a final screen that I saw at the end of a YouTube video, it doesn't even appear that the word "Bloodwych" appears in-game.) The story is, in fact, such a carbon copy of Dungeon Master--right down to the champions being possessed or guided by the spirits of the exiled mages--that it nearly crosses the line from homage to plagiarism. I gave Dungeon Master a 6 in this category, but it had the whole order/chaos thing going on plus several in-game references to the plot. Score: 3.

Look at this screenshot from the ending. Shouldn't it be "THE Bloodwych ARE restored?" It's almost as if the game didn't know what "Bloodwych" was until the manual was written.

2. Character Creation and Development.  Like Dungeon Master (and I'm sorry to keep saying that, but it will happen again), you don't "create" your characters so much as simply select them. You don't even get the "reincarnation" option here, meaning you're stuck with the names and classes they start with. Leveling up is entirely within the class and seems to occur at odd intervals; it was maddeningly slow for the first half of my gameplay and more rapid after that; there is no progress meter or experience to indicate where you are in the leveling process. Leveling bestows attribute increases and an occasional new spell (the frequency of this is dependent on the class), but few choices on the part of the player. With different character choices, you'd have different levels of difficulty and perhaps some different tactics, but essentially the same game. Score: 3.

If I did have to play again, I'd play with Mr. Flay Sepulcrast. I understand he doesn't need to eat.

3. NPC Interaction. One improvement over Dungeon Master is that the game has NPCs, but they're not very good. You can theoretically ask any NPC, including monsters, about characters, objects, and lore, or trade with him or her. In practice, I never got them to tell me anything useful, and more than likely they'd start attacking me in the middle of the conversation, putting me at a tactical disadvantage. Except for the 16 potential starting characters, none of them even have names. I do have to give the game some credit for different disposition options (bragging, praising, insulting) and the ability to bribe and threaten NPCs, but in the end it doesn't amount to much. The interface was there for a decent NPC system, but the content wasn't. Score: 3.

...say the unidentifiable monsters just before attempting to slaughter me.

4. Encounters and Foes. Frustrating. The game doesn't bother to tell you the names of the monsters you fight, and I found the various humanoid monsters indistinguishable on visual inspection (my color-blindness might play a role here). Some of them cast spells, including an annoying "arc bolt" that goes around corners, but there's really no way to anticipate this until they start casting. There are no real "encounters" in the game, although I've taken to using this category to award points for puzzles, which is a kind-of encounter. Although these are basic, they do break the monotony a bit. Areas don't respawn, so there are no opportunities for grinding. Score: 3.

5. Magic and Combat. Combat is of the most basic sort. You wield weapons, enter "attack" mode, and start swinging. Your rear characters can't do much unless they have missile weapons, but if you're adept with the mouse, you can quickly swap positions to give lead characters a rest. There's a "defense" mode that you can theoretically use if you want to swap inventories or prepare spells, but I found that I usually died fairly quickly if I was trying to defend. Ultimately, the only viable combat technique is to use the terrain tactically to dance around your opponents and strike them at their flanks and rear. I found it tedious.

The magic system offers 32 spells grouped into four "schools." It's best to specialize in one or two schools because you can only get the higher-level spells after you've mastered some of the lower-level ones. I liked that you could adjust the power that you put into the spells, but overall I found them underwhelming. The buffing spells, even on high power, lasted only a couple of minutes, and you can only have one spell active at a time. Defensive spells take too long to prepare to be viable in the middle of combat. It never seemed to me that the offensive spells were doing much damage, even on max power. I never saw an enemy die from a spell, although I grant that I usually used them at the beginning of combat to soften them up. Finally, I didn't like that you were required to have two spells for the Moon Tower; since the game is linear and monsters don't respawn, failure to have the spells when you get to the right locations means that you have to start over. Score: 3.

Trying to cast a spell in the middle of combat often results in something unpleasant.

6. Equipment. As you progress, you find better weapons, armor, shields, gloves, rings, wands, potions, arrows, and food. It happens often enough that you feel suitably rewarded on a regular basis, and with the exception of some melee weapons, you can generally tell what items are best. It doesn't appear that there's any randomization to the items. The paucity of arrows throughout the game is a major problem, though, rendering the rear two characters useless most of the time. Score: 3.

7. Economy. Like the NPC category, I give the game credit for having an economy. It just isn't well implemented. You find gold on some NPC corpses, and I like that you can sell equipment (sometimes!) and use the "alchemy" spell to convert unneeded equipment to gold. I just never found much to buy with the gold. The weapons and armor shops never had better stuff than I had found, and while the potion shop was useful, I only ever found one and it was buried in an inconvenient part of the main tower. Even with the requirement to buy spells from the fairy on leveling up, I quit the game with nearly the maximum of gold in my backpacks (99 per character). Score: 3.

8. Quests. The game has a main quest; it's just boring and derivative. It progresses in five stages, as you collect the various gems from the various towers, and I guess there's a slight feeling of progress on the way, but not much. No side quests, no choices on the main quest. Score: 2.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. Universally horrible. Again, my color-blindness may be playing a role, but I found the graphics confusing, ugly, and pixelated. I would have preferred the wire frames of Wizardry. There was nothing special about the sound effects, and since they're inseparable from the obnoxiously repeating music track, I left the sound off. I discussed my problems with the interface in an earlier posting. I find the buttons too small and inconveniently located, and the game requires too many clicks to perform simple actions. The keyboard is only good for some movement and saving the game. Some simple improvements, such as keeping the spellbook open to the last spell you used, or allowing the number keys to select characters, would have been welcome, but alas. Score: 1.

10. Gameplay. The gameplay is extremely linear and it lasts far, far too long. The need to find a bunch of keys--many of them virtually hidden in back corners--to progress makes it too easy to become a "walking dead" if you accidentally overlook or abandon a key. I couldn't imagine a single reason to replay the game after winning it once. Score: 1.

The game is at least consistent in its badeness. I ranked 7/10 categories at exactly 3, with a total of 25. However, we have to talk for a second about the multiplayer aspect of the game, which is remarkably innovative and, frankly, belonged in a better game.

Bloodwych is not the first game to feature cooperative multiplayer mode. The first I can recall is Zyll from 1984, followed by Swords of Glass in 1986. I find it odd and amusing that the only cooperative multiplayer CRPGs so far are comparatively obscure and not very good otherwise. Although I didn't have anyone to play with, I have to applaud the innovation that went into this addition to the game, and I'll award 2 bonus points for a true final score of 27. This still puts it in the lower tier of games (35% at the time of this posting).

Nonetheless, the game has a small but devoted cult following, and in preparing for this posting, I was astonished to find message boards full of players eager to try again with different characters or such. I find it a little baffling, but to each his own. There are several projects in the works to port the game to a new engine, and to make additional game levels using the original engine.

In Dungeons and Desktops, Matt Barton seems to agree with me, noting that: "[C]ritics mustered little praise for the game. Although the story and multiplayer options were admirable, the graphics were dull compared to Dungeon Master's, and the soundtrack was lamentable." But some contemporary reviews, especially in Europe, seemed to rank it quite high. I wonder if the version issue doesn't make a huge difference here. The game was big on the Amiga, and I can actually see where the game might be fun while played with a joystick next to a friend or sibling. Enough people liked it to support an expansion pack in 1990 (only for the Amiga and Atari ST, so I will not be partaking).

I can't find any full-length plays online. It looks like a YouTube user named jamesthebe [careful; some NSFW content there] got started with one, but gave up after 14 videos. Another user named ToricoUK, however, posted only the ending (only 36 seconds).

I assume that's Zendick.

Now, if you're frustrated that I ended this game too soon, take heart: the developers followed up with Hexx: Heresy of the Wizard, published by Psygnosis in 1994, which Wikipedia says was "basically the same game with updated graphics, a slightly modified cast of champions, and a greatly expanded magic system." We also have The Four Crystals of Trazere (1992) from the same developers, and ostensibly set in the same universe.

In 1993, Anthony Taglione gave an interview to an obscure U.K. gaming magazine called SynTax, in which he was frank about Bloodwych's origins in Dungeon Master. Recalling his time at a university in the late 1980s:

It just so happened that Dungeon Master appeared around this time on the ST and what a product that was! Three weeks later we'd played it to death, even taking just a party of short people. My own record is twelve hours with just two characters. I was talking with Mirrorsoft at the time and suggested that I could do a DM conversion for them on the C64. They ummed and arred a lot and Pete carried on drawing screens until they finally said 'Yes!' and I said 'No!  We've got a better design and it'll be two-player-simultaneous'. They said 'Ok but we want ST and Amiga as well'.

Throughout the rest of the article, he really does come off as a talented programmer, and I look forward to trying his later offerings.

For now, though, it's time to move on. I've decided to kick The Magic Candle down the list a bit and tackle it in December. Next up is Star Saga: Two!




88 comments:

  1. Ha! Just messing with you. Magic Candle is next.

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    1. You scared me there for a minute. I was looking forward to your playthrough because that's one of my favorites.

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    2. aw, you could have let them stew for a bit longer. Not even any comments cursing your name yet. haha

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    3. lol A part of me was actually looking forward to all those angry replies.

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  2. Oh man, you totally had me there. I read your blog posts through Google Reader so clicking through was a big relief.

    I loved The Magic Candle so I'm really looking forward to your take on it. I loved the second one too, and I wanted to love the third but it kept corrupting my save files so I never was able to beat it. Oh well.

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    1. Sorry, that was supposed to be a reply directly to the Addict's post...

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  3. It is amazing how little the ads have to do with the games from this era. Modern players would throw a fit.

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    1. 80's Advertisements are art in itself, especially gaming ads, which is quite understandable when you're trying to sell out screen showing few sprites.

      Cracked had article of TV commercials from that era:
      http://www.cracked.com/article_16944_6-baffling-old-school-video-game-commercials.html

      Here's one delightful about computers:
      http://plaza.fi/s/f/editor/images/X-20100401195904890.jpg

      Translation:

      BOSS
      When I joined the computer gang, of course I wanted GOOD home computer, which you can do more with it than play games and is not outsized immediately.
      Those in the gang adviced to take SUITABLY SIZED AND SECURE. One that is known to have lots of programs, loads of accessories, latest technology, finnish guidance, reliable importer... all for reasonable price.
      The search is on - and the choice is Sinclair's latest, ZX Spectrum +. It is tireless playmate, 'course. But it is also my closest assistant. And good looking. Style, I'd say. Check this out - Good graphics, doesn't forget anything (except my own mistakes which are instantly forgiven), 48K memory and modern keyboard.
      Now I'm like a Boss.
      With "Specu" I'll take control of computers just like that. Who knows, what kind of boss I will become. No need to dabble among novices, no matter where I go to work. There's computer anyway.
      You know that Sinclairs are Europe's most popular computers.

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    2. Hey, at least the ad is talking about the game and puts in actual (tiny) screenshots. Most modern day magazine ads for vidya are just a pre-rendered muscleman with a catchphrase or something equally uninformative.

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  4. On the bright side you are spared some of the ....interesting colour choices I've seen in your screenshots.

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  5. As to why some people love this game, I think it has to do with it being their first exposure to dungeon delvers. Did people who loved Dungeon Master prefer Bloodwych? Are you out there? Can you leave a comment to tell us why that is, besides multiplayer?

    Add to the nostalgia of the first game of this type for some, Amiga enthusiasts are notorious for being too nostalgic; A lot of Amiga software looked and sounded amazing for the time but the games played horribly. This doesn't seem to bother the Amiga retro scene any more than it bothered Amiga owners in the '90s.

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    1. User interfaces are the weak point of most old games. It's down right amazing how the 80's were full of amazing innovation to the point that it looks like everything in videogames was originally invented back then, yet none of these brilliant people stopped to think "maybe we shouldn't have 26 keyboard commands that are listed nowhere and perhaps checking how much money you have shouldn't take eight button presses and five joystick waggles". It wasn't just complex games like RPGs that were guilty of this - even action games had just way too many commands mapped into every possible button-direction combination (and of course some keys for good measure since who wants to play lying on their couch with a joystick in hand?). I absolutely love oldschool videogames, their style and design, but one thing I don't want back from that era are the terrible interfaces.

      That's one of the things that makes DM so great - all you had to do was click on things. Occasionally it could be argued that you had to click on one thing more than was necessary, but that was still so much better than what the standard of the day was.

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    2. True, a lot of bad platformers and side-scrollers came out for Amiga. Barbarian (Psygnosis) and Gods (Bitmap Brothers) for example.

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    3. Gods was great.

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    4. Gods was awesome. I still play it to this day, even if sometimes i go with the Megadrive version because it's faster (but not as good looking as the Amiga).

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  6. Dungeon Master was my first real time blobber and I loved it. Bloodwych, not so much. At least not the single player mode.

    I agree with your comments about the Amiga. For a real Amiga fanboy Black Crypt was the bestest DM clone ever, based entirely upon the fact that it was a an Amiga exlusive. But at the same time you could play the far superior Ultima Underworld on the PC. And of course for a real Amiga fanboy DM and CSB could never be as good as Black Crypt since they were orignally released for the hated Atari ST. I never understood the hatred for the Atari ST; it was just like an Amiga, just not quite as good and would have been a natural choice if there was no Amiga. The real "enemy" as far as I was concerned was the Japanes consoles. I especially loathed Nintendo with their ridicilously draconian censorship. To me real computer always were and always will be superior to a console where you need the approval of the console makers if you want to make games for it.

    Although I was fond of my beloved Amiga back in the days, I realized her days were over when I saw what a PC could do when Ultima Underworld was released.

    Oh well, I guess I was not a typical Amiga owner, since my preference was more for CRPGs than for action games, and most of my favourite games were originally developed for other machines.

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    1. I never understood the hatred for the Atari ST; it was just like an Amiga, just not quite as good

      I had both, and without wanting to resurrect a rivalry quarter of a century old, it was a bit more complicated than that. Basically, between Amiga 500 and Atari 520ST (the basic models of both), Amiga was better for sprite based games (due to blitter and superior sound chip) and video editing (due to early availability of a Genlock card), while Atari was better for vector graphics based games (due to its faster processor) and all other productivity software (due to said processor plus superior monochrome monitor plus built-in MIDI port).

      I believe the main reason for ST's poverty option rep comes from the fact that for most kids in the 80's, the above were not equally important uses - if a computer was worse at sprite-based games, it was worse at the Most Important Thing.

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    2. As for Black Crypt vs. UUW - I think that's an apples vs. oranges comparison. DM clones and UUW clones are separate sub-genres with different play experiences and emphasises (emphasii?). And while UUW1 was absolutely mind-blowing when it came out, I think it has aged worse than the leading DM clones have for many of the same reasons Street Fighter 2 looks better than Virtua Fighter 1 today, even if the latter represents more advanced technology.

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    3. History has retroactively segregated the Dungeon Master tile-stepper first person dungeon dweller from games like Ultima Underworld, but at the time it hasn't design decisions that made people make DM-clones instead of fully-3d rpgs like Ultima Underworld... it was hardware and software knowhow. When UU hit the scene, and much more, when Doom did, DM-clones were done on any machine that could run the new 3d games. It's no accident it took how many years to see something specifically DESIGNED as a DM-clone again in Legend of Grimrock.

      So while I agree with you, Anonymous, that the play experience of a fast-and-lean DM-clone is nothing like the slow and methodical play of Ultima Underworld, it is only with hidsight that anyone can praise the former instead of the latter.

      I've played a lot of Black Crypt. It's a good game. Ultima Underworld and more importantly, Doom, were a revolution. For good or worse.

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    4. @Petrus: You see, this is why I love opinions-everybody can have one, and they are completely worthless. The Japanese consoles were the "enemy?" Why? It would seem to me that people bought what they wanted, kept buying what they enjoyed, and bought what they could afford. Plus, computers were by no means everybody's cup of tea back then (the introduction of graphical user interfaces and lowering prices would eliminate a lot of these barriers).

      Also, "draconian censorship" ... explain.

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    5. I could be wrong about what Petrus meant there, but I thought he was talking about Nintendo's censoring of things like blood and certain finishing moves in Mortal Kombat, for one. It was one of the reasons I was glad to have a Sega Genesis. :)

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    6. Probably also the removal of almost every reference to death from their games, even when it harmed the plot as in FFIV.

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    7. Eh, to each his own I guess. Whether something is censored or not is not so important to me (unless it's nudity or cursing... keep games as games I say, and leave the dreck out... but I guess devs and publishers would'nt be able to "express" themselves/get monies).

      Again, opinions are ultimately meaningless- which is why it's fun to have and read them.

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    8. So if Nintendo had made Skyrim, we wouldn't have the kill cut-scenes?

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    9. My point was that with consoles you don't have artistic freedom.
      With computer games you are still at the mercy of the publisher, but at least you can, or at least culd before the the rise of the unholy trinity EA, UbiSoft and Activision, choose between a large number of distributors.
      Or you could even publish it (not very effectively) yourself.
      It was sad that the guys at ID didn't have enough balls to say "no Wolfenstein for you!" to Nintendo, and instead made a heavily censored version for a few yens.

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    10. They did whoever, sell the Wolf 3D engine to that Bible game company that made unlicensed games.

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    11. Addict: I'm not sure how they are now, but they were pretty crazy in the 90s. They censored all the uses of the word death out of Mother II (Earthbound) except a couple at the end. Ok fine. Then, to not encourage drug use, they changed all the store signs from DRUGS (For Drugstore) to SHOP. Oh, and removed all religious references, including the crosses on gravestones.

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    12. Canageek, that pretty much sums up their standard practice back then. The pokemon-like game Shin Megami Tensei wouldn't see any of their Nintendo based games released in the US on a Nintendo console until after the release of Persona on the PlayStation. It was mostly Nintendo of America doing the censorship.

      They've stopped this practice as of the last decade, so no, Skyrim would most likely get the full (as much as it could) game uncensored.

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    13. Here's the top hit, and a good article, explaining Nintendo of America's Censorship policies (with examples):

      http://www.filibustercartoons.com/Nintendo.php

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    14. Eh, Petrus, I regret not having a computer in the '90s and not getting a chance to see if I would have developed a liking for PLAYING crpgs as a young kid, but my father was not one of these cool dads who did all this computer stuff for his kids. He was OCD, narcissistic, and only shallowly cared about and for his family.

      I do not regret my NES and Nintendo 64. They were some fun times in my life and were what I had (luckily enough). I do not regret missing censored material (even if I don 't mind it so much in books and movies, games just feel like they should be different to me) .

      Sorry for any defensiveness... I'll just go back to enjoying the ride....

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    15. Wikipedia page also names Nintendo of Europe, so was NoA's version one that was distributed to all western world, just converted to PAL, or was European version more faithful to original. (I'm sure in german version swastikas etc were removed, but how about the rest.)

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    16. http://earthboundcentral.com/m2eb/ has more details, you can see some subtle altering of the plot and characters.

      A better (modern) example is the Blinding of Isaac, an RPG based on a biblical story, with a...rather controversial perspective. You can look up that if you wish. Anyway, it is out on Steam, and the author wanted to put it on the Nintendo DS and NOA took one look and refused despite its strong sales.

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  7. Video about Extended Levels ending (also from ToricoUK) is definitely more entertaining than the basic game's, including two players playing, Zendick's weird behavior and players fighting against each other.

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  8. I have very fond memories of this game, but i guess it mostly because i was a kid and lost interest in the games quite fast, especially for long RPGs.

    Even so i think you've been too harsh on the graphics department. The game is definitely no looker, but still better than many we've seen so far.

    Well, Legend is much better and its one of the most underrated games in the genre.

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    1. This is no disrespect to Addict, but I think this may have a little to do with his C-blindness. I suppose we must forgive him this small thing though, since he gives us so many hours of his time :)
      Those B&W Wizardry wire-frame graphics would drive me off of a cliff.
      But, Interface is also included in that score and I could see, without even playing the game, just how horrible it must be. It's a very subjective category. I mentioned the same thing about Battletech if I remember correctly, mentioning he had given higher score to an ASCii game.

      Looking forward to MC - I knew u were joking about Star Saga hehe..... You couldn't help yourself. I would not have been able to abstain either ;)

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    2. As I and others have said, my colorblindness probably has a lot to do with my reactions to the graphics. I simply found them confusing. The textures of the monsters blended too easily into the backgrounds, making it hard to see them, or distinguish them from each other.

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  9. I'd have loved Four Crystals of Trazere (a.k.a. Legend) if it had turn-based combat. It would seriously be one of my favourite crpgs if it did. But the chaos and confusion of its real-time combat just ruins its tactical edge for me. Shame.

    But yes! At least that game PLAYS, it doesn't just look, like so many Amiga games.

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    1. I personally consider Legend one of the top 10 RPGs ever made. Despite the real time combat, the puzzles and the magic system totally made up for it.

      Even real time combat is kinda easy if you have your spells set up correctly and start firing as soon as the enemy invades the room...

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  10. I played Bloodwych after Dungeon Master (on the Amiga, for what it's worth). I still enjoyed it, although DM was much better. I stopped playing in one of the towers, but that's standard with me, I only finish the very best games as a rule. I find CPGs tend to be more enjoyable at the start, so if I get a good bit of play out of one I am happy.

    Black Crypt was a good game too. For some reason I didn't quite finish it despite getting to the last floor or so; can't remember why.

    Thing is, I like this style of game. I even bought Legend of Grimrock lately. I knew the Addict would not like it much as it is simply not his preferred type of game. Even Dungeon Master he wasn't crazy about. That's fine: everyone has their own tastes.

    I second the votes for Legend / Four Crystals of Trazere: loved that game even if it's more of a strategy puzzle hybrid than a CRPG.

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  11. You scare the bejeeeses out of me. I am ready for Magic Candle.

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  12. Well it sounds like I made the right choice to quickly give up trying to play Bloodwych. The graphics aren't bad, but your description of gameplay makes it sound quite poor.
    I do have DOSBox on both laptops, now to see if Magic Candle will distract me from the other things on my to-do list!

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  13. Maybe it was a mistake to try to copy another game, when you try to copy a work of art you liked and do something similar there's a risk that you failed to appreciate one or several of the facets that made the art work in the way it did. Say I wanted to be Michael Jackson and tried to be him, then I would sing and dance, but fail to grab my crotch and stand on my toes after spinning around, and then it just wouldn't be the same. And the only way to make it exactly the same as the original is to copy the original, but then there's no point because I could just enjoy the original.

    There are a lot of games out there that are inspired by other games, but typically they all add something to the mix. Infiniminer inspired Minecraft, Minecraft inspired Starforge and maybe Terraria. But none of these games were mere copies of something else. Did Bloodwych add anything significant to the mix?

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    1. The multiplayer bit was pretty neat.

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    2. That doesn't sound like much, if the game is otherwise similar. I prefer it when games are made by people with crazy ideas that takes everything in a new direction.

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    3. That's always nice, but it's also nice to see a familiar interface used in a new way or with a new story. Baldur's Gate II was still a good game even though the Infinity engine had been used in three prior games.

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  14. Black Crypt vs Ultima Underworld ? It is two different types of games. Graphics wise Black Crypt is far superior. The low resolution 3D VGA graphics might have been revolutionary because of the free moving 3D, but it was blocky and slow.

    Black Crypt is a fast moving action RPG like Dungeon Master or Legend of Grimrock.

    There is nothing revolutionary about UU gamewise except for the 3D graphics.

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

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  15. I played Four Crystals of Trazzere, I hated it. Hated the graphics, hate the gameplay, but I don't recall why. It was 20 years ago. glad to see you'll be doing Drakkhen. there's some really weird and original monsters in that one and the plot is pretty original too.

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  16. "There is nothing revolutionary about UU gamewise except for the 3D graphics."

    That's a funny statement to make, no offense.

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    1. I agree, but I'm not sure we shouldn't offer a little elaboration. From my recollection, UU was an important step in that it was a 3D game offering:

      1) Complex NPC interactions
      2) An automap that allowed customized note-taking
      3) An interesting leveling and skill-development system
      4) Sneaking
      5) Actual terrain (e.g., areas that incline and decline)
      6) Dungeon levels distinguished both graphically and thematically into memorable mini-worlds
      7) Fun and interesting interactions between objects

      Now there are a number of games between now and UU in 1992, so perhaps some of these innovations will appear before then, but it seems unlikely that ALL of them will, especially all together.

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    2. Mmm...Perhaps I was a little unfair to UU. It did have its merits. I do however think that Black Crypt has aged better than UU. UU should have credit for creating a parallell subgenre in the RPG field and especially utilising what the new 3D-world could offer.

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  17. POST THE MAGIC CANDLE OPENING SCREEN ALREADY!!!

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    1. So my intermediate NetHack posting isn't going to go over so well, then?

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    2. [James Earl Jones] NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

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    3. Talk about having demanding readers, haha

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    4. Yes, do share! Nethack is awesome, you got me back into it.

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  18. Why are you people being such retards about Magic Candle? It's just an okay Ultima clone. Calm down.

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    1. I don't have a dog in this fight (yet), but remaining anonymous for this posting was a really good idea.

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    2. I agree, Magic Candle is nothing special. Dark Heart of Uukrul on the other hand...

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    3. We shall see, we shall indeed see...
      Though I can't lie, the concept of the game has sounded instantly intriguing from the moment I read about MC in Matt Barton's History of CRPGs on one of those Gamespot archive pages (I do really appreciate him for that... a lot!).

      Also, I just BOUGHT my FIRST Good Old Games CRPG and completed my very FIRST (with my own money...) pre-order of ANYTHING! in the form of the Czech Republic-originating game: BUM BUM BUM!

      INQUSITOR

      I hope this game is indeed as wicked Dark Ages inspired in my hopefully fun play experience as it looks (I am a bit wary of the content, but whatever, IMPULSE BUY FOR ONLY 'L3V1N N1N3TY-N1N3!----------------> TO 11!)

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    4. Agreed. I am looking forward much more to "Dragon Wars" in 1989...

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    5. I too am looking forward to Dragon Wars, which far too often gets billed as "yet another Bard's Tale clone", while on the other hand not only it's *far* better than those games, but it also brought to the table:
      - multiple resolutions for almost every game problem, mainly due to the skill-based gameplay already seen in Wasteland
      - PCs actions affecting the world (you can destroy cities if you make some - admittedly stupid - choices)
      - a non-standard fantasy gameworld (this may not look like a big deal, but remember that pretty much every other RPG, excluding some like 2400 A.D. and Wasteland, had a "stock" fantasy gameworld)

      On the other hand, though, I feel that saying Magic Candle is just an "okay Ultima clone" is... limiting, to say the least. The core is undoubtably similar, but the detail poured into pretty much every element is not.

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  19. Regarding the difference between the European and US reviews, I believe this has largely to do with the two years that elapsed between 1989 and 1991. This game was decent for 1989. By 1991's standards though, it was clearly behind the times.

    I'm fully in support of an intermediate Nethack posting! ;-)

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  20. I think Bloodwych should have scored higher on NPC Interaction simply for the hilarity of comments like "Thou talks appallingly smelly!"

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    1. Hmm... would you accept it gets a cracked.com brownie point for "unintentional" hilarity?

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    2. That's the kind of insult Zink would have thrown around when he was here. I wonder what happened to him.

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    3. Also, I didn't mean the comment as an insult. I honestly think mention of the game's silly dialogue would be at home in one of their video game articles.

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  21. I vaguely remember having Min do some tailoring to raise money for the party, but that was ages ago! I do recall I just couldn't get into the game. Not a bad game, I just didn't have the patience for it, so it will be great to see what I missed.

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  22. I always thought the Atari ST of the age had much better graphics than the IBM type PC's.

    I never played Bloodwych but I LOOOOVED Dungeon Master. I think it was because of my age at the time (probably like 13-14) and the fact everything was new back then.

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    1. Yeah, I agree; games for the Atari ST generally had much better graphics than those for DOS/IBM PCs. That's even truer when it comes to the Amigas; if you had an Amiga, chances are the games you were playing were in a completely different class in terms of graphics and sound compared to IBM PCs. The Amiga 1000 was a best when it came out; and the 500 was the best budget computer you could have imo.

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  23. Bloodwych has a successor called "Hexx" with fancy 3D graphics that you will most likely play in a few... months? years?

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  24. I think the problem is assessing a game that was designed to be a CRPG on 8-bit computers released in 1989 as a 1991 PC game which is the exact same as the 8-bit version but with marginally better graphics (e.g., see the Amstrad 8-bit screenshots - not that much worse than the PC albeit blockier). The Amiga version appears to look better too. As there weren't many similar games on these computers they were popular (this applies to Times of Lore also).

    Additionally, it may have been popular on the Amiga because that system allowed dual mouse control in games - although I don't know about Bloodwych - so the two player mode might have actually been fun.

    But yeah, the 8-bit press went mad for Bloodwych so I guess a lot of people have fond memories as a result.

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  25. I had this on the Atari ST(picked up from a bargain bin, several years after the ST market had faded to nothing) but could never make much progress, because for some reason the save/load system just wouldn't work correctly.

    In any case, I thought it was a disappointment after the generally favourable reviews. The much-hyped conversation system was not nearly as impressive as the misleading ad copy made it out to be - as far as I recall, none of the characters you were able to converse with had any individual personalities to speak of, and would nearly always answer you with the same few stock responses.

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    1. That was my reaction exactly. It had some innovative stuff, but it wore out its welcome extremely fast. One tower would have been enough.

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  26. Ok, that's quite a negative review, I've had many hours of fun with this game in multiplayer and single player for years. The way the game moves is excellent, the variety of puzzles, item placements, levelling up, spells, it all works. Working together co-op is awesome as you both search for keys and upgrades then shout for help if you get cornered by enemies. I wouldn't say it's straight forward linear at all, there's often many ways to get to where you are going, in fact there are numerous times where both players are forced to split up (in single player you select your path) and get locked in and work on puzzles by yourself then meet back up later. The fake walls really added to the game, I found them out by accident when I walked through one, but there is a spell to make them vanish for a short time, great puzzle set. Also the "turny things" as we called them, where you will be walking and be turned around 180 without realising it, funny stuff. I could easily replay this game over and over as there's quite a lot of memorable sections that stand out for me. Maybe co-op was one of the big things that added to the enjoyment, but it's still a classic none the less.

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    1. When you say, "There are many ways to get where you are going," I think you're thinking about multiple ways to get around a single level, or maybe a couple of paired levels. That's not non-linear. Non-linear is I have a world with nine dungeons and I can explore than in any order I want. Bloodwych had some level nonlinearity, but you still had to explore the same towers in the same order.

      But I can see why the game might be more fun in cooperative mode--a LOT more fun, even. I just don't think many modern players will approach it that way. If you think it's still fun in single-player, that's cool. We disagree, but if different people didn't have different tastes, it would be a boring world.

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    2. Hmm, I think they could of allowed the player to beat the towers in any order, as you'd still end up with all 4 crystals ready for the final tower, but I guess they wanted to go the linear route. I recently had a try at remaking a part of it for Legend of Grimrock, maybe some modern graphics might help it appeal to this generation hehe. Thanks for the reply.

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  27. I've played the game on the c64 back then. And even though I was a beginning crpg fan and it was the only real-time dungeon crawler for that platform (to my knowledge), I still played it only for an hour or so. I know now thanks to your review it really was that boring and not my youthful impatience. BTW, reviews in Germany at least were only average for ALL platforms, so no amiga bonus here (fellow Germans might remember the 61% in the Amiga Joker). I think the only thing that kept it from receiving even worse ratings was that it was only the second game in this subgenre, so it probably still had a quite innovative gameplay compared to the majority of other rpg's back then, also with the multiplayer ability.

    I'm really excited to read your Magic Candle experience next, since I in all honesty can't figure out what's so great about that really. I don't have any personal experience with the first part and review scores back then where only above average, criticising it to be only an above average Ultima clone. However I played Bloodstone which seems somehow connected to the Magic Candle series and the last game in that line. That was a nice one, clearly an Ultima 6 clone but a good one. Strange thing is ratings for the Magic Candle series only got worse with each part up to Bloodstone so I'm really curios if they were simply dismissed too quickly because they took many elements from Origin rpg's.

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    1. The Magic Candle clearly takes some of its inspiration from the Ultima series, but I wouldn't call it a clone. It has a lot of innovative elements and arguably a better quest line than any Ultima game except U4.

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  28. I know most of the comments encourage you to move on whenever a game's not fun, I'm always bummed to see you give up on a game that doesn't seem to have anything seriously wrong with it--Bloodwych seems like an average CRPG for the era. Reading through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is awesome and makes for a great book; reading through only those entries in the Encyclopedia Britannica that are scintillating reading is something anyone can do :) I think, at least at this stage in the blog, you're lacking the patience that games expect--20 hours is a drop in the bucket for games expected to take 100 hours or more, and I would have been bummed to shell out $ 69.95 for a game and finish it in a weekend . . .

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    1. If you think I give up too easily on games, and this is as far as you've read, I think you'll be pleased from here on.

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  29. Ohh fond memories...
    And I think you're a bit harsh ;-)

    As Torico said I think you missed some of the beauty by playing it solo.
    Some puzzle designs were clever in so far as they required/allowed the same puzzle to be solved in completely different ways in single- and multiplayer.
    I remember situations were I had to jump through endless holes to get down to some button to allow my brother to pass through doors that closed behind me, preventing him to catch up otherwise.
    Likewise he then had to dig through half the dungeon to open a way for me to get out of the hole I jumped in to open the door for him in the first place.
    Bloodwych was full of such multiplayer puzzles where each players progress depended on actions of the other player.
    I'd rank it among the top 5 of all games I ever played, honestly :-)

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  30. I had really fond memories of this game. I played it for ages on a Commodore 64 at the time, and the "two player" feature was excelent great.
    I believe I spent far more than 100 hours on this game... played from time to time... but for over a couple of years.
    I think I have somewhere a notebook with all the mapping I did at the time.
    Among my top 10 RPGs of all time... even if it lacks a story and as you say... its repetitive as hell.

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