|Stir 'em up and slather them on rye bread, and you have...a Bloodwych.|
I've learned the hard way to be cautious about making proclamations on a game's overall quality too soon. It's sometimes easy to judge a game harshly when you're simply unfamiliar with it. My early posts on Dungeon Master and Wasteland, for instance, show little of the fondness that I would ultimately come to have for the games.
Thus, I was careful to invest at least six hours into Bloodwych before coming to this conclusion: it kind-of sucks.
The primary problem is the interface. There are too many buttons to click that are too small, and the overall arrangement of screen elements makes miserable use of real estate. For instance, to cast a "magic missile" spell, I have to:
- Double-click the "suit" icon for the character who's going to cast the spell. This can be tricky because if you accidentally jiggle the mouse during the click--something fairly easy with a Trackpad--you end up moving the character's position.
- Click small arrows to turn to the correct spell page (the game doesn't bother to take you to the last page you used; you always start at the beginning of the book).
- Double-click on the right spell. Spells are shown only by rune, so you have to memorize the correct runes or position for the spell you want.
- Click very small up and down arrows to adjust the spell's power.
- Click one of two "star" icons to cast it.
|Try finding this arrow while playing with a Trackpad on a plane. Q: why didn't The Addict get a posting done earlier today? A: Turbulence.|
Needless to say, trying to do this in combat while monsters are attacking you is quite impossible. Almost all the combat spells I've cast, I've lined up ahead of time. (More on this in a second.)
As another example, take the process of buying an item for a shopkeeper:
- Double-click the character that you want to communicate with (I've been assuming the one with the highest charisma is best).
- Click "Communicate."
- Click a down arrow that's very easy to overlook.
- Click "Trading."
- Click "Purchase."
- Wait until the NPC offers to sell something.
- Click on the inventory on the opposite side of the screen.
- Add gold to the free inventory slot, clicking as many times as necessary to stack the amount of gold you want to offer.
- Return to the left side of the screen and click "Offer."
|Going through the cumbersome process of buying potions.|
Equally onerous is the process, while in combat and taking damage, of shifting the focus between characters so you can track hit point and vitality levels. Dungeon Master at least had the decency to show everyone's status bars on the same screen.
I know you're sick of hearing me talk about keyboard shortcuts, but come on. Would it have been so hard to at least map each of the characters to one of the function keys so you can quickly switch between them? Why can't the space bar activate the "attack" button?
Ah, well. Moving on. Since my first posting, I've collected a group of four party members--one of each major class--explored a good chunk of the starting dungeon, and leveled my characters up to Level 3. A few notes from my explorations:
- Thus far, the dungeon hasn't been complex enough to bother mapping. Occasionally, a button will open a wall and allow me to re-visit an earlier area, but generally, the path through the levels is very linear, requiring me to find and use the right keys on the right doors. There are two types of keys in the game--common, generic keys that open a variety of doors, and special colored keys that open specific doors. The spell "magelock" seems to obviate the former, but I have a stash anyway.
- You can try to talk with monsters just like any NPC. So far, I haven't found any purpose to doing so.
|Funny, you don't look like me in my underwear in front of my ninth-grade homeroom.|
- Like many other games, Bloodwych requires you to feed your characters, monitoring their hunger level with a status bar. So far, food has been plentiful.
- Banners on the wall give you hints. Banners outside shops tell you the prices of the goods that the shopkeeper offers.
|"Slime" is actually a healing potion.|
- There are spinners in the dungeon. Always love those. Also pit traps. I haven't yet acquired the "levitate" spell that will let me avoid them.
|The party avoids a large hole in the floor.|
- I've found two shops: a weapon and armor shop near the entrance, and a potion shop some ways into the dungeon. I accidentally killed the owner of the former, so I have nowhere to sell my weapons. In a helpful hint-filled comment, Inzimus Doto Zulen suggests I'll be able to convert items to gold with the "alchemy" spell when I get hold of it.
- A lot of treasures are found within little alcoves or on the floor, but often the items are so small I don't really see them. I've adopted the habit of clicking on even empty-looking alcoves to make sure I haven't overlooked a pixel or two.
- There have been a few button "puzzles," if they can be called that--basically, buttons on the wall that open sections of the wall. The "puzzle" part is just wandering around until you figure out what just opened.
Most of the game revolves around combat. As I indicated last time, it lacks the finesse of Dungeon Master. There are no special attacks, and you do not click combat options for each character. Instead, you choose a general posture--attack or defend--and the characters act accordingly. If you have spells queued up when you enter combat, your characters will cast them automatically. After that, it's all melee. But only the front two characters can engage in melee, meaning my two rear characters often have nothing to do. I've equipped them both with bows, but arrows are few and far between and they generally exhaust their meager supply in the first combat after I find any.
|Character inventory with a few precious, precious arrows.|
At first, I found combat extremely difficult and I died a lot. I had to keep returning to a resurrection room found near the entrance, similar to Dungeon Master's shrine alcoves.
As I got some experience, I realized that the game mechanics allow you to cheat a bit. Your opponent has to be facing you to damage you, so if you're in a big enough room and you're agile enough with the keyboard, you can dance around your opponent, hitting him from the side and rear before he has time to turn and face you. Even when the geography of the area makes this impossible, you can engage in hit and run tactics by darting forward, letting your characters strike a few blows, and then retreating to safety. Once I mastered these quasi-cheating tactics, progress became much more swift.
|My characters pummel some kind of humanoid creature.|
Leveling up happens when you sleep, and depending on the class, characters may be able to purchase new spells. Apparently, they're sold to me by the spell fairy.
I have very little sense of the size of the game or how far I've progressed in it. The manual suggests that I've started in a dungeon called Treihadwyl, and that I'll eventually need to retrieve four crystals from four towers before confronting Zendick in a fifth tower. So far, I haven't found any crystals, so I'm guessing I have a long way to go. I'm going to give it a few more hours to see if anything interesting develops. For those of you who seem to like this game, I have to echo what William said in a comment a few days ago: what do you see in it?