Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Deark Heart of Uukrul Would Know


When I last blogged, I had just gotten the thread of the main quest, and since then, I've made fairly good progress, finding three of the six stone hearts and solving Sagaris's little "pool" quest.

As much as I love the descriptions in this game, why does it decide my character is "grinning insanely." I'll role-play my own party, thanks.

Two of the hearts were behind secret doors, but banners in the Circle of Mages area had given me clues as to where the doors could be found (they were in areas I'd already mapped, but not searched every wall for doors). I finally got Drutho to give me the ring level with the HOYAMOQ (open secret doors) prayer, so I could get through them.

That's a little melodramatic, Drutho.

Sagaris's quest was to get some kind of cylinder from a pool. Only my cleric could penetrate the unholy miasma around the pool and come out unscathed.

When I gave Sagaris his cylinder, he rewarded me with a wand that automatically translated messages. Thinking I could just keep using NGOS to do the translation, I sold the wand for a lot of gold, which turned out to be a mistake, as I'm encountering more and more messages that defy my mage's ability to translate them.

The insulting thing is, he gave me the wand as a reward and then made me pay to identify it.
But anyway, getting into the area with the pool involved a difficult puzzle, and I wonder if it was the one that Chris L was referring to (his 90-year-old grandmother helped him solve it). Although I solved it without a ton of trouble, I don't understand some of the clues.

The puzzle began with this image reminiscent of a game of "Hangman":

It shows five blanks, indicating that the answer is going to be five letters long. Nearby was a teleporter that took me to different areas, each with a message board on the wall with different clues. The clues are:

  • "My first was of the forming, and lies forever still"
  • "My second of the aftermath--the cooling of the kill"
  • "My third is me alone--one of the mighty three"
  • "My fourth is an elixir and the parting of the ways"
  • "My last is of the holocaust with the dying of the days"

Take a few minutes to see if you can solve it. Answer after the image below.

So I got it through the third and fourth letters. I realized the clues were pointing to individual letters. "Me alone" has to refer to the letter I--one of the "mighty three" of "me, myself, and I." There's only one letter that sounds like a beverage ("elixir") and a junction where the "ways" part: T. The others are to be found as the first letters of the words that follow "of the": F, A, H. Put them together in order and you have FAITH. But I actually didn't figure it out from the clues; I had already noticed that the first letters of the sentence on the hangman's puzzle ("FEAR ALONE IS THE HANGMAN") spell "FAITH."

What I don't understand is the ends of the first, second, and fifth sentences. Is "lies forever still" supposed to somehow elicit an "F" or an "F" sound? Same with the others.

Either way, there were a couple ways to go about solving it and I guess none is best. The word opened the secret door into the pool area.

During this process of finding hearts and puzzles and such, the game returned to complete linearity. When I last blogged, I said I had six or seven staircases unexplored. But one by one I checked them off. Some led to single rooms rather than entire levels (common in this game). When I was done, I only had one place left to go. Non-linearity was an illusion.

That one place turned out to be a large area full of illusions and navigation puzzles. Many of the rooms look the same, the area defies automapping, and the compass doesn't work most of the time. Most annoying, a few times I found myself in corridors from which there appeared to be no exit. I would have been in serious trouble if I wasn't allowing myself to use backups from the sanctuaries.

I've been mostly relying on the automaps lately, but perhaps it's time to change that policy.
At one point, I got an image of Mara, who told me to follow signs her followers had left to a valuable treasure.

I followed the signs, and I had to navigate a mine field. Maps of the mines' locations were posted on various walls, but I didn't have them all when I got to the field and I had to get through it partly via trial and error.

On the other side was a room with a teleporter and an "Amulet of Escape." Rubbing the amulet anywhere in the dungeon returns me to the room where I got it, where I can avail myself of the teleporter to go anywhere else. I thought it was a fantastic gift and I looked forward to using it frequently, but I guess I missed the part where Mara said it was one-use only. I used it to get out of a illusory room with no walls and never saw it again.

Nowhere does it say "once."

The third heart was in the maze area, and it was a bit easier to find. I got the hint after I found the heart.

This at least explains why the passages turn back on themselves.
Around this time, the game ramped up the difficultly significantly--but, fortunately, also the experience point rewards. My characters have gone up two levels since I last posted. They've also died a lot. I confess that I've gotten sick of the attribute and experience point losses that accompany resurrection, and I've been using restoration points when the characters die. But lest you think this is cheating, I should point out that there's a lot of playing time in between visits to the sanctuaries, so dying has real consequences.

I think this is more experience than I'd received in the previous 100 combats combined.
My bĂȘtes noires right now are black orcs, armored skeletons, and hell hounds. They deal a ton of melee damage, frequently stun my characters, and have high armor classes themselves. Armored skeletons can also drain experience, and hell hounds can breathe fire. Anything that poisons has become less of a problem, though, as Prufrock got a cure poison spell with his latest advancement in the Healing Arkana.

Anyway, as I write I'm traveling down a very long (>50 squares) east-west corridor in which I encounter a fight every four or five steps. It's the only way to get to the unexplored part of the game, so I'm going to have to tough my way through it. For anyone else playing the game with me (cough, Eino), if you still have unexplored areas when you reach this corridor (you'll know it), go back and clear them up first.

The game's approach to secret doors is perhaps its most annoying feature. Although you are alerted to some via maps and hints, you really just have to search every wall (an activity that increases the chances of random encounters) to be confident you've found them all. They're not all in non-obvious places, like dead-end passages. I found one on a pillar.

Even after you find them, you have to get them open. As I said earlier, forcing them and looking for hidden releases have generally stopped working, so I'm relying on the cleric prayer HOYAMOQ. But, as you know, prayers often fail, and this one often requires four or five successful castings before the door fully opens and lets me through. I sometimes run out of virtue points before I finish the process, and I have to repeat it again after the points are recharged. Then, to make things worse, once I finally force the door open, it doesn't stay open. If I go through it, I often have to find and open it again from the other side.

A few other notes:

  • I wish the game told you more about equipment. I'm relying on the value of weapons to figure out which is likely "best"; nothing tells you how much damage they do. There are also a ton of items sold in the equipment shop that sound good but leave my mystified as to what they do. Their prices are high enough to discourage experimentation. They include ampoules, Sprigs of Athelas, a Tome of Ruination, a Necronomicon, a Plane Nexus, a Fulminating Crystal, and various types of crosses.
  • Sagaris really likes to make jokes when he identifies stuff.

  • Encumbrance is becoming a problem. As I upgrade armor, it generally gets heavier, and a couple of my characters can't carry anything beyond their armor and weapons.
  • I found this out by accident: some key encounters, you can repeat if you decline to take the quest item (like a key) that the encounter provides. I though the risk/experience ratio against the wizard below was pretty good, so I kept refusing to take his key at the end of the battle, and I got to fight him eight or nine times.

  • I had a couple of encounters with gnomish creatures that had something to do with a "nose-ring." I never found out what was going on and nothing became of them.

I know I keep mentioning this, but I just love the quality of the text and the encounters.  Here are a few random shots:

I haven't figured out what it's for yet.

Isn't this so much better than just having them attack you?

This coincidentally goes along with my characterization of Prufrock. He would have been the last one to want to cross a dangerous dungeon corridor looking for a gem. Gliglois or Plenamujer must have pushed him into it.

Hey, the gold that I dug out of this pile of dung bought my next armor upgrade.

These two encounters followed each other in quick succession:

Ha ha! I killed him.

I took a half-hour video of some of the gameplay elements. It takes place fairly early in this session, ending just as I start to encounter the FAITH puzzle. I tried to illustrate the shops, dungeon exploration, combat, magic, secret doors, sanctuaries, and many of the other things you encounter in the game. It's embedded below; here's the link to the YouTube version.

The chokepoint in the east-west corridor feels like a "halfway" point in the game, especially since I have three of the six hearts I need to defeat Uukrul. I'm curious what will happen over the next three days. Hurricane Sandy has canceled a trip I was supposed to take Monday-Wednesday this week, so I have three unexpected free days to play as much of the game as I want. But then again, it might knock out my power, leaving me unable to play anything. Anyone on the east coast, take care and good luck.


  1. I had forgotten about the hangman I don't think it was the one that Chris L was referring to, as there's still a big puzzle you have yet to encounter.

    I think that for clues 1, 2, and 5, you're right in that the clue is the first part (in the word after "of the"), and the rest is just something to enable the rhymes.

    Also, you might not be quite halfway, as there are more hearts than you need to beat the game--I think there are 8 total and you only need 6.

    1. I had forgotten the hangman puzzle too... it's not the one I was thinking of, but still a fun little puzzle.

    2. I trust you were talking about the crossword. Otherwise, if you solved that as a kid WITHOUT your grandmother's help, you deserve to be on TV or something.

  2. There isn't any sort of equipment guide in the manual? I remember a lot of old games would have a table or something.

    1. No, but in re-checking, I found a whole section of the manual that I forgot to read, and it's quite important. I'll talk about it next time.

    2. You mean Mara's diary? Yes, that is vital reading for completing parts of the game.

    3. Check my posting today. My re-read, in addition to giving me hints from Mara's diary, helped me recall a spell at a crucial time.

  3. Nice video! Very pleasant voice compared to most of what I've heard on YouTube.
    Don a Chet Baker T-Shirt and ChetChat could give MattChat a run for its money. But give that office chair some oil.

    As for items descriptions they aren't just funny. Clubs actually do extra damage against orcs, and may have come in handy against the dreaded Black Orcs (told you they were nasty), since you don't have any really good all-round weapons yet.

    The whole Hangman puzzle was a bit of a red herring, though, since you don't actually need to complete it.

    1. How so? How else would I have gotten the password for the door?

    2. What was behind the door was the (kind of) red herring. You don't really need that wand. In fact, didn't you sell it?

    3. Well, yes...but I imagined that Sagaris recovering his item was necessary for something later on in the game.

    4. According to what i know, he needs that black item at final situation in the game. I don't know what happens if he doesnt get that black cylinder.

    5. Ah yes, you are right.
      I wish I know what I was thinking of...

  4. I love reading the text descriptions in this game! Really good quality writing. I miss those nice little touches of imagination.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't know how you could include them in modern games. When games can feature every type of texture, object, and ambient noise, there's nothing left for text to do.

    2. Maybe they could do it like the narrator in Bastion?

      For those that haven't played it there is a voice over narrating what is going on. It's way more fun then it sounds.

    3. CRPG Addict; What about audiologs? Those can have some lovely touches. Or the books in Skyrim? Or games that aren't AAA?

  5. I assume you probably live more to the east, but if you want to come to Greenfield you can charge your laptop on my generator.

    1. Thanks, roberski. We do live on the seacoast. I was without power for a little over a day, but I rented a motel room to shower and charge my computer. All told, a minor inconvenience compared to what the rest of the east coast suffered.

  6. Might as well post my progress report here. I'm not reading all of the post above, since there's obviously (the screenshots tell me) stuff I haven't encountered yet.

    I did solve the pool puzzle. But most of the clues, I couldn't figure out. When I reached the secret door and it talked about the devotion of my priest, "faith" seemed pretty obvious. I knew it was a five-letter word because the hangman game had five words. But I couldn't even figure out five clues meant five letters! Let alone that "Fear Alone Is The Hangman" spells it out. Oh well, not a bad puzzle if there's several ways to figure it out, huh?

    Another fun thing is the long cavern, which hosts the pool puzzle and several side attractions. I traveled quite far along it several times, only to turn back and run for the previous sanctuary. I described this in my previous comment, and like I said I once lost my priest for good. Good times, really felt the pressure when fleeing. The funny thing is, the next sanctuary was just around the corner, I was just too anxious to push onwards! You start to encounter more tough enemies in the end, or so it seemed. I really like how the cavern is long enough to feel like a long trek, but not overly long to feel just empty space and padding.

    The next area (that you seem to have explored already judging by the screenshots), had me trapped in a place with a secret door out, but I couldn't just force it open, and my priest was out of power to pray it to open. I guess I could have done it, if the priest wasn't on lower level than the rest of the party due to having to hire a new one. There's no way to rest properly outside of sanctuaries, is there? So I was practically stuck and had to restore a back-up.

    I'll probably be back to this game sometime soonish, I hope. It's a really, really good game, it's just fallen to the side for me.


    1. Of all the original elements in this game, what I enjoyed least was its approach to secret doors. It was always confusing whether a) I just needed to keep casting spells until they opened; b) I needed some kind of key or passcode; or c) I needed to wait and come back with more spell power. And then the whole closing-behind-you bit.

      It's good to hear about your experiences, though. Please keep commenting.

  7. Been burning through all of the posts to date, starting from the beginning...if memory serves (and this may be dealt with in future posts), the Medal of Escape is around the corner or down the hall or something from the Melas teleporter in a box or something. you can keep popping back and grabbing it. For a few times at least...

  8. Well I think Sagaris' jokes are groan inducing. I had my head on the desk a few times. And I have to second your opinion regarding secret doors, that was really annoying.

  9. Blue fulminating crystal stuns the enemy. Very useful fighting some of the big baddies like the dragon. :1)


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