|I've got almost a thousand games to find out!|
Well, I won Uukrul, but in a very unsatisfying way. In my "More Puzzles" posting of 12 days ago, I suggested I was close to the end, and I was. I only had about 6 hours of gameplay to go. But as I mentioned in my last posting, I went on vacation with Irene, and found my playing time severely limited. I sneaked in 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, but that was playing, not writing. Rather than taking notes on what was happening, I took copious screen shots, trusting myself to remember later what was going on. It was a bad plan; I'm finding it very difficult to reconstruct all the steps that brought me to the end of the game.
When I last blogged, I was just on the cusp of achieving a major goal: the attainment of the titular dark heart of Uukrul. It was in an urn locked by 6 locks that I needed to open with stone hearts scattered throughout the dungeon. There were apparently 8 hearts total (thus allowing the player to skip some puzzles); I only found 7, but they were enough.
|Uukrul reacts with aplomb to my literally holding his heart in my hands.|
I also had found and reforged the obsidian hammer that Mara's party had lost. At that point, my major goal was to find Uukrul, smash his heart in his presence, and kill him.
|"Chaos beyond its halls" turned out not to be a metaphor.|
The last few areas were navigational nightmares, with lots of secret doors, teleporters (some of which required puzzle-solving to use), magical elevator shafts, spinners, and one-way doors. The palace had multiple levels that I had to access by enabling a series of numbered teleporters, standing on them, and rolling a die I had looted from some mages.
|"Adron's die" turned out to be an important clue.|
|This navigation puzzle was complicated, and I didn't take good enough notes to recall it all for you.|
I found the area where I could arm the beacon, as Mara directed, but I couldn't figure out the codes for the life of me, despite some signs nearby that suggested they provided some hints:
So it was on to Uukrul. He was behind three riddles. The first just described UUKRUL and thus led to the easy answer. The second described a die and asked me to name its owner, which I wouldn't have known if Mara hadn't referred to "Adron's die." The third was the most difficult:
It turned out I had an item called "Areth's plaque" which contained the inscription "I WILL RULE." I don't even remember where I got it, but it turned out to be the answer to the puzzle.
I went through the door, and there was the dark lord himself:
Uukrul wasn't as hard as he could have been. He attacked me alone (no minions) and cast a lot of stun spells, but these were easily prevented with the RESEN spell. The big problem was that he was a little pansy and kept running away during the movement phase. I got his health down through repeated use of the RALKOR prayer while my mage kept up the RESEN and healing.
To defeat him, I first had to shatter his heart, thus binding him to the combat:
Then, I had to strike the killing blow with the obsidian hammer. I didn't realize this at first, so I couldn't understand why his health kept regenerating every time I killed him. But once I remembered the hammer, Uukrul died distressingly quickly.
|Lunging must be difficult with a giant warhammer.|
I thought killing Uukrul might be the end of the game, but I still had a few tasks. Sagaris showed up and said that I needed to free Mara and destroy the underground city of Eriosthe, so Uukrul's minions would be defeated and no one would rise to take his place.
Mara was being held prisoner in "Chaos," navigating which was much as its name would have suggested. It had one of those magical elevator shafts that brought me to levels based on various combinations of cards in the possession of my mage. Aside from navigation--complicated by spinners and automatic teleporters--the puzzle wasn't too hard. Messages on the walls clued me into the solution. One one level of the prison was a series of 7 switches that I had to trip by walking on their squares.
The trick was, I only had 18 steps to trip all 7 switches (once I started) before the puzzle re-set. It would have been a neat puzzle if the game had forced me to figure out the path that would let me hit all 7 within 18 steps, but it kind of ruined the puzzle by just giving me a map on the wall:
Once I tripped all the switches, I returned to the cage containing Mara, went in, and woke her up by removing the amulet keeping her in a coma.
Mara reiterated what Sagaris had told me: that I needed to enable a "beacon" to destroy the city. Fortunately, I found a codebook in Uukrul's chambers that granted me the translation key I needed to turn on the beacon. This also could have been a more difficult puzzle, but it was simple letter/number substitution.
|Is that a euphemism for dying? Also, you're a bit ugly.|
The game had one last copy protection challenge for me, as I had to enter the last line of an "untranslatable" prayer that appeared in the game manual:
I should have recorded the endgame from here, but I didn't, so I'll just give you the final game text:
As you intone the last words of Lairian, there is a deep rumbling sound. A beam of blinding light pierces the slot in the roof. The last thing you are aware of is a peaceful smile on the faces of Mara and Sagaris.As if in a dream, your souls are drawn from your bodies. You are somehow aware of an immense explosion, yet you cannot feel anything. Slowly, your surroundings become more distinct. You realize that you are floating high into the sky.You look down on Eriosthe. As if in slow motion, you see the great Mountain City bathed in a brilliant light, brighter than a thousand suns. You keep ascending, and you notice the stars around you now, no longer high above.
Your journey slows, and you find yourselves in a huge palace, like the one within Eriosthe, yet much more regal. Nearby, you see Mara and Sagaris. They approach, and their forms are now more whole and real than their bodies ever were.Sagaris raises his hand in greeting. "You four, Gliglois, Invictia, Plenamujer, Prufrock, have wrought a great victory. In Eriosthe, the end has come, the beacon has been lit. We are now with the gods, immortal and everliving.He continues: "You may now know my true name: Suraqis, first of the Ancient kings. I was able to use arcane magic and the psychic will of the enchantress Mara to return from the past, to aid your party in your quest against darkness."
|And what part of your quest forced you to be snarky about identifying my stuff?|
"But I could not reveal myself to you until the last moment, lest the knowledge should have passed also to Uukrul. Even so, images of Suraqis tormented his dreams, and he would soon have known I was there. But that is all in the past."Mara looks at last fulfilled, her features no longer wearied. She speaks: "We are now heroes, to be sung of in taverns and blessed in temples, but greater things lie ahead. Come, let us meed Adron; he has long been awaiting your arrival."Suraqis and Mara guide you through the palaces, past magnificent towering pillars towards a huge throne. In a blaze of light shining before you, you can make out the form of the great god Adron.
|The manual and game mention Adron several times, but it was always unclear to me who he was.|
As you approach the throne, you realize that your task is indeed complete, Uukrul has been destroyed, and evil will never again dwell in Eriosthe. You gaze upward, and wonder if the rest of eternity is going to be this exciting...
And that's it! I thought it was a pretty satisfying ending, although the "everybody ascends into heaven and becomes a demi-god" is becoming a bit overdone at this point, having already been featured in Phantasie III and The Bard's Tale III and a few others.
I ended the game with my characters at Level 14, one below the highest possible level. I never did get crystal rings in most of the Arkanas, but it turned out I didn't really need them. The game was extremely light on combat in the end stages. I only fought three or four combats in the palace area, including the fight with Uukrul, and there wasn't a single combat in the "chaos" area. Puzzles definitely dominated the endgame, which was slightly disappointing since I'd achieved some good spells and found some powerful items.
I haven't started the GIMLET yet, but I'm predicting that Uukrul will fall in the top 10% of games. I found it an extremely satisfying game, with almost just the right combination of elements, length, and difficulty. Stay tuned for the final rating.