|Congratulations to Drakkhen on providing the weirdest monster I've ever encountered in a CRPG. Is this what you were all talking about in last posting's comments?|
I want to thank Tomsk for cluing me in as to the uses of the "Shield" spell. I figured it just subtracted a few points from the armor class, but instead it makes the spellcaster essentially immune to physical attacks for its duration, which is usually longer than a single combat.
|Dumaine takes on a couple of armored Drakkhen by himself.|
This doesn't quite turn the two spellcasters who have "Shield" into unstoppable killing machines, because they simply can't damage some higher-level enemies with good armor (I'm not sure exactly why, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the strength score; casting "Strength" seems to help a little). They're also not immune to magical attacks like paralysis. But the ability did allow me to grind my priest and mage against random wilderness enemies and thus get them on par, level-wise, with the fighter and scout. (You can keep the fighter and scout out of the battle by assigning them to cast the "strength" spell and nothing else; when they run out of spell points, they just stand around.)
|The priest and mage grind while the fighters stand around.|
This partly goes to show that you can't ignore magic in this game. There are a lot of games that you can simply smash your way through, even if you have spellcasters in the party. But without "Paralysis," "Shield," "Dispel," "Antimagic," and a few others, I'm not sure Drakkhen would be survivable. Like The Dark Heart of Uukrul, this forces you to consider your characters as a team rather than a couple of fighters and their supporting pack mules.
From my last posting, you may recall that I had trouble with the Water Castle when I first entered, and I had to do a bunch of grinding before I could survive it, and the same thing happened with the Air Castle. The first few rooms weren't bad, and I encountered some excellent armor in one of the rooms. (For some reason, my mage can wear the cuirass and greaves but my priest can't.) But I kept running into this heavily-armored Drakkhen who cast paralysis spells and decimated my characters with physical attacks. My priest and mage couldn't damage him, and my fighter and scout didn't have the "Shield" protection, so they kept dying. Hence, I went back out into the ice fields to grind for a day--checking in with my characters between bouts of work and Reddit, and reloading every time something able to kill me. Eventually, I felt they were strong enough to take on the castle's denizens. By now, everyone was up to Level 9. I also had a ton of gold, but after some initial equipment purchases, gold in this game is only very useful for resurrections. Oh, and during this process, I managed to kill that flying centipede constellation thing, which was pretty cool.
(It occurs to me that if it weren't for all the waiting and grinding, this would be an extremely quick game. Despite what I said in my first posting, the game world is not all that large. There are four sections and only one or two full castles in each one. An invulnerable party could breeze through them in a couple of hours.)
I do wish the game would have named the creatures, because I otherwise don't know how to refer them. Some are nifty and weird by appearance, even if their attacks boil down to blunt force and, occasionally, a basic spell. Besides the paper-doll shimmying dancing girl at the top of the posting, here are some more interesting ones:
|Klaatu Barada Nikto!|
|Some kind of harpy?|
Okay, on to the plot. I had been directed to the Prince of Air by some notes saying he was about to be attacked by the Fire/Water axis after his sister betrayed him. When I got to his castle, it was destroyed:
One of his servants encouraged me to hurry on to the Princess of Air, who was planning to sacrifice the Princess of Earth and steal her "tear"--the eight tears turn out to be gems that the four princes and four princesses all wear.
The servant said that he'd give me a ring to help me find the castle--one of the only locations in the game not right off a main road. If he gave me anything, or it helped in any way, I never noticed it. I found it through a long process of wandering around the northern ice wastes for about 90 minutes. (Without a compass, it's very hard to keep a consistent heading and ensure that you've searched every area.) When I finally saw the structure in the distance, I felt a sense of joy incomparable to anything else in this game.
Like all the other castles, it had some beautifully-composed interiors, tough foes, and weapon and armor upgrades.
There was one area where a door locked behind me, and I couldn't figure out how to get out, so I had to restart. Amidst some catacombs, I found Princess Hordtkha (Earth), who told me that the "tears" referred to in the game manual and throughout the game are actually gems worn on the foreheads of each of the princes and princesses. She gave me her tear and told me I'd have to collect the eight others. She suggested I go next to the Princess of Water. I never did encounter the Princess of Air herself, despite this being her castle. The crazy old bearded guy was in the castle, but he didn't have anything interesting to say. (Incidentally, I have not found a single use for the "wave hello" or "impress" icons at the top of the panel; "question" gets me everything I need.)
I prepared for another bout of grinding, but it turned out the Princess of Water's castle actually wasn't so hard. Most of the creatures weren't hostile. There were a couple of unicorns that didn't seem to want anything to do with me. Part of me hopes that this is a puzzle that I just missed out on; you don't just drop unicorns into a game and give the player nothing to do with them.
|I'd be offended, but everyone in the game says that when I wave at them.|
The Princess of Water turned out to have divided with her brother. She was on our side. She claimed to lead something called the "Forces of the Ninth Tear," which was opposing the Prince of Fire's aggression. She told me that the Prince of Earth (the one that started me on this whole quest) was preparing to join with Fire, so I needed to go back to his castle and kill him for his tear, then return to her. She also gave me an awesome sword and armor. Anyway, it sounds like what was Fire & Water vs. Air & Earth is turning out to be more complicated. We've got the Princesses of Earth and Water (and, it later turns out, Fire) on the "good" side, along with the Prince of Air, and the other three princes plus the Princess of Air on the "bad" side.
|Our initial conversation wasn't promising.|
So, back to the Castle of Earth! That meant crossing that flashing dragon superhighway where none of my fancy weapons, armor, and spells did jack.
|What IS this place?|
But eventually I circumvented it and assailed Hordtkhen's (wouldn't you think the shark would be at the Castle of Water?). He hadn't upgraded his guards or anything, but he was nigh-impossible. The only weapon that would do any damage was the dragon sword that the Princess of Water had given me, and his attacks destroyed my armor. I settled on a pattern of using "Invisibility" and "Shield" to minimize attacks, while trading the dragon sword among my characters. The best outcome I could get after 10 or 12 tries was one character dead and a couple of pieces of armor (fortunately, not the really good stuff) destroyed.
With his tear, I went and raised Ferdinand (which, like yesterday, involved going to the weapon shop first, pooling my gold to Ferdinand, and then finding the temple), then headed back to the Princess of Water, who gave me her tear and told me to check out what was going on with the Princess of Fire, who hasn't been heard from in a while.
I leave you having arrived at the Princess of Fire's castle, which has a Taj Mahal theme going, and I suppose I'll go all the way to the end with the damned game at this point.
Now, from my readers, a little Christmas help. Irene likes plot-thick, dialogue heavy CRPGs that we can play on the console. I can read online reviews, of course, but they don't tell me most of the things that I really want to know, such as the extent of NPC dialogue and dialogue choices, and the presence of romances, both of which area big thing with her. I'm weighing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Dark Souls, and Dragon's Dogma, or just giving the Mass Effect series a try. Keeping Irene's preferences in mind, any opinions on these games?