Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Game 80: Drakkhen (1989)





Oh, my, is this an odd game. I can already tell I'm going to have a love/hate relationship with it. Reader Nathan Pym gave me some advance notice that it was going to seem like a big leap forward, and it sure does. Let's start with the good: it has an interface of a style I've never seen before. For most of the game, you're in third-person view, but from the side, as if your PCs are characters in a sitcom, and you're sitting in the studio audience looking through the fourth wall.

But when outdoors, you can hit the ENTER key, the characters obediently walk off the screen, and the game turns into a continuously-scrolling, 3-D exploration of a huge world. Whenever an enemy shows up, or you just feel like it, the characters reappear and you can control them individually in combat and other interactions.

You'll have to take my word that it's continuously scrolling until I get some video up.

I'm trying to remember if we've had a continuously-scrolling, first-person game so far, and the only one I can come up with is Alternate Reality: The City (how did they do that back in 1985?). I think games with fixed-squares will continue to dominate for a few more years, so this one is fairly groundbreaking in that regard.

The VGA images are also lovely. Coming off a series of games like Bloodwych, The Dark Heart of Uukrul, and Don't Go Alone, with their featureless corridors, it's refreshing to play a game in which castles feel like real places, with little decorations and details.

The characters study a tapestry in a castle hall.

The back story, told in ornamented prose (but generally quite good), from several different perspectives, explains that the world has entered its death throes thanks to a callous knight who, seeking glory, slew the last great dragon. The dragon used its last energy to fly away from the battle and plunge its dying body into a volcano, and the clueless knight was executed by the Emperor for his misdeed. Since then, magic--the fundamental basis of the world--has failed. Wizards can't cast spells; some have been driven to suicide, others have been stoned by furious members of the populace who have grown dependent on their magic. Palaces built on magic have crumbled to dust, and barbarian invaders are harrying the borders of the empire.

During this crisis, a ship called the Shadrack was cast adrift in the open sea when its Wind Wizard lost his power. Carried on a current, it ran aground on a mysterious continent that did not appear on any charts. An expeditionary force sent inland found that the populace was made of humanoid Drakkhen (dragon kind) who live under a rigid caste system. They have cities, castles, towns, farms, taverns, temples, and all the other trappings of civilization. The wizards among the crew discovered that, on the island, some of their magic worked again. Most importantly, a priest with the expedition visited a Drakkhen temple and was told by the priest that the death of the last dragon heralded the coming of a new age in which Drakkhen kind would sweep humanity from the world.

A Drakkhen warrior, from the game manual.

The shipwrecked sailors got their vessel back in order, fled the island continent, returned to the empire, and reported to the Emperor. (The priest had stayed behind.) The Emperor convened a council and came up with a desperate plan to have four heroes, led by the Arch Priest of the One, Vhal Hart Hann Jurgen von Wessenmayer (very silly party), return to the Drakkhen continent, find the priest, solve the mystery, and stop the end of the world.

The party begins having apparently already reached the continent. None of the default characters are Vhal Hart etc., so I don't know exactly what was going on with that bit in the manual.

To win, I must conquer this island.

Naturally, I created my own party, and for whatever reason, I went with an all female band: Cressida the Amazon, Rosalind the Scout, Miranda the Priestess, and Titania the Sorceress. This is the third game I've played recently (following The Dark Heart of Uukrul and Don't Go Alone) in which you have a four-character party, and the four characters must include one of each of four classes (i.e., you cannot adventure with four fighters). During character creation, you get a pool of five randomly-rolled statistics that you have to assign to strength, dexterity, intelligence, constitution, and education (i.e., wisdom). The game also rolls a "luck" variable that you can't change. If you don't like the roll, you can roll again--but only up to three times, at which point, your stuck with whatever came up on the third roll unless you want to start the entire party creation process all over again.

Dragging the statistics where I want them.

Everyone starts in their smallclothes, and you have to immediately head to their inventories to equip their starting weapons and armor (I beat on my first few foes with fists before I realized this). The game helpfully notes that "the objects held by the character are in red, while the objects he's carrying in his pack are in green," which means for the entire time I play this game, I'm going to guess whether I have something equipped or not (fortunately, the portrait shows weapons and armor). I guess red and blue would have been too difficult to program.

Equipping the party.

Movement isn't the only thing to occur in real time. If you just stand around, outside or inside, monsters inevitably show up. Combat is bizarre, and I can tell I'm not going to like it. It will be slightly familiar to anyone who has played Ultima VII. When faced with a foe, you click the combat icon and everyone springs into action, attacking with whatever swords or spells you've readied in the lower left. It looks like a frantic melee on the screen, but there are really no tactics to it. Experience is rewarded to the character that makes the kill, which means my amazon has almost everything; fortunately, you can have individual characters attack enemies without the rest of the party. Slain enemies "chunk," with body parts flying off the screen in all directions, which is a little nonsensical and a bit disgusting.

Pieces of my foe go flying all over the screen.

Magic seems fairly basic: you have a pool of mana and a selection of spells based on character class. I've got strength, healing, and lightning bolt spells to start. The spells are rendered in runic on the screen, which means you essentially have to have the manual open at all times so you can translate the runes to the actual spells, or you have to develop some kind of mnemonic device to remember them. As if this wasn't copy protection enough, the game occasionally pops up with a question about a word found in some code table, of which of course I have a text copy.

A page from the spellbook

Anyway, something seems amiss with the magic because I can't get the healing spells to work. They seem to cast okay, but the recipient's health doesn't go back up.

The controls are mostly mouse-driven and not very good. You select a character, click with the mouse to move her to your preferred location, and then click one of the "action" icons (wave hello, question, impress, pick up, attack, use, look, and exit) to tell her what to do. I find that it's tough to click on the right place sometimes, and all-too-easy to accidentally click on a different character. Sometimes the characters keep bustling around the screen even when you've told them to stop. I wish the game had allowed the use of the arrow keys to move the character instead. According to the manual, the keypad should perform the actions in the lower-right control panel, but it doesn't work with my keyboard; the only keyboard controls that work are F1-F4 to select the characters. If the selected character leaves the room, the party splits up--unless the active character is designed the "leader," in which case all the other characters follow.

In addition to graphics, the game has some decent sound, although I found the music repetitive, overdone, and annoying, and I turned it off. Satisfying thumps and slashes accompany combat, and there are other sound effects for taking various actions; it's early in the game and I don't have a full sense of them yet.

The save difficulty is to my liking. You only have one save slot, and you can only save outdoors. Since I have no idea whether resurrection is even possible in this game (or how to do it if it is), I've been reloading after every single-character death, which happens quite frequently. Aside from combat, it appears that even touching water is deadly. If you're navigating in first-person view and you're not careful, suddenly one or more of your characters will sink and die.

Could you ladies at least try to swim?

Full-party death produces a screen that makes you feel just horrible about yourself, describing how the armies of Drakkhen spread unchecked and the human race is wiped out.

Okay, I got it already! I'm reloading, okay?!

As the game started, my characters were standing on a road outside a keep. I'm not really sure where on the continent we are.

The four ladies stroll into the adventure. I feel like something by Helen Reddy ought to be playing here.

At first, I tried wandering in random directions, but I kept encountering battles that left everyone dead. I suspect I'm meant to explore the keep first.

Okay! I'll just be heading back the way I came, then.

 Getting into the keep required a little trial and error. The moat is patrolled by a shark which leaps out of the water and swallows anyone who tries to cross the drawbridge. Eventually, I figured out how to cross by waiting until he'd passed under the bridge and dashing across before he had time to circle back around.

The shark snatches one of my characters.

Upon entry, the game informed me that I had "just broken into the palace of Prince Hordtkhen, the Prince of Earth." (To be fair, the gate was open.) Each of the four doorways out of the entry room was protected by a continuous bolt of energy, and I had to turn it off by pulling some kind of lever (you can barely see them) between the doorways. Pulling the wrong one produced a pair of hunchbacked-looking things (the game tells you no information about your foes, and neither does the manual), which were my first kills.


I moved through the other rooms, looting things like torches and bucklers from the walls (only my amazon had started with one), swords from weapon racks, and coins from a pile of hay. You basically have to walk up to everything and hit the "take" button in case something is there. I assume a sword is better than a dagger and a "rod," but there's nothing in the game that tells me one way or the other.


In one of the rooms, I had a vision from some human-looking guy with a cane who told me that if I visit Princess Hordtkha, "tell her that her brother has become too dangerous for the League of the Ninth Tear." This is a reference to part of the game story, in which the dragon priest had said something cryptic about the dragon god shedding nine tears instead of eight, and how the last was for the non-dragon races. I really didn't know what it was talking about, but I assume the game will reveal this as I explore.

This guy shows up a lot on the road, too, and always says something cryptic.

Upstairs, there was an armored Drakkhen and a couple of spellbooks on table, which the game tells me "can't be translated." Moving through some rooms, I finally encountered the Drakkhen prince in his bedchamber. He thought about killing me but instead gave me a quest to deliver a message to his sister in her palace to the east.

Note that the three characters I'm not directly controlling just went and walked right on up to him. They do that.
 
There were some other areas to explore in the castle, but I kept dying, so I figured I'd save them for when I returned (hopefully with more levels and gear).

As I left the castle, it was getting dark. I boldly strode forward on the road...


...and realized I don't have the faintest idea where "east" is. There's no compass, no auto map, nothing. Trying random directions, I kept dying at the hands of extremely fearsome creatures.

In not many games can your level 1 characters encounter an enormous dragon within three minutes of the starting area.

At one point, the old bearded man showed up in my path and told me that the prince's castle was "north of the western crossroads." That gave me something to go on: I need to find a crossroads near the prince's castle. If I know the castle is north of it, I can figure out which way is east.

Unfortunately, shortly afterwards I managed to save the game right before some giant flying caterpillar thing swooped down on me. I can't even hit him, let alone defeat him, and he's there again every time I reload. The game doesn't seem to offer an "escape" option for combat. I'm faced with the prospect of recreating my entire party.

Is it just me, or does this look a little like those things in The Avengers?
 
Aside from the difficulty, I don't know how much patience I'm going to have for this game's interface. The characters blunder into each other constantly, and it's difficult to move them out of the way so you can properly search a room. They block each other's paths through doorways, and otherwise stymy every attempt at efficient navigation. They wander up to monsters and attack even when I try to keep them away or tell them to use spells.

For those of you who have played Drakkhen, I would appreciate hints about any of the following:

  • Why don't my healing spells work? I'm doing what the manual says: selecting them, then right-clicking on the intended recipient.
  • What's the deal with hit point and spell point regeneration? It seems to happen very erratically.
  • Is there any way to tell which direction you're going that I've overlooked?
  • Any way to escape combat that I'm just not seeing?
 
The game seems so promising that it would be a shame to not finish because of these frustrations. Perhaps a little practice will iron things out.

83 comments:

  1. The 3D exploration mode looks similar to that of Betrayal at Krondor, which Dynamix adapted from their flight simulator engines. I didn't know that it had been done before B@K.

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    1. I wonder if it is build around Freescape engine as if you count out monsters, charcters, columns etc the scenery somewhat reminds about Driller (1988) (aka Space Station Oblivion) and Total Eclipse (1989).

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  2. "Slain enemies "chunk," with body parts flying off the screen in all directions, which is a little nonsensical and a bit disgusting." - GIMLET, may I introduce you to Giblet. Or Gib, as friends like to call him.

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    1. I was going to complain about how "unrealistic" it is, but then I remembered it's a game where I'm fightIng dragon-beasts with magic.

      You'd be surprised how many people confuse the terms. I'll go to a bar during a conference. "Hey, Chet! Can I get you a giblet on the rocks?" No, thanks. A turkey gizzard doesn't sound very appealing; not even on ice.

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    2. Could have been worse. You could have been offered a gibbet.

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    3. Enemies that exploded into "gibs" or "giblets" was all the rage in first person shooters back in the 90s. However I did learn what a gimlet is from this blog. Thank God for computer games and the Internet. My education would not be complete without them.

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    4. I'm glad I'm contributing something to the knowledge of the world. I changed my profile picture in that recognition.

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    5. I'll drink a moderate amount of alcohol to that.

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  3. Oh hey, it's Drakkhen! I remember there being a SNES port of this early in the system's lifespan that looked really cool at the time. There was also a sequel for SNES called "Dragon View," but I think the only thing it has in common with Drakkhen is the scrolling overworld.

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    1. Like many people, I think, I couldn't really make heads or tails of the SNES Drakkhen, but man oh man, I looooooved me some Dragon View. Not very CRPG-ish, though.

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  4. If the barely visible levers are those triangle shapes on the wall, well, they're red. I guess that's why you had trouble seeing them.

    You'll find your bearings, I'm sure. I think there are only to roads leading to that castle, so finding the crossroad shouldn't be a problem.

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    1. Yeah, that's the second time I've described something as "barely visible" lately only to have other people tell me that it really stands out. Sometimes I forget that everyone else sees the world a little different.

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    2. I wonder if we could screw with DOSBOX settings to flip green and blue or something. It seems like it should be possible. Or play with the colour balance via your graphics card settings. Anyone have any ideas?

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    3. I don't know what video settings Chet could use to alleviate the problem, but I've found a page that lists a number of apps that perhaps would be of use.

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    4. I appreciate that. Things aren't quite so bad that I want to install special software to deal with it, but I'll keep it in mind as an option.

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  5. About the absence of a compass, I barely remember this game respecting the Sun's movements, so, to find East, follow the sunrise.

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    1. Thanks. Obvious solution. It isn't always visible, but I'll look for it.

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    2. In CRPG's (and other computer games as well), you usually cannot expect to find something this realistic that you can use to your benefit. In fact, quite impressive by the developers! (It might be an interesting special topic to talk about different game world rules and dynamics..)

      On the other hand, how on earth - pun intended - should you know that the sun is rising from east in this universe..

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  6. I had forgotten how beautiful the manual was. I wish I had kept it somehow.

    Yeah Shankao is right. The sun give the direction: raise on the East. I found it was so neat at the time . And I was so clever to guess.
    That let you clueless on the night. And I remember trying to find some sort of "polar star" ..Dont remember if there was any.

    Dammnit it so satisfaying to be cited by the addict, I somehow feel like a mystic wise man all-knowing about Drakkhen. Now I have the duty to answer everything I can.

    The heal spell take effect once the spellcaster touch the recipient. The key word is "TOUCH". Cause most of the time he cast spell (lose mana) then go to fight the enemy (so the spell is wasted).
    You have to carefully plan your caster on NOT attacking (there is an option to manage how your character react to enemies). If I remember well healing during fight was a mess. I usually waited the end of the fight to heal every one.

    Dont remember about regeneration. There some ring to help it. And Mana regen faster. You can sleep to regen faster, but monsters can attack you, so choose the spot carefully.

    Resurrection.... Later on there is a spell for that. Meanwhile I think some Drakkhen Lord somewhere can resurrect your party. I used it for full heal regularly once I found it.


    There's a trick to escape combat: You have a button to pull every one back together (the one to get back to 1st person explore view). So you get back to 1st view And then you run from the fight, and most of the time it work.

    You should try other thing to go pass the shark. There is more than one way to solve that puzzle. which was very promising for the rest of the game. But then it resorted to clic a tiny pixel at some point.

    I have almost the need to play the game again. The equipment and leveling was very satisfying. And I ended up doing only that being totally held back by the puzzle.
    You'll get use to the rune from each spell given enough time. 20 years latter I can remember the spell on your screen with the Drakkhen prince was for healing... And that some female character were pretty nice without cloth.

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    1. btw I think it's a french game. Infogrames was French. And, on a side note, "Froideval" (given credit for scenario) is not a common french name at all. And there one Froideval (not Marcela) known by RPG players as he was behind some Pen& Paper RPG game, and even the story of a long lasting comics about D&D adventures. Dont know if the 2 are related (or if Marcela was a pen name) but the scenario was pretty decent for a crpg.

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    2. Do you regret citing my name now?

      I found another french game which could be on your list: SAPIENS

      It has 1st view continuous exploration and is from 1986 according to this site: http://www.squakenet.com/download/sapiens/7106/ (check the video)

      It has extended NPC interaction dialogue, recruitable NPC, quest, fight for food, exquisite crafting of weapons, and real time combat... So it's an Action RPG. I hope you can find it in english somewhere.

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    3. If it's this game, it's probably not on his master list because it's not classified as an RPG on MobyGames and Wikipedia hasn't even heard of it. Maybe he'll add it now, though he's already passed 1987, the year this came out. However there seems to be a Windows version which came out in 1996. So...

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    4. I played sapiens in 87, and I think it's a prehistoric man simulator / rpg.

      I remember it as a good, different game.

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    5. It seems to be missing dinosaurs. Didn't those stupid frenchmen learn anything from the Flintstones?

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    6. I'm pretty sure those names are French. Seeing the last names capitalized like that is another clue - I haven't seen any others do that, but it's relatively common for French names.

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    7. Giuseppe is right about why I ignored it. Remember, to be an "CRPG" in my criteria, it has to have these three things, and it if doesn't have at least two, I won't play it at all:

      1. Character development. Characters have to be able to increase levels, or hit points, or attributes, or whatever in ways OTHER than simply getting better inventory.

      2. Attribute-derived combat. Combat cannot be ENTIRELY about action; it has to include some variables derived from attributes, whether it's doing more damage because of a higher "strength" score, increased probability to hit because of level, or whatever.

      3. Non-puzzle inventory. There have to be things to find (other than weapons) that I can use when *I* choose to use them, not just when they're a solution to a puzzle. (And beyond some generic default weapon.) Such things include potions, scrolls, wands, and various equippable/usable items like rings.

      Does Sapiens have all, or at least two of, these things?

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    8. Oh, on your main posting, I appreciate the help, but:

      -ENTER to escape combat doesn't work for me. I pound away at it, and I still get slaughtered by the flying thing. But it does see to work in other combats, so there must be something unique about this one.

      -I should have specified that I wasn't trying to cast healing in combat; it doesn't work even when my characters are just standing around. But your emphasis on touching tells me that maybe I should play around with having them stand closer together.

      The sun position was helpful, although sometimes it doesn't appear in the sky. Once you get a fix on it, you really need to remember where it was.

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    9. On sapiens
      Between this : http://homeoftheunderdogs.net/game.php?id=3748 and http://www.myriad-online.com/resources/docs/sapiens/english/index.htm and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55LwYXlQEZU&feature=player_embedded I'm not sure ..
      I can't find any reference to character developement, but combat is stat-based.
      For point 3, I remember crafting from stones collected, maybe you could heal with plants ?

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    10. All right. I'll make a note to look for it.

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    11. I forgot to add: the whole "French" thing was supposed to set up a joke later about how the manual was bizarre and clearly the product of translation, except that after I read it in more detail, it turned out it wasn't so bad. I'm deleting the caption.

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  7. i remember playing this game years ago and being totally frustrated by it as well. i remember a(very) frustrating area that i called the "dragon runway" every time i stepped on it i died, instantly, for no apparent reason. apparently dragons (or something) uses the area and runs your party over, killing them. i do remember finding out that directions could be found by looking for the sun, i thought that was neat at the time. im so glad youre frustrated by this game too, at the time i thought it was just me that couldnt figure the damn thing out.

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    1. oh, regards night time travel, if you notice in the last screen shot above, theres the moon!!! use it like you would the sun!

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    2. The moon is always in the east in this world? Well, anyway, it's good to know that I was headed in the right direction before I got locked into a permanent death spiral.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. But how do you get the hamsters into the accordion?

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    2. Damn I have been away for a while and I see a response like this only to have the original comment removed. I feel as if I have missed something that could have been rather funny.

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    3. I never saw what the original comment was. I was just making up random words as a joke.

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  9. Your experience with Drakkhen exactly mirrors my experience when I played it as a pre-teen / teenager. The game looks so promising and amazing but the interface just really kills all the joy from the game. I never could play it for more than an hour or two at a time, always died horribly before making any significant progress, and usually ended up going back to playing a Gold Box game.

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    1. That's difficult to hear, especially with Curse of the Azure Bonds coming up soon!

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    2. Sincerely, I hope you find a way to enjoy Drakkhen and see it through to the end. I always *wanted* to, I just couldn't get myself there. If you do, well, maybe that's good enough for the both of us, then. :^)

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    3. The CRPG Addict: Finishing games that you couldn't bring yourself to finish since 2010.

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    4. The CRPG Addict: Letting you experience games that you couldn't force yourself to play since 2010

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    5. Finishing dubious games since 2010 yes and thats why we like it here :D

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  10. Where did you get your copy of Drakkhen? All I am finding is SNES copies, and I would like to get a version that has a manual, if I am going to play...

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    1. Should be available from some abandonware sites, just search drakkhen pc download.

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    2. I honestly don't remember. I just did what Zenic says.

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    3. It's available over here:

      http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/1048/Drakkhen.html

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  11. Chet, is that really the DOS version you are playing? The graphics look to good for a DOS game from 1989.

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    1. Yes, it's absolutely the DOS version. Whether it's from 1989... well, here's the thing: the first version I downloaded only had CGA and EGA support. I kept rooting around (because people on my message boards had talked about VGA graphics), and I found another one that looked entirely the same except it had a VGA option. So it's possible that the game was re-released a couple years later (perhaps in tandem with the 1991 SNES release)?

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    2. The bottom right text on this back cover says: Supports EGA, CGA and Hercules Monochrome with 512K. 256 color VGA and 16 color Tandy Graphics require 640K. The copyright on it is 1989.

      Another nearly identical back cover seems to imply that the VGA version can be ordered separately. 256 color VGA version available through inpack redemption. See coupon for [...]

      I believe some copies of the game included only the CGA/EGA version of the game, while others included the VGA version or both.

      Is it weird that I enjoy searching the web for stuff like this? It's certainly not productive. Then again, I am reading this blog, so...

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    3. Interesting. Mystery partly solved by the opening screen of the game itself: it says (C) 1990.

      If you feel unproductive READING this blog, imagine how I feel.

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  12. I played the crap out of the SNES version, and won it a couple times.

    Some tips:
    - Figure out how to run from combat. There's loads of encounters that can cause party wipes even in the very late game.
    - Be very careful at night.
    - Be very careful what you bump into in the overworld.
    - I don't recall if they mention it in the manual, but armor can be destroyed, so keep spares if you can.

    The SNES version had an in-game map, which made things a bit easier, but the position of celestial objects (the Sun, and some constellations) can help you navigate.


    As I've heard it explained before, the game is unforgiving, hard, and requires a lot of saving and perseverence.

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    1. Thanks for the tips! I don't mind hard gameplay, but it's more difficult for me to get past the interface.

      I keep bouncing off trees when I navigate through the overworld. I love the idea that my characters are so dumb they're running headlong into trees so hard they actually bounce off.

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  13. I really hope you stick with this one. My friends and I played it to death on PC back in the day, although we never finished it either.

    Some tips:

    - A map came in the box with the game and it's essential, as straying from the roads in the early days can be very hazardous to you health. Can't find a scan of it online, but here's one that looks good (spoilers on the lower half of this page):

    http://www.gamewinners.com/walkthrough/drakkhen/index.html

    You're in the light green area. Avoid the other three areas for now - they're even tougher than the one you start in

    - You need to grind a fair bit on Prince Hordtkhen's castle. There's a good weapon and armour set in there that regenerates each time you leave & re-enter.

    - You'll need to run away from most combats in the early stages. The game throws really tough enemies at you from the get-go. Speaking of which...

    "ENTER to escape combat doesn't work for me. I pound away at it, and I still get slaughtered by the flying thing. But it does see to work in other combats, so there must be something unique about this one."

    - I think you have to be quite quick on this. If the flying creature gets too close you can't flee. But if you do it while it's still in the distance and your party gets off the screen before it engages you, you'll escape.

    Again - hope you'll stick with it through the initial steep learning & difficulty curve (although I would forgive you if you didn't). Things get easier once you're well equipped. And the first time you defeat a flying creature or dragon is very satisfying.

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    1. Nah, nothing I do is fixing the escape thing. I can't see anything to do but start over and occasionally back up my save, since the game only gives you one.

      Is this the original map?

      http://www.mocagh.org/miscgame/drakkhen-fmtowns-map.jpg

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    2. No, that's not the original map that came with the PC version. It was very similar to the digital version I posted - flat colours & line artwork.

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  14. Some tips :
    - The first thing to do is to go to the weapon seller in the white area and buy the bow. With it you can kill a dragon or injured it, and gain easily a lot of experience and a good armor.

    Spoiler :
    - An armour is hidden in the room of Prince Hordtkhen's
    - On youtube there are videos of the complete adventure, here the first part :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-aTGIPIbbA

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    1. Thanks for the armor spoiler. I have to restart the game, so I'll look for it when I explore again.

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  15. I hadn't said much yet because A wordpress ate my comment yesterday and B I played the Amiga version, which has soe differences. I wholly second everything everyone says.

    The moon at night is to the south. Don't face the moon for very long. Bad things happen, as you found out. I call those creatures Constellation Creatures, because they are represented by famous constellations visible from earth. You got attacked by Aquila. There's also Leo, Draco, Serpens, and Cassiopeia. Don't ask...some things in this game are just easier to go along with!

    They can eventually be defeated, and gods it is ever so satisfying :D--Nyxalinth

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    1. That's caused by facing the moon? Wow. Well, I can't escape the damned thing no matter what, so I have to start over. I'm going to have to start backing up my saves if an inability to escape permanent death is a feature of the game.

      Thanks for the moon tip.

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    2. It's not just the moon. The stars are dangerous too - as Anonymous sez, they turn into the worm-dragon things. Basically the game teaches you to be afraid of the sky; a valuable life lesson for us all. I'm not sure why the running away isn't working for you - I don't remember ever having a problem with it. Bad luck.

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    3. Coincidentally, Irene and I were out in the back yard a few hours ago looking at a meteor shower. How horrible it would be to live in a world where such a simple act could result in a constellation coming to life, flying down, and attacking you.

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  16. I suspected you'd have mixed feelings about this one. So do I, to be honest. It rocked my teenage years and I still think it's a classic in some ways, but it's got some very serious design flaws. Success involves a lot of trial and error, and there are lots of items whose function is very difficult to discern - some of the rings and wands etc have declared effects (though what those effects do isn't always clear either), but lots of others are totally mysterious. The game is deeply unforgiving as you've already discovered, although I think your difficulty running away from the sky dragon may be a glitch; normally if you're quick you should be able to get away from anything.

    The interface is indeed fiddly, and the story barely comprehensible. But on first encountering it I found the world quite incredibly rich and atmospheric. The enemies are stunningly imaginative. And while the overarching plot is bonkers and hard to follow, it's undeniably memorable. It was indeed a French game and I suspect the translation wasn't all it could have been.

    Re. healing, I may well be wrong but I seem to remember that it involves positioning the healer right next to the healee, around level with him/her in the up-down dimension, and aiming the spell at a fairly small area of the target's midriff. If you keep casting the spell and moving the mouse slightly, you should be able to find the right spot. It's a pain in the neck.

    A few other tips:
    - The other folks here are right that you can't fight most of the enemies until you've gained a few levels. Generally the starting temperate/light green area has relatively gentle monsters, and you'll find things much harder if you venture into one of the other sectors. The desert in particular is very dangerous. But even in the starting sector you'll need to run away a lot.
    - Careful with the auto-combat option; it'll get you into unnecessary and sometimes plot-breaking fights as your characters immediately hurl themselves at anyone they see.
    - Don't feel obliged to traipse around every castle interior with your entire party. Sometimes using a single character will be faster and more effective.
    - The shield/protection/whatever magician spell is very effective indeed; absurdly effective in fact. While it lasts it makes your character almost invulnerable. I think it can even be stacked.
    - The main plot boils down to visiting the palaces in the right order.

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    1. Thanks for all the tips! It's nice to hear from someone experienced with the PC version of the game. Assuming it works, your tip on healing is especially appreciated.

      RE: auto combat. Is there really any other option? The only alternative seems to be to select a single character and right-click repeatedly on an enemy (one attack per click). I can't see any way without autocombat that I could have my entire party attack at once.

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    2. I'm afraid I've played the Amiga version not the PC one, but the screenshots look pretty much identical. You're right that the auto combat is essential once you're actually in a fight; just be wary of keeping it turned on while exploring castles as it can make your characters attack what should be friendly NPCs, often with fatal results. It's been a very long time since I played the game; I hope my healing suggestion works and that my memory isn't deceiving me.

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    3. I played the PC version Tomsk, and from what you've said they're identical. All of your tips apply to the PC version at least. And your post echoes my sentiments also - a very tough, unforgiving and at times impenetrable game, but also very rewarding and memorable.

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  17. I swear, you all must be trolling me hard. "Oh, wow, Drakkhen! It's a buggy game that has a horrible interface, and the story doesn't make any sense, and the combats are impossible, and if you don't keep to a very strict order and path, you'll die instantly, and the spells don't work, and you drown all the time, and if you're not careful to keep a single button un-checked, you'll accidentally attack NPCs, and if you even go outside and look at the moon and stars, you'll get attacked by an impossible demi-god. But it's an awesome game! Don't give up on it, Mr. Addict!"

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    1. You, sir, made me laugh.

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    2. Drat, he is on to us. What should we convince him is a great game next? We could all convince him that Monster Girl Quest is the greatest RPG series of all time and that he should install the English patch and play though it. (Note: If you don't know what that game is, you probably don't want to. Also don't google it in public or at work)

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    3. I think to most people, Drakkhen is their first (and quite only) foray into non-maintream RPGs that were out there.

      I also think that the game had a certain quality to it that gave the player just enough knowledge to fill in a lot of the storytelling magic themselves. It's clear that the world of Drakkhen is filled with massively powerful creatures, and even when your characters are late-game mighty they're eclipsed by mightier forces.

      In my case, it was my first RPG for the SNES, and I played it to death until Final Fantasy II came out. It wasn't until well after this time that I ever had the chance to go and play the CRPGs that came out before and after it - I didn't even have a PC to play these games on until 1997.

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    4. Honestly, CRPG Addict, you just described my memories of the game pretty exactly. I was hoping you were going to tell me what I'd been missing.

      JPublic points out that he played on SNES... is there any chance a lot of this was ironed out for that version?

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    5. Out of solidarity - and fear I was pulling a rose-coloured glasses - I loaded this up on my SNES and started playing.

      First off, DAMN this game is hard.

      Secondly, without the ability to easily run from combat (on SNES it's pretty streamlined) I think the game is nigh-impossible.

      Third, I forgot how bloody mad combats are. I can say that shields and the magic attacks should be essential tools until you really upgrade your characters.


      I do believe the SNES version *may* be easier, simply because in some of the tougher combats I'm noticing slowdown that allows me to act with a bit more timeliness.

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    6. I've only experienced the SNES version. I remember we rented it for a couple of days and wandered around lost for the most part. The lack of instructions didn't help, but now that I've bought the game I'm not sure how much they would have. I picked it up about 3 years ago to beat and found the game rather short if you know what you're doing. I'll admit that I did grind on the ghast/ghoul in the second castle to quite an absurd level... but I beat it.

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    7. It's interesting that you say it's short, because from what I can tell there are only four zones, and I've already explored one of them completely. I was wondering how the game was going to extend itself, and perhaps the answer is, "it doesn't." In that case, I don't have any reason not to stick it out.

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  18. Was... Was that a Monty Python joke?

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    1. I've been waiting months for someone to notice. The TV show had its moments; I'm just not a fan of the Holy Grail.

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    2. Don't make me read the whole post with a magnifying glass to find out what you are referring to, end the suspense!

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    3. It was a reference to a skit called "Election Night Special" in which candidates for various parties are introduced, including someone from the "Serious Party" with a regular name, someone from the "Silly Party" with a somewhat silly name, and someone named something like Tarkin Phillips Lin Win Bin Bus Stop F'Tang F'Tang Biscuit-Barrel from the "Very Silly Party."

      "Vhal Hart Hann Jurgen von Wessenmayer" isn't QUITE that bad, but it's still very silly.

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    4. Well, I just watched it on YouTube...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31FFTx6AKmU

      ...and I have some of it wrong. But it's amazing how much the commentary parallels what we see today, only with more computer graphics.

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    5. Thanks that was a nice start to my day :-)

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    6. Reminds me of the Canadian Rhinoceros Party.

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    7. I am so glad someone noticed that. I love those unexpected and skilled asides.

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  19. Oh man, I've been looking for this game for ages but couldn't remember what it was called. The only thing I could remember was the constellation monsters. I never played; I watched my dad play when I was a kid, and the constellation monsters terrified me.

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