To probably no one's surprise, Frenchman Street has proved more alluring than Sentinel Worlds, so I haven't gotten any playing done this week. But I did want to respond, while the idea was fresh in my mind, to an e-mail I got from someone whose anonymity I'll preserve unless he wants to post a comment to this entry.
The writer of this e-mail was so angry at my coverage of The Bard's Tale II and The Bard's Tale III that I wonder if he married one of the developers.
"You excoriated two excellent games," he begins, "and for no other reason than your own ignorance." He goes on to note that my professed reason for abandoning II was that I didn't realize I had to hit "save" to save my progress, rather than just returning to the Adventurer's Guild, as in the first game. "The only reason you stopped playing was that you didn't want to do the first two dungeons over again."
But his real venom is for III. I repeatedly blogged about having to wait forever for spell points to recharge, and indeed cited it as the primary reason for leaving the game. What I failed to note, however, "is that EVERY dungeon has magic squares that recharge your spell points. You could have just stood in the dungeon for a few minutes, and you would have been back at full strength."
"Thousands of people [ed: Really? Awesome!]," he concludes, "are going to read your blog and conclude that these games have no merit, all because you couldn't be bothered to RTFM."
Challenge accepted! I thought, and immediately opened up the manual for The Bard's Tale III, fully prepared to point out haughtily that there's nothing about spell-recharging squares in it. Except that there is. Bollocks. And having to hit "save" in II? That's in the manual, too. So as much as the e-mail seemed a little strong in its reaction to my write-ups of 30-year-old video games, the author is 100% correct, and I have no leg to stand on. I still didn't like the games, but might I have suffered them long enough to find their better points if I'd been armed with more facts? Probably.
The Bard's Tale sequels are not the only games to have suffered from my overlooking a game play element. Sometimes the effects are only somewhat annoying, as when I didn't realize I could adjust the color in Might & Magic or the horrible game font in Demon's Winter. Other times, they've caused me to prematurely leave the game, as when I thought sleep led inevitably to permanent death in Swords of Glass. There have been times that you've saved me from my ignorance: I might have lambasted Dungeon Master for not offering a "pause" option if commenter Menetekel hadn't set me straight.
I wish I'd had commenters the first time I played Baldur's Gate II and didn't realize that one of the keys (ALT maybe?) highlighted containers that you could open and search. I was hovering my mouse over every likely container on the screen, and I often missed unconventional ones like refuse piles and tree hollows. I believe I didn't discover the "FIX" command until halfway through Curse of the Azure Bonds. And I was several hours into Skyrim before I realized what "favoriting" an item did.
So to the anonymous ranter, I apologize. The Bard's Tales II and III might suck, but clearly not as bad as I originally reviewed them. I shall resolve to read manuals more thoroughly from now on.
While you're waiting for me to get sick of vodka gimlets and jazz, what are your stories about major gameplay elements you missed until late in the game?