Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chaos Strikes Back: Hard for Hard's Sake

Unavoidable pits and teleportation fields (this one moves) characterize Chaos Strikes Back.

It would be difficult for me to overemphasize--and this should come as no surprise to my regular readers--exactly how much this is not my kind of game. I like CRPGs for the stories, NPCs, role-playing opportunities, tactical combat, economies, and quests, none of which are really present in Chaos Strikes Back

Instead, this game offers a series of things that would make me tear out my hair if I had any hair to begin with. This game is about navigational obstacles. Force fields, secret doors, pits, pressure plates, grates, teleportation fields, one-way doors, spinners, and every other trick to obfuscate mapping are present in joyous excess. There are people that practically wet themselves with glee over this kind of challenge, but it's just not my thing. I realize that doesn't make the game objectively "bad."

The beginning of the game leaves me with lots of worm meat.
 
To illustrate, consider the opening sections of the game. I start in a roughly 7 x 7 room with several giant worms nearby. They're not hard to take care of as long as I avoid the pressure plate that generates more of them every time I step on it. There's a secret door leading off this room to some armor, which is nice, and force fields preventing access to some alcoves with various bits of equipment. Coins in the room, inserted into slots next to the force field, lower them--but there aren't enough to lower all of them, so I have to choose carefully (in my restart, I chose to get a sword and ignore the FUL bombs).

I did take the magic boxes. I remember how useful they were.
 
A key opens a grate, but to pass it, I have to step on the pressure plate, creating more worms in my backpath. Three steps south and several steps west, and I'm in a long corridor ending in a T-junction with a pit in the middle of the junction. A pressure plate in the corridor briefly closes the pit, so I use it to skirt the pit and dart north, but I find myself blocked by another pit. There's a pressure plate on the other side, but I can't reach it (throwing worm rounds at it just sends the worm rounds sailing down the corridor). With no choice but to fall down one of the pits, I choose the one ahead of me.

Trying to hurl bits of worm onto the pressure plate proves fruitless.
 
I find myself in a 3 x 3 area. There's an exit to the west, two squares wide, but one of the squares is a pit and the other is a pressure plate. When I step on the plate, a teleportation field rises in front of me. Having to choose either that or the pit, I find myself transported to an unknown area, standing on top of a spinner that resolutely keeps facing me to the north. I walk two steps and find that the corridor has closed behind me. A few steps east and north, and I'm on a trap that throws endless daggers at me--which I suppose is a good thing because hey, free daggers.

I haven't been able to figure out the meaning of the message yet.
 
At that point, no more than a 20 steps from where I started the game, I have faced one secret door, four force fields, four pressure plates, two pits, a teleportation field, a spinner, a one-way corridor, and a trap. I'm thoroughly lost.

Are the slots on the wall anything I should be concerned with?

The unknown level served up monsters who were a bit too tough for me, so I went the only way I could and dropped down to a lower one. I've actually got a fair bit of that one mapped, though I keep getting swarmed by giant worms and I still don't have any idea where I am.

A few other notes on navigation and gameplay:

  • Secret doors can be found by clicking on the walls; if there's a secret door there, it doesn't make a sound. This is preferable to my usual method of walking into the wall because my characters are too stupid to walk into walls gently. The run into them at full speed and take several hit points damage.
  • The compass (one of the items I found in the starting area) is broken. If I'm facing north and turn right it shows me facing west instead of east. I'm not sure whether the north/south or east/west directional is the one that's broken, but I've been assuming that north is correct. I may be mapping everything upside down. [Later edit: as pointed out in this comment thread, the compass is behaving the way actual compasses behave: always pointing north. I'm too used to CRPG compasses that point in the direction you're facing.]
  • I'm reminded about one of the things I hated the most about Dungeon Master: you have no clue what kind of armor class you're getting from armor, what kind of damage different weapons do, or the effects of things like rings, brooches, and amulets. In the early game, that's not a big problem because it's clear that the mail aketon outperforms the tunic, but as I start having to make more choices between bits of equipment, the lack of any statistics or description is annoying.

It's great to know the mail aketon's weight, but what kind of protection does it offer?
 
  • I also forgot how annoying it is to have a couple characters hurl braces of daggers at an opponent, then have to pick them up.

The pile of throwing items I need to pick up after every combat.
 
  • Torches don't seem to last as long as in Dungeon Master, or else I just forgot how quickly they burned out.
  • I only have one decent weapon at this point, and I'm finding that my melee and throwing attacks are almost entirely ineffective against every creature I face. I keep using copious fireballs as my go-to strategy.

Aside from the navigation difficulty, the monsters I've encountered so far have been pretty hard, too--primarily because of my lack of equipment. I keep finding paths I cannot progress down not because the  The armored figures below slaughter me mercilessly. Maybe I should have spent more time grinding against the respawning worms.



There are secondary elements to the game that I find fun. I like the idea of starting with extremely limited equipment and slowly piecing together a motley inventory; I just wish the game had come up with some plausible explanation for why I entered the dungeon naked. I still admire the combat system of the game (see my posting on the original here), even if I generally prefer turn-based combat.

The rock monsters are back. Note Leyla's selection of possibilities with the sword.
 
I liked but didn't love the original Dungeon Master, and with the admiration I had for the first game, I have to agree with what Corey Cole said about this one: "I felt that FTL made CSB 'hard for hard's sake' and lost the great game balance and progressive challenge that characterized [Dungeon Master]." Nonetheless, I'll try to play it to the end and see if I can get into the game's groove, or see if it throws any surprises at me.

You may see a few NetHack postings in here, though. I've been playing a little NetHack every week and getting progressively better. I feel like I'll soon be able to report that I've at least seen the Amulet of Yendor even if I don't escape the dungeon with it.

Finally, I should note that as this game is simply an extension of Dungeon Master, I probably won't spend a lot of time discussing the controls and conventions in detail. I strongly recommend that you take a look at my series of postings on the first game if you want to know more about the interface and gameplay.

71 comments:

  1. Re: the slots on the wall in the picture - they were probably firing daggers at you.

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    1. Oh, duh. I figured they were coming out of the mouth in the square that triggered them. Your theory makes more sense since there were two of them each time.

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    2. I can confirm that. If you look at the slots, the daggers do come out of them. Oh, and don't pull the lever (the sign you are near when the daggers come out), that just resets everything. Okay, a hint about this room if you manage to find your way back to it: Guvf vf n qnttre guebjvat punyyratr. Cnfg gur zbivat sbeprsvryqf ner cerffher cyngrf. Vs lbh gvzr lbhe guebj evtug, lbh pna unir gur qnttre cnff ol jura gur sbeprsvryq vf va gur bgure bgure cbfvgvba, guhf qebccvat bagb gur cerffher cyngr. Guvf pybfrf n cvg arkg gb lbh, fb gung lbh pna nqinapr n ovg snegure vagb gur ebbz. Evafr naq ercrng gjb zber gvzrf.

      Here's another hint when you get past the traps, if you should need one. It's an optional, yet fun, solution: Guvf vf n qnttre guebjvat punyyratr. Cnfg gur zbivat sbeprsvryqf ner cerffher cyngrf. Vs lbh gvzr lbhe guebj evtug, lbh pna unir gur qnttre cnff ol jura gur sbeprsvryq vf va gur bgure bgure cbfvgvba, guhf qebccvat bagb gur cerffher cyngr. Guvf pybfrf n cvg arkg gb lbh, fb gung lbh pna nqinapr n ovg snegure vagb gur ebbz. Evafr naq ercrng gjb zber gvzrf.

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    3. Amy, I think you accidentally copied the same hint twice. They're identical.

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    4. Oh, oops. That's what I get for writing comments and making dinner at the same time. Thanks for pointing that out, Corey.

      For real, this time.

      Here's another hint when you get past the traps, if you should need one. It's an optional, yet fun, solution:

      Nsgre lbh trg cnfg gur cvgf naq sbeprsvryqf, qba'g cvpx hc gur vgrz va gur avpur lrg. Fbzr rarzvrf jvyy pbzr bhg bs gur arneol qbbe. Vafgrnq, tb qbja gur ybat pbeevqbe gb gur evtug, naq ol n fgnvejnl, lbh'yy svaq n yrire. Vs lbh chyy vg, lbh'yy frr gung vg bcraf n cvg. Guvf pna or hfrq gb qebc zbafgref qbja jura gurl fgnaq ba gung fcbg. OHG... orsber lbh rkrphgr guvf cyna, ernyvmr gung guvf jvyy bayl genc gurz qbja va gur nern qbjafgnvef, fb lbh'q unir gb snpr gurz naljnl. Vs lbh gura tb qbjafgnvef, lbh'yy frr nabgure yrire gung bcraf nabgure cvg. Guvf cvg vf qverpgyl haqrearngu jurer gur bar hcfgnvef jbhyq nccrne. Bcra gung cvg, tb teno gur vgrz sebz hcfgnvef, yrnq gur rarzvrf gb gur cvg, chyy gur yrire, naq ibvyn! Rarzvrf ner rvgure qrfgeblrq, be whfg tbar. Rvgure jnl, gurl'er bhg bs lbhe unve.

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    5. That is one of the great moments in the game when you figure it out. And then when you find out where they ended up. :-)
      Usually brain beats brawn in CSB.

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  2. "This game is about navigational obstacles. Force fields, secret doors, pits, pressure plates, grates, teleportation fields, one-way doors, spinners, and every other trick to obfuscate mapping are present in joyous excess. There are people that practically wet themselves with glee over this kind of challenge"

    Wonder who that can be?

    I'm almost tempted to replay this game for a second time, but it's still too fresh in my mind. The game does have a rather narrow focus, but what it does it does so extremely well. In that regards it reminds me a bit about the Gold Box games. Apart from the tactical combat there's isn't really that much to the GB games, but they do the combat very well. But they are not as extreme as CSB, of course.

    It looks like you missed the "Supplies for the Quick" area? If so, I can understand that you are struggling more than you should, as good weapons and armour are rather scarce in the beginning.

    To see the stats of the various items, I strongly recommend using the info available at http://dmweb.free.fr/?q=node/266.
    The game is hard enough that there is no shame in using this info, IMO.

    BTW, you most probably didn't have to face a whole party of Chaos Knights. There are ways to make fighting most of them easier. As always in CSB, explore _carefully_.

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    1. I did not see any area labeled "Supplies for the Quick," unfortunately. I probably should have darted left instead of right when jumping over that pit. That's the only other way I could have gone from the opening area.

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  3. Good luck with CSB. I like a good dungeon exploration crawl with the odd spinner and the like, but there's a limit.

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  4. I'm really not a fan of dungeon crawlers. The dungeon-based RPGs that I really enjoyed were the Ultima Underworld games, and that was mainly because they weren't in the Dungeon Master/Eye of the Beholder format.

    Enjoying reading your progress though, even if you're having a tough time!

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    1. I agree. The UU games were very atmospheric, had NPCs, an economy, and an actual plot.

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    2. I can't stand playing the Underworlds these days because of how terribly they have aged, graphics-wise. The block-based engines look so much easier on the eyes than UUW's then-revolutionary shaky corridors filled with lego brick sprites.

      Also the economy - sure it had one, but money was almost completely worthless in the first game for the same reasons it's worthless in Gold Box games - there's never anything good to buy. All you ever used it for was getting that dwarf to fix the Sword of Justice. Food was used as currency much more often than money was. In the second game you could at least spend money on spells and such.

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    3. About three years ago I tried to replay UU and had the same reaction as you. But the funny thing is that after 1.5 years of exclusively playing games _older_ than UU, UU suddenly looke quite impressive when I played it again half a year ago. And it was almost the same sublime gaming experience as the first time. :-)

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    4. Definitely one of the advantages to playing in a chronological approach.

      Anonymous has a good point, though, and I think I tried to make it in another recent game, though I can't find it. Wireframe and "block-based" engines, for all their primitiveness, at least have a clean, crisp look. As we get into the era when developers started to transcend them, we actually seem to regress in gameplay terms. I don't mind the abstract graphics of Wizardry and I don't mind the realistic graphics of Morrowind; what I mind is the point in between, and we're starting to see a few of those.

      My recollection puts UU as advanced enough that I didn't mind the graphics, but perhaps I'll feel differently when I actually play it.

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    5. It sounds like something I've noticed while watching a bunch of old gameplay vids. Old Mario, SNES, etc games are still pretty playable. Sure, they don't look super shiny, but hey, they work.

      Modern games 3D games are quite fun to play.

      Earl 3D (early playstation and N64 games most of all) are pants to play, and rather painful. Developers didn't know how to use the camera, give environmental ques or make cutscenes more interesting then two faces deep in the uncanny valley stare at one another.

      I don't think this is the only time it happens either; Look at early games with animation; they put it in to WAY too high a degree; If you want to see really horrid examples check out the Zelda CDi games. It takes us a little bit to learn how to use a new technology instead of using it just for using its sake.

      Which means motion controls, duel screens, etc, should stop sucking ANY time now. *waits*

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  5. Here's a vague hint regarding getting out of that first room. I'm not sure if it needs a ROT13 encryption, but just in case:

    Erzbir gur gbepurf sebz gur fpbaprf. Gura ybbx nebhaq gur ebbz ntnva.

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    1. I read this after the next posting. REMOVE the torches from the SCONCES!? I only found one sconce, and I had to put a torch IN it. Bloody hell. How many more secret areas did I miss?

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    2. Oops. It was placing the torch into the sconce, not removing it. It's been about a year since I've played through the beginning. My apologies.

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  6. Oh, sorry for all the comments in such a brief period of time, but in my Amiga versions of DM and CSB, the east and west directions on the compass are reversed. I figured it was a bug, but it appears you have a similar problem in the remake. That's odd.

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  7. I believe this game mechanic you should find useful:
    In this game, most everything goes a different distance when thrown. Some things will always go many squares and others just a few. This should be pointed out in the manual, but I do not believe it is. The damage those things do also correlates _somewhat_ to this distance.

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  8. In the version I played, the compass always pointed north. So if you faced east, it pointed left, since north is left of east.

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    1. Could the compass problem have something to do with his colorblindness? It has two needles, red and black. Maybe he only sees the black one (disclaimer: I don't know how colorblindness works).

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    2. The red end of the needle (which has an arrow) is the north-pointing end. The black end of the needle (which has no arrow) is the south-pointing end. Even if you could only see the black end, it would still be functionally the same. When you turned, it would still turn the opposite way (like a real compass would). You wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless you looked at someone else's maps and they were 180 degrees off.

      When I played the compass threw me off at first because I was expecting it to point in the direction I was facing (north up, east right, west left, south down). But that isn't how a compass works. I'm wondering if the Addict and Amy are confused in the same way I was, or if there's really some kind of bug affecting one or both of them.

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    3. Yeah, I think the confusion stems from the fact the the compass doesn't show which direction the party if facing, it merely shows which direction is north. I certainly never thought the compass was broken when I played.
      So when facing north, and turning right, the needle will point to what in most other games would be "west", when in fact you are facing east and the needle is still facing north.

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    4. After watching some of Amy's playthrough, it appears that her compass does indeed always point north, so there's no bug there (though I guess it threw her off as it did me).

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    5. Right. I've got it now. I feel stupid. I know how compasses work in the real world; I'm just used to CRPG compasses pointing in the direction you're facing, not resolutely pointing towards north.

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    6. I have to say, I'm used to those CRPG compasses too. It would be a bit more helpful to me if it just showed me the way I was heading. Then again, I've gotten a bit used to the whole "arrow facing west means I'm heading east" thing. Thanks for the insight, guys.

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  9. It's not your thing? I thought you adored making maps for maps' sake?

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    1. No. I like making maps, true, but in the service of a larger plot

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  10. Have you noticed that there is more than one secret wall in the starting room?

    Also a very small hint about getting your bearings - aim for a place called "Demon Director". There are several routes there, and it ultimately doesn't matter how you get there. That is where you can enter the four sub-labyrinths mentioned in the manual.

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  11. I think the game's reluctance on giving the player numerical information was a stab at realism - you wouldn't know exactly how powerful a newly picked up piece of gear is in reality so why should you know it in the game? At least in DM the rough order of things was easy to figure out - fancier and later found items were better than more plain and earlier found ones. CSB is so nonlinear though, that relying on point of encounter as an indicator doesn't work quite as well.

    As for the jewelry, IIRC most of it simply alters some stat or skill and comparing them before/after tells you what. Some of them might have had subtler effects, but I can't remember any at the moment.

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    1. In real life, you have lots of visual clues and real world information to help you interpret things like the protective value of clothing and the offensive value of weapons. In the game, you have a name and an icon. I don't really see this serving the principle of "realism."

      The "test it out" theory must appeal to people with a lot more patience than I have. Let's say I find a ring that increases one of my class skills: fighter, ninja, priest, wizard. To test it, I need to do a series of things for a character with the ring unequipped (make potions, cast spells, attack with hands and feet, attack with weapons) and then equipped, and try to note the differences. Except there's an element of randomness in things like damage anyway, so I'll have to make multiple observations and try to calculate the average. And since you don't actually see how much damage spells do, you have to...I don't know...note that the torch spell is lasting longer, or that the fireballs are killing the enemies quicker. I'd love to hear from anyone who's actually DONE this: carefully sussed out what every piece of magic equipment does through this kind of experimentation.

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    2. "Let's say I find a ring that increases one of my class skills: fighter, ninja, priest, wizard. To test it, I need to do a series of things for a character with the ring unequipped..."

      IIRC the ones that raised whole skill levels had the courtesy of marking the change on your character sheet (not in a different color or anything, you just quietly go from Artisan Whatever to Adept Whatever while you wear it). I know the ones that raise stats definitely do. However, I'm looking at the list of items in CSB now and it appears some of them raise the hidden sub-skills that make up the "class levels" and, well, there's no checking those in-game. I'm also actually astonished how many of them have some extremely subtle additional effect to the tune of "monsters in XX,YY, floor Z don't respawn if you have this in your inventory". So I'm going to have to partially concede the point there - there are effects here that seem impossible to figure out without hacking the game files.

      However, I still maintain that it is most of the time pretty easy to figure out whether your weapon or armor - weapon especially - is better than the previous one. Not by how many points it's better, god no, but that information isn't critical anyway - what you're interested in is which one you should keep, and it doesn't take a genius to pick correctly between "Axe" (Swing/Chop/Melee) and "The Executioner" (Chop/Cleave/Berzerk).

      Figuring out that the latter reduces opponent armor by 12.5%, now that is again hacking the game files territory. ;)

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  12. Truly this type of game is not what I would enjoy. I HATE navigational 'tricks'- one of the things I didn't enjoy in BT1, and I LOVED BT1. Of course, I played and solved BT1 back when it came out... I played it on my C64 back when I was still in the military... now over 30 years ago. F*ck, I hate getting old. Just turned 50 this year.

    Anyway, I LIKE dungeon crawls, I think they can be a blast. But this kind of dungeon crawl embodies everything I DON'T like about dungeon crawls... the pits, the force fields, the teleportations... in small amounts they can be fun. In greater amounts... well, you've thrown too large a handful of salt into the soup- it isn't any good any more.

    And you ain't got no hair? Either then you shave your head, you're old enough to not have any hair any more (at 50 I have a head of luxurious locks of hair- feel the jealousy), or you are going through chemo. If the last, then we will miss you. If the middle, feel the burn over my MY hair. If the first, then either you are a white boy who looks good with a shaved head (not many of THOSE), or you is a brotha.

    Chet.

    Anyway, play on! I would HATE playing this game, but I enjoy watching your pain.

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    1. I started shaving my head when I started to go bald. Now I shave it because I don't want to know what it would look like if I let it grow.

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    2. I'm a white boy who looks good with a shaved head. Or at least that's what I've been told. Then again, there aren't there's next to no 'brothas' where I live.

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    3. I just found the first grey in my hair at 24. *headdesk*

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    4. Ahh, MexiFriki, do not despair. I found the first one at 19. Some graying makes you look 'distinguished', or so.

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    5. I found my first grey hair at 22. I also started to lose hair when I was about 16. It must have something to do with Chernobyl :P

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    6. Well, my grandfather was Grey by the time he was 30, and that was longggg before any nuclear weapons had gone off, so I think it just runs in the family for me.

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    7. Opps, got my time mixed up. That was long before Chernobyl. He would have been in his 30s when they went crazy with nukes in the 50s, as he served in WWII on a minesweeper, which I think would have been in his early 20s.

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  13. Heh. I didn't expect you'd much like this one, given your take on DM.

    I recall strolling insouciantly into the game, thinking my DM skills and transferred party would let me breeze through. Probably I'd just finish it in a weekend or so. Pity I couldn't expect more challenge, really. Still, might as well give it a chance. I'd been warned about being thrown suddenly into the action at the start, so I even disposed of the worms without any great trouble. Ha! Take that, CSB. I then sauntered into the dungeon proper. Which killed me in short order. Hmmm, maybe I'll need to be more careful. I was more careful. It kept killing me. I got lost, and fell down pits, and was teleported into unknown areas, and had no idea what was going on, and wandered about the place crying out in chagrin. My pride came before a long series of painful and instructive falls.

    The problems are basically those of 3D visualisation and keeping a lot of different things in mind while also acting quickly and decisively - a bit different from the skillset demanded by most RPGs. I tend to think of DM as a kind of training run for CSB, which is the real challenge; DM provides the basic tactical tools you'll use in CSB, but in general it doesn't put you under that much pressure while you're trying to apply them, and its environments are simple.

    CSB is hard, but it's mostly pretty fair - death is generally avoidable and puzzles can be solved without the need for brute force. It seems grandiose to talk about games being 'mind-expanding', but CSB is one of the ones I've played that comes closest. It's all about getting through the frustration to reach a point where everything suddenly clicks into place and you realize that the new area you've been exploring actually fits into the whole map like this, and aha, that weird place I once fell into and got attacked by hordes of death knights was over there, and egad, that button that made pits appear and disappear to no apparent purpose is totally the key to solving this other thing here that I didn't even realize was a puzzle, and oh bloody hell, now I understand why trying X always ended in disaster!

    Instantly your mental map of what's going on is twisted inside out, and new connections and relationships become apparent. The torment makes the moment of illumination all the more revelatory; CSB's design is an intricate machine for doing this to you over and over again. By the time you finish, you have an understanding of how everything fits together that's on a totally different level from what you get from most games.

    Of course, I'm probably romanticizing things wildly based on memories of youthful gaming.

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    1. Even if that's the case you get extra credit for using the word insouciance.

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    2. "My pride came before a long series of painful and instructive falls."

      A nice phrase, which describes life rather well.

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    3. That was beautiful.

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    4. Very well-written, and matched exactly by my experience so far. How about I e-mail you my saved game, and you can finish up the entries?

      Are "death knights" the armored guys with two swords?

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    5. Yes, those are the death knights.

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    6. I was going to ask how anyone KNOWS this--whether this is their official name, or just something fans came up with because there are no names in-game--but the discussion in the next posting cleared that up.

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  14. On an aggravation scale of 1 to Wizardry IV, where would you put this one?

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    1. Corey gave his opinion below. I don't know yet. So far, playing CSB has been like wading through a field of mud--slow going, but just a matter of time and effort. W4 felt more like reaching a 20-foot wall that I couldn't scale.

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  15. Hmm, since I'd place Wizardry IV at maybe a 4 on an arbitrary 1-10 scale... CSB might be an 8 or 9. But I haven't played either in 20 years, so my 21st Century opinion might vary.

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    1. Wow. That bad, huh? Brutal. Wizardry IV at least seemed to have a sense of humor about it.

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    2. I don't know if he's answering the question you asked. Wizardry 4 is outrageously cruel, there are segments in there that cannot be passed seemingly without reading the developer's mind. CSB is also cruel, but fair and just in its cruelty and demands no psychic powers, merely perseverance and attention.

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    3. I beat Wizardry 4 back in the Apple IIe days and, as far as I know, I'm not a mind reader. It was difficult but being a huge Wizardry fan, a hell of a lot of fun. And a very satisfying game to win. And I don't believe I'm psychic.

      Now I didn't beat it using the ultimate mega-challenging "real" ending. I didn't even know about that until years later!

      That being said, I never played Chaos Strikes Back, so I, disappointingly, cannot compare them. I did play Legends of Skull Keep but never finished it. For some reason that I don't remember.

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    4. There is one pretty significant aspect where W4 is arguably easier than CSB: W4 is mostly linear in structure - you have to backtrack some, but largely you can complete the levels in order. CSB has a nonlinear structure that sprawls freely in all directions and can throw people for a loop.

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  16. I think the navigational difficulties in CSB are - though certainly real - a bit overstated. Unlike in the Bard's Tale etc., the dungeon is decorated enough that everywhere looks different. Spinners aren't used much, and IIRC teleports are always visible and make a noise.

    Plus you have a lot of help. Unlike BT and it's kind, you can drop items to use as breadcrumbs or to see where teleports go. And as well as the compass and magic map, you have spells that leave magic glowing footprints, or allow you to see through walls. Neither is a game-changer, but both are useful at times.

    Just bring plenty of sheets of A4 paper with the little 5mm squares, and you will be fine!


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  17. Wizardry Online just went live, which is the second "classic" CRPG franchise to enter the MMORPG genre since Ultima one of the first MMORPGs unless you count MUDs (which I do, but there were scores of those). Any chance of weigh in on this, I know it's not really your scene, but it sounds interesting since it touts both PvP and Permadeath as big features which seem to be staples of the RPG genre that we have left behind (I know that in the pen and paper RPGs I played as a kid resurrection was normally not an option, better to just roll a new character and hope the DM was in a mood to give you XP bonuses to catch you up with the others).

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    1. I was looking forward to Wizardry Online, too bad it is only in Japanese.

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    2. I really don't like the idea of getting ganked right after downing a boss, losing my gear, and a character. I also can't stand those cutesy-poo little elf things, whatever they are, so as much as I enjoy MMOs, I'm giving that one a pass.

      If they'd stuck more to the Wiz 6-8 type styles and settings, I'd give it a go but they'd still have to rid the permadeath and non-instanced dungeons.

      I'm waiting for The Elder Scrolls Online.

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    3. This reminds me of Ultima Online. Was that the last Ultima game? Did it kill the series?

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    4. Ultima IX was published after online I think, and since then there was the browser game Lords of Ultima and they are remaking Ultima 4 as a free to play MMO I think.

      If I were rich I would go around buying old gaming franchises and hiring people to make games that are true to their roots even if they didn't make money.

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    5. I might try a MMORPG at some point in the future, but I really can't stand them in concept, and I wish so many companies weren't eager to turn awesome single-player franchises into MMORPGs.

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    6. Hi,
      I’m still in the process of catching up with your awesome blog (your interview with derstandard.at brought me here). This blog inspired me to revisit some of the old classics myself (currently playing through Dungeon Master which I couldn’t finish on my Amiga due to a corrupted disk.)

      Just wanted to say that I played in the Wizardry Online Beta, because I loved me some Wiz6 & 7 back in the day, but found it very underwhelming. The graphics are rather meh for a 2012 game and permadeath is not immediately permanent. When you die you are in some kind of spirit world where you have to find a statue (usually at the dungeon entrance) to get resurrected. You have a time limit for this and there are also demons wandering the spirit world who, if they catch you, teleport you back to your corpse. If the time expires before you reach the statue you are screwed.

      I think the game has its roots more in the Japanese branch of the franchise , but this is only speculation on my part.

      Regarding a new Ultima you may probably find this interesting: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/portalarium/shroud-of-the-avatar-forsaken-virtues-0

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  18. @Anon, I really haven't looked at it that much, I just tried to restart playing Wiz7 before I discovered this blog early last year. I dig the Sci-Fi/Medieval motif. This looks less like that. The Permadeath seems interesting but for the reasons you give it seems like it could be a hassle. I've also never gotten into the pay to play thing, so I've only played Free to Play MMOs or stuff like Guild Wars 2. Should we get a group of us to play in Wizardry Online and run an "Addict" guild?

    @Canageek I do think UO was the last Ultima game, and I'm not sure who has the license for the series currently and whatnot, I mean I could check Giantbomb to check these things :p

    There seems to have been a browser based Ultima that was recently released recently, but it looks like it's more of a strategy/simcity game at first glance. And it's not clear what Ultima Forever is from my very short search time. Still no clue on who owns the franchise after a minute of internet searching...

    Is Brent Butt still a name in Canadian comedy? Corner Gas really reminded me of the place my mom grew up in rural Nebraska. I also really liked the first season of Fred Ewanuick in Dan for Mayor (at least the first half), and Hiccups wasn't horrible. Cancellations all around?

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    1. To be honest I don't follow the Canadian comedy scene much. I know corner gas is huge though.

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    2. EA owns Ultima... . Just like they own everything else that was once good....

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    3. Ultima Forever is an upcoming F2P MMORPG from Bioware.

      By Larry Frum of CNN:

      ""The new title is based off "Ultima IV," a computer game dating all the way to 1985. It is considered one of the most innovative games ever because of its divergence from the typical hack-and-slash approach. Lead designer Kate Flack said "Ultima Forever" hopes to bring back the appeal of being a good person in a video game......

      "Ultima Forever" picks up 21 years after "Ultima IV" left off. Players can join up to three friends, as each works toward the goal of becoming the virtuous "avatar" of the land.

      While the graphics, look and feel have obviously been upgraded due to advancements in technology over the years, Flack said the concept still remains true to what it was nearly three decades ago.

      "It's about mastering yourself, not mastering the world," she said. "When (a non-player character) asks you a question ... you are forced to pause and ask yourself, 'What do I think is the right thing to do? Do I want to be kind, or do I want to be fair? What kind of person am I?' "......

      As players progress, choices need to be made about questions that don't always have black-and-white answers.

      You find a bag of gold, which you know was stolen. Do you give it to the authorities (Honesty), donate it to the church (Spirituality) or hand it over to a starving family (Compassion)? Keeping it, which would be the likely choice in most of today's games, doesn't help you win this one.""

      Seems OK.

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    4. I don't really understand how a MMORPG can support gameplay in which you quest to become THE avatar.

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  19. I can always tell when you really hate a game, Chet. You either plow through it as fast as possible, or we go a week at a time between updates :)

    Can't blame you, though. This one's a pain in the butt.

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    1. That didn't have a lot to do with my little break this time. I got way, way behind in work.

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