Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chaos Strikes Back: The Corbumite Maneuver

Corbum at last!

Well, I finally managed to find some of that precious, precious Corbum ore, and since I have to find four of them, it would be nice to think that I'm one-quarter of the way through the game (cue peals of laughter from Chaos Strikes Back fans).

Getting it wasn't easy. Thanks to a clue from Georges, I realized that I'd missed a secret switch in the long "dead end" corridor. This led me to an area full of dragons--at least six of them--but fortunately they were prowling around separate rooms. I killed three--easily solving my hunger problems for the next 20 hours of gameplay. In fact, I ran out of space to store any more dragon meat, so I figured I'd just run past the others and come back later.

A dragon busts out of his cage and heads towards the party.

It didn't appear there was a way out of the area, except for a cryptic message on one wall saying "DO YOU HAVE THE POWER?" right next to some weird-looking thing that reminded me of a retinal scanner. In The Bard's Tale, you could get messages on the wall like "IRKM DESMET DAEM," scratch your head, and move on. But if a message shows up on the walls in Chaos Strikes Back, you'd better figure out what it means. I'm still losing sleep over "FIGHTERS CHARGE."

Nearby, I found a set of "Powertowers" (which turned out to be leggings) in a chest. On a whim, I held these up to the retinal scanner, and lo and behold, a secret passage opened to my right. I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this game.


Via several staircases and combats, this path ultimately led me to a room full of pits with a pillar in the middle and the Corbum ore gleaming in an alcove. The problem there was a pit in front of it. A nearby pressure plate closed the pit for a fraction of a second, meaning I had to step on the plate, rush over to the Corbum ore and grab it before I fell screaming to the lower level. It took me about nine tries.

There's the ore to the left. I think the other pieces are on other sides of the same pillar. Couldn't we gingerly work our way around the pits or something? Do we really need to approach from four completely separate directions?

Interestingly, the pillar continued on the next level down and had some nice armor in a niche there. On a whim, I stepped into the pits around that pillar and found myself back in the room that the game started in. So unless the second set of pits dropped me more than one level, that means the starting level is five levels up from the bottom. That really helps me organize my maps.

That Diabolical Demon Director level was starting to get on my nerves, so I'm glad to be out of there for now. It's hard enough to map it as it is, figuring out what all the triggers and plates and buttons do, without having to deal with the constantly respawning creatures. There's nothing more frustrating than running into a party of death knights while you're trying to figure out what you missed in a 105-square corridor.

Jackasses.

But back to the Corbum ore briefly. Given the nature of the room where I found it, I'm guessing that the other three pieces are on the other sides of the same pillar, and that the different "ways" converge in that room from different angles. Moreover, I'm guessing that at some point I'll find something that allows me to open this nearby forcefield and confront Lord Chaos on the next or upper level.


When I found the Corbum ore, I was already very overloaded, so I inspected it for its weight and found to my surprise that it weighs 0.0. This triggered a memory and I searched my blog and found that at one point in Dungeon Master, I found some "Corbomite," which was the solution to a puzzle about something that was lighter than a feather. I guess I should have kept it. (To stave off the pedantic: In the original game, the substance was called "Corbomite," as in Star Trek; in this game, it's called "Corbum Ore." I blended the two in the title of the posting.)

Back at the Junction of the Ways, I had to choose my next path. I decided to go with "NETA," the Way of the Priest. This time, I was smart and threw some debris in my backpath to note when it disappeared and I was teleported to some other area. Unfortunately, as usual, I had no idea what level I was on, so I had to start a new set of "side-maps" until I could figure out where they joined up with something familiar.

The "mummy imprisonment puzzle" area. Cs are cells in which I had to trap mummies to open the door at D.

NETA hasn't been very difficult so far. There was one puzzle that I was particularly proud of myself for having solved without any assistance from you. I arrived in a small area in which there were four "cells"--single squares with only one way in, preceded by an open door. In each cell was a pressure plate, but I noticed when I stepped on it, there was no sound and nothing happened. That's usually a good sign that you need monsters to step on them. Something about the cell doors being open made me think that the trick was to drive monsters into the cells and then close the door. Individual mummies kept spawning on the level, providing perfect candidates.

Welcome to Shawshank, Mr. Mummy! (This is funnier if you know that I was wearing a "Property of Shawshank Penitentiary" t-shirt while playing this.)

I had found a Horn of Fear upon arriving at the level and I tried that. I also remembered commenter Unimural saying that "War Cry" (which you get in the unarmed menu) is a priest skill. I had never spent much time with it. Between "War Cry" and the horn, I was able to fill each of the four cells with imprisoned mummies, at which point a previously-closed wooden door opened and allowed me to continue.

By the way, this level also had a couple of hidden pits, and if you can look at the image below and discern the invisible pit in front of me, you have better eyes than I do.


Beyond this was an area where I caught a scroll flying through the air. The text said, "Holy one, step forward with purpose and trust that I will guide you through the purgatory that awaits!" The room beyond had some gigglers, some poison monsters I'd never seen before, and a lot of spinners, but I found that if I did what the note said--just walk a straight line from the entrance--it guided me through spinners in a path that took me to the exit. One of the gigglers followed me and I fireballed him to death, at last getting a skeleton key.



In other news, I managed to connect yet another area to my previously-mapped part of the bottom level. They all join at the teleporter in the center, which prevents you from getting to one path from another.


Thanks to my experiences in this session and your comments, the layout of the dungeon is becoming clearer, and while I'm not a huge fan of it, I grant that it's very interesting and unique. I've mapped parts of at least 9 levels. Each of the "ways" exists on multiple levels, wending aside, above, and below the others, joining at the bottom Level (as you see here) and the "Diabolical Demon Director" level. Traveling each "way" is very much a process of moving from the bottom upward, and when you arrive at a new level, you never know how long it's going to take. Some of them are literally four squares, stair to stair, and others open up into vast mazes with respawning monsters.

As I close for the night, I have reached the Diabolical Demon Director level again--much quicker than I would have assumed, although that leaves me in a bit of a quandry because I don't know what to do. On my previous exploration, I found a door marked DAIN, the way of the wizard, but I didn't find anything marked NETA. But I have two keys that I didn't have before--turquoise and skeleton--so perhaps they will be my salvation. Here's something I think is a non-spoiler question: Why is the Diabolical Demon Director level called that? Is there someone with that name on the level whom I've yet to meet?




42 comments:

  1. Whenever i figure out a puzzle even if its minor i feel proud of myself. puzzles ALWAYS kick my butt.

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    1. (different anon) I love puzzles in RPGs and wish they still did them. These days you only really get fetchquests if even that.

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    2. What about the animal stone puzzles in Skyrim? Those can be real head-scratchers.

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    3. There is one of them in the wilderness that I only solved by trying all 6 combinations (I found a hint for one stone, brute forced the other 2)

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  2. So what did you feel when that dragon burst out of its cage?
    From my first time playing CSB I recall a mix of WTF?!? and "awesome!".

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    1. I actually captioned that poorly. He didn't "burst out"; I fireballed a hole in the grate. I'm glad I bothered to try that. There's a keyhole on the wall that I assumed opened the grates, and when I didn't have the key, I nearly left. Attacks and fireballs usually don't work on metal grates.

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    2. The cool thing is that if you don't figure it out yourself, the Dragon will fireball the grate. It was clever design I think, and also gets you off guard because you though you were safe on the other side of the door.

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  3. The pit is basically a dotted line just inside the normal lines of the square. Look for the horizontal dashed line across the big rock in the center of the frame - that's the easiest way to spot the pit (at least in that particular frame... not sure if the dungeon uses different floor art?)

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    1. Looks the same on most floors, although some are mirrored.

      It's easier to see if you just focus on one stone pattern. Say for instance, when that one near the center with the split mustache and single hair turns into a spotted face, then you're in for a fall.

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    2. There are also the faint lines on the sides parallel to the walls, but I agree the horizontal one is the easiest the see.

      If I remember correctly there are two possible images[1] for the floor and the walls which are alternated when you walk. And there's one overlay image for the almost-invisible pit.

      OG.

      [1] I wouldn't call them textures since they're stored already projected as you see them. The graphics engine just layers images with some scaling when needed.

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    3. I can see it, but only because I am looking for it.

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    4. Wow. I just realized that I can see the lines if I tilt my monitor a certain way, and I can't if I look at them straight on. But even when I can see them, I'd have to stop and study the square very closely, and there's no way I'm doing that for every square. Better to fall, die, and reload.

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  4. I guess it's diabolical, it's full of demons, and it's a "director" in the sense that it funnels all paths into it and then redirects them appropriately.

    On a side note for other readers, which path do you find the most difficult? For years I was afraid of Dain, but on a recent replay I found Ros was holding up not badly in that respect...

    Ah, and for the not faint of heart (or Addict when he's done), an 8 min speed run of CSB: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBmRWMx47Yg.

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    1. I've only played 1.5 so far. Ask me again in a few days.

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    2. The "you" was to others who did play it, to spur some discussion. But I'll be happy to see your thoughts too when you get done with this.

      Ah, also the "pillar" room has always spurred my imagination: the engine doesn't allow it, but you can easily see how those rooms line up with bridges extending to a center pillar, floating above the starting room. In a modern 3d setting you would probably see below and it would be a wonderful setting. Also, I've always liked the idea that you start in the same room as your final objective, which is just above but out of reach.

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    3. That is a cool thought, Georges.

      As for difficulty, does everything outside the Supplies For The Quick count? I remember playing CSB as a kid for the first time after not having made it much farther than level 4 of the original DM and getting demolished by traps or ambushes at the beginning of each of the ways. Rooms full of munchers in Ku, or an aforementioned Deth Knight patrol in Ros. You really did need to have played the first DM in order to make any headway in CSB.

      Actually sometimes I didn't make it out of the first room with all my party alive, poison having slowly taken its toll on someone. At the time I wasn't a fan of starting off in the dark, with no weapons, and in the middle of combat. Ultima 6 had a "start in combat" beginning as well, but at least there you could take your time and think.

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    4. That's a pretty interesting question. I would say the "Neta" path is easiest, but keep in mind, that is from the point of view of someone who has already solved its puzzles. I can't remember anything from my first playthrough, and in fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't get as far as Chet has.

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    5. The speed run is crazy.
      Usually this kind of thing are with cheats, glitch exploit, and computer programmed move precise to the pixel and the second. This one is LEGIT!

      The forum, where it's explained, is entertaining. It's sort of a competition between 2 or 3 guys. First they had a 12h run in one cession. Then they get down to 8 hour, then 4 hours. Then went crazy with an under 1 hour run. Then this guy finally manage some regular 15 min run, and got sufficiently lucky to get this 8 min run. It's like chess.


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  5. Fighters Charge? I think I remember those, there's always a monster-triggered pad next to those... right? One of the trickier parts the game. Good luck.

    I do find it a bit odd that you haven't mentioned the Hint Oracle (from the utility disk). Do you not know about it or just want to complete the game without relying on it?

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    1. No, it's there, and I wouldn't have any qualms about using it because it's part of the game. I just keep forgetting about it.

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    2. Hints are based on the tile you're at. If there's none, you'll get some general level suggestions/info on the creatures. If you want to open a specific door, save while standing right in front of the door.

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    3. Wow. I was really lucky about the location I decided to test that out. More tomorrow or Thursday.

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  6. "Why is the Diabolical Demon Director level called that?"
    - Game's got you in a paranoid state :)

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  7. @Anonymous - I think the Oracle and portrait editor only existed in the Amiga version (and maybe Atari?) of CSB...

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  8. Ah, the old "force a few monsters back onto an enclosed pressure plate and trap them on it" that gets used in at least 2 more RPGs - one a pretty good sequel and the other much more modern. I do believe that I quickly knew solutions to both of these due to this encounter in CSB.

    I had the hardest time spotting the obscure pits in my first few playthroughs - I restarted a game over the weekend and I am having a much better time now looking for those dashed lines.

    I *think* you did the fighters charge part already, as you passed that section of the DDD. There may have been more than one way to get to upper KU. In fact I just did that section this weekend as well, and it's quite a fun result if you do the fighters charge correctly.

    I hope there's not a bug in your version. The door in the screenshot above should have opened for you at this stage in the game. I think.

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    1. No, because after taking the Corbum he jumped down the pit, that's why the door didn't open. But if I was him, I'd return to the KU side of the pillar explore some more the upper level.

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    2. Yeah that's what I meant by "at this stage" - I guess I wasn't sure what sequence the screenshots were in.

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    3. Ah, so I needed Corbum. That's why the energy field lifted the next time I found it. My "explore some more the upper level" consisted of going up and getting roasted by a barrage of fireballs from salamander demons. I think I'll wait a little longer.

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  9. Seems like you are enjoying this a lot more than the first few posts indicated, Chet. Having never played this, or the original Dungeon Master, I have to say they seem quite a bit harder than the Eye of the Beholder series (which I am familiar with). Looking forward to the GIMLET on this one.

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    1. I'm trying to keep a positive tone in my postings. That tone isn't necessarily reflective of how much I like the game.

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    2. Dungeon Master is probably only a little harder than EOB1 (EOB2 is harder than both). But CSB is something else altogether!

      The actual sequel to DM (Legend of Skullkeep) is harder than DM, but more in line with standard difficulty levels.

      I would consider both DM and EOB to be relatively easy games.

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    3. I would agree with that. To elaborate:

      EOB1 is babby's first DM clone tier, to use an internet colloquialism. There's only a tiny handful of monsters in that game that provide even the slightest bit of challenge, and I think EOB1's designers weren't actually aware of the "square dance" when they balanced their game. Puzzles fare a little bit better, a couple being moderately tricky, but overall the difficulty level in EOB1 is as low as it gets in this sub-genre; your main enemy is getting lost in the overly large, mazelike levels, accidentally saving yourself into a "dead man walking" situation due to using too many keys and only one save slot, or quitting out of boredom.

      DM itself is "easy", but harder than EOB1, because DM has more monsters that can actually kill you, and more sections that require a bit of effort from the player. Some people think it's harder than it really is, probably because they were kids when they first played it, or unfamiliar with the genre in general (given how DM invented real-time dungeon crawlers).

      EOB2 is a satisfying challenge on your first playthrough, downgraded to "easy" once you figure out its tricks (apart from those %&%¤= transforming mazes that you can only pass via sheer luck even on your hundredth playthrough). All enemies are at least twice as tough as in EOB1, and some of them have maneuvers that make square-dancing a bit harder (I like the ability of mantis warriors to move and immediately attack).

      CSB is FTL Productions going "You think you're tough s**t? Well let's see you handle THIS, hotshot".

      Knightmare, The Legacy and Black Crypt are their development teams looking and CSB and going "we can do that too".

      DM2 is... weird.

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  10. I am especially enjoying your posts on this game, probably because I'm so familiar with CSB (having just played it again), that I can relate to everything you write here.

    Some assorted thoughts:

    A fourth of the way through? Almost. There is an endgame to get through after you get all the corbums.

    All the Dragon meat was one of the reasons why I advised you to take the Ku way first. Too bad you don't get Dragon blood as well to slake your thirst!

    The pit/corbum scenario is my least favorite part of the whole damn game. Talk about fist through the monitor time!

    Your pic of the Death Knights with that caption had me rolling. The nerve of those guys, huh?

    Institutionalized mummies! In my Let's (which I've finished, by the way; sorry to leave you alone here), I was looking for a mummy to grab, and I heard a click. I ran over and checked the cells, and one of the mummies had gone in there without any prodding. What a good boy.

    I can see the pit in that picture, but probably because I actually see worse than you do. I am so extremely nearsighted that I'm technically legally blind. With corrective lenses off, I can put my face right against the monitor and still see. If I look at that pic with my "micro-vision," I can see the outline of the pit. Look for a gray outline in dashes.

    Neta is a pretty easy level. Much more puzzles and less monster fighting. Some may find this level the most frustrating, if one hates puzzles like this.

    I'm not sure why the DDD is called that, other than it is diabolical (like the rest of this dungeon), there are demons in it, and it directs you to the various places where the corbums can be found.

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    1. Oops. The mummies paragraph should read "Let's Play," not "Let's."

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    2. I thought it was just the hip, abbreviated way people are saying it these days.

      I don't know why people complain about the food and water in this game. I have more than I knwo what to do with.

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    3. "So far, I haven't had much of a problem with food, but I'm starting to get a little worried about water. Aside from a fountain near the starting area, I haven't found any."

      -- Guess who? ;)

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    4. Fair enough. But it was only a problem for the first level. I finished the game still lugging two chests full of dragon meat.

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    5. For some reason, I had a water shortage until I completed Ku and Ros. Though that's probably because I forgot about the fountain under the Supplies For the Quick.

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  11. Is the title of this post a reference to "Ender's Game"? If not, What's the reference?

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    1. Its an original Star Trek reference.

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    2. I thought it was Battlestar Galactica, the episode when Han solo says "I'll be in my bunk"

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    3. I just realized that the little kid in "The Corbomite Maneuver" is Clint Howard, Ron Howard's brother, who shows up in all Ron's movies and played the creepy guy in the tree in "Arrested Development." Wow. He was ugly even as a kid.

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