Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chaos Strikes Back: Won!


Wow, did Atari ST players get screwed with this game. That screenshot above is the only endgame that I got. Amy, who played the Amiga version, got a nice animated ending in which the volcano collapses, the world is restored (even mountains grow in the background), and the party zips back to town for a celebration. I got this one screen. After all that work.

The end of the game came so quickly after the last posting that it surprised me. Granted, it did take me a while to navigate the DAIN path, and I'm afraid I only have a little to relate about that experience. I videoed the entire thing, trusting that I'd recount it later (and take screenshots) from the video, but I accidentally closed the video program without saving it, and I didn't feel like repeating the path.

Suffice to say that DAIN called into play a lot of wizard spells. There was one corridor in which I faced an endless army of water elementals and creatures that I called "phantom tentacles" but I see now their actual name is "rives." They were non-material, so I had to hack at them with my one vorpal sword and keep casting "Weaken Nonmaterial Beings" from my other characters. It took almost an hour, and I was starting to wonder if they spawned endlessly, but finally I killed them all and was able to move forward.

These might be the weirdest-looking creatures in the game.

There were some other clever puzzles involving teleporting mists that redirected spells, and by figuring out the direction of the redirection, I could blast enemies and open doors.

On the upper levels (before the Diabolical Demon Director) was a large area full of flying serpents and hidden pits. Although I now knew how to look for them by tilting my monitor and watching for the lines, I still fell into an absurd number of them. Finally, I found the right keys and buttons to make my way out of the area.

And these are the coolest.

I had already cleared the way to the DAIN entrance from the DDD level, which made it easier. The Corbum ore for the level had the usual pit traps around it, only some of them were "false pits." This was clued by a message on the wall that read "EYES LIE."

Notice that it looks like I'm standing on a pit as I retrieve that Corbum ore.

With all four pieces of the Corbum ore, it was time to head upstairs. I chose to simply enter via the closest staircase, only a few steps from where I found the DAIN Corbum ore.

When I was finished with the game, I looked online for a map of the level, and I was astonished to see that I'd only mapped a fraction of it. Somehow I ended up emerging in a place extremely close to the endgame. I barely encountered any difficultly on the level, and it feels a little like I cheated.

My map of the level (top) versus the full map of the level (bottom), courtesy of the Dungeon Master Encyclopedia.

I think perhaps the reason I had sosuch an easy time is that I saved my "Skeleton Key" and used it on a lock here, opening a secret passage to the final area. Perhaps if I'd used that key elsewhere, I would have had to go the long way around?

Either way, I found myself in combat with a slew of salamander demons (or, I see now, just "demons"), against whom I liberally used my magic freezing boxes, FUL bombs, poison potions, and other magic items that I'd been hoarding. I had screwed myself in Dungeon Master by not saving a couple of magic boxes for the final level, when they would have been extremely helpful against Chaos, so I erred too much on the other side here. I managed to kill the demon with nary a scratch on me, recovered a "master key" from one's corpse, and used it to open a nearby lock to the final area.

Lord Chaos was waiting for me, casting fireballs, and for a while I tried to engage him. I still had a few boxes left, and I froze him, pummeled him, cast various spells, but couldn't kill him no matter what. I finally realized that it wasn't my goal to kill him, so I skirted past him and found myself at the FUL YA pit.

He looks pissed.

The FUL YA pit featured an normal-looking pit with what looked like a "black flame" monster on the other side. I figured I needed to toss the Corbum ore in the actual pit, and threw all four pieces down there before I realized nothing had happened and I'd lost my Corbum. I reloaded and hurled them across the pit at the thing that looked like a black flame, and that's where they were destroyed.

This was satisfying, but it would have been better if Chaos had shown up, screaming "NOOOOOO!" while I did it.

My reward, as I said, was that single screenshot above, followed by a listing of my characters and their final levels. I don't mind saying I feel a little cheated.

My characters rose but a few levels during the game. None of them rose at all as ninjas. I wonder if I'll get to use them again in Dungeon Master II.

And what the hell were all those gems for? Some of them were a pain in the neck to get!

Leyla with all the mysterious stuff that seemed to have no purpose, including a lock pick set, three rabbit's feet, a magnifying glass, a rope, and three gems.

Here's a few minutes of video of the endgame:



As I said, the end came so quickly that I'm a little stunned. I figured I'd have two or three more postings, and I had planned to cover magic and combat in detail. I guess that's not terribly necessary, since things haven't changed in those departments since Dungeon Master. I'm not sure Chaos Strikes Back even featured any spells that Dungeon Master didn't (I didn't find any spell scrolls, anyway). Thus, you can always read my "Runic Magic" and "Battling Forward" postings if you want to learn about those mechanics.

I'm also sorry that I didn't get to finish any narrated video on this one, but  a) Chaos Strikes Back might be the most videoed game in existence. Watch Amy's series if you want to see it in action, or check out the amazing 8-minute speed run that Georges linked to in a recent comment; and b) no matter how much I tried to plan the narrative on the one video I lost, this is what it was sounding like:

Okay, so there's a neat puzzle at the end of this hallw--oh, #*$*@! I forgot about that hidden pit. All right. I think the stairs are over...ah, @#)$! Where did he come from?! Let me just quickly mix a potion to heal...well, he's dead. I don't even know where the nearest...you know what? I'm just going to fireball myself to death and start over. Okay. So, now I just have to press the...what the...OW! That worked last time! Maybe I need to go over....AAAAAAAGGH! Why do I keep forgetting about that pit?!

But you know what? Now that it's all over, it doesn't seem like it was that hard.


65 comments:

  1. Congratulations! I always wanted to play this when it was published back in the day.
    But reading this, I shudder from the tremendous task and prepare to take a back seat while reading your exploits.

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  2. Rabbit's foot. Ha. Another one of DM's totally obscure items.

    The rope is supposed to be used to climb down into pits without taking any damage. Thought you knew that, but it's a bit late now.

    You didn't finish with any master ninjas? And here I was about to bust out with Master Ninja Theme Song...

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    1. Rabbit's feet do what you'd expect - they raise your luck while they're in your inventory. Luck is an invisible statistic that does... something.

      It's again one of those things where the developers reward people who follow hunches.

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  3. Your BMP images are being blocked as viruses by McAfee's corporate proxy server. This appears to be a recent development.

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    1. Why are you using BMP Chet? PNG has all the advantages with far smaller file sizes.

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    2. .bmp is format in which CSBWin takes screen shots. I didn't feel like converting them. I use .png normally.

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    3. Ah, I see. I thought it was odd. You can probably whip up a command line script to convert them all in one go using something like http://pmt.sourceforge.net/bmp2png/index.html

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    4. ImageMagick is one heck of a conversion tool. You name it, it probably does it with about a million options to choose from.

      http://www.imagemagick.org

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    5. Even reading these two replies was more effort than I'm willing to put in to worrying about image formats, as long as they don't suck, which the ones above don't. Anyway, the game is over so it's moot now.

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  4. Congrats! I imagine it must have really sucked to have this on Atari ST and get a two line ending, but eh, it's the journey.

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    1. Disappointing endings are regrettably one of the traditions of the sub-genre. I almost cried when Eye of Beholder gave me a text box for all my hard work, then kicked me straight to DOS.

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    2. The Amiga version of EotB has a pretty cool ending.

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    3. The endgame to Dungeon Master on the ST was pretty much the same. That didn't get an animated ending either.

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    4. Well, thanks to the modern era, I get to watch them on YouTube.

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    5. I don't find endings as important for games like this, anyhow. I do see how people could be disappointed with how the narrative ties up, but I often expect the ending to mirror the content and quality of the story throughout the game. That's why many triple A narrative-based RPGs fail in the end, to me, and games like this are just fine.

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  5. Congratulations on finishing the game! I honestly thought this would end up in the pile of your other unfinished games. You played it blind and won, which is very impressive. You da man!

    Some thoughts:

    I saw your video before this posting, and was very surprised there was no ending animation. Atari ST users were shortchanged indeed.

    I took the Dain path last as well (in fact, I believe you traveled Ku, Neta, Ros, then Dain? I went in the order of Ku, Ros, Neta, Dain), and that last corbum is by far the easiest to get, once you know what to do.

    A lot of the space left over on the top level is taken up by areas gotten there from the other stairways on Ku, Ros, or Neta. There are steel doors blocking the way to them, and you can only open those doors from the side of the staircases.

    Lord Chaos is something of a red herring in this game, as he is invincible. No Firestaff this time! The only thing to do is avoid getting killed by him, and advance to the Fulya Pit.

    Once you drop the corbums down the pit, you can just jump down yourself, and there is a teleport field down there that will throw you and the corbums back up to try again. Pretty forgiving, huh? But you might've already seen that in my video that you linked to.

    As far as the gems: The orange gem closes a pit that allowed you to enter the Couatl maze that you wrote about here. It also stops those Zytaz creatures - on the top level - from appearing when you step on a certain square. (There are a few other items that do that as well, which is why you apparently didn't even see the Zytaz.) As far as the green gem, do you recall that area with the fireballs and the scorpions (on the starting level)? There's a door that leads to stairs up to the level under the DDD, that will only open if you have the green gem in your inventory.

    I disagree with the "most videoed game in existence" statement. Besides my Let's Play, the only other vids of the game in action is the speedrun you mentioned, and an Amiga longplay that was posted about a year ago. My series is so far the only form of commentated gameplay videos of CSB. *big grin* But anyway, Dungeon Master and DM2 got a lot more attention, probably because they were released for PC/DOS. Thanks so much for linking to my playlist, by the way.

    I'm laughing here because your narrative sounds very familiar indeed!

    There was a video available of someone performing the Chaos Strikes Back intro with a heavy metal guitar sound, but it was made private for some reason.

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    1. Congratulations Chet!

      The Atari ST version doesn't have the intro either, if memory serves me.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4iUhlODVDk

      The intro is a lot more boring than I remembered, I have to say :-) The image of Lord Chaos building his dungeon is something I remember with affection from my youth.

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    2. It's just bizarre that the game has inventory puzzles that there's no way to tell are puzzles. If you have X item in your inventory, X thing stops happening. Would it have been too hard to say, "A Zytaz tried to spawn, but couldn't because of your thingamajig"?

      You're right about the order in which I took the paths. I thought NETA was the easiest, KU the hardest. But I don't know if that was because I was still getting used to the game when I traveled KU.

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    3. Ku might've also been hard for you because there is tons of fighting going on, and your characters were at a lower level at that point. What you said might have also been a factor.

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    4. I guess NETA relies more on player skill and KU more on character skills/prowess, with the latter more likely to increase significantly during the game.

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  6. Oh yeah, I forgot:

    The rabbits foot gives a bonus to a luck attribute for the character that holds it. It even works if you hide it away in a chest.

    The magnifying lens is supposed to be used on the "retinal scan" thingie in that square where the skeleton is killed after you teleport him behind the nearby gate. Oddly enough, any item held up to the lens will work. This seemed to be a bug in Dungeon Master as well.

    Ropes are for climbing down pits, as Harland mentioned. The rope is only long enough to extend down one level, and if there's another pit under the one you descended, you'll fall the rest of the way. Luckily, you keep the rope when that happens.

    The lockpicks can be used to open some doors, but on other doors, a pit may open underneath you if you attempt to that.

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    1. I get the ropes/pits thing. What I never figured out is how to use it. I'd just end up tossing it down the pit.

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    2. You put the rope in your weapon hand, it should have "DESCEND" as its "attack" option.

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    3. Ah, thanks. You think I would have tried that.

      Well, I would have missed out on the screaming sound, anyway, which I grew to like.

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  7. Congrats on another checkmark! I only recognize Hillsfar and Starflight II among the upcoming games. You won't be spending much time with Hillsfar, it is barely a RPG.

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    1. Chet, Regarding Starflight II, one piece of advice:
      You will encounter a large robot ship (I think it was) in a system near your home planet. You will not be able to communicate with it at first. Whetever you do, don't attack it. When I did I was not able to complete the game. :-(

      This may be a spoiler, but better safe than sorry.

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    2. I'm massively excited for Keef the Thief, because it's one of those RPG/adventure hybrids that I love, but one that I never got a chance to try.

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    3. Keef the Thief is an enjoyable game, but with a good deal of quirks. The most annoying of them is probably that all the traps are instadeath if you fail to disarm them - and that relies, iirc, somewhat on random chance.

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    4. By the way, Tangle Tales are also one such hybrid, probably, more so, than Keef.

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    5. Even I would agree that helping someone avoid a game-breaking glitch is not a spoiler ;-)

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    6. Are you kidding? Petrus robbed me of the chance to write a rabid, frothing tirade! Everybody loves those.

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    7. Damned, I didn't think of the entertainment value (for us readers).

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  8. Too bad you completed so quickly.
    The last level has the infamous worm woom where you can get possibly the best weapon in the game.
    Also, you missed out on the chance to get rid of the demon army using a cunning plan. Last time I played I tried to use cunning but failed, so like you I has to use brute force instead. This is what I wrote about it on the Codex:

    "Lord Chaos' last defense is a Demon cave, who would be wall-to-wall demons if it wasn't for some Worms (their food?). One way to soften them up is to build a Fireball launcher that fires fireballs into the heart of the demon's cave. This is done by activating spinners (blue mist that changes the direction of the fireball) so that the fireballs end up in the demon cave. I probably did things on the wrong order, 'cause only one fireball was launched and that was before I had activated all the spinners.
    So I had to use brute force, combined with cunning use of friendly fire. I used a Skeleton Key to open up the way to the demon cave (which was blocked by a pit) and stood my ground at the only way out of it. Using all the Poison Cloud bombs and Fireball bombs that I had been hoarding it was not too hard, and the demons kept casting Fireballs on their comrades caught in the line of fire.
    There was supposed to be a secret way to the Ful Ya chamber, bypassing the Demon Cave and involving using the four "keys of B", but I never found any keyholes for them."

    Incidentally I completed the game with the same party as yours, imported from Dungeon Master. Sadly I can't compare your party to mine, since that game and the screenshots of it are on the HD of my old, defunct computer, and I had problems getting the old HD to work with my new computer.

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    1. Obviously, without looking at spoilers, I had no way of knowing what else I'd find on the level. I wasn't going to delay winning the game AFTER I'd already killed the creatures just so I could head back out and mess around with the other things on the level. But it's good to know what all that stuff was for.

      I wondered what the two "Keys of B" I was toting around did. I also ended the game with a square key, four iron keys, a sapphire key, a gold key, and a topaz key.

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    2. I thought you used the sapphire key to get in that area with the fountain and the gor coin concession stand? The topaz key is used during an alternate way to get to the Fulya Pit. Petrus stated what the keys of B were for in his comment above. The gold keys and iron keys were used in quite a few locks. Most notably, though, the iron keys were used in that room underneath the Supplies For the Quick, where you can get teleported to the Junction of the Ways. I don't quite recall (or have written down) what the square keys were for.

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  9. I'll be interested to see the GIMLET for this one. It seems to be a game that is all about the puzzles, but you don't really have a "puzzles" section in your scoring, except as a part of gameplay I guess.

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    1. I don't really consider "puzzles" as a vital element to a CRPG. If a game has particularly good or rewarding ones, I might use the gameplay or "bonus" category to bump the score. A game that's primarily about puzzles is really something else entirely.

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    2. Different strokes I guess. I don't see why buying and selling would be vital for an RPG.

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    3. 'Cause it's a vital part of tabletop RPGs on which CRPGs are based. But yes, different strokes. If someone else wanted to create a GIMLET-style rating system with "Puzzles" in place of "Economy," I couldn't begrudge that.

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    4. I agree with anonymous that I find puzzles to be a more enjoyable part of CRPGs than the economy. But that's why you don't just post a score but an entire series of entries on the game - I can draw my own conclusions about how I'd enjoy the game. I think of the GIMLET more as a device to let me know YOUR personal enjoyment of the game.

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    5. "'Cause it's a vital part of tabletop RPGs on which CRPGs are based."

      I must raise a querying eyebrow here. Money is almost literally worthless in every tabletop RPG I have played, all the way back to original D&D from the 70's, where I remember our characters picking up piles of gold and jewels (to get xp for them) then throwing it all away (because there was nothing in the standard equipment list to actually SPEND all that cash on). Economy of managing limited resources, that is surely a critical aspect of most RPGs - but economy of strictly money and purchasing power? I really can't recall a single tabletop RPG where that would matter a great deal.

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    6. "Money is almost literally worthless in every tabletop RPG I have played, all the way back to original D&D from the 70's, where I remember our characters picking up piles of gold and jewels (to get xp for them) then throwing it all away (because there was nothing in the standard equipment list to actually SPEND all that cash on)."

      Hmm, a different experience over the years from me then. Any decent gm would have come up with lots of things to spend your money on...

      It also depends on how much cash you get as loot :-)

      Also, in fairness, I'd point out that your statement surely only really applies to D&D and not to many other rpgs out there. For a start, one only gets xp for loot in D&D, not in other rpgs.

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    7. That doesn't match my experience either; It sounds like you had a few Monty Haul DMs.

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    8. Money is only really worth its perceived value. A lot of crpg economies fall apart because cash is essentially an unlimited resource. - If you've got unlimited money sooner or later you've got nothing to spend it on it becomes worthless.

      Some games try to add in expensive aesthetic white elephants (like housing) to ofset this, but ultimately the only way to increase the value of money is to limit the money supply. Fallout's a good example because it had a secondary resource. - You could grind for money and xp, but it cost you something irreplaceable (the vaults water supply).

      When money isn't unlimited there's another major problem;- A magic sword found after a titanic battle is a very different item to one purchased from the fantasy walmart (although p2w players may disagree). The stats are the same, but its perceived value to the player is not.

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  10. Congrats on beating the game!

    All the aspects you found frustrating would drive me to the point of quitting, but I'm glad you toughened through it.

    It adds so much credibility to your reviews (and historical perspectives) when you play to the end!

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    1. This seemed like one of those seminal games that you couldn't possibly not finish. (Not that such considerations have always stopped me.)

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  11. Hey, congratulations!

    A comment or two, which you might wish to consider for final review:

    I see the fact that you could finish the game while missing about 1/3 of the content as a feature rather than a short-coming. Dungeon Master and EOB and other dungeon crawlers from the era suffer from "staticness": apart from respwaners, the dungeon, monsters, items locations, puzzles, etc. are predefined and set, so every playthrough will be very similar. Replaying it with a different party or different playing approach can lead to a different experience, but it's because the PLAYER changes, not the DUNGEON.

    Chaos Strikes Back designers made an obvious effort to get beyond. First, there are many randomized elements: there's a very convoluted system (read about it on dmweb) which sends items to random locations, so that for a bunch of elements, you never know where they'll end to be. There's also the junction teleporters.

    But the essential thing is that the whole game acts like a complex system: there are so many choices and paths and alternative/optional ways to do things that in the end, this "deterministic" structure displays chaotic and impredictable behaviour. The last level offers thus many different ways to be solved depending on what happened to the player:

    - You could have the skeleton key (1. found it & 2. not used it elsewhere), shortcut to the demon room, and kill them by hand
    - You could have a Ra key and open a door to a teleporter that brings you next to the demon room, and kill them by hand (you could use the Ra key to get some hot items instead)
    - You could not have the skeleton or ra key, navigate through the maze to the demon room, and kill them by hand
    - You could use a handful of iron keys, coins and buttons to modify the level architecture and set up a fireball launcher and spinners network that sends fireballs into the demon room and kills them all (the "satisfying" solution I was talking about, managed to do it last time)
    - You could use 4 keys of B to open the "backdoor" passage (bottom of the map) where you can
    a) use lockpicks to bypass the demon room if you have them, but triggering a fireballs trap
    b) use a topaz key to bypass the demon room if you have it, deactivating that trap
    Both lockpicks and the topaz key are randomly placed in an alcove somewhere, you can never know where.

    There's so many places also where for example you have a door with a button on one side and a lock on the other: both will open the door but the button will also activate a monster respawner, while the lock will cost you a key. At the entrance of the DDD, you can choose between an additional flask or maneuvering space. There's also some monster respanwers or corridors which can change depending on if you found and kept some items, randomly placed or not.

    Because of that, replaying CSB even if you know the game inside out keeps being fun: the game keeps throwing choices at you (if you don't know it), and such flexibility in the way you travel through the game is I think a rather unique feature, for the time or even years later.

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    1. Oh, I agree. Replayability is a big part of my "Gameplay" category, and I could see where it would be fun to try the game again with different choices and different path orders to see how it made a difference in gameplay, much as today it's fun to replay Skyrim along the evil (Stormcloak) path.

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    2. What? You find the Stormcloak path to be evil? We're just protecting our homeland! Go crawling back to the Aldmeri Dominion, and leave us to our peaceful worship of Talos. Ulfric is the true High King!

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    3. Yeah, like I spent the last four games saving the Empire just to watch you separatists tear it apart. I save "Mass Paralysis" and "Firestorm" scrolls solely for your camps.

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    4. So you think this to be mere games? The lives of the sons and daughters of Skyrim are nothing to be trifled with!

      (OOC: I do find that Galmar Stonefist fellow to be quite bloodthirsty!)

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    5. Skyrim will never be enslaved to the Empire! It was the blood of Nords that settled Tamriel and it will be the blood of Nords that defend it! No haughty elves will tell us how to rule our land!

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    6. Great. And the inhabitants of the Reach should be able to govern themselves, too. And you know what? I think the Rift should be its own kingdom; why should it have to respond to orders from Solitude, leagues and mountains away. In fact, let's just keep on dividing until we're a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other from separate trees.

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    7. Initially I was thinking of siding with the Stormcloaks. Underdogs are fun and all that. But it turned out they really were just a bigoted bunch of idiots. If their prime motivation was the opposition of Aldmeri, weakening the empire was the absolutely worst thing they could do. Their bigotry towards elves didn't help any.

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    8. I resolved to help the noble Empire (I mean, I did play Oblivion and all), but to murder every Akavari I could. Still trying to figure out how to get the ones in Markharth.

      I write my own outcomes in, since the game is so bad at it.

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  12. That was faster than I thought it'd be too. You really tore into this game the past few days. I hope Tangled Tales takes time, as I'm looking forward to joining you for Keef the Thief. It's one of the few games I remember having a demo for, but never really knew how to play through it as a kid.

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    1. I wanted to finish it before today, so I devoted an absurd amount of time to it on Wednesday.

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  13. This was another (legendary) game that was particularly fun to read about. It seemed that you warmed up to it while playing. It's not a "GIMLET-friendly" game I suppose, but it's other qualities seemed to win you over.

    --Eino

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    1. I agree. Early on, I hated it, but I felt myself warming up to it as time went on.

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  14. I go away for a couple of weeks, come back and find you've only gone and finished the bloody thing. Your description of the game's exquisite frustration still rings true for me, even after all these years. Congratulations, sir!

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  15. So, did you ever find any pieces of the RA armor?

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    1. It appears I have the Shield of Ra but nothing else.

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  16. Belated congratulations for another win! It's extremely impressive how you beat the games after your blog hiatus. You have quite the talent for figuring out what is needed, what is excessive and how to win a game quickly.

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