Sunday, March 31, 2013

Knights of Legend: The Agony and the Ecstasy

How do you like me now, bandits?

With the wisdom imparted from my first experiences at combat, I did a lot better in the next two quests. I implemented the reforms that I said I would, starting bu purchasing backup melee weapons for my archers, though one weapons store owner was racist against elves and wouldn't sell to them.

"Wisp" is a pejorative term for an elf? Who knew?

The simple act of buying a longsword for my archer illustrates the continuing absurdity of the game's interface. I want to have my archer equip his bow as his primary weapon, and put the longsword on his belt so that he can access it in combat when his arrows run out. The annoyances start the moment I buy the longsword, when the game insists on immediately equipping it as my primary weapon.

At this point, I need to select the character, click on the "equip" icon, wait a few seconds for the "outfitting your character" screen to load, select "weapon," from the slots on the right, click the "eye" icon to take a closer look at my weapon, click the "swap" button to put the sword on my belt, select the first "pocket" slot (where the longbow went) to find the bow, click in the "eye" icon again to view it, and click the "swap" icon to equip it. I'm reasonably sure that the process takes longer than it would take to physically equip a bow and longsword.

At last: everything where it's supposed to be.

Once in combat again, I made better use of the terrain, sent scouts forward to lead the enemies to me one-by-one, and only advanced my full party when I had a clear path to another defensible position. I kept better track of my arrows, used the archers sparingly, and marked each enemy I killed so I knew how many were left.

Establishing a killing ground at the end of a bridge. Since I anticipate that he's going to run forward two squares, my melee attackers in position 1 and 4 can target that square with slow, powerful attacks, intercepting him when he arrives. (Unless the game makes them go first, in which case they swing at empty air.)
 
I was surprised to see that enemies weren't in the same positions during my next assault on the bandit castle, so I had to do a more thorough job seeking them out. This--sending my scout through corridors and alleys to find every last bandit--was the most tedious part of the game.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!
 
In the end, I defeated all 12 of them without losing any of my characters. Among their loot, I found the Knights' Standard and gleefully headed back to town to resolve my first quest. It took about two hours total.

The end of a battle presents you with a certain number of "adventure points," gold, and equipment from your slain foes. I nearly left the excess weapons and armor rusting on the battlefield--I must have been thinking about Pool of Radiance or something--but boy am I glad I didn't. I made more money from selling the equipment than from the battle itself.

All of Aedd's quest rewards go into healing. It's like a vicious circle.
 
This money turned out to be vital for healing my wounded party members (health doesn't just regenerate on its own) and of course checking into the inn to save the game. This is the only game I know where you have to pay money so you can stop playing. I look forward to this conversation later this week:

  • Irene: "Chester, stop playing that stupid game and come to bed!"
  • Me: "I can't afford it!"
 
The innkeeper, grinning like a guy who knows he has me by short hairs.

For my second quest, I decided to try the "ruffians" who had stolen Stephanie's gavel, talisman of the alderman's guild. I didn't know exactly where they were, but when I asked people about RUFF, they directed me to "Johnathon," the racist weaponer, who told me that they had been following the River Passing into the Tantowyn woods. I consulted a map, headed off, and found their encampment along the river.

Hell, yeah, I'll partake!
 
The battlemap seemed smaller than the bandits' castle, with one great place to stage an ambush right at the beginning. I took down half of the eight ruffians there, then moved into the camp to find the rest.

A great place to engage the enemy. Three of my melee fighters can take him here, but none of his friends can come through.

In the process, I found the gavel in one of the buildings, which was a surprise. In the previous quest, I never found the standard as an object; I just acquired it after I'd defeated all of the bandits. This makes me wonder whether it's possible to complete a quest by sending a fast character into the map, finding the quest object, and fleeing.

The gavel looks oddly like a sword.

In this case, it wasn't necessary, and I killed all the ruffians again without losing any of my party members. I returned with it to Brettle. This quest time was maybe 90 minutes, though I accomplished it slowly while watching Netflix and doing other things, so it's hard to say for sure.

During the combat, I found a use for my Kelder's flying abilities. This ruffian wouldn't budge no matter what; he just kept shooting arrows at us. So I had the Kelder fly across the water to his back side, thus allowing more than two characters to engage him in melee combat.
 
When turning in both quest items, the quest givers gave me the passwords to their guilds: AKLOM for the knights and KYDAR for the aldermen. Presumably these will be useful in some other town.

Unless my next quest takes me to Chicago, I'm not sure how this is going to help.
 
In addition to the two quests, I had plenty of random encounters on the road and in the forests, usually by small parties of relatively easy foes like goblins and gremlins. The prospect if surviving one of the long quest battles only to be killed by a random encounter on the way back to town, before I could save, was mildly horrifying. I had to keep reminding myself that you can't actually "die" in the game, though losing all of your equipment and gold couldn't be much worse. What I wonder is whether you can lose quest items in such circumstances. That would suck.

That these are "level 1" suggests a potential for random combats to get harder later.
 
I didn't come close to "dying," though, and on the whole I like the random battles better than the quest battles. They're much shorter, and they don't make you funnel your characters through such restrictive terrain (though at the same time, they don't give you much ability to make use of the terrain, either). Perhaps they get more deadly later on, but right now they're contributing nicely to my bottom line, and I don't see any need yet to purchase the horses that I eschewed dwarves to acquire.

A screenshot from a random battle.
 
Three more thoughts on combat:

1. The combat maps are full of interesting terrain and structures that you never really get a chance to explore, especially since the combat ends upon slaying the last foe. I'm not really getting a sense of the totality of the battle map.

2. None of the foes so far are very distinguishable from each other. I can't really tell the difference between bandits and ruffians or ruffians and goblins in terms of their AI or the danger they pose to my party. Presumably this will change as I encounter enemies with special attacks and spells.

That all enemy health portraits feature the same muscular thing with hooves and horns doesn't help. I feel a bit sorry for this guy, incidentally.
 
3. I'm not really sure how my the injury system works post-battle. Each character has a "health" bar that turns red the more injuries he takes, but the specific injuries don't seem to remain active in between battles. In other words, if Coll takes a serious hit to the head in one battle, in the next battle his health meter will be a bit depleted, reflecting that wound, but his head is no longer injured. Since I've yet to carry a heavily-wounded character between combats, I don't know how this low-health-but-no-specific-injuries system affects the character's performance in combat.

When I finished with these first two quests, my characters all had 1,038 adventure points and an average of 907 gold pieces, and I decided it was time to spend a bit of both on training and magic.

This is a random screenshot of outdoor movement, because this section was just going to be a lot of text otherwise.
 
The magic system in the game is one of the most oddest I've seen, and some commenters have opined that it is unnecessary to play the game. Essentially, each spell consists of a five- or six-syllable "word of power," with the various syllables determining the race of the target, the statistic that you want to affect, the severity of the spell, the duration of the spell, and the specific "subclass" of the target. So a spell intended to severely damage the offensive skill of a hill giant at close range for a long time would be KUMKUTYONOA, where the various letters indicate:

  • KUM: Giant
  • KUT: Offensive skill
  • Y: Great
  • ON: Close range
  • O: Long time
  • A: Hill giant

A spell to heal a human a little bit at long range would be DAYNALYRTA:

  • DAY: Human
  • NA: Body
  • L: Moderate amount
  • YR: Long range
  • TA: Used for humans, elves, dwarves, and Kelder

This means that I have to have separate healing spells for each of the three races in my party--human, elf, and Kelder--as well as separate damage spells for every type of creature I want to hurt.

You purchase spells wholesale, but if you join a magical order, you're given the option to modify the syllables of certain spells that are the specialties of that order, turning a spell that does a little body damage to ogres into a spell that does a lot of body damage to cliff trolls, for instance. But I guess you can only join one order, so you have to be careful about choosing the one that specializes in the spells you plan to modify.

Purchasing spells from a sad-looking old man.

There are 29 creature subclasses, so I don't think the best strategy is to create random offensive spells and hope they come in handy; rather, spell creation (and modification) must be a process of careful planning based on what you know about your next quest. Whether offensive magic ever becomes useful, I could see defensive magic helping a lot. My two archers have been doing a lot of standing around and resting while the melee characters fight (so I don't waste their arrows), so I can't see any harm in having them spend some of their fatigue on spells that heal and boost the other party members.

The wizard in Brettle only had spells that could improve the health or fatigue of humans or elves at short or long ranges. Since my elves would be doing the casting (and staying out of the fighting) in most cases, I gave them spells to heal humans at long range to start. It appears that you can only cast these spells in combat, so my hopes that they would help spare the expense of healing at the temple are a bit ruined.

Spending my adventure points is a bit more complicated, and I could use some advice on it since it's not covered well in the manual. My understanding is that each town has a weapons trainer, where for a combination of gold and adventure points, you can increase your offensive and defensive scores with certain weapons. The cost seems to be 100 adventure points per skill point increase, plus around 200 gold pieces for each "session" in which you can train up to 5 points.


Each character started with proficiencies in certain weapons. For instance, Aedd, pictured below, has an offensive score of 12 and a defensive score of 5 with the mace. Reaching that equivalent with a different weapon would cost 1,700 adventure points--far more than I've achieved so far--so my natural predisposition is to stick with the weapons with which the characters are already proficient.

I just noticed this instant that Aedd came with a crossbow skill. I guess I should buy one for times when I only have space for three melee fighters.

However, I understand from your comments that certain weapons can't be trained very far; that advanced trainers in certain weapons were planned for modules that were never made. What I don't know is what weapons are rendered useless by this system and which are good. I thus wouldn't mind a list of the specific weapons that are trainable to a high level. (I tried Googling it, but everything seemed to be buried amidst a bunch of other spoilers I didn't want to see.) In the meantime, the trainer in Brettle doesn't seem to focus on any of the weapons I already have, so I'll wait to get your advice or to travel to other towns before I train.

For my characters, the next quest is the recovery of a magic quill from some ghouls somewhere to the south. After that, I'll be moving on to a different city, I guess. However, I may intersperse some articles on other games amidst Knights of Legend postings, as I anticipate reaching a point soon where I'll only have a paragraph or two of material based on hours of gameplay.

I'll say this for the game: I have never felt such honest-to-god relief at the end of CRPG battles before. Remember my posting on the kobold battles in Pool of Radiance? This game is like experiencing that agony and ecstasy with every fight. This is both an extremely good thing and an extremely bad thing. This is, in fact, both an extremely good and extremely bad game.

46 comments:

  1. Scimitar is the only weapon you can Train to 99/99. many Strting weapons Cannot be improved as Trainers have Minimum requirements.

    Once you lease the Peasant Ranks, Balance for random encounters And Arena Gose to hell. But the Quest encounters do Not Schale.

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    1. Sounds like I'll want those horses pretty soon, then.

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  2. You aren't missing much on the art this time: The blobs on the map you can't make out? They are pretty much just blobs on the map.

    Excellent post, glad to see our comments are helping. It sounds like you need to turn the DOSBOX speed up a hair though.

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    1. Why does it sound like that?

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    2. You mentioned long loading times.

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    3. Just on one screen. When you click on the "equip" icon, the game seems determined to show a screen that says "Outfitting your character" for about four seconds regardless of how fast I have the CPU speed cranked up. In general, I don't like to go WAY above what would have been standard for the time, as I've had it cause problems in other games.

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    4. True, OK, that makes sense. Who knows, they may have even measured your clock speed and adapted for it!

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  3. It sounds like a good game engine paired with a mediocre implementation. I tried playing this awhile ago when I got the urge to play all the Origin games, but without a manual I had no chance of guessing how combat worked.

    I've also read that this game has a crappy ending, but you're probably used to those by now.

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    1. Good job with the spoiler there. An ending spoiler, too.

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    2. What spoiler? I don't know what the ending actually is, I've read that it simply doesn't make the vast amount of time spent getting to it worth it. I could be completely wrong.

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    3. Still, a spoiler it is, hehe.

      If the ending is really so bad as you read, this comment may just spoil the surprise and ¿anger? such bad ending would provoke in the player.

      I think it is the same as warning something like "in the middle of the game there is an amazing plot twist". If I were playing the game, I would be constantly awaiting for that plot twist, ruining in some measure the surprise for me.

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    4. "I've read that it simply doesn't make the vast amount of time spent getting to it worth it."

      THAT'S the spoiler. As an ending spoiler, this is particularly egregious. Good job ruining the ending.

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    5. That's no big spoiler - ending isn't that major a point in this game. It's either you enjoy this sort of combat gameplay - and then you don't care much about what leads you from battle to battle; or you don't - and then no plot developments could keep you playing. I can't possibly imagine anyone playing KoL for the sake of story (which is next to nonexistant anyway).

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    6. We've gotten WAY too sensitive when "I've heard the ending is bad" is alleged to constitute a "spoiler." Sheesh.

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    7. April Fools joke: The ending is amazing, joke is revealed only after Chet gives up.

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    8. PetrusOctavianusApril 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      Personally I was amazed by the ending.

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    9. This just in: Your party builds a spaceship and flies off in defense of the Ancients. Once you save the Elder World, the game autosaves and you can import into the first MegaTraveller game.

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    10. Damn, I should have not spoiled the joke and posted a fake ending, shouldn't I have. Damn, I suck at April Fools day.

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    11. Damn, I should have not spoiled the joke and posted a fake ending, shouldn't I have. Damn, I suck at April Fools day.

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    12. Damn, I should have not spoiled the joke and posted a fake ending, shouldn't I have. Damn, I suck at April Fools day.

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    13. I can't even tell what's true at this point.

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    14. I wouldnt make blanket statements about how much people get out of the story and ending of games. As I gather from our dear addicts prior posts he does like a ending that feels like a reward and not a drop to dos prompt.

      The spoiler here is on us now knowing how the reaction (of said addict) to the ending will be, or even worse how that reaction will be modified by this discussion when we read about it.

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  4. If this game was an person it would have been an idiot savant. It has some really good things, but then there are things that are so mind boggingly annoying that it's like the designers went out of their way to frustrate the players.

    You can get the highest skills in Scimitars, Elf Bows and Maces, in that order IIRC. I think there are some good maces or scimitars you can loot from certain enemies. Also, skill in Greatswords for at least one character will be useful.

    As for spells, get the spells that affect the highest ranked monster in their subcategory. For example, if (I can't remember) cyclopses are the highest level "legendary" creatures, then a spell affecting cyclopses will affect any of the lower level legendary creatures. So if you buy the highest level spells you won't have to buy/make spells specific for each creature.

    So, noticed anything the quests have in common so far?

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    1. Well, I've only tried three of them, but they all seem to involve the retrieval of some artifact for a guild representative who rewards me with a password. And so far, they've all involved a single type of enemy. Beyond that, I don't see any similarities.

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  5. I wish someone would do a port and extension of the combat engine of this game in a new-school user interface and open source it as well. If no full-fledged RPG came out of it, it would make for an amazing over-the-internet tactical skirmish game. Imagine the fun of the int look ahead system used to foil another human player's plans.

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  6. be careful to make sure you train your guys so that their skills are in even multiples of 5. What I mean is that if you have a skill at 12 you should train it to 15 then increase it by 5 every time after that. The reason being that trainers will stop training you once you hit a certain skill level (based on the trainer). If your skills ins't a multiple of 5 then you will end up missing out on 1-4 points.

    To add to Petrs' post; weapons I'd recommend would be greatsword, mace, halberd, club and elf bow. Other weapons which are ok are scimitars, mauls, and great axe. Unfortunately due to the expansions never coming out too many of the base starting skills don't work out long term once you start fight legendary creatures. It's best to focus on one skill until you have both offense and defence up to at least 30-45. That is generally enough and although you can get higher with some weapons, I haven't seen a huge benefit from it as of it, at least in regards to quests.

    By the way although their is little visual difference in the enemies, there is variation in their behaviour, stats and weapons. Some creatures are heavy hitters who always charge but can't take much damage. Others are light and will prefer running away and ranged combat. Then some will happily stand still and splatter you at range or up close. It just isn't as varied as you would see in some other RPGs.

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  7. weapon / max

    Bastard Swd / 45
    Battle Axe / 30
    Broad Axe / 45
    Broadsword / 30
    Club / 45
    Dagger / 60

    Elf Bow / 70 !! You need to have 15 for the trainer to allow training (only elf start with 15), cause no one train you from 0 to 15

    Flail / 45
    Great Axe / 45
    Great Hammer / 45
    Greatsword / 30
    Halberd / 45
    Hand Axe / 45
    Heavy Maul / 45
    Hvy Crossbow / 45
    Long Bow / 35
    Long Spear / 25
    Longsword / 30
    Lt Crossbow / 55
    Mace / 60
    Morningstar / 55
    Quarterstaff / 45
    Scimitar / 95 ( via 2 different trainer)
    Self Bow / 55
    Short Spear / 30
    Shortsword / 55
    War Hammer / 50
    War Maul / 25

    Some trainer offer to train you over those number but ONLY if you're already a bit above.
    ie: A Morningstar trainer will offer you training if you already have ABOVE 60. And you cannot, cause the only other trainer train you up to 55 (as I noted)
    It's really an exercise in frustration.

    With a maximum around 60 in attack and defense, than mean with 12000 adventure point you'll reach the max. It happen pretty fast if you like random encounter.


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    1. Thanks, Nathan. This is exactly what I was looking for.

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    2. Dont build too much around those number.

      I didnt extensively test, but I can say that +95 attack in scimitar does NOT let you hit 95% more often (may be 50% more)

      Plus, weapon perform very differently, scimitar do 4.5 damage on average, while a greatsword do 12.5, and a mace 9 damage.

      Plus, you might find valuable magical weapons, or weapons dropped by monster with better damage, or damage/weight ratio.

      Not being able to train will be very frustrating, but not game breaking.

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    4. For the record, the 30/30 max for greatswords is enough for every quest in the game as enemies in quests don't scale up unlike the ones in random encounters. You should notice a huge difference in your characters effectiveness as you improve your skills up to 30-40 but after that, in my personal experience, I haven't really noticed any huge differences. In my previous game I got one of my archers up to scimitar 95 but he didn't seem to hit any better in melee than my krag barbarian who had a greatsword skill of 30.

      I suspect the chances to hit do not improve linearly. Much like old school D&D, monsters do not have a full set of stats and I don't think they have their own weapon skills (offence/defence). The chance to hit is probably a lookup table that uses the offence skill (defence skill when a monster is attacking) that is modified by factors like strength, dexterity, level, attack and defence types. I can't say for certain but my guess is the bonus to hit each point of offence gives you gets smaller and smaller the higher the level. This is just my feeling from having played the game through several times.

      Of course considering most of my experience was 20 years ago I could be very wrong about a lot of this but I am getting the same feeling from my current game.

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    5. Okay, thanks. I'll post more on this as things go along. I guess what I don't know, given all of this, is whether it makes sense to:

      a) Keep training characters in their existing primary weapons
      b) Switch to different primary weapons based on the max training levels
      c) Train characters in multiple weapons.

      My character with an existing proficiency in a greatsword has only 5 in both attack and defense. To get him to his max, he'd have to train 50 points, which will cost 5000 adventure points. So I suspect a) might be the answer if I won't amass much more than 5,000 adventure points in the game, and c) is the answer if I'll amass a lot more.

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  8. Chester, I just noticed that in a previous post you mentioned not being able to check your equipment during a battle. Actually if you press spacebar you can see the currently selected characters gear. This works for opponents you are targeting too.

    The key commands needed for the game are;
    enter (select a command)
    the numeric keypad (to move or target)
    1 - 6 (to access each character's stats/inventory)
    < and > (for menu selection)
    from memory I don't think there are any other that are important (i.e. Control-Q = quit to dos)

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    1. Thanks! I missed the SPACE bar bit in the documentation. I figured out the number keys for the characters, although if there's any way to rearrange their order, I can't find it.

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  9. "It appears that you can only cast these spells in combat, so my hopes that they would help spare the expense of healing at the temple are a bit ruined."

    Maybe you can leave the last enemy alive while you heal up in combat. A trick that has uses in quite a few games.

    Of course, you may feel combat is long enough already...

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  10. Spells only recover body points or fatigue and will not heal the long term effects of injuries. Injuries in battle have a negative effect on stats; characters will lose stamina faster (eventually even when not moving), they will take more damage and hit less. After battle the characters will recover somewhat and their health bar on the character screen shows how bad the long term effects are. However you don't really need to heal at a church every time unless you are about to do a quest or their health bar is under about 70-80%.

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  11. One game i remember you had to pay to save was Cadaver on the amiga, it was released back in 1990, you'll get to play it soon!

    -Oth-

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    1. Not if it wasn't released for PC as well...

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    2. Hmmm, I see it was. However, Cadaver is not on the CRPG Addict's list. Wikipedia indicates it as being an action-adventure game. Cadaver: The Payoff is on Mr. Addict's list (1991), but I have no idea if that incorporates RPG elements or not.

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    3. Cadaver: The Payoff is or was a Level Disk to Cadaver and if The Payoff is on the Addict's list Cadaver should also be on it. But I'm not sure if I would call it a CRPG. It's an Action/Adventure which revolves heavily around puzzle solving. I remember playing it on the Amiga but never finished it due to its difficulty.

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  12. Looking forward to seeing how this one plays out. I remember my brother was really excited about it when it came out and finally got it for the C64. He spent an entire day creating a party and never got through a single encounter (and I was mad because I didn't get to play on the computer for a whole day).

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  13. This is one of the more interesting games I've seen on this blog. The interface seems frustrating and needless convoluted, but the combat itself seems to create those kinds of story-like play situations that are interesting to real about.

    I hope the creators of this game show up in the thread. Reading about their dreams while creating the game getting crushed by the marketplace is depressing, and yet that kind of thing was pretty frequent. It'd be nice to find out what happened to them and what they had planned for sequels from them directly.

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  14. "Unless my next quest takes me to Chicago, I'm not sure how this is going to help."

    If your doing quests for any Chicago aldermen I know then you have definitively moved out of the realm of "good guys"

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    1. There ought to be a CRPG set in Chicago. "I task thee with a most important quest: slay the wicked photographer who captured still images of me accepting bribe money from a commercial developer, and return here with his Camera of Doom."

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