Friday, March 29, 2013

Knights of Legend: The Sweet Taste of Victory

A first-time player has no idea what he's getting into when he says "yes" to this message.
From both the manual and the comments you've been giving me, I got the impression that combat in Knights of Legend is a complicated and often tedious affair, but I was thinking along the lines of Wizard's Crown, which at the time was the most complicated and lengthy combat system I'd ever seen, but still somewhat manageable.

Hoo boy.

My first Knights of Legend battle lasted so long that I couldn't finish it. I needed to be somewhere else; I needed my computer with me; I wasn't going to travel with the computer open; and DOSBox doesn't survive the closing and re-opening of a laptop (at least, not on my computer). I realized then that I would need a significant chunk of free time before I could play the game again--time which regrettably didn't arrive until today.

When you leave towns, the map changes to a larger overland map with a tiny flashing cursor indicating your location. As long as you're on a road, you can use the "Road" button to continue moving along the road without having to use the directional keys. This is one of exactly one ways in which the game makes playing it logistically easier.

Exploring the outdoors. I actually thought the road I was on was called "Mid-Morn Road" for a while.

There's a day/night cycle outside, and the game forces you to camp at night. I didn't notice any time passing when I was in town; it was always day.

I stopped off at a tower near the city, where an old dwarf named Fistan Stockhard (which, I'm obliged to note, would make a great porn name) reminisced about his times with the Duke's Highwaymen. He didn't have a lot to say, but it was fun to see the slight differences with which he greeted Coll, also a highwayman, and the female non-highwayman characters in the group.

A slight difference that didn't matter in the overall dialogue, but still it's the rare CRPG of the era that gives different dialogue responses for different character types.

This first combat occurred not long after leaving the tower, and it was with the bandits who stole the Standard of the Guild of Knights. I found them along a main road. I rather expected that their fortress would be annotated with some kind of icon, but instead I just got a message stating I had arrived at it while I was wandering along the path. Good thing I didn't deviate from the road.

Combat begins with a quick overview of your foes, and then you're launched into the tactical combat screen.

My party faces off against Zorro and his clones.

This game seems to combine just about every other tactical combat engine with is options. It has the multitude of actions from Wizard's Crown, a targeting system similar to Ultima V, the "line up each of your characters' actions, then watch them execute all at once" system introducted in Wizardry, an attention to individual body parts seen in Phantasie III, tactical use of the terrain seen in Ultimas IV and V, and the tedious square-by-square movement system seen in Paladin.

On top of all of these systems, though, it adds a few of its own contributions--primarily an action-selection system for which the term "torturous" was invented. Let's examine all of the things I need to do to move my character one square to the left:

  • Double-click on the "move" icon (fifth in a choice of 7 icons)
  • Click on the square adjacent where I want him to move.
  • Click the thumbs-up "confirm" icon.
  • Double-click on the icon representing the speed at which I want him to move (out of three options, or six for the Keldar, who can fly).
  • Review the combatant window to ensure that the game has it right.
  • Click the "Confirm" icon again.

Trust me: actually managing to move a square deserves an exclamation point in this game.

This is in notable contrast to literally any of the engines mentioned previously in which moving one square to the left required pressing the left arrow. The approach used in Knights of Legend would be slightly more tolerable if you could use the keyboard to select your options, but no, everything requires the mouse.

Now all of this would be tedious enough if combat took place on a map the size of an Ultima V room, but the combat maps are enormous, and it could easily take half an hour to mince your way from one end to the other even if you didn't have to fight anyone along the way. Making things even worse is that you start without knowing anything about the direction of your foe, so you could easily spend the better part of an hour just wandering around, looking for the enemy you're supposed to fight.

Combat begins. Where do I go?

Fortunately, my first battle included just enough map information (visible from only two characters) that suggested that the foes would be found to the west. I started moving my party that way only to encounter yet another annoying feature: after you line up all of the movement options, characters move in order of their initiatives. If the lead characters don't move first, the rear characters end up bumping into them and wasting their movement for the round.

Flashbacks to Ultima IV dungeon room navigation here, though that was a lot quicker.

When you finally encounter a foe, the available options really explode. You have four basic options: attack, fire a missile weapon, attack with fists, and use magic. Each has numerous sub-options. After choosing "attack," for instance, you next choose the type of attack: berzerk, hack, thrust, and slash. Each has different advantages and disadvantages in terms of speed, damage, accuracy, and available defense options during the same round. Then you choose the area of the body for which you'll be aiming: high, medium, or low. The decision here has something to do with what area of the opponent is least lightly armored, and which areas are already injured. Finally, you select your method of defense in the same round: panic, stand, back up, dodge, duck, or jump. Again, these options are based partly on the consequences on fatigue and partly on what you anticipate the enemy is going to do.

Targeting a foe. Attack options include do nothing, berserk, hack, thrust, and slash.

Fortunately, Season 5 of Mad Men just arrived on Netflix, so I'll have something to do while spending 90 minutes fighting every group of five goblins.

Stamina, rather than health, is the most important attribute in combat. You don't even get a health meter--just an icon showing blood where you've been injured. Various actions eat up different amounts of stamina--sprinting or hacking in heavy armor takes more than walking and thrusting in light armor--and this is further affected by the wounds you've taken. A bleeding character might lose stamina with every step. You can rest or walk slowly to try to recover it in between individual foes. If the stamina meter turns completely red, the character collapses and apparently doesn't revive for that combat.

Coll has a chest wound but most of his stamina (note the small amount of red at the top of the meter).

The interesting thing is that characters can't die. They can only fall unconscious. If all of them fall unconscious in a single battle, the enemies loot your bodies, but you eventually wake up and can limp back to town. Wounds don't automatically heal or anything--you still need to find a healer or you'll be at a disadvantage in the next combat.

In my first attempt on this map, I started moving west and found myself in a narrow corridor in which my characters had to proceed single-file. Owing to the movement problem I discussed a minute ago, that was a bit complicated to line up. As I emerged on the other side, I found myself facing my first bandit foe, and it was some effort to exit the corridor and slowly move my characters into position where more than one could attack him at once. I killed him after about three rounds, but my fighter suffered some wounds in the process. I continued moving up the path to the second encounter, at which point I had to quit the game so I could go to work.

The second time, I decided to get my party into formation at the mouth of the other end of the corridor and see if he would come to me. After several rounds of resting, I realized that wasn't happening, so I gingerly sent one of my characters down the hallway to see if I could catch their attention and lead them to my other characters. This was part strategy, but it was actually less time-consuming than sending all six of my party members down the corridor together.

Resting while waiting for enemies to walk into my ambush.

This basically worked, though I had to travel a lot farther than I expected to find my first foe: there wasn't one sitting just outside the corridor as the first time. Hela, my Ghor tigress, found one bandit and sprinted back to her colleagues, leading him behind her.

No! Don't chase me, Mr. Bandit!

She got to the exit just in time to collapse from exhaustion; I wasn't paying enough attention to her fatigue meter. The hapless bandit found himself beset by three melee fighters and two ranged attackers, but it still took me three rounds to kill him.

Note Hela's spent body just south of Coll.

20 minutes into the battle, I'd killed 1/12 of my foes, and I was down one fighter from my own stupidity. I resisted the urge to start over and started to move everyone through the tunnel.

Before long, I found another chokepoint of sorts at the northern end of a double-wide bridge leading into the bandits' castle. I decided to try to exploit it the same way by sending my Kendar (who can fly up to three squares at a time) down the corridor while the rest of my truncated party lingered outside. These bandits had bows, so it didn't work quite as well: I had to hide the characters around the mouth and then converge in a couple of rounds when the bandits got close enough that they could see them and start shooting. Fortunately, my own archers turned out to be extremely adept, killing several of them in one blow.

A nice arrow shot from Yder the Elf.

At this point, I was about 45 minutes into the combat, and I was getting a little sick of it, so I decided to just charge forward and see what happened.

The party ever-so-slowly moves across the bridge.

What happened was I encountered four bandits in a courtyard with a pool in the middle. One sniped at me from bow slits in a tower that I couldn't reach. The others alternately fired at me and engaged me in melee combat. Aedd, my Dark Guard, soon went down. I killed two of the bandits but a third unexpectedly moved into position to engage my lightly-armored ranged characters. Changing from a ranged weapon to a melee weapon takes at least two rounds, and I didn't have backup melee weapons anyway, so I just had them flee while my melee characters tried to engage him from behind. He died in a few hits.

Another character goes down.

About this time, I started to understand the "foresight" system, which I'll describe below, and my tactics started to improve. Two more bandits who wandered into the courtyard from side-passages fell to my blows. But by now, my Kelder was suffering from serious wounds and getting fatigued quickly, my two archers had run out of arrows (I guess you only get about 20 per combat), and I'd only killed slightly more than half my foes. I rested for a while before heading down an east passage. Logistics of movement were rendered a bit easier with only four characters.

Moro's fatigue meter is almost entirely red--which is bad. Time to rest.

The bandit in the next fight took forever to go down, and Moro collapsed from exhaustion during it. I now had four enemies left to be taken on by three characters, one of whom was wounded and two of whom had no weapons. In the next two fights, which took place in a narrow passage next to small buildings, my unarmed attacks (principally headbutts) were surprisingly effective, and the foes went down.

This feels like fighting dirty.

More than 90 minutes now.

The next bandit who came along dodged every attack I made and knocked out Onia, one of my martial arts experts. I eventually killed him, leaving Coll, my highwayman with a serious chest wound, and Yder, my elf with no weapon and wounds to his chest and leg, to try to finish off the last two foes.

Yder attempts a headbutt.

They failed. Coll went down in the next attack and Yder's feeble headbutts couldn't overcome the bandit. The bandits looted my party of their gold but mostly left their weapons and armor.

Two hours and nothing to show for it.

Hey! I don't even have a dwarf!

I'm not really bitter, though. It was a good learning experience in which I made lots of obvious mistakes. Towards the end, when there was still a chance I might pull off an unexpected victory, there were moments when it was almost exhilarating.

The best combat innovation in Knights of Legend is the foresight/intelligence system by which characters can assess what their foes are going to do. The character's foresight determines the order in which he or she plans his or her moves. This is different than the order in which the moves are actually executed, which is determined by quickness. Characters with high foresight plan later in combat, after all or most of the enemies have planned their moves.

Characters with high intelligence can estimate the enemy's likely methods of attack and defense. (Unfortunately, they have to be able to target the enemies to do this, so it's limited to melee enemies right next to you or ranged enemies if you still have some arrows.) If the character is correct, it's a huge boon for him and any character who plans his moves after this point.

As an example, take a look at this screenshot, featuring a bandit next to two melee characters (to his right) and two ranged attackers (to his left). One of the ranged attackers has figured out (by his body language, I guess) that in the round to come, the bandit plans to attack by thrusting at the head of the character directly to his right. Moreover, he's poised to duck to avoid any melee attacks directed at him.

Assuming my other characters haven't planned their attacks yet, I now have a good idea what to do. Both melee characters should avoid attacking his head, to start. In fact,  leg attack would be a good idea, since he's planning to duck right into it. Coll, the character he's planning to attack, should adopt a "backing up" or "duck" defense to avoid the thrust. If Coll is already injured, I should have him decline to attack and put all his efforts into defense. Meanwhile, Moro, the other melee character, can put all his effort into attacking since the enemy isn't planning to attack him at all.

Here's another one. This guy, who has a wounded left arm, is planning to make a slash attack at Coll, the character to his immediate right, aiming at the center of his torso. He plans to defend by standing still and taking the brunt of the blow on his armor (this is different than doing nothing). Since he doesn't plan to move, I should use a powerful attack, probably directed at his center to increase the chances of incapacitating his already-injured arm. Meanwhile, Coll should plan to dodge by backstepping. Moro, again, can do nothing for his defense and put everything into the attack.

And a third. The foe below is on the far left of the screen, and he's running to engage my characters in melee combat. Since he's running, there's a good chance he'll go first in the round to come, meaning he'll land in the square to his right--next to my melee characters--before anyone else goes. This means that Coll and Moro can target the empty square that he's planning to run into--and they should use their slowest, most powerful attacks.

That worked out pretty well.

This system is fascinating, and it introduces a tactical level I've never considered in a turn-based RPG. Now that I understand it better, I think I'll be in better shape when I return.

Some other notes on combat:

  • The game features a "fog of war" by which you can't see enemies around obstacles. The neat thing is that when the enemy moves, you can see the fog of war from his perspective, and you know which of your characters he can see and target.

The bandit fails to see my party lurking on either side of the bridge exit.

  • Enemies don't seem to be subject to the same rules about switching weapons as party members. My bandit foes went smoothly from bows to scimitars in a single round, without having to drop one weapon and equip the other first.
  • You can flee from combat at any point. There's a chance that you'll drop your equipped weapons as you do. I love the little icon that manages to convey a character running away in desperation, discarding his sword behind him.
  • Kelden can fly over obstacles and water. I haven't really exploited that yet
  • Enemies are dumb enough to walk into obstacles or fire their bows when they have no available targets.
  • The "body parts" system is more complicated than I described above, but I haven't figured it out yet. I gather that incapacitated arms and legs affect the character's ability to use certain weapons, run, and do other actions that would naturally require them.
  • My colorblindness is hurting me again. I can't tell what the heck the icons are supposed to be. Both my characters and my foes just look like speckled blobs to me. I find it hard to distinguish my characters from the cobblestone walkways and the bandits from the grass and trees.
  • There's no way to view your character sheet in the midst of combat to remind you of your stats and items.
  • There is, of course, no way to save in the middle of combat, nor immediately afterwards. (Short of cheating with a DOSBox version with save states, which I'm not going to explore.) You have to get back to a town and pay to stay at an inn.

There are a few things I don't understand yet, and I wouldn't mind discussion on these:

1. Is there any purpose to the unarmed options (punch, kick, headbutt) except as something to do if the character has lost his or her weapons?

2. If I can target an enemy with multiple melee fighters, does it make more sense to have them target the same place (head, body, legs) or to spread out the attacks?

3. If I sheath my weapons before fleeing, do I lose nothing from the action?

Even though this posting has been fairly detailed, I'm going to have to do a step-by-step combat posting later on, when I understand all the options a little better, and when I have magic to include in the discussion.

From this one experience, I can understand why players have a love/hate relationship with the combat system. It is at once stupid and brilliant, tedious and invigorating. What makes it particularly annoying is that it could have been unquestionably great with just a few additions, like mapping the buttons to the keyboard, setting an "active character," making the maps a little smaller, and the ability to set a destination point instead of forcing the player to specify the direction of movement every round.

My take-aways from my first experience are to keep a closer eye on my stamina bar, make sure the archers have backup melee weapons, make better use of the environment, and don't waste all of my arrows early on, especially when I'm fighting a single enemy in range of several melee attackers. I might even go back to the drawing board for the characters, paying closer attention to foresight and intelligence (and perhaps getting a dwarf).

For those of you wondering at my post title, I did manage to win one combat. In a re-load, I was attacked shortly after leaving town by a single goblin.

He went down in two rounds without doing any damage to my characters, and I was able to loot 42 gold pieces and a mace from his body. After the two hour ordeal above, this victory--any victory--sure tasted sweet.


  1. I hate hate hate mouse-only navigation. It was OK in Dungeon Master because of the whole Amiga/mouses were new then thing, but even DM let you move around with the keyboard.

    A good craftsman knows his tools. It's possible to automate some tedious tasks with DOSbox keyboard remappings or macros. If you're really serious about playing every CRPG ever, you should spend a few hours getting to know the advanced features of DOSbox. This investment will pay off over time. It doesn't mean use save states, there are a lot of options that will help you. For example, your Ultima IV videos had the CPU turned up way too high, making the character animations look spastic. Just hit CTRL-F11 a few times to lower the CPU, or CTRL-F12 to raise it.

    "Coll has a chest wound but most of his stamina (not the small amount of red at the top of the meter.)" is missing something.

    1. Ultima IV was three years ago. I've learned how to adjust the CPU speed since then. However, I can't think of any way to use DOSBox to automate tasks in this games since they require clicking on buttons on the screen. Are you saying you can map areas of the screen to the keyboard?

    2. If you get desperate, AutoHotkey would probably work in a pinch. You can bind most any input to most any key. For example, this script:

      A::Click 44, 55

      will make the A key click the mouse at screen coordinates 44, 55.

      If you are crazy enough to continue with this game, you should give it a shot. Installation and setup's pretty straightforward.

      Let me know if you want more details. And apologies if you already knew about it.

    3. Well, I seem to remember doing exactly that, but can't seem to find the appropriate documentation for dosbox. Maybe it's an extension? Dosbox's documentation isn't particularly great. Maybe someone else can remember how I did it. I just remember that CTRL-F1 brings up the keymapper.

    4. Yeah, I highly suggest you spend some time optimizing your controls. You can still rip the game on its interface, but, as is, this basically seems unplayable.

    5. I understand not wanting to use save states to avoid save scumming, but that probably would have helped you when you had to stop the game: save the state, suspend your laptop, and then restore the state (and delete it) when you can play again.

    6. this is very important; KOL is not primarily a mouse driven game. The mouse support appears to have been added as an afterthought. In order for the game to be playable you must use the keyboard.

      you do not need to change or modify anything to make the keyboard usable. You just need to learn the keys. Likely what you are missing is that the less than "<" and greater than ">" symbols navigate left and right through the menus. It's a cumbersome system but anyone who grew up through the rogue/nethack era of 80's gaming should be able to get used to it pretty quickly.

      Once you know what the keys are and get used to issuing commands, things get much faster. It takes a little manual dexterity but even issuing movement and combat commands can be done seconds. I mentioned this on the last post but random encounters really shouldn't take more than 5 minutes or so to get through once you know what you're doing. If everything goes smoothly a quest can be done in 30 minutes but some of the harder faught battles (or bug hunting) may cause them to last for an hour or two. Apart from one Sunday, I've only played the game for an hour or two per night, and yet in just over a week I've managed to finish over half the game.

    7. Also, once you have keyboard commands you could use DOSBOX to remap them to something sane, couldn't you?

      I'm with the above person on mapping the keyboard commands to (X,Y) coordinates, though you'd have to have DOSBOX in exactly the same place each time.

      Also: Yeah, you could follow a 'save states are for suspend only', like in the later adaptations of Dragon Warrior, where you have to delete the save state after you restore from it once.
      Heck, we could probably whip you up a shellscript (Batch file?) that restores from the save state and deletes it, so you aren't tempted to cheat.

    8. I had to bail in the middle of another combat because I needed to plug in my second monitor to get some work done, and DOSBox doesn't survive that, either. So maybe I will investigate a "save states" version. I'm just worried that I'll abuse it.

      The keyboard issue is much more complicated than "remapping." Let's say I wanted to make life a little easier by having a press of the "7" on the numeric keypad automatically execute an action to move to the northwest. This is the sequence of keys that would have to be mapped to that 7:

      UP ARROW

      Now, that doesn't sound like it would be impossible, and in theory DOSBox supports it, but for the life of me I can't get it to work. Perhaps it executes them too quickly. Either way, I'm looking at third-party software, which may seem like a no-brainer to everyone else but to me feels like a $500 solution to a $5 problem.

    9. Benjo, I appreciate your perspective, but it really doesn't feel to me that the mouse interface is an "afterthought" or that the developers primarily meant the player to use the keyboard. Perhaps I'll get more proficient as I go along, but using the > to scroll to the right five times and then hit ENTER to walk doesn't feel a lot easier than simply clicking the "Walk" icon. What WOULD have been easier is being able to hit the "W" key (or even an F-key corresponding to its position), and it baffles me why this wasn't done in the development stage.

      But you're right that I was missing those keys, so thanks for the notice about that.

    10. CRPG Addict: At worst it is a $130 solution to a $5 problem, as you can get software to do that free with a $130 keyboard.

      Less, as the keyboard is most of that $130, the software is just a bonus.

      Anyway, macro software is common; I'm sure you can find something.

  2. I loved this game back in the day but never finished it. I kept losing arena battles for level gains and got fed up. But I always loved the personalities in the game.

    A couple things to make your life easier:

    Pressing the < and > keys move left and right to highlight different icons and enter selects them. This is much faster than the mouse. Keyboard letter mapping would have been so much better though.

    If your weapons are sheathed/belted when you flee combat, there is no loss that I've seen. Although I don't think you can sheath bows, but I might be wrong about that.

    Weapons have offensive and defensive skill so you don't always need good armor if you have good defensive skill. Related to this, not all weapons can be trained to the max. This is likely a flaw because expansion realms were not made. I wouldn't consider it cheating to know ahead of time so you don't spend adventure points on training up a weapon that can only go up to 30 when some go up to 95.

    You can pick up weapons from fallen enemies on the battlefield by moving on top of them and selecting the pick up action. Helpful when you run out of arrows.

    Finally, a pc or npc gets incapacitated when either their torso or head takes enough damage to turn it all red. When arms and legs get all red they become useless so the creature can't move or can't use a weapon.

    It's disturbing me a little how much I look forward to your new posts. All the excitement of playing the games that I remember and loved, and many that I wished I had or had never heard of, without spending all the hours. Only you play them much, much better than I ever did. You, sir, are doing a great service to me and to many others like me. Thank you for spending the time, so we don't have to!

    1. One I forgot: if you hit space while targeting, you can see the armor they are wearing and the weapon they are using, which can help with targeting.

    2. It seems (I'm not 100% positive) that enemies tend to make evasive move to protect their least protected body part. A foe with no pants will jump more, one with no headgear will duck more.
      Or I'm giving more credit to the game than it deserve.

    3. I cannot confirm if they try to protect vulnerable areas but the AI definitely does try to aim for the least protected areas. The AI does seem to vary depending on the enemy type but there are some general rules and learning/understanding this behaviour is one of the key tactics.

      For example as enemies love to target less armored areas it is worthwhile wearing much lighter leg armour. That will draw the enemy away from the more vital locations. Unlike real life incapacitating the legs will not take out the character (although they may start losing lots of stamina due to blood loss) and you can use the weight saving to also save stamina during the battle.

      Another example is having small sized archers with high quickness, foresight, & intelligence run around the front lines in the lightest armour. Their lack of armour will draw fire from the enemies but their quickness combined with the sprint move should mean they will move before the enemy's attack. This means your slower melee fighters can safely walk up to the enemy without running the risk of getting hit.

    4. That's a great strategy in the last paragraph. I guess I've sort-of been doing that by having my scouts lead enemies back to the main body of the party. Since they usually move first, the enemy ends up firing arrows into an empty square.

    5. Jason, you were one of two who clued me in as to the use of the <> keys to scroll through the option icons, so thanks for that. I disagree that it's particularly faster than the mouse, but it does allow me to play the game on the couch.

  3. Jumpin' Jehosanelly! I teenk I skeep playen dees game!

  4. As you said the foresight system is so invigorating you want it in every crpg.
    While reading your post I noted another nice touch (for a "number crunching" type of game) : Never in the game you have the usual cliché fight comment: "you loose 8 HP".
    It's always descriptive sentences "you take a light strike on the head" "you're stunt by a powerful blow", etc.. That exactly what a rpg is at heart: the telling of a story. And it's a reason why you're so engaged in the game while fighting.
    It's more satisfying to land a "powerful blow in the chest with your greatsword" that to have the dry comment:" (20) critical strike: 15(+2) damage"
    It eventually get old (the same sentence over and over), but it's still nice.

    Damned, they got so much things right in this game, it hurt. Foresight, descriptive fight, stamina based, no death, those are innovation you'd like to see in other game and you never will.

    And, as you said, the NPC approach is not bad either: NPC dialogue based on your sex, class and race. Sometime decorative, sometime (like for dwarf in the stabble) as a gameplay changing feature.

    Even the weather, the season, the day and light cycle, the type of land you're traveling through, impact slightly the game.

    Now I'm angry! We had so much D&D, ultima, wizardry clone and half assed sequel and not a single KoL clone, or even a complete KoL! Innovation never pay in game industry.

    1. Actually, innovation only pays if you match it with great implementation. I think that just fixing the movement part of combat would have made KoL much better. Following a D&D paradigm, they could have specified a movement rate for each character and allowed (say) up to six squares movement per turn. That said, characters getting in each other's way when fighting in a corridor is the norm in my paper D&D games with friends. :-)

      We will have some of the KoL tactical combat features in Hero-U, and we've discussed most of them. But we would never consider using them all, because playability is more important than simulation. Our closest to the "foresight" system so far is warning the player when the enemy plans a major attack, but I might revisit that now. There might be a better way to do that. Hero-U is a single-character game, so entering actions will be much quicker than in KoL, and we have fewer (but still several) choices each turn.

    2. The speed of move (2 paces) is not really an issue. The problem is that 80% of time it make no sense: you're just trying to find your target.
      The move should be one icon (like in town) switching to tactical when there is an enemy in sight (à la Fallout).

      The fight could be reduced to 3 click : Choose H/T/L of your target, then in a wheel around the target you select your type of attack from the 8 available (including unarmed) and one of the 5 type of defense (and keep last turn choice by default). End. Next character.

      You could keep every prediction, any of your character have done during the turn, in a row above or under the screen for reference. Or just available on mouse over.

      With just that, you probably reduced fight length by a huge amount, and you keep the interesting part : choosing your option. Not trying to locate a foe, one pace at the time.

      And, cause not all combat should be epic, you have an option to auto-fight.
      The computer take control and play 10 time faster, and you can regain control if you feel so.
      It's perfect in this game cause you're not really concerned that your frail elf gonna die ( dying individually is not really important).

      There you go! You can now transform Hero U into a KoL sequel, with my blessing.

      More seriously, It seems most of the feature of KoL are integrated into each other.
      Stamina works with the armor fitting system and the Size stat, and the damage location and bleeding.
      If you get rid of that boring unusual stat "Size" suddenly your dwarf can head butt the head of a giant (in KoL he cant) , and you loose a bit of suspension of disbelief.

      Fitting armor sound like over-simulation. But having your Kelder not able to wear a plate armor scavenged from a Goblin corpse, while your dwarf can, drive you a little bit into the realm of the game.
      And knowing you have to fit that piece of armor to keep your stamina, is a good incentive to go back in town... like a normal adventurer will do. And knowing that the racist armorer wont trade with your dwarf .. Now the game is vibrant with depth. All that, just with a size stat and fitting system done with 1 click in shop for a stamina gameplay.

      It's not over-simulation for the sake of realism, it's simulating meaningful stuff that, in the end, make the world more believable and rich, and change how you interact with it.

      Meanwhile, in Baldur's gate. You found a plate +1 on a dwarf. Your 7 feet tall elf wear it. Oh no! The elf has enough AC, let's give that magical plate, like it's a handkerchief to the bulky warrior and continue our rampage. I'm not sure, that the carefully written page of lore about that armor, make it for the way the player use it in the end.

      Now I'm angry again! Someone code a UI-friendly KoL, before I learn some programming language and do it myself out of pure hatred!

    3. My feelings on KOL is that is was and still is a very fun game, but that it was the game system that made it good not the implementation. What I mean is that the KOL system is very fun to play and makes for epic and memorable battles but that the coding/implementation of the game has a lot of flaws (the movement system and the unfinished side of the non-combat parts of the game) that seem primarily due to the limitations of the programmer. There are so many little things that would have made this game so much more playable for a larger audience but it was unfortunate that the game never got it's expansions or sequels to actually make that possible. Todd Porter, the lead programmer and one of the four designers, went on to have a somewhat controversial position in the games industry (he was one of the key figures involved in John Romero's crash and burn with Ion Storm). I still commend them for the effort they did in 1989 but I just wish KOL was more accessible to more people.

      It has always been one of my personal dreams to remake KOL myself using a different engine, and although I planned out a system on paper about 12 year ago, I never got further than that in terms of implementing it. I would seriously love to see someone do it though.

    4. Nathan Pym: Ug, I hate it when they use silly little descriptions. I'm just going to skim them anyway after I see them for the 400000th time, there will only be 6 or so, and what I really want to see is the damage, so just tell me the damn number, so I can get on with planning my next attack!

    5. The more I play this game, the more I think that the movement speed is the real killer. Almost everything else is tolerable, and the game would be extremely fun and tactical. But taking 20 minutes to mince your way from foe to foe is crazy, and I can't imagine how someone in the development stage didn't come up with a better system.

      To me, talking about "realism" in a CRPG (or any game) only makes sense as a joke. There's no game that's really "realistic" in all of its elements, and that's fine. We're not going for life-simulators here. In most CRPGs, picking up a suit of armor from one foe and immediately putting it on another character is something for which we suspend disbelief--as a shorthand for the process that it would take for a "real" character to have the armor adjusted. That KoL actually includes the adjustment as a gameplay element makes it unique and interesting, but to me no "better" or "worse" than the typical CRPG.

      In games where you "hole up and camp," to take another example, no one complains that the game doesn't force you to make a fire, set up tents, or cook food. If a game came along that did force you to do those things, whether it was better or worse would depend on the quality of those mini-games, not their existence in the first place.

    6. Some people enjoy that. Look up GURPS sometimes and what they do to keep their books accurate. Gun damage is based on a formula based of weight of the round and newtons of force exerted. The guy who writes the gun books is apparently a German weapons tech for one of the big manufactures. They found a multiple black belt holder who went to Japan and competed in 6 months of martial arts tournaments as research for that book.

      Yes, they are crazy about realism, but hey, it makes a surprisingly good game, as the physicists and engineers writing it are far better at math and balance then most game designers.

    7. canageek: Now that's you said it, that's strange how I like the descriptive fight. I'm a number-crunching fan. I choose verbose combat anytime, and I like to see my dice Roll. But somehow for KoL, I dont mind having no numerical output.

      Addict: I dont praise KoL for it's realism. I agree with you, it's never a value for a crpg.
      I'm just trying to know why I like that game so much (even knowing it's bad, broken, boring and I never finished it). And the fitting system is great, not because it's realistic, but because it blend so well with the rest of the gameplay to give a greater sense of belonging to the game world. It's like how every NPC address you differently if you talk to them with a male or a female. Or how dwarf cannot hit the head of giant. The game kind of acknowledge what you're doing, and give you feedback so you know it acknowledged how SPECIFIC your party is. Those little detail are really great imo.

      Benjo: You might have guessed, I also toyed with the idea to redo the game. Or more precisely I'm toying, like anyone, with the idea to make "my" crpg, and a lot of stuff would be borrowed from KoL. But I probably never finish such idealistic project.
      So in the end, I'll probably be better doing some simple Arena type light rpg with KoL fight system. I'm decent with flash, and I might pull that off... If I ever can overcome my laziness. We should have a forum somewhere to gather every thing we know about the game.

    8. If you use the word verisimilitude rather than realism I think you get your point across well.

      Verisimilitude = How believable things are within context, or as the addict put it how willing you are to suspend your belief over certain things.

      Realism = Reality. Reality is something debated and never agreed upon in the realms of philosophy, politics, and even science :-)

      Sorry I am late to the party, I have a bunch to catch up on again.

  5. LOL! I believed for a moment You had won the game!

    Lord Hienmitey.

  6. The good thing about combat length is that by the time you deem this game unplayable, you'll be well past the mandatory 6 hours. The bad thing is that if you decide to play it to the end it's probably gonna take you the rest of the year. So I sincerely hope for the former ;)

    1. I'm past that now, but I wouldn't call it "unplayable." You're right about how long it's going to take, unless the initial three quests in Brettle are the totality of the game.

    2. No, there are 20-something of them IIRC ;) And they all are absolutely identical: find a place, fight a battle, return an item. So it's too early to say, it'll probably get on your nerves eventually )))

  7. This is another game with no sound. While the PC Speaker is derided as a terrible sound device, which it mostly is, any sort of audio feedback is better than nothing.

    I've been trying to find games that had toggles for colorblindness. So far I've only found that Alpha Centauri had two options for changing the game's palette , but none of the newer games seem to have anything.

    The only software I've found is ViSolve, but that only functions as part of the OS, probably not for games. It's a seemingly obvious issue that software should make note of, but apparently it isn't.

    1. It's tolerable enough anyway. I've enjoyed enough games in low-res graphics, so having to live with icons that look like blobs isn't a big deal.

    2. Have you considered blowing the symbols up using 2x or 3x scaling? That should help make the icons easier to tell apart.

      Another idea would be using your graphics card settings to fiddle with the colour balance your monitor puts out and see if you can increase the contrast between red and green by adding more blue to one of them or something. :S

    3. If I couldn't tell them APART, that would be a solution worth exploring, but the difference between the character icons and the enemy icons are clear enough to me. It's just not clear what the icons are supposed to depict. Irene tells me that they clearly depict humanoid figures shot from the top-town with a slight oblique angle towards their fronts (although they apparently always face the same way regardless of which direction they're moving or where their enemies are). But the colors that make up the icons are so similar that they just look like blobs to me, especially when they're standing on cobblestones. Ditto with the enemies on grass or trees.

      It's not affecting the actual mechanics of the game, and thus I don't want to fiddle with the permanent settings on my computer or in DOSBox.

    4. CRPG Addict: All the graphics card panels I have seen have profiles you can swap in and out of, so you could have 'Normal' and 'CRPG'. Heck, mine can detect when a program books and swap a colour profile automatically. It is for gamers that want each game to look JUST right, so they tweak each games colour balance and graphics card settings.

    5. Also: Glad you can tell them apart. You aren't actually missing much art-wise.


    1. It's not that I don't appreciate it, but my problems with the game aren't such that I want to install special software on my computer or play it by viewing it through my iPhone's camera.

  9. To answer some of the questions raised in the article;

    “1. Is there any purpose to the unarmed options (punch, kick, headbutt) except as something to do if the character has lost his or her weapons?”

    The only real purpose for unarmed attacks is as a backup when you either do not have a melee weapon, you have been knocked to the ground and dropped your weapon, or you are carrying a bow/quest item. It's basically just there as an emergency option when you don't want to use a turn changing items.

    “2. If I can target an enemy with multiple melee fighters, does it make more sense to have them target the same place (head, body, legs) or to spread out the attacks?”

    It's always best to target the same area. There are 3 ways to take out an enemy; remove all the body points on their head 2) remove all their torso body points 3) cause enough injuries so that their stamina drains and they die from blood loss. The more injuries they take the more their stamina will drain so any hit is still useful. Attacks aimed high will hit the head, arms or torso. Low attacks will hit the legs or torso but there is always a small chance of hitting elsewhere.

    You can finesse opponents but using a fast high skill character with a low damage weapon (i.e. scimitars which can be trained very high) and causing enough wounds that the enemy bleeds to death. However the better option is focusing on high strength and high damage melee characters who will be able to one shot a lot of enemies if they get a head hit. That's why the choice of weapons is so important in this game and why so many rookie players end up scraping their parties. It's not until you've given the game a play-through that you really know which weapons are useful (do enough damage and can be trained to a high enough level)/

    “3. If I sheath my weapons before fleeing, do I lose nothing from the action? “

    This is correct. Sheathing your weapons will prevent you from losing anything but you will not gain gold or XP. However collapsed characters will still get robbed (it's random what they lose). I also mistakenly said in your previous post that you could flee after finding the quest item. This is incorrect; you will drop the quest item if you do so. The correct method is to walk back to the entrance and then off the map to flee with the character holding the quest item. In general it's quicker and easier to kill the remaining enemies though unless you have few characters left standing.

    “Enemies are dumb enough to walk into obstacles or fire their bows when they have no available targets. “

    Enemies will sometimes hit obstacles due to the use of the sprint command which moves them 2 tiles. The AI does really calculate 2 tile moves very well unless they are moving next to a character. I've never seem them fire a bow when no character is present. Do you mean they shoot when there are trees or other obstacles in the way? If so that is because it is only a percentage chance of hitting the obstacle and it can still actually hit the characters.

    “Enemies don't seem to be subject to the same rules about switching weapons as party members. My bandit foes went smoothly from bows to scimitars in a single round, without having to drop one weapon and equip the other first. “

    This is correct and very annoying. This is one of the ways the computer “cheats” and my guess it was a shortcut they took due to their programming limitations.

    “Kelden can fly over obstacles and water. I haven't really exploited that yet “

    This can be important as some quests have enemies hiding in inaccessible areas across rivers. However keep in mind that flying is very trying and kelden are very big. Fatigue is determined by the characters size and equipment as negative factors balanced against their strength and endurance. Kelden tend to come out badly in this regard, hence the need to keep them to light to moderate armours.

    1. Thanks for the clarification on my questions!

      On the enemy archers, there were times in the bandit castle where an enemy behind an arrow slit would try to shoot through it even when my characters weren't visible on the other side.However, I realize now that these might have been cases in which the characters were initially visible but moved before the archer fired.

  10. The easiest way to handle KOLs combat is;-
    1. Use shields. shields add up to 50% to your defense roll. This is important because once you get hit, you're going to keep getting hit (and losing fatigue) due to the wounds.

    2. Ignore the 2-handers. They're too heavy and too slow. You'll get some decent mileage out of them, but long term you want the shield bonus. Big enemies will one-shot you if they connect.

    3. Use maces - Play long enough without cheating and you'll see why.

    4. Stab (thrust) if you don't know what the enemy is doing. It's the fastest attack type and in KOL, hitting first in a round reduces your targets ability to hit back. Berserk if you know it's safe.

    5. Back-up is the safest defense option if you don't know what's going on.

    6. Don't use archers. 1 is ok as a foresight spotter IF it has way more agility than everyone else AND if it doesn't waste xp on spell making (foresight is modified by weapon skill and experience level).
    If your archer has light armor then it's better off moving every turn unless the enemy is in melee, if you don't - it'll attract arrows, bolts, and boulders.

    7. Don't use elves, or Kelden. Flying is corner case, and elves actually suck at magic - The only requirement is 70+ int, and after that you need endurance (fatigue). Just take a Darkguard instead.

    1. while I think you are giving some good advice I disagree a little with some points. First of all I find archers extremely useful for scouting and support. Being able to sprint 100% of the time saves a huge amount of time tracking down enemies. High intelligence, foresight and weapon skills (i.e. elf bow) helps the melee fighters a lot via identifying enemy actions and a lightly armoured archer can serve as a decoy without ever getting hit. From the back row, where they are almost never targeted, they can add a lot of damage via their bows and even offer healing support between and during fights. The basic shop spells are enough for this role. Even with 4 melee fighters I often have whole battles where 1 or 2 of them don't get much action, yet my 2 archers are always involved.

      On a side note that's also why I don't feel elves are useless as they make the best scout-archers.

      Backup is a good default option but dodge is pretty much the same IMO. I suspect backup is better vs slash attacks and dodge is better vs stabs but I've never been able to confirm this and otherwise they seem identical. I like stabbing too as a default but hack can be a good choice too. It does a lot more damage and uses less stamina so it can be a good choice during gruelling fights, especially if your fighter has good one hit kill potential.

      For most players, especially new ones, I wouldn't recommend ignoring two-handers. Maces are great and many of the special two handers are heavy, but without going too much into the spoilers too much, there are a number of them that I would never pass on. Shields are nice but I never use them on more than 2 of my melee fighters. I prefer the others focused on high damage, high endurance and reasonable mobility (i.e. can sprint when necessary) with moderate to heavy armour.

      The same goes for Kelden. A veteran who knows the game may not need them, but Kelden are by no means terrible and just the fact that you can get to any enemy makes them good for a first time run.

    2. Keep in mind that my goal in playing these games is not necessarily to win using the most efficient means possible but to experience as much of the breadth of the game as I can. This means trying out different classes and tactics, and certainly means trying out magic if the game includes it. (I cowed to Petrus's "no dwarf" advice because it was already hard enough to choose the 6 character classes, and I figured it was an easy way to narrow down the list.)

      In the few battles I've fought already, I agree with Ben on the archers. They're so effective that I figure the game must have limited them to 20 shots per combat so as to avoid utterly imbalancing things. I was thinking about sacrificing one of my melee fighters for a third one. But I allow that the nature of combat might chance considerably later on.

    3. I agree. A lot of the fun I've had in all my gaming years is trying out different tactics and combinations. Sometimes even sub-optimal combinations can be more fun simply because of the challenge and variation. The game is much quicker with an optimal party but I'd be lying if I didn't have a lot of fun finding all that stuff out as a kid (when I had more spare time). My 1st winning party was actually pretty terrible but it still got the job done.

      Just don't make the mistake I did on my first play through and ignore checking out enemies weapons after battles. Some, especially those with different names, have different stats. There is even some variation among some of the monster's weapons with the same names. I kicked myself later after I found out I could actually use this stuff.

    4. Thanks for that tip. I've just been selling everything.

  11. It's kind of heart-breaking to see a game with extremely interesting features and some extremely obvious flaws. The combat system, especially because of the foresight feature, sounds absolutely worth checking out. But 20 minutes of moving your characters to just reach the enemy, a square or two a time? No thanks.


  12. So, when your party wins a fight you kill the enemy, but when you lose a fight they leave you alive but just take the weapons you used to attack them? Who is the real bad guy here?

    1. It reminds me of my party in Don't Go Alone. All the monsters did was "frighten" me, but I killed them in ways that made them "howl in unbearable agony."


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.