|To this band of heroes, it's all about the money.|
If you haven't been following the comments, UbAh has me obsessed with the idea that in Knights of Legend, my party is actually evil. The evidence is as follows:
1. I frequently get quests to invade the homes of people described as "bandits" and "ruffians" and such, but half the time it's to recover some object that they just possess--as in, it's theirs, not something they've stolen from anyone. Sometimes the quest is explicitly to wipe them out and bring back some cherished possession as a trophy.
2. The missions involve prowling through their fortresses, barging into buildings and rooms, and mercilessly killing every last one of them.
3. If I fail and they defeat me, they don't kill me. They just loot me for my equipment and leave me alive--a courtesy that I don't extend to them.
|Note that I'm only winded, not dead.|
To this, we must add a fourth exhibit. After some training, I decided it was time to visit the arena and level up. The arena consists of one-on-one combat with some hapless monster while people watch and place bets. My opponent has no chance of getting out of the arena alive, whereas if I lose--you guessed it--I only lose my equipment.
This game is takings its toll on my conscience.
After my last posting, JasonL clued me in to the existence of a fourth quest in Brettle. Apparently, I missed some obscure dialogue with the mayor when I first visited, and he never repeated it. It was to him that I needed to give an intialism of the various guild passwords to get a quest to recover the Sword of Truth (I knew Terry Goodkind didn't make that up on his own), which had been stolen for some goblins. Or, more likely, the mayor sold it to the goblins, and now he wanted me to slaughter them and get it back so he could keep the gold.
Whatever the case, I asked around and found out that the goblins were hiding out on the south coast. The terrified little creatures were cowering in caves carved into the mountainside, and the resulting mission took a long time, as I slowly lured them out to face ambushes outside.
|One-by-one, they chased my scouts from their caves and ran into a phalanx of fighters.|
When I was done, the mayor apparently decided he couldn't look at the blood-stained artifact I had recovered, and he let me keep it. It's better than the standard greatsword, and I gave it to Moro, who has greatsword skill.
With nothing else to do in Brettle, I headed up the north road to the arena, but I was turned away. I was puzzled for a bit, since the elf trainer had explicitly told me to visit. Then I remembered that was before the ettins defeated me, and I never re-visited the trainer after I reloaded. Thus, I moved on to the next city upo the coast, called Htron.
|Encountering a city on the road.|
This is the third city I've visited, and it wasn't much different from the others. Each city has a variety of shops, some semi-colorful characters, and a castle. Each city seems to have one NPC with something to offer on Pildar (the putative villain in the game, though for all I know he's trying to bring democracy to Ashtalarea. In Htron, it was a hermit named Sam, and I thought I'd transcribe my dialogue with him to give you a sense of NPC interaction in the game.
All shop owners, inkeepers, bartenders, stablers, wizards, trainers, and other characters are also NPCs with whom you can have conversations. There are some NPCs who seem to have no purpose other than to talk. They're all in buildings--no one roams around outdoors in the towns--and when you first enter, you choose the party member who's going to represent your group.
My characters all have charisma scores, but as far as I can tell, this doesn't affect NPC interaction. The only thing that does is race and class; some NPCs will simply refuse to talk to you if they don't like your occupation or creed. Sometimes, they'll have slightly different greetings for men and women or for different classes, but these don't seem to affect the overall dialogue.
|He probably doesn't support the E.R.A., either.|
You can begin by choosing the "listen" icon to ask them for news or comments. Between that and the greetings the give you when you enter, you can usually pick out a keyword or two to ask about with the "talk" icon. Even if you can't, almost everyone responds to PILDAR, SEGGALLION, and the name of other NPCs in their cities.
When I visited Sam, the game introduced me with a little description and opening dialogue:
You see a large, old tree on the edge of the woods. It has a wide crack near the base. Out of the rack a strange old Elf appears. He looks at you, and smiles oddly."Eh, do you have the patience to sit on roots and talk with me of recent events? Which one needs help?"
I selected Coll, the Duke's Highwayman.
"What a strong one! Do you know the secret of the glowing blue blade? I know it not. What can I do for you?"
When I chose to "listen" to him, I got:
"It seems a strange thing, I'm sure, to see an Elf this far north. Yes, very strange."
Finally, I chose to "talk." These keywords produced the indicated dialogue:
ELF: "Come now, you couldn't tell me by my features? Perhaps you thought I was a Dwarf, no?"DWARF: "Yes, small guys with a most obnoxious smell, and even a more repellent demeanor."SEGGALLION: "Yes, I knew him. I believe it was three years ago now, why?"PILDAR: "Him I knew as well. Although I can say I regretted that meeting! What a 'Stod ah tee'!"STOD: "That is an Elven word for scum. Anyway, I just realized you are of use to me. I've been doing some research into what makes the dead come back to life. If I could figure this out, it might help us defeat Pildar! I've read that reanimation is controlled by an elixir made of Parth oil. Find me some of this oil, and I will reward you well!"
All NPCs have a stock response if you ask about something they're not specifically programmed to answer. In the case of Sam, it was: "Ah!! My book on Cliff Trolls! I've been looking for this for years!" And if you ask about a keyword known to another NPC in the city, you'll get, "I heard [other NPC] talking about that!" It was from this that I knew to ask Yommel more about the Parth Oil and thus get the location of the brigands.
You can see the Ultima influence on this approach to NPCs and dialogue, but it's not quite the same. That NPCs are only found in buildings gives a certain artificial quality to the interactions. Since the only gameplay mechanic outside of cities is fighting combats, most of what you hear from NPCs is window dressing, not intelligence that you'll actually use in the field. Contrast this to, say, Ultima V, where NPCs gave you coordinates for key items, mantras to use at the shrines, passwords to get into dungeons, and other things that you could use while adventuring. Nonetheless, I still like the way NPCs fill you in as to aspects of the land's history, and it's too bad more games of the era didn't use a similar approach.
I used the trainer in Htron to increase my ability with the warhammer and the mace. The city also produced two quests: the recovery of a lost crown for a Kelder named Biblik, and finding some "Parth Oil" for Sam the Hermit. Further investigations about town indicates that the crown is in a keep along the Tegal River and the oil is in a fortress off Berthand's Bay on the far south coast. Note that neither of these items were stolen or anything. The crown was lost and some "brigands" just happen to possess the Parth Oil. I still apparently have to kill everyone to get the items.
I wanted to return to the elf bow trainer, so after I visited him for the second time, I hit the brigands nearby with the Parth Oil.
|The "fearsome creatures of my quest" are the cast of Zorro: The Gay Blade.|
It was the most difficult battle I've faced yet, aside from the first combat where I didn't know what I was doing and lost. Two of my fighters were unconscious by the time I killed the last brigand. Their AI was much more sophisticated than previous enemies. They refused to be drawn into ambushes, preferred to hang back and shoot me with arrows, and weren't too proud to flee into the corners of their fortress when the battle turned against them. It didn't help them, though.
By this time, four of my characters had been instructed to visit the arena to level up, so that was my next stop after I returned to Brettle to sell excess equipment and save. The arena is an interesting experience. Each character fights one-on-one with a suitable enemy in a completely open area where there aren't many tactics to use. It was hardest for my archers. Both of them fought long combats against walbars in which they had to lead their opponents around the yard while shooting arrows into their anticipated squares of movement.
|Just the message you want to get when you only have 20 arrows per combat. Note my own party member watching the gruesome match from the stands to my north.|
In both cases, I ran out of arrows before killing my foe, but fortunately I'd knocked down their health enough that I could just run around until they keeled over from blood loss.
|The poor creature, unable to comprehend why he's been enslaved and thrown into this pit, finally collapses before he's even had a chance to take a swing at my swift, cowardly archer.|
The interesting thing is that each character not fighting can bet on the outcome of the duel, up to 99 gold pieces. You can bet on your friend to win or lose. Theoretically, this means could make almost 500 gold pieces per duel by throwing the match, and I'm not sure what the consequences of this would be if I first stripped the fighting character of equipment.
When I returned to Htron and gave Sam his oil, he told me to ask the pirates of Nobjor's Treasure. I'm not sure what this means yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out by asking around.
|I think I'd actually prefer gold or magic.|
Some miscellaneous observations:
1. I've only been on a fraction of them,but all quests seem to follow a similar pattern: get the quest, ask around town for keywords to narrow down the location, wipe out the enemy, retrieve an item, return it, and get a little symbol in the "awards" screen for each participating character.
2. The ambush strategy seems the most viable way to win most battles, but it tends to make already-long combats excruciatingly long.
3. I'm beginning to wonder if there really is a "main quest" that has to do with Pildar, the missing duke Fuquan, and the missing knight Seggallion, or whether the backstory was just scenery in which to set a bunch of miscellaneous quests. Recent conversations in my comments suggest that there is an "ending" to the game, though, so perhaps the "main quest" path will become apparent soon.
4. The little screen on the left side of the wilderness map, indicating where you are and the time of day, has animated clouds. It's a cute and completely useless addition.
5. In fact, several of the screens are well composed. The game doesn't have a whit of sound, though.
|A lot of work for a screen that comes up for just a second or two.|
6. Standing in a doorway either makes you invincible to arrows or nearly so. My archer took out two brigands by herself without moving from this spot, as every shot fired at her went into the wall. Maybe they were just really unlucky.
Two quests in four days. I can't really say I'm flying through this game. But I am making progress, and getting a lot of TV watching done at the same time. Next time, I'll have some combat video and a full analysis of strategy and tactics for one mission.