|I hate these guys!|
About two-thirds of the way through Knights of Legend (at least, based on the total number of quests), I've become convinced that there's no actual "story"--that the manual's coverage of Pildar the sorcerer, the missing knight Segallion, and the missing duke are all just window dressing. Every quest so far has been utterly unconnected to this setup, instead involving the fetching of some object from a random set of creatures.
|There's the evil Pildar's castle, but I don't think there's any way to reach it.|
After my last posting, the game started to introduce harder creatures and some new variations to the tactical combat map. There was a selection of giant-level enemies that caused "fear" in my party members. This meant that every time my characters tried to attack them, there was a chance--it seemed to be around 50%--that the the character would become "paralyzed with fear" instead. Fortunately, this didn't affect defense or movement, and one of my characters had a "courage cloak" that made him immune.
One map featured a series of islands instead of the standard "keep-based" combat map, with tough enemies called sylphs.
|Don't let the enemy icons fool you. The icons look like orcish creatures no matter what the enemies really are.|
I exhausted my arrows shooting at them from my starting island before giving into melee combat. Even though I could funnel them to me through single squares, only two of my characters were standing at the end of the battle.
But by far the most unnerving addition to some of these quests has been starting in different positions on the combat map. For the first half of the game, every combat started my characters together, in a group, but in the second half, I've had two quests where the group was broken apart--once in two groups of three, and once in two groups of two and two groups of one.
|Coll and Onia start alone--with two minotaurs closing in on them.|
There's no real logical reason for this. My party arrived at the encounter in a group, so it wouldn't make sense for them to deliberately scatter. But whatever the cause, one of these maps produced the most difficult battle so far in the game. It was the final quest in the "Htron/pirate" quest group, and I was trying to recover a treasure chest from where a resident of Htron had buried it decades before. Unfortunately, a group of minotaurs had built a keep there in the meantime.
|Notice it doesn't say, "you approach the stone walls cautiously...and decide to split your party into four separate groups." But that's what happens anyway.|
Every tactical battle in Knights of Legend comes with a meta-struggle, fought by the player, between tactics and speed. Battles drag on so long that the player is motivated to get them over as quickly as possible, which involves having the party (deliberately) split up, engaging multiple enemies simultaneously, and running from place to place. There are plenty of combats where this works fine, even if you lose a character or two in the process, but then there's a rare battle where you have to think carefully about literally every step you take, just like a chess game. This was one of them. It took me four tries to win the battle.
The difficulty was half due to the party-splitting. The layout of the map was simple: a central keep bisected by east-west and north-south roads. But my characters started spread out on all four points of the map, two of them alone. In general, when the party starts split up, I've found that the best approach is to try to unite as soon as possible, but in this case, the only place to easily unite was the center of the keep, which meant blasting through a bunch of minotaurs first.
|The survivors assemble in the courtyard.|
The key to winning the difficult combats in the game is anticipating what the enemy is going to do. Occasionally, if you're lucky with your intelligence and foresight, this is explicit, and it's one of the best parts of the game. Here, for instance, Moro (my Kelder) is fighting alone against a minotaur north of the keep. He's already slain one.
Reading the minotaur's body language, he realizes that it's going to thrust at Moro's feet in the next round. It doesn't plan to really defend itself at all, instead putting all its energy into the attack. Thus, Moro plans his own attack by swinging powerfully at the minotaur's head and preparing to jump to avoid the thrust:
When this works, it's enormously satisfying, and it must be said that Knights of Legend, for all its flaws, is unique in providing this level of satisfaction. Archers, who can target at range, can also make these assessments at range, thus providing a reason to always keep one arrow remaining in the quiver.
But even when you don't know exactly what the enemy will do, you can often guess. Consider this scenario:
I have two minotaurs advancing down the walkway on Hela. It is near-100% certain that the lead one will move forward in the next round. So I have Hela plan a "berserk" attack--slow but powerful--for the empty square between her and the minotaur. She may get unlucky and swing before the minotaur moves. But if she's lucky, he'll walk right into the swing of her halberd without any defense.
|She was lucky.|
Unfortunately, even the best use of tactics can't make up for characters who have to take on powerful enemies solo. The minotaurs were capable of knocking me out in one hit, and even in my victorious version of this battle, my party members went down one by one.
Terrain plays a huge role in combat. You've seen from plenty of my previous postings how I've found doorways and bridges to use as ambush points, luring enemies to me one-by-one. The minotaur map didn't have any good ambush points, but there were other important uses of terrain. For instance, after Coll was knocked unconscious, Onia--an archer with no melee skill--found herself alone with two advancing minotaurs. First, she led them along a peninsula, sniping at them as they advanced...
And when she had nowhere else to go, she took to the air with her Flying Cloak and went out over the water, where the remaining minotaur couldn't touch her.
|Nyah nyah nyah.|
The fourth time through, I defeated all 12 of the minotaurs, with only Aedd (a fighter) and Yder (an archer) left conscious at the end. By then, Yder was well out of arrows and was resorting to helping Aedd by pummeling the minotaurs with his fists. The two of them together had to collect the quest item and all their fallen comrades' equipment. The winning battle took 90 minutes, but I spent probably three hours on the three losing battles preceding it. That's 4.5 hours to complete 1/24 of the game.
|At least I got a ring that does absolutely nothing out of it.|
- Every one of my characters is maxed in training with their primary weapons. This means if I want to gain more "levels" (rising from a peasant to a knight), I need to start training in other random weapons. I'm not sure if there's any purpose in this.
- Not long ago, I realized that this entire time, I've had Coll equipped with a great hammer instead of a war hammer. All his skill is with war hammers. I guess I must not have realized there was a difference.
- Lately, I've had enough money that money hasn't been a problem. I realized that my characters were mostly wearing the same armor that they had bought at the beginning of the game in Brettle. I visited a couple of smithies to look at upgrades but I ultimately concluded that with protection/weight balance considerations in mind, the armor I'd bought in Brettle at the beginning is probably what I should stick with. There's no place that you can spend a lot of gold on magic armor that's simultaneously protective and light weight.
- I finally bought the best horses for everyone, but to be honest, I haven't noticed any improvement in my ability to ride away from random combats. I've mostly stopped fighting random combats, though; instead, I simply sheath my weapons in the first round and flee.
- When a character collapses or gets knocked unconscious in combat, it's a huge pain in the neck. His weapon falls on the battlefield and you have to pick it up at the end of the combat. But the unconscious character doesn't revive until after the spoils-distribution phase, meaning he can't pick up his own weapon. Someone else has to pick it up, then trade it to the owner, then switch to the owner to equip it.
- I flirted a little more with magic before ultimately concluding that I wasn't going to fiddle with it beyond the healing spells I'd already purchased. The basic problem is that it's so enemy-specific that you need a good idea what foes you'll be facing before it makes sense to buy a spell. I think the developers had this idea that prior to each quest, the player would collect intelligence on the likely foe and visit one of the magic guilds to customize the spell for that foe. But the whole process is such a pain in the neck that it's not worth it. I didn't even bother for the minotaurs despite losing to them three times in a row.
|I'm getting there.|