|Looking up a map of The Land is probably a spoiler, but I figured most fans of the series would already have this at their disposal.|
The Land is proving to be a long game, perhaps needlessly long, without much becoming clearer on the main quest. It seems to be shaping up into a series of quests to find the seven "wards of lore" left by Lord Kevin. I tried to look up some of this stuff online, and it sounds like Kevin was Lord of Revelstone who created some kind of horrific magic ritual to destroy Lord Foul and sealed away his knowledge in seven "wards" so it wouldn't be destroyed by the ritual, too. I guess the ritual didn't work, and Kevin ended up dying instead.
I don't know exactly how the plot of the game is following the plot of the books. There's some indication that I'll eventually hook up with Thomas Covenant. I got some lore about him, and there's an icon representing him in the tileset.
|What about me?! I'm the one doing all the work!|
The first quest, taking me to the dungeons beneath the giant city of Coercri, gave me a peek at the game's approach to dungeons. They're huge (all maps seem to take up all available map space), multi-leveled, and randomly-generated. The game regenerates levels as you go up and down, so every time you want to ascend or descend, you have to go through a process of finding the stairs again. The random generation creates oddities such as doors that go nowhere or doors right next to openings.
Each time you visit or re-visit a level, the game tells you how many experience points are to be found there, which is kind of silly because the number isn't really fixed. If you go up and down again, you'll get a new map with a new experience point total. This does mean, however, that once you "clear" a level, you don't have to worry about enemies regenerating (that is, until you leave and return).
There are multiple creatures to be found in the dungeons, and as you slay them, they drop food, weapons, armor, potions, torches, staffs, scrolls, and gold. You also find these things laying around. The scrolls give you the same types of lore that you might get from people in towns, although there are occasional scrolls that give you an extra spell and Scrolls of Identification. Much like NetHack, potions are color-coded and items are given generic descriptions, but once you identify them once, the identification holds for every subsequent item that you find of that color or class. You need torches to get around and the occasional meal to keep healthy, but these are both so plentiful that you don't need to worry about bringing a stock with you.
|Gideon fights a little creature while the detritus of previous battles--a staff, a sword, and a bit of food--lie around him.|
Unlike the wilderness areas, combat is all on the main screen. I removed much of the fun and challenge of the game with my casino haul. Because I bought so much gear, I wasn't remotely interested in 90% of what enemies dropped (food and the occasional potions were the exception), and I've only found one enemy who was remotely dangerous to me (see below). Part of me wants to start over and experience the game "straight," but that's kind of like a guy who insists on continuing to work a menial job after winning the lottery.
NPCs show up randomly in dungeons, too, imparting the same sort of lore that they do in towns. In the second dungeon I explored, they included centaurs, but they said the same things that humans did.
|Gideon trades "hellos" with an NPC. Note the nonsensical doors all over the place.|
Because of the random regeneration every time you leave a dungeon level, there's no point trying to explore everything. In the first dungeon, I reasoned that the quest item would be on the last level, so I just kept moving downward every time I found a set of stairs. Eventually, I mapped the tenth level exhaustively and had found no stairs, so I knew that was the last one.
The tenth level of Coercri was also the only level to feature something other than generic corridors. At first, I thought it was some kind of water, but later I reasoned that it was a barrier. I didn't know what to do with it, but I fired up my lore and started trying all of the "words of power" that I had learned. One of them, MELEN, opened a passageway through the barrier and to the first ward.
After that, I slowly made my way up the 10 levels, having to find the staircases all over again, and returned to Revelstone. There, the lord who had given me the original quest (Lord Mohram) told me to find the second ward.
|I think I'm sensing a pattern.|
A bit of lore said that the second ward was under Mount Thunder, but I had no idea where that was. I spent a while wandering around The Land trying to find it, and I quickly discovered that time passes very quickly while wandering around the wilderness. My character aged from 20 to 22, I burned a ton of food, and I had to return to Revelstone to perform my "service," which is nothing more than entering the city, hitting "O," and watching as eight months burn away. I really don't understand the purpose of this feature.
|Wilderness combats also started presenting me with multiple foes at once.|
During my wanderings, I explored the forest city of Revelwood, where I ran into an NPC named Corimini, who asked if I wanted to join the "Loresraat." I said sure, why not, and found myself having changed classes (I had forgotten that Loresraat was a class). It re-started me at 0 experience points, but I kept all my skills and hit points from leveling up as a Warward. One advantage of the change was that I got access to spells; every level-up let me select a new one.
|"Know" in the biblical sense?|
This is great in theory, but so far I haven't needed to use any of them; my regular attacks and armor defend me fine. Even poison, which some creatures are capable of inflicting, lasts only a few turns.
|The icons in the left-center show that my character has cast "Protection," he has quaffed a potion of fire resistance, and he has a torch lit.|
In addition to spells, there are supposedly items (Gems of Brightness, Crystal Balls, Staffs of Curing) that work in response to various words of power. I've not been able to get any of them to work, though. If I wield the item and speak a word, nothing happens. If I "use" the item, nothing happens.
Still lacking the location of Mount Thunder, I caved and looked at a map of The Land online that would have been published in one of the Thomas Covenant books. I followed the features to the indicated location, but there was no obvious entrance to a mountain. I tried standing on random squares in the middle of the mountain and hitting the "down" key, and one of them took me into the dungeon. Horrible game design there.
|The entrance to the mountain is a couple squares to my southeast. Is it just my colorblindness screwing me again, or am I right that there's nothing there?|
As in the previous dungeon, I headed down as quickly as possible, but my explorations of the bottom level didn't turn up the ward--just an NPC named "Drool Rockworm" who I couldn't hit and was capable of killing me in about three hits. None of the other foes in the game have been even remotely dangerous, so this was a bit of a change.
|For a little guy, he sure packs a punch.|
I ran away from him, started exploring upward, and found the ward on Level 9. I had been previously alerted by an NPC or scroll that "the power of the wards is unlocked by the previous wards," so I tried the word that I had received at the first ward--MELANKURION--and got passage through the barrier to the second. Here, I was relieved to receive a word of power (ABAKAAL) that automatically transports me upward in dungeons. Exploring downward is still a pain in the neck, but at least returning to the surface is a lot faster.
|Thank god for the "lore" window because I wouldn't be able to read what that word is otherwise.|
Returning to Lord Morham, I received a quest to find--you guessed it--the third ward. (Is the game over when I've found all seven, or is this just a prologue?) A bit of lore suggested that was in a place called Doriendor Corishev, somewhre in the south. Getting there was a bit of a nightmare. Navigating through mountains isn't easy in this game: when standing among mountains, you often can't go certain directions, but there's no graphical indication where the "barriers" are. You have to blindly feel your way through them.
|Navigating a path through the mountains.|
Once I reached the area where the dungeon should have been, I found that it was just like Mount Thunder: no visible entrance. I had to wander around testing a bunch of random squares of mountain and grass before I finally found it, about a half hour later. I later discovered that the small-scale map (in the lower right) has a little black square where dungeon entrances are, so as long as you have the general area, it's not as hard to find as I've been making it out to be. As I close, I'm working my way down through the levels.
I'd like to get far enough to where I get additional party members. The "party" screen suggests I can have up to five of them, but everyone I ask to join me says "no."
|Gideon sits at the head of an empty party.|
Again, I'd love to hear from anyone else who has played this game, and any context to this plot from anyone who has read the books. I feel compelled to stick with it for at least a little while longer. It was clearly a labor of love for developer Mike Riley, and there isn't much about the game online except an article at RogueBasin. I'd like to be among the first to show the winning screenshot or post a little gameplay to YouTube. (I might be missing stuff that's out there, but it's hard finding articles for a game with as generic a title as The Land. Nothing came up when I tried to Google the types of terms that would show up in a walkthrough.) I'm just sorry I don't understand more about the context of the game.