Friday, October 18, 2013

SwordThrust: Walked Through!

You can't really "win" SwordThrust, but here's one of my late-game characters.

Since I first posted about SwordThrust a month ago, I've continued to work on it and explore its scenarios. When I was unable to find any walkthroughs--or even discussions of the game--online, I decided to take this opportunity to create my own. Today, I'm semi-proud to present to you:


"Semi-proud" because I didn't quite finish it. The last scenario was too frustrating and was taking too long. I also left some mysteries in some of the first six scenarios. Nonetheless, I think the walkthrough is good for what it covers. I'm hoping someone will use it to give the game a try--and perhaps help me finish it. I want to offer it to GameFAQs, but they don't even have an entry on the game yet, and they have to approve my submission of that, apparently, before they'll allow any walkthroughs submitted for it. (Edit from 12/01/2013: They accepted my submission on the game and then my FAQ. It's available here!)

As you may recall, SwordThrust is a commercial version of Eamon: an all-text RPG that combines some of the puzzle-solving and item-finding of text adventures with RPG combat, attributes, and economy. It features a fantastically complex combat system in which weapon skill, armor weight, armor skill, the type of weapon, attributes, and luck all go into a formula that determines whether you hit, how much damage you do, and whether other things happen, like fumbles, dropped weapons, broken weapons, and critical hits.

The main hall, from which all adventures begin.
 
This combat takes place in the context of larger scenarios, or quests, in which you're usually trying to achieve an explicit goal, sometimes with difficult conditions, and of course a secondary goal of getting out of each dungeon with as much treasure as possible.

The modules varied considerably in quality, but almost all were better than the freeware Eamon modules I tried earlier this year. A quick rundown:

1. The King's Testing Ground. This introductory module was one of my favorites. It had the greatest variety of enemies, treasures, and secret areas to discover. There was no real "theme" to the scenario, but a successful adventurer gets out of the caves with Excalibur, a weapon so powerful that it will easily last her the rest of the game.

2. The Vampyre Caves. A fun but difficult adventure. You start off to slay a vampire but get captured and turned into a vampire yourself! You must pacify a benevolent god so that he'll turn you back into a human and allow you to escape from the caves.

3. The Kidnapper's Cove. A friend's son is kidnapped by bandits, and you're entrusted with the ransom money and some drugs that the boy needs within two hours or he'll die. There's supposedly a way to get out of this one without giving up the ransom, but I couldn't find it.

4. The Case of the Sultan's Pearl. While you're a guest at the sultan's palace, one of his guards is murdered and a pearl stolen. The twist is that whomever possesses the pearl at midnight becomes the new sultan. The scenario has you searching for clues and interrogating NPCs more than fighting, although its mechanics don't allow for any complex adventure-style puzzle-solving. The funny thing is that the killer is quite close to the beginning of the game, and the game ends when you take the pearl from his body, so once you know the solution, you can just start the scenario, walk a few steps, kill the thief, take the pearl, and return victorious to the main hall.

5. The Green Plague. A plague has descended over the land. Chasing a lead, you fall into a well and wake up in a dungeon only to find that you have the plague yourself. This scenario is unique in that it awards a certain number of points depending on how many of the goals you achieve: cure yourself, destroy the source of the plague, and banish the evil god whose followers created it.

6. The Eternal Curse. You're summoned to a sorcerer's castle by an apparition of a wizard claiming he's imprisoned there and begging for release. But when you arrive, you find that all isn't quite what you expected. The scenario does a nice riff on The Picture of Dorian Gray but is otherwise mostly fighting.

Killing the boss of this scenario.
 
7. The Hall of Alchemie. This is the only one I couldn't finish. In a goofy Mission: Impossible-influenced introduction, the player is given a quest to kill a Master Alchemist and destroy his Philosopher's Stone, capable of turning any object to gold. The level is rife with alchemical ingredients, but I couldn't figure out what to do with them, and the monsters were unbelievably difficult. The hints suggest there's some way to combine or employ items of the same color against specific enemies, but I couldn't make anything work with the limited game commands.

There's some hint in this description, but I couldn't figure it out.
 
Each scenario was originally sold separately. I'm not sure why they stopped at 7, but I suspect they just weren't selling very well. The final scenario is unique in that it was the only one not written by Donald Brown. The game's documentation says that the author, Peter Wityk, sent it to CE Software with a note that it was "the most difficult dungeon ever created." For 1981 or 1982, this may have indeed been true. I suspect Wityk based the geography on a real location, perhaps a university, given the careful layout of the rooms and their detailed descriptions (which seem to have a number of in-jokes). [Later edit: I was wrong about this; see the end.]

I'm going to have a later posting on the process of creating the walkthrough, because I finally had a chance to correspond at length with the King of RPG Walkthroughs, Andrew Schultz. He offered a lot of insights as to the process of making them. I'm synthesizing my interview with him with my own experiences. Look for that in a few weeks.

For now, let's GIMLET SwordThrust and close it off my list.

  • 3 points for the game world. There's no consistency to the land of Dirula. It uncomfortably blends Asian, European, and Arabian tropes willy-nilly and doesn't tie its scenarios into any broader themes or a common mythology. But within the modules, there is some thematic consistency and all of the areas are described in vivid prose.
  • 4 points for character creation and development. The creation process is mostly just name and sex, after which the three core attributes are rolled randomly. Characters with wildly varying attributes face very different games, especially at the beginning, which introduces a nice challenge. The development process is quite satisfying, with weapon and armor skills potentially increasing in every combat. (There are otherwise no experience points or leveling). There is even one place where sex makes a difference, although not to any significant degree.

Specifically, it's here: only female PCs can enter the ladies' room. (Yes, Chester is a female. No, I don't know how that happened.) That doesn't explain why my NPC, "Jim," can enter, though.

  • 3 points for NPC interaction. It's fun how certain NPCs can join you and fight by your side, and other creatures and characters react differently based on charisma. In one module, the ability to talk to NPCs (usually not present) is key to the solution. Nonetheless, most of the time there's no way to interact with NPCs except to smile at them.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. There are a lot of different enemies to face, from evil humans to giant spiders to a dragon, and the game has some fun by giving them the same stats and skills as the PC (they can even increase their skills, just like the PC, with successful actions).  They have some limited AI, and they'll run from combat if seriously wounded. Beyond that, though, the enemies are not well-differentiated. They don't do anything but attack--no spells or special attacks. What I like are several areas in which you can choose to defeat an enemy by either solving a puzzle or just wailing on it with a sword. Enemies "respawn" in the sense that you can try the same scenario multiple times, and there are some clear grinding opportunities in some of them.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. Most of the points go to the complex formulas that make combat nail-biting. You don't really have many actual actions in combat (attack, cast, flee). There are 10 spells, each requiring a certain portion of the caster's fatigue, but I found them almost all worthless except "Heal." Since they have a good chance of failing, and since they can easily exhaust you, leaving you unconscious, they're often more dangerous to the PC than to the foe.

I could not get past this enemy in the final scenario.

  • 3 points for equipment. You're limited to a weapon, armor, and a shield, and if you find any during an adventure, you can't see their related statistics until you return to the Main Hall. Although it was a nice reward, it was too bad that I never found a weapon that outperformed the one I discovered in the first scenario. There are a small number of potions and potion-like items, such as underwater breathing pills. The greater portion of the items you find are either to solve puzzles or treasures, and the game does an okay job within its limited mechanics allowing you to use the items in various ways, from destroying an evil rock by dropping it under water to "rubbing" a tube of vanishing cream on difficult foes.
  • 3 points for economy. A key element of the game is in finding treasures in each of the scenarios, which are automatically cashed in when you return to the Main Hall. You use the proceeds to buy weapons and armor, spells, and training. But the weapons and armor are outclassed by what you find in the scenarios, and as I covered above, I don't think the spells are very useful. The only really good thing you can do with thousands of gold pieces is get some training in various weapons.
  • 5 points for quests. You can regard them as 7 main quests or 7 side quests, but in general, they're varied and fun. I like the mix of conditions, goals, and constraints that the quests offer, and almost all of them have some limited choices that affect the ending, allowing for some limited roleplaying.

Each quest begins with a detailed back story.

  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and inputs. There are no graphics or sound. While the text-based inputs are relatively easy and intuitive, and there's a nice feature that allows you to just hit ENTER to repeat the previous command, I ultimately found the list of available verbs a bit too limiting. The game is also needlessly specific in its nouns, treating you like an idiot if you type GET BATTLE AXE instead of GET STEEL BATTLE AXE.
  • 5 points for gameplay. The seven modules can be attempted in any order, and 2-6 are all pitched at about the same level of difficulty, so there isn't an "obvious" order. The scenarios themselves aren't large enough to be linear or nonlinear, but you can attempt them multiple times and try different options, giving them a decent sense of replayability. With the exception of the final scenario, they're all brisk and challenging but not frustratingly so. In writing my walkthrough, I took about 2.5 hours to complete each one; someone just playing could do it less that two hours. This wouldn't have made me happy if I'd spent $29.95 on each scenario, but it's a good pace for today.

This gives a final score of 35, quite good for a 1981 game series. I hope a few of you are inspired to check out some of the scenarios, read my walkthrough, and give it a try. See if you can do what I didn't, and complete the final scenario!

This kind of game is the spiritual ancestor of the persistent-hero multi-module games we see today, like Neverwinter Nights, and it's too bad that it's not better-remembered. (Granted, Eamon, it's predecessor, still thrives.) I couldn't find anything like a walkthrough, summary, or message board on SwordThrust or any of its modules, which isn't a fate that the game deserves.

My next couple of weeks are still going to be very busy, and postings intermittent, but let's see if I can finish Wizardry VI.

*****

Later edit:  Not 10 minutes after I posted this, Peter Wityk called me. I had left a message for several people of that name, hoping to find the right one (I really wanted to win the last scenario). We had a very informative, friendly conversation. Peter indicated he knew Don Brown when he decided to create the Halls of Alchemie scenario, but he otherwise never worked on another game (his career took him into the finance field).

Unfortunately, he didn't remember enough about the scenario--now 32 years old--to help me successfully navigate it, except that one particularly deadly enemy (a giant black scorpion) couldn't be killed through normal means. He also said that despite my assumption, he did not base the Halls on any real location. He mapped it out on paper with the intention of creating a geography that felt real and offered challenges to the player that were different from the rest of the SwordThrust scenarios. He certainly succeeded at that!

32 comments:

  1. Well, Chet, if you leave nothing else to posterity, you will live on as the writer of the SwordThrust walk-through. That's an accomplishment that will ring proudly through the annals of history!

    Just kidding, great work, and I'm glad to see you posting again after a dry week.

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    1. Oh, hey, look at that, first comment. I guess that's an upside to staying up till 6 playing roguelikes.

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  2. Will the walkthrough be your first ever contribution to GameFAQs? If so, then welcome to the club!

    I don't write many FAQs - too much work - but I find it fun to contribute reviews, especially of little indie games that everyone else ignores.

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    1. It will indeed be my first contribution to GameFAQs if they ever accept my submission of the game title so I can then submit the walkthrough.

      I probably won't do it again. It was a tremendous amount of work, and I still didn't complete it 100%.

      Delete
    2. GameFAQs also takes hint guides, FAQ lists, stuff like that. If you really want to write stuff for them, but not do walkthroughs, you could write up some tip guides based on your experience and the comments section for future games.

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    3. That would just be extra work. I wanted to get one walkthrough up there just for the experience, but I'm not interested in doing a lot of other things that will just add time to this project.

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    4. Back when I considered making a walkthrough for Star Saga One, I submitted the game to them. It only took a month for it to finally show up. I just realized I hadn't submitted the second game, so we'll see how long that takes.

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  3. One of my friends wanted to go into game design since he was in high school. Went to a game design school, got his degree, interviewed a bunch of places, but after a few months, didn't find anything. Now, being a smart guy, went to a job consoler of some sort. Guy takes one look at his math skills and sets him up for an interview at some investment company. Nothing to do with his plans, but he now makes more than any of my other friends, though he said adapting to wearing a tie was weird. (I swear, finance and politics are the only places you still see ties on a day to day basis.)

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    1. Law also requires ties most times... fie on ties, fie, fie!

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    2. So, bankers, lawyers and politicians have ANOTHER thing in common.

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  4. Nice. I'm probably going to be looking at Eamon from a game maker's perspective soon in my own blog, so it's good to read about Eamon and related games from a player's POV.

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  5. Just to be utterly and unrealistically pedantic, weren't each of these modules sold separately? Wouldn't they count as individual games in the same engine then, similar to the NWN modules being separate games which you will get to some day?

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    1. Yes, you are correct. But no, I wasn't going to test your patience with seven different postings and GIMLET ratings.

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  6. That walkthrough looks very professional. I like that you borrowed Dan Simpson's BG2 formatting, it makes for a clean and easily navigable document. My least favorite walkthroughs are ones that are written as one large monologue where the author expects you to play the entire game by exactly following what they do in the text. This is NOT how most people use walkthroughs (well at least I'm fairly sure that is not how people use them). I use walkthroughs to firstly help me when I am stuck, but also as a reference so I can see what I have missed in terms of side quests, hidden loots, etc. and I would hazard a guess that most others use them this way too, not as a complete hand-holding experience.

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    1. At least my use of walkthroughs is exactly as you describe. And I share your dislike of that kind of walkthrough.

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    2. Thanks! That's what I had in mind when writing it: that people would use it for help on a specific room rather than progressing step-by-step.

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  7. Your character became female AGAIN?!

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    1. Yeah. Either one of two things happened: a) she was generated as a female, and I just didn't notice when naming her; and b) she turned into a female through a careless use of the POWER spell, which has unpredictable results.

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    2. Playing CRPGs had never been as emasculating as the old days. XD

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  8. Hey, Addict, I was reading your walkthrough and spotted an insignificant typo: when you are explaining the "to hit" formula, the shield penalty is said to be "X", instead of "Z". I know it's really unimportant, and the context makes it clear, but if you are just half the perfectionist I think you are, you'll probably want to correct it for the final version :)

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    1. I worked my butt off on that walkthrough, so I appreciate that you read it closely enough to notice the typo. Thanks! I'll fix it.

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  9. Hi, i'm new here. Your blog is very informative and entertaining at the same time. I've searched your list for "los dutchman mine" an game that i've played as teen. I don't know, how it is a CRPG, but it has following attributes: food sim, caverns, health and gold. Give it a try and evaluate this game.

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    1. Based on the Wikipedia entry, I'm guessing Lost Dutchman Mine is more of an adventure or simulation game than a CRPG, but it still sounds intriguing!

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    2. It doesn't seem to be a CRPG from the manual (available here http://hol.abime.net/923/manual for your perusal). Based on Chet's 3 criteria, it appears to meet number one (non puzzle based inventory) but neither of the other two (the only character progression is through gear acquisition, and combat appears to be an Oregon Trail-esque minigame). This is unfortunate as it does look pretty interesting.

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  10. GameFAQs ultimately accepted my FAQ:

    http://www.gamefaqs.com/appleii/739435-swordthrust/faqs/68230

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  11. TO ADD TO THE WALKTHROUGH:
    I just finished Swordthrust, and was able to complete the game, including the final scenario. It looks like you did a thorough job on the first six scenarios, but I can add to add to some of them.

    In KIDNAPPER'S COVE: First, I had some drinks at the bar, and met a man named Damien (who is in the manual) who claims to have killed a dragon in combat. The other rogues in the bar laugh at him, and say it's not possible. The reason I mention this, is because Damien comes back later. You also mentioned in your review that you do not know how your character became female. Mine did, too, and here is how. I bought some brand new plate armour for this quest, and it managed to shatter in the very very first hit of the very first battle. Left with nothing, I decided to Wear the golden bra found at location P on your map. The game gave me a sarcastic message, “Oh, you thilly boy!” Yes, thilly, not silly – I guess 1981 was long before the PC age. Anyway, the bra made me female. I was able to beat the kidnappers my second time through the game (after beating all the other scenarios). I used a large shield and the thickskin spell, and a whole lot of save states. Once I reached the thieves, I used Flee to lure some of them away. The thieves each carry a bow and sword. The leader, Thora, has a sword named Whisper (Complexity 20%, 1d6 damage)and shadow armour (4/-30%). South of the thieves, you will find the room with the flawless opals (which you mentioned in your walkthrough). East of that room, there is a small chamber with a slave girl named Cynthia who joined me when I smiled at her. South of the opals is a small chamber with Harold. West of the opals is a small chamber (empty).

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    1. THE GREEN PLAGUE: Take the frozen rogue out of freezer (E on your map), and drop him later. He will eventually unfreeze and become “that hero of song and legend” named Damien. Smile at him, and he will probably become a companion (with a 2d4 axe named Bluestar). He is a good companion, but he did manage to fumble once, which is when I stole his axe and gave him a generic one.

      Like you, I found no use for the wand, wraith, or painting. The wand I think is a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the wizard shooting fireballs in the movie is named Tim, same as the name on the wand), so perhaps it is just an inside joke. I tried to Give the wraith the vanishing cream, hoping he would fumble, and erase himself, but he never fumbled. I wasted a lot of time on that.

      In the end, I beat the high score (3898) not by doing anything special, but by using the power spell (which doubled my gold). My score was 2227 points for gold, 250 point for curing myself, 500 points for destroying the source of the plague, and 1000 points for banishing Krypia for a total of 3977.

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    2. ETERNAL CURSE You can Give the olive branch (found at A on your map) to one of the NPCs when you are fighting Guardian2. Extending the olive branch, if you will, makes that one NPC your friend again (it does not seem to work on the Guardian, however). Also, when you Rest during this same battle, you get the message “As you stand there, not attacking, the enemy sits, confused.” This allows you to rest indefinitely, since no one will attack you while you Rest. Incidentally, one of the three NPCs you rescue from the prison cells is Cynthia, although her description makes it seem like a different character from Kidnapper's Cove. I stole her sword when she fumbled, too. Her sword Singer does 2d7 damage and has a complexity rating of 15%.

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    3. ALL OF ALCHEMIE: I think you got caught up in the idea that you had to mix ingredients, alchemist style. I think that's a red herring. The solution turned out to be much simpler. When you first meet the salamander (Room J), he says he is cold, and needs something to warm him up. GIVE the brazier (from room M) to the Salamander and he becomes your friend. He is a powerful ally, and with him you can beat anyone (just make sure to heal him and your other allies between battles). With him, I killed the griffin, the the Ursus Horrbilis, and the black scorpion with little difficulty. There was nothing on their bodies, just the items on the ground you already listed in the room descriptions. I killed the kobold in Room 5, too. He carries a “long handled hammer that is well suited for use as a weapon.” It is a war hammer. There are 3 exits from the kitchen (5). South takes you to the pantry, where you can loot a Silver Service, which is heavy. West takes you to a larder (empty) and north to the scullery (empty). The black scorpion guards an aspergillium (which counts as a weapon of sorts, although it only does 1 point of damage), a ceremonial knife, and a mandrake root. Next, the master alchemist carries plate armour and sword called Brightsword. This weapon has a Complexity rating of 30%, does 3d6 damage and is only one handed. My character had a 108% chance to hit with it. Compare this to Excalibur, which has a Complexity rating of 25%, does 2d8 damage, and is two handed. My character had a 103% to hit with Excalibur. This makes Brightsword the only weapon in the game better than Excalibur. The Elixir Vitae is a healing potion. East of the Master Alchmist (Room #) is the Master Bed Chamber, where you find the philosopher's stone. If you Get it , you turn to gold and die. If you have the tongs (from room J), it instead assumes you pick it up with the tongs, and they turn into solid gold instead.

      The game introduction makes it seem like it is better to destroy the philosopher's stone than to keep it, so I wasted a lot of time trying to find a way to melt it. I Dropped in in the foundry and in the smeltry, but nothing happened. I also tried to use the athanor (portable furnace), but could not figure out how. Finally, I gave up, and decided to head out. I had way too much loot to carry. While I was shuffling my inventory around (dropping, picking up) I got a message “You feel a surge of power go up your arm!” but I'm not sure what generated the message. Maybe the right combination of stuff in my inventory created that effect? Anyway, when I left by the drawbridge (Room 9), I got absolutely NO end of mission message. I am not sure if this is because I had the philosopher's stone instead of destroying it, or if the ending is always lame like that. It is not uncommon for Eamon games to end with no “Congratulations” message, so I suspect this is just more of the same.

      Anyway, feel free to add any or all of this to your walkthrough in whatever form you like (if you don't want to add it, that's cool, too). Thanks for the blog. It's a fun read.

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    4. This is fantastic. Thanks so much for commenting and helping me fill in those additional holes. I'll try to replay those sections and update the walkthrough when I get a chance.

      You're right that I was way over-thinking the last module. I should have realized that the game mechanics didn't support anything as complex as I was envisioning.

      Delete
  12. I had a bit of trouble with my Blogger account recently, so I hope I'm not double posting anything. Anyways, I was wondering if I missed the interview with Andrew Schultz that was mentioned here. Can't seem to find it in the upcoming posts and I was really looking forward to it.

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