Getting Legend of Faerghail to work in an Amiga emulator was an annoying experience, and I'm not sure whether to blame the emulator, the game files, or the overall platform. Essentially, no matter what configuration options I tried, the emulator just presented me with the image of a disk, as if I hadn't just told it where to find the ADF files. I tried downloading other versions and was confused to find that they, despite being ostensibly for the Amiga, didn't have any of the file extensions the emulator was looking for.
The solution was to shell out $30 for the "Amiga Forever" package, which I guess--and I admit I'm slightly confused about this--uses WinUAE as its engine, but offers a nice front-end to help you with the settings. Its built-in search feature helped me find a new set of the files, and in no time, it had created a tidy package of the three game disks and figured out the configuration. It seems like a great product.
I suppose that, to the extent that it's worth playing this game at all, it was worth the effort to set up the Amiga version. DOS versions usually underperform Amiga versions in graphics and sound in any game, but this one takes it to an extreme, with no sound in the DOS version. I was pleased to hear some nice music when I loaded the Amiga files, not so different in quality from what we might hear in a game created in the last few years. The sound is also quite nice, with background audio like wind howling, crickets chirping, birds squawking, and water dripping in the dungeons. These are, in fact, the first "background sounds" that I remember hearing in an RPG (with perhaps the exception of Ultima V's waterfalls and ticking clocks), though it's probable that another game did it first and I just didn't play the Amiga version of that one.
The graphics, of course, are also much better, and include touches not found in the DOS version, such as a sun that passes overhead during the day and different lighting levels for different times of day.
|A comparison of Amiga graphics (left) and DOS EGA graphics (right).|
The Amiga version lacks most of the bugs that I complained about in the DOS version. Character creation doesn't allow you to subvert the intended restrictions on race, sex, and class. I haven't had any negative experience points, and there are enemies in the dwarven mines. Dungeons are dark and require "light" spells or torches to properly navigate.
The Amiga version does have at least one bug of its own: when you go to (E)quip items, the key that works is "D" despite the game clearly suggesting that it's "E." Also, the ghostly figures that indicate a monster party don't show up all the time; sometimes you just stumble into combats in what looks like a blank square.
Gameplay overall is also better. Experience rewards seem to be better balanced (Siegurd takes only about 35% instead of 75%). Both gold and rations are more plentiful--in fact, my rations do nothing but increase. Spells succeed more often, and combats aren't quite as deadly. Treasure chests have something in them--multiple items, usually. Traps are less deadly, and walking into a wall doesn't cause damage unless you do it repeatedly. Time doesn't pass as fast (which may account for the plentiful rations), though this might have been an issue of my having DOSBox jacked up too high.
|The game notifies me as to the presence of traps more often than in the DOS version.|
In this version, Siegurd has the ability to resurrect slain characters, though he'll only do it a limited number of times.
My one complaint has to do with the loading times. Even with the emulator set to not use era-authentic speeds, it still takes 10 seconds for character and monster portraits to load and about 30 seconds to change between locations. I realize this is nothing compared to what the original players had to endure, but I'm used to things being essentially instantaneous in DOSBox.
Since I already had the maps of the east valley and the mines, my initial gameplay involved retracing my steps, collecting treasures, and fighting combats. Unlike in the DOS version, I never had to leave the mines to restock on food once I entered, since it didn't deplete very fast and I kept finding more on slain foes. I did leave once to sell excess equipment (it encumbers you and you eventually run out of room), but my gold started racking up so fast that I ultimately stopped bothering to collect all the miscellaneous weapons and armor after combat. My characters got significant weapon and armor upgrades in less than an hour without much effort.
Most of the content-related mysteries remain the same between the versions. The dwarven mines had several encounters with quasi-NPCs, including the dwarven king...
...but there didn't seem to be any way to actually interact with them. Just before the treasury, there's this guy, who seems to be asking some kind of riddle...
|I have no idea what this means.|
...but I can't figure out what he wants, and in any case you can just walk past him.
Speaking of the treasury, I was surprised to find that chests re-appear when you leave a dungeon and return. I don't know if this was true in the DOS version or not; I never checked. This essentially breaks the economy, and renders haggling over expensive items (every character has a "negotiate" skill) rather useless.
The monsters on Level 4 became too hard, so I left and went to Cyldane, where I reached the point I had reached at the end of the DOS version by visiting the Count. He promised to send additional troops to help Thyn, which I guess means that I've technically won the game, since that was my primary mission. But the Count also suggested that I visit the Library of Sagacita to learn more about the elves and why they might have suddenly turned hostile. Siegurd automatically left my group when we reached the city, so I guess I'm on my own.
While I was exploring the wilderness, one of my characters (the game didn't specify) relayed a dream that he or she had in which armies of the humanoid races battled armies of dragons, led by one particularly evil dragon. He or she also dreamed of a sword, an axe, and a bow with dragon's head iconography. I don't know how this dream will work into the plot.
As I finished my explorations, all of my characters had risen to Level 2. Leveling produces increases to two skills, and I think these skills are randomly chosen (though limited by the character's class). The game's skills are negotiating ability, attack ability, defense ability, concentration (chance of successfully casting spells in combat), pocketpicking, stalking, trap detection, trap disarming, and lock picking. I've seen "negotiating" increase in stores, but I haven't seen any of the others increase from usage. Perhaps they do behind the scenes. I'll record the present values and check.
|Chalke levels up.|
I'm liking the game a bit better on this new platform, but there are still a few things I don't like:
- Navigation visuals continue to bother me. You don't see walls, trees, doors, and other objects to your right and left when they're in your current square or even (for some objects) one square ahead of you. This makes it very hard to properly map, and it goes in contrast to any other 3-D game I've experienced
|Not only is there a wall immediately to my left in this picture, there's a tree one square ahead and tot the left.|
- Armor and weapons get damaged slowly over time, and you have to stop and repair them. If you have a smith, repairing is essentially instantaneous and uses items that the smith comes with. Because it's so easy to fix, the presence of the dynamic seems rather pointless.
- Regular combat, in which you watch every blow in a little animated sequence, is fun exactly once. After that, it's "quick" combat all the way--which makes it annoying when I accidentally hit (A) on the wrong screen and have to ENTER through all of the individual combat actions.
|One of the more interesting enemies I faced.|
- Other parties are occasionally friendly, but there's no rhyme or reason to it. Some of the dwarves in the mines would talk to me, others wanted to fight. Tradesmen, whom you'd expect to always be friendly, are sometimes inexplicably hostile. Even when they talk, there's not much you can do with them. Sometimes they offer things for sale, but never anything I want. I wish they would buy my stuff instead. In any event, the character who establishes successful contact gets a handful of experience points. It's a potentially-interesting dynamic that was never fleshed out.
|A suicidal tradesman approaches me.|
- When leveling, a single character must have all the gold necessary to pay for the training, but depending on how much stuff you're carrying, it may not be possible for one character to carry the weight of that much gold. There's no way to "pool" gold and just let all your characters draw from a pool.
These negatives are all balanced by some positives, and it's in no way an unpleasant experience, but as I said in the first post, Legend of Faerghail mostly feels like a rehash of other games rather than anything truly original.
In my next post, I'll have more on the combat, equipment, and magic systems.
Further Reading: My first, second, and third posts on Legend of Faerghail, plus coverage of the game on "CRPG Revisiting old classics."