Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Game 143: Expedition Amazon (1983)


The biggest surprise in Expedition Amazon comes on its title screen. The author of the game is listed as Willard Phillips, about whom I can find nothing, but the next two credits are for "illustrations" by Greg Malone and "program support" by David Shapiro. Unless there is more than one developer of each of those names, it appears that "Moebius the Windwalker" and "Dr. Cat" worked on a game together several years before they were both employed at Origin Systems, a fact that I've been able to find nowhere else.

Despite starting with a page-long tract on "What is a Fantasy Role Playing Game?," Expedition Amazon doesn't play much like a traditional RPG. Part of it is the setting, sure--modern South America rather than a high fantasy or sci-fi setting--but most of it has to do with the weird gameplay. The basic mechanic is that you slowly reveal a series of overland and underground maps while good and bad (mostly bad) things happen to your party at random, some of which you can deter with the proper equipment. Its closest analogue in the RPG world is Robert Clardy's Wilderness Adventure and Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure.

The backstory is told with the type of irreverent whimsy that most people enjoy and I hate. The party is a group of researchers from Flint University, outside Austin, Texas, which was founded by a rancher as a tax shelter. The university's Department of Archaeology is run by a part-time professor named Jonathon Arrowhead who, inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, got his degree from a diploma mill in California. Influenced by In Search of Ancient Astronauts and "smoking grass," Arrowhead believes the ancient Incans were taught by aliens. He's bent on the discovery of a lost Incan city called Ka--named because he believes the Inca civilization got its name from being "in Ka." Starting from a basecamp at Iquitos in Peru, multiple parties have been tasked with exploring the Amazon basin and finding the fabled city.


The player begins by choosing a difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 9, then assigning names to four positions: field assistant, medic, radio operator, and guard. You then transition to the city of Iquitos (a real city in Peru) and purchase equipment at the trading post. Each party starts with an amount of money dependent on the difficulty level.


Once outfitted, the party leaves for basecamp and begins exploring the wilds of the Amazon. We've had a discussion about "mowing the lawn" in reference to the exploration mechanism in Crusaders of Khazan, and here we have a nearly identical mechanic, with the player slowly uncovering each square by navigating with the IJKM cluster. The two biggest differences here are that a) the party "forgets" the map if they leave it before the entire thing (or almost the entire thing) has been revealed; and b) the party gets experience points for every new square they explore and every map they fully explore. This is the only CRPG I know that awards experience simply for exploration.

"Mowing" the map in a box-in pattern. The numbers below indicate that it's hour 14 on day 6 and I've mapped 1,610 squares. The numbers between 17 and 16 are the hit point totals for my four party members.

Every five or six steps, there's some kind of encounter, usually with something unfortunate. A rabid bat or "crazed capybaras" attack and give someone rabies. A mosquito cloud appears and gives someone malaria. Fleas bring the plague. Cockroaches infest the food and make the party lose a day's worth of rations. An Amazon throws a spear and damages someone. Natives infiltrate the party and steal some of the equipment. A tick delivers yellow fever. If you're in a boat, you might hit a rock and sink the boat. If you're dumb enough to be swimming without a boat, you might face piranhas, crocodiles, or quicksand. A few of these calamities can be averted with the right equipment (e.g., mosquito netting protects against mosquitoes), but most you just have to suck up.


Some of the encounters are "finds" in which you unearth clay, silver, or gold artifacts to sell back in town (you know, just like real archaeologists). Hopefully, your "finds" outweigh the amount of money you have to spend restocking medical equipment and replacing items stolen by natives.


Some encounters lead to combat, in which you face a large party of either Amazons or Jivaro Indians, countering their spears and blowguns with pistols, automatic rifles, or grenades. I've often lamented that more RPGs aren't set in the modern world, but there is something inescapably uncomfortable about a team of "archaeologists" massacring aboriginal Peruvians with hand grenades. Combat, in any event, is of the most basic sort. Each round, each character has an option to either throw a grenade (which kills up to 10 enemies), shoot up to 6 bullets from a pistol, or fire a 20-bullet clip from an assault rifle. The party is limited in the number of grenades (8) and bullets (180) that it can carry, so after a few combats, it's necessary to return to the city and re-stock. This makes it particularly annoying when natives sneak into your camp and steal all the grenades, which happens frequently.

Combat with some natives. My party has 140 bullets and 0 grenades left. I'm facing 6 enemies. In this round, I have chosen to have Virginia fire her (p)istol for 6 shots, 5 of which hit (and killed) the enemies. Enemies have no hit points; they're just either alive or dead.

Combat very rarely rewards you with some equipment or treasure, but more often the natives carry junk joke items, and there seems to be no limit to the list programmed into the library: a Roto-Rooter gift card, a picture of Fabian, a bust of Beethoven, and so forth. The same silly approach to humor can be found in town, where Pedro, proprietor of the trading post, tells horrible jokes when you enter. Fortunately, you have the option to turn the illustrations off and just get down to business.

This is the most graphically-complex screen in the game, and they used it for this.

Except for a few places in the underground areas, encounters are entirely time-dependent and not space-dependent. No encounter in the outdoor area occurs in a fixed location, so the only purpose of exploring all the squares is for its own sake. You could achieve the same results with combats, treasure, and other encounters by just walking back and forth between two squares.

Each party member starts with 6 hit points, from which they take damage from combat, poison, disease, and so forth. As the party amasses experience from combat, exploration, and treasure, the hit point total increases for everyone, as does overall "skill." The skill increase manifests itself in improved combat rolls (e.g., hitting enemies on all 6 shots instead of just 3) and the ability to occasionally defend against one of the bad encounters (e.g., a character shoots the rabid monkey before it can bite). Medical kits can restore a character's hit points (and remove poison and disease) at any point, but the party can only carry 8 kits at once.

Checking my status back in town. My characters are all Level 11 and have a maximum of 22 hit points.

There are 10 outdoor maps to explore, so most of the initial game dynamic is trying to survive long enough to fully map an area before inevitably having to return to the city to replenish ammo, medkits, and other equipment. Between thefts by natives and other calamities, it's very hard to do better than break even, financially, on each trip, and I haven't come close to being able to afford a LORAN navigation system or an assault rifle.

The game manual suggests that once you map the 10 outdoor areas, it's time to go underground, where "you will find clues to help you complete your quest." There are a bunch of structures on the outdoor maps, but only three (that I've noted) with stairs down. The underground areas have more combats than the outdoor areas, and a smaller variety of encounters, but the encounters are much deadlier. You can stumble on sacrificial altars and volcanic vents which instantly kill characters, and various (unavoidable) triggers might cause the level to fill with water or lava. There are rare "crypts" that you have the option to open; these occasionally reveal treasures but more often just poison or kill you. Monsters can appear randomly and destroy your lamp, and you can only carry three lamps at a time, so you can easily find yourself lost in the dark.

Finding a crypt in the dungeons beneath a ziggurat.

Despite the designated roles (field assistant, medic, radio operator, guard), your characters aren't really unique individuals. They don't have separate inventories, and they all level up together. If one dies, you can't perform any functions of that role until you return to the city and replace him. This would happen so often in the dungeons, even with high-level characters, that I've been reloading when I lose someone. The game does save the party when you exit, so I think it's still within the spirit of the original to do that.

For the most part, I've been trying to keep these "backtracking" posts to a single entry per game, but I'm stuck with Expedition Amazon. I've explored all the places I can find in the underground areas, and I just can't find the path to Ka and the endgame despite the manual's assurances that "hidden clues" would guide me there. Every party of "Crocodile Cult" members that I kill in the dungeons has this scrap of parchment on them:

Don't bother Googling it; I don't think any walkthroughs exist for this game.

I can't make heads or tails of it. It doesn't seem to be any kind of cryptogram, nor a map, nor does any obvious substitution with the Apple II keyboard yield a result. Any ideas?

I'll post again if I can win the game. Until then, my summary is that it's an odd game with some interesting ideas, but it's ultimately too limited in its gameplay options to hold much value today. Interesting revelation about Malone and Shapiro, though. It's nice that 31 years after the fact, I can still get an occasional scoop.

65 comments:

  1. The closest you've got to exploration-as-XP is probably Wizardry 4, where you don't "level up" until you reach the next circle.

    Lost Labyrinth (a fairly recent roguelike) has leveling up happen each time the player goes down a level. This is meant to allow stealth-sneaking past all the enemies without being penalized.

    I remember gaining levels just strolling around in Morrowind. Acrobatics and Athletics, whee!

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    1. I tried Lost Labyrinth years ago. I liked the concept, but falling through a pit to the next floor would cause you to miss getting a level up. I remember complaining about that and the developer didn't see a problem with it. That issue ended up putting me off the game all by itself, which is a shame because otherwise I quite liked the character system.

      I wouldn't call LL "fairly recent," though. It's been around for several years.

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    2. Finding new locations in Fallout also nets you XP.

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    3. In Fallout 3 this can happen with a perk, but with the absurdly low level cap it is rather pointless to do so. (20 levels, really? I got the GotY edition just to raise it to 30, and I'm most of the way there.)

      As I recall, Moraff's World had a class that supposedly got XP for exploring, though I seem to recall hearing that one might have been bugged to not work correctly.

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    4. Yes, I think it was the Sage class that was supposed to be weak and not good at fighting, but get XP just for exploring. As I loved exploring to reveal the map, I was so disappointed when I found the Sage didn't work as advertised. I found the Monk to be a great class though, especially once I started getting multiple strikes per attack.

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  2. I seem to remember that M&M 3 gives a small amount of xp for every new square you enter

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    1. Many modern games give experience for discovering locations (Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim). I think this is what WoW does, right?

      That's not quite the same as gaining experience by/for exploring. In fact, that sort of mechanic (particularly as implemented in Fallout: New Vegas) may discourage exploration - the only places worth seeing are the ones you get experience for finding, so if it's not marked on your HUD, you can safely walk on by.

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    2. Daniel: Fallout 3 overcomes this by having lots of cool stuff not on your map, lots of little environmental things, usually with loot. A lot of little environmental story telling things. That said, I added a mod that added more map pins, so I could fast travel places more quickly-- I don't want to have to walk over the same ground I've already explored a dozen times while looking for new areas.

      Also the XP for finding locations was given by a perk that I never took. There was a quest that let you get paid for finding locations though.

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  3. It can't be a substitution cipher because --..// is three double letters together, and the only word in the English language which contains that is 'bookkeeper'.

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  4. It could even be a sequence of commands in your controls, like keys mapped to actions. It could even try to represent pictograms! In any case, the questions and exclamation marks suggest a regular phrase out of the code.

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  5. MMOs have this exploration => XP mechanic. Well, WoW has it, and ESO has something similar.
    Funnily, there's someone on MobyGames who declared this game his favorite one.
    Also, from what I can see (YouTube comment and other reviews) there might not be a way to finish the game. Maybe the game suggests that there is more to it than there actually is.

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    1. The now-defunct space MMO Earth & Beyond had three types of level: combat, exploration and one other that I don't recall. You got combat XP for fighting and exploration XP for hitting waypoints in star systems you hadn't been to before.

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  6. It would be pretty amazing if the game was playing it straight at this point and there was no city of Ka to discover, given that the setup for deciding it exists is frankly ridiculous.

    I mean, I doubt that's what is happening here but it would be a stand-out moment in early computer games as far as self-examination of the underlying ideas goes.

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    1. Unlikely, as you say. But I agree: when your main quest is to find the city of Ka because the chief archeologist thinks that the Incans were "in Ka," the only winning move is not to play.

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    2. If you edit game file (ExpeditionAmazon1.dsk) in windows notepad you can find all game text. At the end of this file is one:

      "THE DOOR TO KA!!"
      "THIS IS NOTHIS IS NOT THE END."
      "IT IS THE BEGINNING OF"
      "EXPEDITION:KA"

      Maybe it is nothing, but ...

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    3. No, that's a pretty good clue that it's at least winnable. There's some other text in that file that suggests what happens when you finally get the ability to translate Incan. I just can't seem to get there no matter how much I explore.

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  7. "I've often lamented that more RPGs aren't set in the modern world, but there is something inescapably uncomfortable about a team of "archaeologists" massacring aboriginal Peruvians with hand grenades."

    Yes, and heroes killing thousands of orcs isn't really much different even if the mythological conceit calls for them to be 'naturally evil'.

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    1. I guess it's all about a suspension of disbelief, or more accurately, 'distance'. I've can commit monstrous acts of graphic violence against innocent video game people with not a blink, yet I was (somehow) convinced to watch Piranha 3D and nearly puked. I have a very weak stomach for graphic violence, but only when it appears to be realistic.

      I suppose the same goes for being uneasy about killing aboriginal people versus orcs. Nobody cares about orcs, because orcs aren't real, nor depicted as such.

      That Call of Duty mission "No Russian" was controversial exactly for that reason.

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    2. Killing real-world ethnic groups isn't much different from killing creatures that are both fictional and evil?

      What a stupid comment.

      Also, orcs aren't mythological.

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    3. Please contain your insults. What I said isn't much different is killing real-world ethnic groups in a videogame and killing fictional evil creatures in a videogame. Orcs are symbols for something.

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    4. I personally, when killing orcs in a videogame, do not think of them as symbolizing members of an ethnic group. If the narrative of a story led in that direction it might be disturbing. Like if a bunch of characters in the game spent a lot of time describing them as "dark", " foreign", etc that would make me question whether it was a game I should be playing. On the other hand if they are emphasizing the evil or threatening nature of orcs that is a more standard narrative.

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    5. In a fantasy game, you accept the "always chaotic evil" nature of orcs, demons, and what have you. It's part of the fantasy world, built into the very fabric of the setting. In the real world, such absolute alignments don't exist, so it's hard to suspend disbelief in real-world games. I'm not saying it's REALLY hard. Note that I characterized the killing as "uncomfortable," not crippling. It didn't make me puke or anything.

      Man of Stone, try to keep the discourse civil. Helm's comment offers a valid perspective.

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    6. Thank you.

      I've been digesting fantasy literature and I've been gaming since a very young age and it always sat bad with me that the orcs (or orc stand-ins) in the books were manufactured evil and I preferred pulp fantasy where barbarians and rogues did dirty deeds that they themselves understood as morally suspect, not against a Great Evil.

      The first thing I did as a dungeon master, introducing my friends to D&D second edition was strip away the alignment rules.

      It was only much later in life that I got aquainted with the basic literary critique tools to understand that the manichaean Good vs. Evil plots in fantasy literarture were pregnant metaphors for colonialism and western white saviours.

      Of course this doesn't mean I don't play RPGs or see them all as exactly the same thing. But I am happy to note that with the maturation of the medium we've seen versions of these systems not bent so much on Killing A Great Evil as in the past. And I do enjoy how in this game you get experience just for exploration, for example.

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    7. uruk-hai have black skin, orcs only became green skins after table-top wargamers felt uncomfortable with this.

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    8. Not to harp, but ""Of the orcs, the Uruk-Hai are described as "black"[2] and a smaller orc, a tracker, is described as "black-skinned".[3] All orcs are often described as "slant-eyed" and the Uruk-Hai at least refer to the Rohhirim as 'white skins.' In one of his letters, Tolkien described Orcs as "...squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

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    9. You all will fit in right here in this comics. http://existentialcomics.com/comic/23

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    10. Yeah, I got really uncomfortable with Tolkien's descriptions there. Doubly so when they later fight the evil "Men of the east".

      That said, I read fantasy to get away from real world issues. If I want moral ambivalence, shades of grey, unlikeable "protagonists" and needs of the many arguments there is this thing called "the news"...

      (That said, I really liked C. S. Friedman's Coldfire trilogy)

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    11. Eh, you have to be really, really trying (or taking things very much out of context) if you want to find racist undertones to Tolkien's work. The quote on the orcs always ignores the "degraded and and repulsive" and "to Europeans" sections, "black" literally means the color BLACK, not the range of high-melanin colorations that we use the term "black" to refer to in humans, and the "Evil Men of The East" were evil because they worshipped the dark lord of Evil, not simply because they were foriegners.

      It is clear from his letters and other writings that Tolkein despised racism, going out of his way to insult his German publisher's racial requirements, and openly lamenting that he was too old to go back to war in 39, as he felt that his anger at the way Hitler's vile racism had tainted the ancient European culture that he loved would have made him a far better soldier than the first time.

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    12. Really? I know he railed against the anti-semitism of the Nazi government, but some of the quotes in his book (Describing the Mongol people as horror inspiring, using the men of the east and south as enemies. I don't think it was intentional, but I think some of the views of the time infected his work. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Racism_in_Tolkien%27s_Works#Evil_Men has a good examination of it, constructed as a defense but clearly outlining the problems.

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    13. Tolkien wrote in the 30s and 40s. Comfortable white supremacism was the norm then. There still was the kind of "civilized racism" that was expressed by Rudyard Kipling and his "white man's burden". Hitler took it to the extreme then.
      Tolkien also built his work upon medieval (and older) myths - european myths, by the way. Everything beyond Europe was strange and hostile. The Europeans were the whitest people they knew, so darker skin was suspect in any case. For centuries, the core of Europe was threatened by Mongols and Turks - simply because of geographical reasons (European culture could not expand to the north and west because there was the ocean - until 1492). I guess, simply because Tolkien wanted to write a retro-medieval epic, he had to write the way he did. The evil had to be east and south and of darker skin.

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    14. You are correct about the historical circumstance around Tolkien's work, afaik. However, In the 1930s and 40s there was still counterculture, there were still radical voices. It wasn't a foregone conclusion that if you wrote in the 30-40s you would regurgitate the mainstream ethos of the time. Tolkien was a learned man and I'm sure he had read and heard of radical ideas, he just didn't endorse them.

      For example, he was not an antisemite - we know this due to his correspondence - which ran counter to common European beliefs at the time .So he absolutely had the capacity to not let this "civilized racism" influence his work. He chose not to.

      I don't buy why mythologically derivate works need to be racialist at all. I'm Greek, I grew up with the Odyssey, for example. The Greeks weren't the most enlightened of all people ("anyone who is not Greek, is a barbarian") but the Odyssey seems pretty clean of these tensions, and it's a supremely old piece of mythos.

      However, I don't really mean this to be a critique of Tolkien, but much more of that modern fans of his work and the countless high fantasy tropes he spawned deny this obvious subtext to this day. If we love something, we must be hard on it.

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    15. It was only much later in life that I got aquainted with the basic literary critique tools to understand that the manichaean Good vs. Evil plots in fantasy literarture were pregnant metaphors for colonialism and western white saviours.

      Which, of course, is why you never see good vs. evil plots in non-western and non-white fantasy stories.

      Tolkien described Orcs as...

      Tolkien never wrote an RPG. Whetever symbolism he attached to orcs in his stories doesn't apply to other works, any more than all Martians in fiction represent the same things as in H.G. Wells.

      With that in mind, I'm curious what you think the orcs in Wizardry stand for.

      I'm even more curious what the Duck of Sparks stands for.

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    16. Of course you do find good vs evil, light vs dark dualist stories everywhere (for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism is not a western religious system) - I am talking about what the west uses these narratives to excuse.

      re: Wizardry, I am not sure what your point is, or indeed that Tolkien didn't write an RPG. We disagree that the symbolism of the literary sources of dungeons and dragons (and therefore its many derivatives) do not carry over. Gygax's politics are quite notorious actually, what with 'points of civilization within an unwelcoming wilderness', the role of women in the roleplaying table (to bring the mens snacks, in case you were wondering) and the deeply conservative value set that every rule system he devised carries in it.

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    17. Whether orcs are meant to be symbolic of a particular race interests me less than the overall theme that certain races are evil by nature--the idea of a racial enemy rather than an ideological one. Whether the orcs are supposed to be black is less important than the heroic races of the story are clearly white. Their enemies can be easily identified by race, and to be an orc is to automatically deserve to die. Tolkien was neither the first nor the last, of course, but that doesn't make the trope any less disturbing.

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    18. Xenoblade Chronicles has dissenting factions from the same race as the bad guys that try to help the good guys. Shin Megami Tensei defines law as Christians and extremists of other religions, obviously killing and destroying to satisfy the needs of their cruel, vindictive Gods; chaos as rebels desperately fighting for peace in a Hellish world; and neutrality as an attempt to make own your way in the world, not to be a nonbeliever. Persona 4's plot twist makes a character morally ambiguous and raises questions about the whether the true villains are the humans or the monsters.Nier spends two of three playthroughs showing the other side of the story and the motivations of the monsters. Final Fantasy 6 has the main bad guy admit his mistakes and try to make peace halfway into it. Final Fantasy 10 is about how corruption and self-delusion can turn good men into monsters. I love those games, except Final Fantasy 10.

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    19. I've noticed the trend to have all-evil enemies. I tend to think less of overt racism, than as an easy out for the writers. In a heroic story, to provide the opportunity for the protagonist to be suitably badass, they need to do a lot of fighting, so you get an endless sequence of mostly faceless goons as enemies. Whether these are orcs in a fantasy setting, masked ninjas in a martial arts setting, essentially clones like stormtroopers or anonymous men in black (take Tron or UltraViolet, or whatever you want), it's just a shortcut for something the heroes can clobber without having to deal with any moral ambivalence. That's more in books and movies. In the RPG, these things come about more because of the need to grind, which again necessitates a large pile of unremarkable enemies to defeat, which at low levels often boils down to orcs or some orc-analogue.

      This bothers me sometimes, but more so because it's so simplistic than because it feels like a code for bigotry.

      On the other hand, I've also pondered how these mythical worlds are supposed to exist, with some near-endless supply of bad guys coming from nowhere. I've used the phrase, "Even an orc has a mother," to point out if you care about realism at all, there's got to be some kind of place where these creatures grow up before they go on a rampage, and also these theoretically constantly chaotic-evil creatures still must have enough heart to nurture a child before unleashing them on the unsuspecting victims of the world.

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    20. Exactly. Peaceful, organized orc villages MUST exist somewhere, or where would they learn language, smithing, farming, making clothes, and so forth? When the orc leader says "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!" in The Two Towers, it's not only funny, but notable because it suggests that when they're not marauding, orcs actually have restaurants.

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  8. New commenter here.

    I poked around the Internet and it looks like if you can find the ruin with the bottom level that is a poison room and map the whole thing. Then, wait until you have one character alive, it will get you further in the game.

    That's all I could find.

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    1. I saw that comment. It doesn't make sense to me, and in any event I didn't find a "poison room" at the bottom level. What I find at the bottom level is a large area where it tells me that the "heat may cause hallucinations." There doesn't appear to be anything to find there.

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    2. Do you actually keep the notes dropped by the cultists? Maybe you could read them while having hallucinations caused by the heat... probably a better chance to get one of the developers to pop up and tell us if there's actually an ending.

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    3. No, there's no real persistent object inventory that way.

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  9. "Don't bother Googling it; I don't think any walkthroughs exist for this game."

    I tried Googling it anyway!

    I found references to Hidden Expedition: Amazon (a completely different computer game), a real-life expedition to the amazon, Amazon.com (natch), and

    http://www.cheatdaddy.com/FBrowse.aspx?GameName=Expedition_Amazon&CheatType=Walkthroughs&Platform=Commodore_64&BUrl=http%3a%2f%2fc64.tin.at%2f

    This is a list of walkthroughs for C64 games. But the "Expedition Amazon" walkthrough link actually points to the walkthrough of "Amazon", a completely different interactive text adventure by Michael Crichton.

    I'm too lazy to continue, if anyone else wants to give it a shot then have fun.

    Victar

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  10. Although such direct exploration based mechanics are rare. There are a lot of games with "find 47 hidden caches" type quests which mostly serve the same purpose.

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  11. You could potentially reach out to this fellow: http://therpggamer.com/2013/08/13/wrapping-up-1983/

    Seems he at least played the game.

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    1. Or this guy, who played it a few years earlier but may never have actually gone all the way since his blogging has stopped:

      http://fakealgore.tumblr.com/post/800052623/rc-10-clones-are-good

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  12. Looking at the code on the parchments, I'd guess it's definitely not a substitution cipher. There are not enough spaces or characters that are appropriately spaced to be actual spaces (as it were). There's also not enough different characters (10 without the FRNK) to really represent an alphabet of any kind. The odd combination of letters and punctuation also suggests this is not a cipher.

    If this is actually a code, I would guess this is a series of pictographs with each pictograph being composed of ASCII art. I would guess, for example that the ">!!<" is one symbol representing a mask, an animal like a bat, or something similar. The asterisks could be suns or trees - perhaps even the explosion of a hand grenade. The "//" could be a road, or river. The "?" could be a snake. Alternately, the two "?"s could be setting off the characters that interpose them as we might use parentheses or quotation marks.

    To be quite frank though, I have a feeling the message means nothing at all. The game doesn't seem to be taking itself seriously enough as to have a carefully constructed ASCII art pictograph as the central puzzle leading to the endgame - especially since there doesn't appear to be any other puzzles in the game at all. I think it's more likely that if a puzzle did suddenly pop up in this game, it would be a lame joke with a solution that was immediately obvious.

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    1. I agree. I was probably reading too much into it. The text string is more likely the game's way of signifying "a bunch of nonsense," until some other encounter makes translating the note possible. The game's source code suggests such an encounter appears somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it.

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  13. It's been a long time, but I think I recall that one of the crypts had a sort of Rosetta stone in it that decodes the messages. Even when they were decoded it wasn't enough to get me past the hallucination levels.

    The key to amassing wealth is to explore the crypts, which have very valuable artifacts. I think that there are certain crypts that are always trapped and some that always have treasure, but I might be remembering that incorrectly.

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    1. Since I posted, I've spent some more time underground and found treasures that, I agree, are worth a lot more than what you find on the surface. I'm not sure that a LORAN system will really be the lynchpin, though.

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  14. The description of the game makes it sound really cool, like its Indiana Jones...the RPG.

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  15. This is just assumption, but I don't think the trader image - "most graphically-complex screen in the game" as you put it - is original to this game. I've a nagging feeling I have seen it before somewhere, and it dosen't seem to fit the setting at all - that's an old west trader in cowboy type duds outside a western log cabin, surely, not a jungle explorer? Unless that's another part of this games goofy humour...

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    1. I wonder if they ripped it off from one of the versions of Oregon Trail? They could have also borrowed the image from one of their previous games, although a look through Mobygames doesn't turn up any western-themed games...

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    2. I agree that it feels just a tad out of place, but it also seems similar enough to the rest of the game's artwork that I doubt it was ripped off from anywhere.

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  16. Interestingly, I am playing a fairly recent game called Expedition: Conquistador which shares some elements with this one. An homage perhaps?

    Thankfully in E:C, The 'good' path actually involves treating the aboriginal peoples with respect. The bad path has you acting, well, like Cortez.

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    1. So... the 'good' path is what the natives WISHED had happened and the 'bad' path is the historical one?

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    2. *Hands you a trophy for darkest thing posted on this blog that doesn't involve someone dying in the real world"

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  17. I'm not saying this is the WORST opening to a CRPG I've seen, but it has got to be damn close.

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    1. I think there are categories.

      This might have the worst opening story of a crpg I've encountered, there are also prizes for worst voice acting, worst animation and worst grammar encountered before the game begins.

      Ultima Underworld (voice), The Witcher (animation) and Inquisitor (grammar) each managed to make me cringe before I was able to input any commands.

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    2. It's right in that transition era where more complex graphics were possible, but the technology (and storage space) wasn't there to make them authentically good.

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    3. Graphics? Honestly I skim the screenshots on your blog, I'm here for your writing and historical perspective. I meant the painful description of the guy getting high and sending out people to loot the jungle based on an insane theory.

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    4. Mass Effect 3 has the worst ending of any game.

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  18. Congratulations on winning half of the Wizardry series. I played number 1, 6 and 8 and enjoyed them, but always felt something was lacking. Now, I have played the first game in a series that does the idea right: Shin Megami Tensei.

    Wizardry's plot is no more complex than,"this king is evil--wait, no, the queen is evil." Shin Megami Tensei has more plot, going into the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse and fighting a war between light and dark.

    Wizardry has the standard Dungeons and Dragons alignments, which occasionally change a bit of dialogue or a room you can visit. Shin Megami Tensei has morally ambiguous alignments which change the story, the factions you can support, the monsters you can get to help you, and the endings.

    Wizardry has a standard combat system. Shin Megami Tensei lets you hire monsters and fuse them to make bigger monsters.

    Both are very difficult and have awkward interfaces, but Shin Megami Tensei has conveniences like an automap and the ability to save at very rare and distantly-spread checkpoints.

    Basically, if Wizardry had a lot more fun and imagination, it would be Shin Megami Tensei. Maybe you should play that before Wizardry 7.

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  19. When I wrote Expedition Amazon in 1981, I was a 50 year old engineer playing with my first computer, an Apple with 48k memory. It was an exercise, strictly fun. I discovered the Apple's text screens, which were much faster than the graphic screens, and I converted the text characters into graphic blocks which I used to assemble the screen views. I also memorized the contents of every memory bite and used the Apple poke and peek command to load my program. I met Marc Pelkzarski at a software show, told him what I had done, and he published the game (his company was Penguin Software). I did everthing but the cover art and the joke telling figure which were added by Penguin.Willard Phillips, ppater11@gmail.com

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    1. Mr. Phillips! Thank you for visiting to comment about the game! I'm going to send you a longer e-mail to your account to see if you can help us with a couple of things.

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