Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lord of the Rings: Won!


The rest of the game consisted of two areas--Lorien and Dol Guldur--and I confess that I rushed them a bit. There were just a few too many encounters and puzzles.

When we exited Moria, almost immediately Frodo got whisked away by the Witch-King through some unclear mechanism. Someone remarked that he was probably taken to "Dol Guldur." Sam also disappeared. I assume if someone else had been carrying the Ring, that person would have been taken instead. I gave the leadership to Aragorn and continued onward.

"One of you remarks" is the game's lazy way of not plugging in a text string variable based on who's currently in the party.

Lorien consisted of a fortified inner area surrounded by a bunch of minor encounters in the fringes. To get into Lorien proper and see Galadriel, I had to get past Haldir at the gates. Just trying to walk by him led to my party being pumped full of arrows. Arwen had assured me that her token would do the trick, but I couldn't get that to work. Haldir suggested that if we were there on behest of some elven lord, that would be enough, and he let me by when I said ELROND.

Not the best security system.

It took me a while to find Galadriel's hut among the trees. She said I could leave whenever I wanted via a ship on an eastern shore, but she suggested I wander around and collect five objects of power first: a crown of elanor, a scabbard, a silver horn, an elfstone, and the light of Earendil's star.

The game's version of Galadriel. I think Cate Blanchett is prettier.

Much of the rest of the map consisted of wandering around talking to NPCs about these various objects and trying to find them. I eventually got them all (the "star" was found by filling a bottle of water by moonlight, the horn was buried in a ruin, etc.), but I have no idea what they did. Not even a walkthrough really helped. They didn't seem to raise my stats, I couldn't wield them, and I didn't employ them anywhere during the rest of the game.


Given their lack of utility, I feel particularly bad about the crown of elanor. I found an elf maiden who had made one, but she said she was waiting to give it to Legolas (I guess if I'd brought him with me, the dialogue would have been very different). She said if she gave it to me, she would be "fated to never know love!" and asked if I'd take it from her and deny her love forever. I felt bad saying yes.

Could you just . . . I don't know . . . make another one?

Galadriel also had me meet her at her magic mirror, where we saw a vision of Frodo being held by the Witch-King at Dol Guldur. She said that even though the chief Nazgul had Frodo and the Ring, all was not lost, because he was waiting for an army from Mordor to come escort him. She told me I could recruit any of her commanders and suggested I explore a cave nearby for some assistance. I ended up recruiting Celeborn and someone named Malkir.


The caves were the ones that connected to Moria, and it turns out I couldn't have exited this way from the mines, as I would have eventually found myself against a locked door that I needed Galadriel's key to open. Anyway, in the mines, I found a statue of a giant eagle, which I freed (somehow) by giving it a set of wings I'd found in a nearby cave. The eagle gave me a word of power--THORONDOR--that turned out to be crucial for the endgame.

The Fellowship at last encounters Middle Earth's "aquila-ex-machina."

I also found the entrance to the other side of Redhorn Pass, assuming that from this side, I could clear the snow blockage and wander all the way back to the Shire if I wanted. But I came up against the same snowdrift and couldn't get by. After I won, I consulted a walkthrough, and it turns out I needed to use the "perception" skill at some random place in the corridor to find an offshoot tunnel, where I would defeat the spirit of Caradhras and banish the cold. Oh, well.

When I felt I was ready, I got a bunch of lembas from Galadriel and boarded a boat that took me across the lake and to the environs of Dol Guldur, which I guess is the tower in Mirkwood that Gandalf visits in The Hobbit. All of this is only in the game, of course; in the book, Frodo never gets captured by the Witch-King and the rescue mission is unnecessary. 

Wait. I have to ride in that?

Near where I arrived in the last map, I found a structure with a bunch of imprisoned animals. At the top was a wizard claiming to be Radagast the Brown, but a brown bird chirping in a nearby cage made me suspicious. I ended up attacking "Radagast," who revealed himself as a werewolf. Once I killed him, I freed the real Radagast, who told me that it was his spirit who had been in all of those birds I'd been encountering throughout the game. He joined my party.

My suspicions paid off.

Shortly after that, I found Gollum wandering along a road. The game suggested I try to capture him, and after a bit of experimenting and reloading, I found that the way to do that was with a rope. His main contribution was to suggest I avoid Sauron's forces on the road and enter a hedge maze instead. From everything I read post-game, this is exactly what I was supposed to do. But I wanted to see what happened if I kept walking down the road, and I somehow missed tripping a game-ending encounter and managed to just walk up to the fortress, avoiding a long and annoying hedge maze.

Gollum tries, and fails, to provide some useful advice.
The front gates were guarded by a force of Nazgul and Olog-hai, which I couldn't defeat without losing a bunch of people, so I sought another entrance. I eventually found one by a standing stone. Gollum ditched me as I entered.


As I later discovered, I missed a ton of stuff in the lower levels of Dol Guldur, including a bunch of combats and traps, a couple of NPCs who would have joined the party, and the chance to rescue Sam. Instead, I just pushed upwards, assuming that the final encounter would be at the top of the tower. There were some minor battles and encounters along the way, but for the most part I made it to the top in quick order. The only puzzle I had to pass was a force field on a stairway. I used "Countermagic" to get by, but apparently I could have used some keys (which I never found) instead.

A penultimate battle with a group of sorcerers was reasonably difficult.

In the final room, the Witch-King was preparing to take off with Frodo in a sack. I invoked THORONDOR and summoned the giant eagles, which prevented him from flying away. He turned and attacked the party, but he was alone, so it wasn't a tough combat. Satisfyingly, Merry was the one to make the killing blow.

He did it with an arrow instead of a sword, but let's not split hairs.

The long end sequence started with a clip from the cartoon in which Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo. It seemed a little out of place. I guess maybe in the game's version of the story, after rescuing Frodo, we wandered outside, and the riverbank encounter happened as in the book. In that case, the game ended just before the climactic battle with the Uruk-hai, including Boromir's death. I'm curious if the next game begins with that.

There followed a series of screens that told the fate of some of the people and places. The forces of Dol Guldur tried to invade Lorien three times during the War of the Ring, but they failed each time, and Galadriel eventually destroyed the fortress.


The game also recounts the fight between elves and orcs in the Woodland Realm, ruled by Legolas's father, but ends by noting "all of this is yet to occur." It also notes that Sauron is amassing his forces and moving west, but that "Sauron is not the only one who wants the Ring." The cut scenes end with a shot of Gollum saying "precious."


A few notes before I wrap up:

  • Sam's "spider sword" only hummed in one location where it was pretty obvious I was going to be attacked by spiders. It didn't give me any warning in dozens of other locations where I was attacked.
  • Durin's Axe turned out to be a decent axe, but probably not worth all the trouble to find it.
  • At the end of the game, I still had a ton of mystifying items in my inventory, including a spiritcharm, all that mithril I mined in Moria, the elanor crown, Galadriel's token, Tinalin's cape, the scabbard, the silver horn, the Horn of Gondor, the elfstone, the Smith Ring which a smith in Lorien had turned into "reforge-ring," a black key, Arwen's token, and the leaf belt. Without exception, I have no idea what these items are for.
  • However, I obviously didn't hit every encounter on the maps. Moreover, it became clear that some of these items have a passive effect, with certain encounters triggering differently or not triggering at all, and others are alternate solutions to puzzles I solved a different way. In general, the game was quite good about this, allowing multiple combinations of skills, spells, and items to solve its puzzles.
  • I had a repeated problem with the interface when it came to the book paragraphs. Every so often, I'd walk into a square that triggered a paragraph, but since I was holding down one of the movement keys when I entered the square, the game immediately sensed the keypress as a desire to close out of the book. I had to mince around and reload a couple of times to be sure I could actually read the text before it disappeared.
  • For the record, my party upon exiting Moria was Frodo (leader and Ringbearer), Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gimli, Druin, Aragorn, Glorfindel, and Boromir. My party upon winning the game was lacking Frodo and Sam, but with the addition of Malkir and Radagast. (Celeborn and Gollum joined briefly but left.)

Although I rushed the end stages a bit, I really found myself enjoying the game by the end. I look forward to writing the GIMLET.


47 comments:

  1. Very small note: you do not need !Thorondor to win the game. When you get to the top of the tower, you can approach the Witch King by the east side (in which case the game prompts you to use the Thorondor word to prevent his escape, as you did) or you can approach him by the west side, which triggers a spell that damages your entire party but no !Thorondor is required.

    Once again, different solutions to the same problem :)

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    1. You can also use the Eagle Gem from Lorien or the Wizard Staff if you still have it.

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    2. That I didn't know! How do those two items work against the witch king?

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    3. They have the same effect as !Thorondor

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    4. Thanks that's good to know. Will Radagast's staff do, or does it have to be Gandalf's?

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  2. Man, is there a limit to party size in this game? There was certainly no shortage of joinable NPCs. In fact, wouldn't you have the problem that other games have, in that you optimize your party rather early and there's no need for further members? This is what happened to me in Baldur's Gate. No thanks, I'd rather keep the fighter with 18/93 strength even if he does have the most annoying Jar-Jar dialogue in the game.

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    1. 10 party members. There's about 25 to 30 joinable NPCs in game, most canon.

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    2. 10 party members is quite a lot, of course, and I almost always had a slot when an NPC appeared.

      I generally agree with you about Baldur's Gate, but the last few times I played it, I refused to reload when characters died. I found that not only did it make for a better internal story, but also the arrival of each new NPC was welcome rather than superfluous.

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  3. From Galadriels five object quest you get a stat increase (+2 Will, Luck, and Life; +1 Endurance). Also the only of those objects with a practical use is the scabbard that gives the owner a small defensive bonus.

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    1. See, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about. The game rarely makes it clear when you've just enjoyed a bit of character development. You'd have to check your stats before and after every event to discover what encounters triggered what improvements.

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  4. This game appears to be more than it initially seemed. I think it's even slightly Baldur's Gate-y. Maybe some of these mysterious items have a pay-off like the golden pantaloons? That would be fantastic for a 1990 game.

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    1. The general look and feel is not completely dissimilar to the Infinity Engine. Infinity had a much better approach to combat, inventories, and NPC dialogue, of course, but in terms of overland exploration and encounters, I agree that it feels familiar.

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  5. Hrm, I know they wanted a big setpiece boss fight to end the game, but that plot doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. Why would the Witch King not kill Frodo and Sam? They're not useful for anything.

    The plot hole should have been patched by having Frodo pass the Ring to Sam when he was seized. Then Sam hides the Ring or something before he too is captured. Then you have to retrieve the two, who are being held in Dol Guldur for interrogation to find the Ring (same reason Gollum wasn't killed by Sauron, see?).

    I wonder if all those extra items and stuff were intended to be used in the sequels.

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    1. Also, I wonder if you can have a human male kill the Witch King. I guess it would be tedious to run the final battle enough times to make that work/not work.

      Followup thought: I guess this makes the Battle of Pelennor Fields a lot easier in this continuity.

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    2. Only a few lines amidst the paragraphs make it clear that this scenario DOESN'T happen. Unfortunately, the paragraphs make it clear that the Witch-King knows he has the Ring and is waiting for an escort because he's afraid Saruman will try to seize it.

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    3. Maybe he's not really dead, just "dispersed" the way he was after the incident at the river.

      I'm reasonably sure that anyone can kill him. I don't remember who killed him the first time, but it wasn't Merry and I don't think it was Pippin, either. I reloaded just to deliberately engineer his death at Merry's hands. Sorry for that bit of deception.

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    4. He doesn't kill them because he was planning to bear them beyond all darkness to the houses of lamentation, or something like that.

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    5. Where their flesh shall be devoured, and their shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.

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    6. Ha! Great call-back, Bluerazor.

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    7. It is of course possible to kill it with a human male :) I did it with Boromir, in revenge for the canon book story.

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    8. Hard there been a Vol. 3, I wonder who would Eowyn would be killing instead?

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    9. I laughed like a drain when I read that the Witch King had been killed by Merry (the Witch King of Angmar? Really?) :)

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    10. Achievement: try to get The Witch King killed by the mule. Now THAT would be impressive :D

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  6. This seems like an enjoyable game, and it's pretty rich and open-ended for its time.

    Am I mixing up the books? I know that much of this game isn't what actually happened in Fellowship of the Ring, but I believe that eagles coming to the rescue occurs in The Hobbit?

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    1. The eagles come to rescue people several times during the series. In the Hobbit, when Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves have been treed by warg-riders after their escape from the Misty Mountains. They save Gandalf from his imprisonment by Saruman atop Isengard and from the pinnacle of Moria after he is returned to Middle Earth as the White. Finally, they pluck Sam and Frodo from the flanks of Mount Doom after the downfall of Barad Dur and the destruction of the Ring.

      But the game events are definitely far from the book, which ends with a company of orcs attacking the Fellowship and dispersing them. Nobody goes near Dol Guldur until Galadriel obliterates it near the end of the war, and we don't even hear about that until afterward.

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    2. Wow! Talk about the importance of befriending NPCs!

      ;)

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    3. I was referring to this with my "aquila-ex-machina" comment. The Eagles seem to show up whenever its convenient for the plot.

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    4. I have no idea why I capitalized "eagles." Now I can't stop picturing Don Henley and company showing up on the slopes of Mount Doom, singing "Desperado" while Frodo and Sam lie gasping on the rocks.

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    5. It's easy to forget with the films around, but the first book actually doesn't have the fight with the orcs. The ending has Frodo and Sam leave after the clash with Boromir, and then the Two Towers book begins with the battle and Boromir's death. The films changed the pacing into what would fit an action movie (and probably this game) better.

      This was a really nostalgic read, thank you. :) It might've been the first cRPG I played, though I didn't get to the end with my English skills at the time.

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    6. Last thing I remember, I was
      Running for the door
      I had to find the passage back
      To the place I was before
      "Relax, " said the Nazgul,
      "We are programmed to receive.
      You can check-out any time you like,
      But you can never leave! "

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    7. That's not the Eagles I was thinking of, but that's pretty awesome too.

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  7. Interesting to see in that last picture, one of the Shadowlords turn up from Ultima 5 to threaten Gollum.

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    1. "Don't mind me, I was just in the studio doing a little VA and they needed a 'menacing figure'. Easiest ten bucks ever."

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    2. I've noticed that in the book, the Nazgul are portrayed as having regular conversations with people. People who see them call them "black riders" and speak of them with some fear, but don't suggest that in appearance they're obviously otherworldly, as in glowing eyes and no face.

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    3. I meant to add: but film and game portrayals seem to always have them as clearly undead or spectral.

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    4. It is an interesting question. I guess a dark rider in a heavy cloak at night can't be seen all that well whether he's just a guy or is an evil spirit. It also seems possible that the nazgul were using their powers to cloud the perceptions of the weak-minded so as not to create too much alarm. Canonically, only the eyes of the nazgul are ever visible, and then only as vague gleaming. They could and did wear ordinary visible items tho.

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    5. And if one is asking me a question while I'm alone in the streets at night, I'll be damned if I don't answer him immediately so he would get the hell away from me as soon as possible then suffer from immediate amnesia to forget about that traumatic meeting.

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    6. For anyone wondering how the Nazgul invisibility works please visit this link.

      http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm#Q0-InvRiders

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  8. I wonder if you get a Game Over if Frodo is the only member of the party when the game decides he needs to be captured.

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    1. Hmm... Y'know, I've never thought of that since I last played the hell out of the game. Very interesting thought.

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    2. I have to remember to start backup up saves at various points in the game so I can answer questions like this. I really want to know.

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  9. I remember playing this game as a kid and it seemed like a lame Ultima 6 clone (but apparently it came out just around the time of U6), but the way you describe it with all the quests, events, exploration, etc. makes it seem pretty cool actually. It seems like there is a ton of variability in encounters and quests based on what you've done, items you have, etc.

    Also, gollum in that screenshot looks really close to gollum from the LOTR movies.

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    1. As I mentioned before, both this game and U6 are on my list of top-10 RPGs ever. For very different reasons too, despite visual similarities.

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    2. Gollum pretty much looks like that in the Bakshi film IIRC.

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  10. No spoilers, but there's some noncanon stuff in The Two Towers as well. Hopefully you get to play that someday.

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