|Finally reaching the exit to the dungeon after eight hours in.|
Back in 2010, when I was in the middle of Wizardry, complaining about how long it was taking, someone said, "Wait until you get to the 1990s and every game has 10 dungeons as big as Wizardry." Slowly but surely, this has been happening, but I didn't really notice it until Dragonflight. Over the last few days, I've spent about eight hours exploring and mapping a single dungeon of 10 levels, the largest occupying 28 x 31 squares (although not every space was used). Oh, it didn't take quite as long as an entire game of Wizardry, of course, owing to easier monsters and no permadeath, but it's only one of god-knows-how-many dungeons in the game.
|A large dungeon level of secret doors, rooms, combats, traps, and treasure.|
Dragonflight, in short, is taking forever. I just passed the 30-hour mark, which already puts it in the top 15% of games I've played for length, and I still mostly have no idea what I'm doing other than progressively getting more powerful. There hasn't been the slightest hint on the main quest. I'm supposed to discover what happened to the dragons all those years ago, and I can only hope that my random explorations are somehow, someway leading me to that goal.
When I last posted, I had just left a dungeon on the far west coast of the continent because I kept encountering locked doors after I'd run out of keys. I went back to the town of Luthag to purchase more. Figuring I'd let the west coast dungeon regenerate before I returned to it, I decided to check out the one other dungeon I knew about, in the middle of southern desert. It was tough because walking through the desert saps hit points every round and I had to make sure I was keeping up with the loss. When I finally got to the dungeon, I descended, lit a torch, and:
Great. Another magic mouth that wants some password before I can proceed. I hadn't received any clues about this dungeon from anyone, so I had no choice but to return to the surface, navigate back through the desert, and return to the west coast dungeon.
It was this dungeon that ended up being 10 large levels, full of monsters, traps, secret doors, and treasure. I say it took me eight hours to complete it, but I'd already done Levels 1-4 in the last post, so the eight hours were mostly just the bottom six levels. Notes from this exploration:
- There were a ton of enemies. My characters slaughtered so many--including my rear two characters wiping out scads of undead with "Dispel Undead"--that everyone more than doubled their experience points.
- As experience points rose, so did health and, most importantly, the number of movements per round. The problem I had with enemies anticipating and avoiding ranged attacks went away (or at least got a lot better) when my spellcaster and archer were able to move more than once per round. By the time I left the dungeon, the archer was up to three moves per round, which usually translates as one to get on a firing line with the enemy and two to actually shoot arrows.
- By far, the most difficult enemies I faced in the dungeon were balrons, who have a ranged magic attack capable of practically halving hit points. They can do it multiple times per round, and I occasionally encountered up to four in the same room. There was one level where there were four such rooms in a row. I had to stop, heal, and restore my magic points between each encounter, and even then I only won by casting "Speed" before the combat and "Heal" every round during the combat.
|I also missed shots of the balrons. Here are some skeletons.|
- As long as you have plenty of food, healing and restoring magic in dungeons is an easy matter of standing in a corridor and holding down the left-turn or right-turn keys. As you spin in place, both attributes slowly regenerate.
- Enemy difficulty has no correlation with the quality of treasures found in the rooms. None of the balron rooms had a single treasure chest, whereas some of the best treasures were found in rooms with no enemies.
- There were potions. Oceans of potions. Practically every treasure chest had at least six of them. When I got out, my characters had more than 50 healing potions, 20 potions each of spirits and wine, and dozens of others. I'm no longer so afraid to use them, though I'm going to keep at least 5 of each in permanent inventory in case I need them as quest items.
- There were a lot of trap doors that dump you on the next level. I'm a little confused by them. You can "detect" them in a way by "looking" at each square of the corridor, but there's still no way to avoid them. There's no "Levitate" spell or anything similar. Yet I see doorways on the other sides of the trap doors with no other way to approach them. I'm not sure what I'm missing.
|How do I get to the door at the end of this corridor? Is it just a mirage?|
- There were so many secret doors that I ultimately had to adopt the practice of scanning every wall. Unfortunately, in this game you can't find secret doors just by walking into them. You have to "look" at the wall first.
|If you say so.|
- There were two map pieces in the dungeon. I still have six to find, but I can confirm that the main continent is indeed shaped like a dragon.
|The map shows a lot of places I haven't explored, including everything above the dragon's neck, the island between his legs, the island above his back, and "Antarctica." Fortunately, I now have a ship.|
On Level 9, I encountered a magic mouth that said there were special potion bottles meant for dispelling creatures beyond. It asked me what type of liquid was in the bottles. I had no idea that this dungeon was the solution to the quest I'd received in Scatterbone, where the king is plagued with an imp constantly buzzing around his head. Consulting what he told me (made easier by the "notes" the game gives you after each major dialogue), I found the answer: LIQUEUR OF RAISINS. The mouth let me pass to retrieve the special potion in a room beyond.
|I got it wrong a couple of times first. I always forget how to spell "liqueur."|
Level 10 was a "reward" level--not a single combat, just copious treasure chests. Of course, I still had to deal with this nonsense:
|Time to reset the emulator, re-start the program, re-load the game, and hope that this process re-seeds the random number generator.|
It was a relief to trek back up and finally exit the dungeon. I immediately made my way to a temple, where my max magic points, for Rinakles, went from 20 to 100. Returning to Pegana, I sold my mushrooms and excess equipment. Fiddling with some of the rings, I discovered that they were Rings of Protection (they just say "ring"), so I'm glad I didn't sell them all.
|A bunch of stuff that I'm afraid to sell now.|
I sold a lot of the other gems and jewelry--bracelets, earrings, pearl necklaces, brooches, opals, diamonds--but kept a few pieces in case I needed them for quest items. I learned the new scrolls and turned in the ones I'd already found to the University for karma.
|30 hours in, and I've solved this one side-quest.|
When I returned to King Scatterbone, he happily took my potion. Free of the imp, he rewarded me with gems and a "Piece of Eltam," If I try to equip or use it, it says it's "not complete" and some "pieces are missing." I otherwise have no idea what it is. Maybe all these other side quests result in more "pieces of Eltam," and when the thing is complete, a dragon will pop out of it, and that will be the endgame.
|In fact, except for the compass, I have no idea what any of the stuff on this screen is for.|
The dungeon exploration accomplished the thing I had most hoped it would: it gave me enough money to "charter" a ship at Port Pylon. When I paid the fee, the game did as I hoped and gave me a ship to sail around freely, not just "passage" to some other location. With it, I was excited about exploring some of the locations on the map that I couldn't reach overland, starting with a dungeon on a nearby island.
|The creators made a combat backdrop for the ship. This makes me want to go downstairs to my Xbox and play Assassin's Creed IV.|
The moment I walked in, I got another magic mouth looking for a password. Bollocks.
I soon found out another restriction to owning a ship: the crew won't sail very far from the home port. Mine refused to go very far east. I suppose this means I'll have to buy other ships in other ports.
|Is the crew aware that I'm capable of casting "Lightning Bolt"?|
The crew had no problem sailing west around the main continent, though, which was good because near the dungeon I'd spent so much time exploring, I found an "orc village" that I'd missed before. (It blends into the background a bit, at least for me.) There, I was surprised to meet a friendly orc king who spoke the human language. He explained that he was trying to civilize the orcs, and as part of this effort, he wanted me to take a contract around to the human, elf, and dwarf cities and see if I could get the leaders to sign.
|I give the game credit here for a fairly original side-quest.|
This side quest reminded me that I hadn't done much about the elf queen's request that I find the stolen sphere containing the souls of the elf elders. One of the possible locations was in the "dragon's tail." I sailed up to the series of islands that make up the tail and didn't see anything, but I hit upon the idea of getting off the boat and "searching" the mountains. I'm glad I did, because I found a dungeon on my second try.
|And there was no magic mouth looking for a password!|
I leave you having entered this dungeon, and I'm trying to decide whether to explore it or to do the orc chief's quest first. I suppose I'll try a few levels and see how long it takes. It would be nice to return to Nimraviel with the sphere.
My opinion of the game hasn't changed. There are no great moments or awful moments, just moments. I'd happily give it up except for not wanting to break a long winning streak. You'll probably see a post on FallThru and perhaps a 1980s game before I post next, though.