|Opening a chest in a dungeon corridor.|
It's been a long time since I played an RPG in which I had to constantly worry about things like torches and food, but such is a primary dynamic of at least the early game of Dragonflight. In the first few hours of gameplay, I've spent almost all of my amassed wealth keeping from starving. I yearn for a handy fish & chips place with lax security.
At the beginning of the game, the only clue I got about the main quest was a suggestion to see Dambrano's friend, Benglur, in the town of Brindil-Bun. I don't know if the original game came with a map, but I have no idea where to find Brindil-Bun. The only clue I have as to my place in the world is an in-game map piece that shows my party in a upper-middle sector on the west side of the world. Apparently, there are 11 more map pieces to find, and Benglur has one.
|Not getting very far in a dungeon.|
I started exploring tentatively from Pegana, and fairly soon I ran into a couple of dungeons. One, to the north, starts at a door that asks me for a password--something to do with who built the dungeon. I didn't get any clues to that in Pegana. A second dungeon, to the west, is where I spent most of my time since the first post, trying to amass gold and experience.
|Approaching a dungeon in the mountains.|
Dungeon exploration in Dragonflight is essentially the same as Ultima IV and Ultima V. You wander through first-person corridors punctuated by third-person rooms. The rooms, which have less interesting geography than the Ultima titles, might contain enemies, chests, or both. Occasionally, you find chests in the hallways, but in this dungeon, anyway, I didn't encounter any enemies roaming the halls between rooms.
Dungeon-delving brings up a different series of commands on the interface, with options for casting a spell, taking something, listening at a door, opening a door, unlocking a door, opening a chest, and looking. Listening at a door might give you a preview of what's to come in the next room. I believe the only other RPGs in which we've seen this ability are Tunnels of Doom and The Dark Heart of Uukrul.
|It was indeed 4 snakes.|
Combat in dungeon rooms is identical to combat outdoors except for the textures. Since the first post, I've confirmed that there's no way to face sideways, so only characters directly in front of or behind an enemy can engage him. Until I get a bow for my archer and better spells for my mage, that means awkwardly trying to maneuver two characters behind the enemies while the other two attack from the front.
|The party tries to get into position to fight four snakes. I don't know if those are horns or ears.|
So far, enemies have included skeletons, snakes, orcs, trolls, and gnolls. None of them have had any special attacks, but the snakes and trolls have been the hardest when it comes to the damage they do in combat.
|The execution of a combat round.|
|Gnolls in this game are small, fat, tailed creatures that jump at you.|
After combat, characters can easily move to any chests in the room and open them, then use one of the room's available exits (there can be up to 4). So far, chests have contained gold, gems (which can be sold for money; I don't know if there's any other purpose to them), scrolls, and equipment. In one chest in this random dungeon, I found another of the 12 map pieces.
|The world slowly takes shape.|
Characters get individual experience from combat based on the monsters they slay, which naturally means my fighter and dwarf are leading the pack. Everyone has experienced small increases in hit points and magic, although the game doesn't tell you when it happens, so I don't know if it's been incremental or if it happens in stages.
Torches are vital to dungeon exploration. The dungeons start pitch dark, and each torch lasts for maybe 30 minutes in real time, after which it slowly dims and ultimately disappears. The characters only started with 4 torches, and though I've heard of a place somewhere northwest of Pegana that sells more, I haven't found it yet. A "light" spell removes this need, but I'd rather spend the magic points on other spells.
|How is the light "gloomy"?|
Dungeon rooms remain cleared when you leave them, and dungeons don't seem to respawn when you exit and re-enter. I don't know if they re-spawn over time. There's no way to rest and heal while in dungeons, so you have to be careful with your hit points as you explore, although the lack of random encounters and re-spawning means that it's fairly easy to get from any point back to the surface just as long as everything doesn't go dark.
The first dungeon also gave me my first taste of magic. I found several scrolls in various chests that, when read by characters, granted them spells. It appears that certain spells can only be learned by certain characters, and if another one tries to learn it, you waste the scroll. I managed to get "dispel undead," "dazzle," " speed," "light," and "fire-ball" for my mage; "glowing stone" and "stone hardening" for my dwarf; and "wood hardening" for my archer (yes, yes: ha, ha). I don't know if Bladus the fighter can learn anything, but he does have a small number of spell points. I haven't had a chance to test out more than a few of them, and the manual doesn't really give any indication of what they do.
|Learning a spell from a scroll. I guess I need to keep track of what numbers everyone has already learned.|
Back at Pegana University, Dambrano is waiting for me to show up and turn in scrolls, so I rather hope there are duplicates of each scroll, and I can learn one and give him the others.
There's also an odd dynamic with potions. Each has a rune associated with it, and through experimentation you can determine what each one does. But there's also an option to mix potions in ways that strengthen or alter them. I think this is the first time we've seen such a dynamic in an RPG. Unfortunately, every time I try, I just get sludge, so clearly more experimentation is in order.
|This mixture produced nothing.|
I had a tight moment towards the end of this session, when I failed to keep an eye on rations and ran out of food on Level 5 of the dungeon. This causes "hunger!" to flash on the screen every 9 moves, and everyone loses a hit point. With the two healing potions I'd found, I managed to just keep everyone alive long enough to escape the dungeon and return to Pegana, where I immediately spent almost all the gold I had acquired on more food.
I like the game's approach to health as it relates to difficulty, at least in this stage. I haven't found any healing spells yet, and health potions have been scarce. Health regenerates slowly as you move--maybe 1 point every 40 steps. You can speed this up by resting, but that only heals 1-15 points out of a maximum of between 60 and 150 depending on the character. Visiting the healer in the town restores more, but at a relatively significant cost, and even she doesn't heal to the maximum. The cumulative effect of this approach is that you will eventually restore all of your health, with patience, but when you're dungeon-delving, you can't take it for granted. In this, the game achieves a nice balance between Wizardry, where you never regenerated anything unless you returned to the surface, and Might & Magic, where you could regenerate everything just by resting.
|Resting helps a little bit.|
I used the dungeon for experience and treasure, but I'll need to return to it when I'm stronger to finish exploring it. I didn't quite finish the level I was on when I started starving, and I don't know if there were any levels below that. There was also some mysterious portal to another dungeon that I declined to take. There were also a couple of locked doors for which I never found keys.
|Or maybe a different floor in the same dungeon. I need to map it next time.|
Here are a few questions for those of you who have played this game before. The manual doesn't make any of this clear:
- If I face a wall in the dungeon and hit "look," it gives me a closer view of the wall. Why? Is there anything I'm supposed to do here? Are there secret doors to find with this dynamic?
- What is the "take" option for in dungeons? I haven't found anything just sitting in the open in the corridors.
- Are the skeletons and foliage just there for flavor, or is there some way I can search them and get stuff from them?
|The lack of an indefinite article and the exclamation point lead me to believe that this is quite a fortunate find.|
So far, playing Dragonflight has been a pleasant experience. Not joyous or exciting, but pleasant. The difficulty seems pitched very well, and it has a reasonably strong approach to inventory and economy. If anything is going to sink the experience, it's probably going to be the combat, which is already proving somewhat boring and repetitive, although I hope this might change as I start making greater use of offensive spells. I'm going to stake off in a new direction and see if I can get a bead on the main quest.