Two more levels mostly down! I realized just before I started writing this that I have no idea how many levels the game has. I've been assuming 10, but I don't know why--just standard RPG convention, I guess. For all I know it has 30. But given my characters' experience levels, which are all 6-7 out of a maximum of 10-12, I assume that I'm about half done.
Levels 5 and 6 have taken me about 3-4 hours each, which means I've put in the equivalent of a full day's work on Eye of the Beholder within the past two days. Not the best time management going on in Chetland, but the whole ratio is going to get flipped next week, so I figure I'd better play while I can.
|There wasn't going to be an image for a little while, so I thought I'd throw in this one of memorizing mage spells.|
Most important thing first: MOZA's "word of warning" about keys and locks came too late. There's an area of Level 4, accessible only from Level 5, that requires a dwarven key, and I'm out. I've now gotten into the habit of trying to pick every lock before using a key, but if there's anything vital behind that door, you'd better give me an explicit spoiler so I can start over. (I don't mind the prospect very much. With the maps already made, I think I can breeze through the levels.)
After the last post, I dragged my party all the way back up to Level 1, hoping I could figure out what the "special quests" are for Levels 1 and 3 (I figured out Level 2 on my own--it was pretty obvious). I got absolutely nowhere. Nor did I discover the special quests on Level 4 or 5. I got Level 6, covered below.
|This is a secret button. Given how small and camouflaged it is, I'm not surprised I missed some stuff on previous levels.|
Level 5 was a pretty easy level--just a handful of giant spiders--but it introduced a lot more plot. As I entered one large area, I was greeted by Armun, "spokesman" for his dwarven clan, which is descended from the clan that built the halls. Generations ago, monsters had driven the dwarves out of the dungeon, "into the realms of men and elves," but recently King Teirgoh gathered his people in an effort to reclaim them. (This plot seems vaguely familiar.) Unfortunately, as they explored, Drow (led by someone named Shindia) charged out of one of the stone portals and attacked the dwarves. King Teirgoh was poisoned, his son Prince Keirgar was kidnapped, and now the dwarves don't even know how to get out of the halls.
For some reason, the game didn't allow me to say, "Just go up yonder stairs," and instead prompted me to agree to help rescue Prince Keirgar. In response, Armun gave us a stone medallion and gave us the use of their cleric. Finally, I was joined by yet another dwarf fighter, Dohrum, who I also didn't have a lot of use for. As I did with his compatriot, I just gave him a missile weapon to fight from the rear. I'll hold onto these two until I find a mage or cleric among the other NPCs.
|Dohrum joins the group. Pretty good stats.|
There were miscellaneous dwarves wandering around the area, and there didn't seem to be any way to talk to them (dialogue pops up automatically when you enter a talkative NPC's square). I also had to be careful not to accidentally hit them. It rather reminded me of the dwarven city in Might & Magic II, where the errant press of a button could have the entire place charging you.
It soon became clear why I might want to haul around the remains of found adventurers: the dwarven cleric is capable of raising the dead. I gave him the set of bones I had, and they resolved into a woman named Anya. Alas, she was not a vengeance demon, but rather a regular fighter. Since I already had two of those, I rejected her, and she disappeared. It doesn't appear that there's any way to keep rejected or dropped NPCs around.
|You're confused, Anya. You died fighting Turok-Han sent by the First Evil.|
Between Armun and his gift, I solved the two mysterious from Level 4. The "Oracle" is activated by a black orb, which I imagine I'll find later. As for the stone portal, I found a similar one on Level 5, but the Level 5 portal had a symbol that the Level 4 one had lacked: a stone medallion. Meanwhile, the portal on Level 5 was missing an image of a stone necklace that the Level 4 portal had. It didn't take much effort to realize that the key to activating the portals was to place the "missing" piece on top of it.
The portal takes me to a dark room full of other portals. I have no idea what level it's on. In addition to the medallion and necklace, I have two other pieces, a scepter and a dagger, but I'm lacking an ankh, a ring, a gem, and something that looks like a big ball. In any event, between the Oracle, the portals, and the cleric, it's clear that from now on, I'll be moving about the levels a little more flexibly instead of constantly pressing forward.
As for the rest of Level 5, there were a lot of secret doors (generally clued by a dwarven rune for "safe passage") and a large area where a pit opened up behind me with every step. There were a number of things to find in the area, including a suit of platemail, but I had to be careful not to get caught in a dead-end. At one point, I failed in that mission, had to drop down to the level below, and took serious damage from both the fall and a monster waiting there. I'm ashamed to admit that I reloaded instead of fighting my way out of it.
In the northeast of the level, there were a couple of rooms full of teleporters. Getting through was just a matter of careful mapping. I don't really mind puzzles like this, where care, patience, and systematic testing can save the day. That reminds me that I want to have a post on inductive vs. deductive puzzles in RPGs some day.
|Time and patience.|
Level 6 introduced me to a new D&D monster: the Kenku. (Is there any other CRPG in which they appear?) They "resemble humanoid hawks, with both arms and wings." They "have natural thieving abilities," the manual says, but neglects to tell you that they're capable of firing magic missiles. In the comments for the last post, we talked about the delay that accompanies spellcasting. You can't move while the spell's animation finishes, which usually means that it hits you. When you're fighting a pack of 4 Kenku, with a few others waiting in the wings, it takes bloody forever for all the animations to finish, by which point the party is at half health.
|And they all drop staves when they die. Am I now carrying about 8 staves for no reason whatsoever? Yes.|
And they respawn--oh, my, do they respawn. When I said I was "mostly finished" with Level 6 above, I mean that I've mapped the entire thing, but I've been (futilely) trying to clear it of Kenku before moving on. I keep running into multiple packs of 3 or 4 in areas I've already cleared. They're a serious candidate for "most annoying RPG enemy." I've mostly been fighting them with the side-step-turn, which works well enough until one of them out of a pack of 4 decides not to follow the others. Now I have two groups to keep track of, and eventually one of them gets the drop on me.
I'm pleased to say I didn't reload, though. When one of them killed Gaston, I dragged his sorry corpse up to Level 5 and had him resurrected, sucking up the loss of 1 constitution [later edit: which I guess wasn't implemented in this game, despite what the manual says]. That's role-playing, kids.
As I said, I figured out the special quest on Level 6. A lot of the Kenku were guarding rooms with Kenku eggs. Eventually, I found a small room labeled "nest." I piled all the eggs in there, I got the "special quest" message, and the room opened up to reveal a "chieftan halberd," which I gave to my paladin. It seems to do quite a bit of damage, but it takes a long time to recover from the swing.
Another area on the level had a bunch of niches on just about every wall. The first one was labeled "silverware rack," and it occurred to me to put a knife in the niche, which made the wall disappear. When I ran out of knives, I found that darts had the same effect. (There were dart traps nearby that gave me a plentiful supply of darts.) By clearing out all the walls, I opened the way to a couple new areas, one of which held a scroll of "Haste." I immediately gave to my mage to scribe.
|Making a wall disappear with a dart.|
Oh, by the way, "Fireball" isn't as exciting as I thought. I guess it damages every enemy in the square and nearby, because it damages me if I cast it too close, but it doesn't wipe them out the way I was hoping, and the animation isn't very satisfying. [Later edit: I guess I was wrong about this, too. I must have taken regular combat damage at the same time I cast "Fireball" and mistook it as "Fireball" damage.]
One final bit of plot on Level 6: a "dark-robed figure" in a corner greeted me with a sneer and called me "Waterdeep's saviors of the week." He confirmed that Xanathar is a beholder, and he related that Xanathar has been "undermining Waterdeep for years" and that he would "lead his minions in conquest of the unsuspecting city." To kill him, I'll need the "Wand of Silvias," which the dwarves apparently have but don't know how to use.
|I once killed like 50 beholders with nothing more than some Dust of Disappearance.|
The mysterious figure continued that the Drow, who are supposed to be Xanathar's allies, plan to launch a raid on Waterdeep, which would alert the city to the true threat. Anyway, the robed dude wasn't my friend: he related that he intended to stop the Drow, kill the dwarves, get the wand, wait until Xanathar conquers Waterdeep, then kill Xanathar and take over Waterdeep for himself. After his dialogue, he attacked me, and I killed him in about three blows, so clearly he was under-prepared for his master plan.
|Rule #457 for evil overlords: Don't make enemies needlessly.|
I know Dungeon Master purists don't care for any of this, but I'm loving the dialogues, side quests (if that's what they are), and NPCs, and I think the game is better for them.
Next up: return to Level 5 to see if Armun has any new dialogue about the Wand of Silvias. If not, I may take yet another stab at the "special quests" on Levels 1, 3, 4, and 5, especially now that my cleric's "Create Food" spell means I'm unlikely to starve to death. (I have a ton of rations anyway; Dohrum came with about half a dozen.) It was a real struggle to tear myself away to write this post.
Alas, the next week is going to see me completely occupied by work, so I'm unlikely to get another Eye of the Beholder post out for a little while. Fortunately, I have some posts on other games already drafted to occupy the interim.
Time so far: 14 hours
Reload count: 3
Reload count: 3
(There's an argument to be made that the low reload count means that the game is a little too easy. I'd have trouble disagreeing with that. The Kenku were annoying but not overly deadly, and so far it's been possible to avoid death with careful exploration and real-time combat maneuvers. Maybe it will get harder later.)