|Stumbling upon treasure and bones in the sewers.|
My first post on Eye of the Beholder produced some expected discussion on whether it is better or worse than its father, Dungeon Master. No one would seriously argue that it's a more original game than Dungeon Master, but Eye of the Beholder certainly benefits from being slightly later in the chronology, at least in terms of the DOS version. If nothing else, there's more variance in the wall textures, more ambient sounds, and the monster graphics are a bit better.
At the same time, it's too bad that Eye of the Beholder didn't compensate for more of Dungeon Master's weaknesses. My biggest complaint about the earlier game was the inability to evaluate weapons, armor, and magic items without some kind of cheat sheet from a spoiler site. This is true of Beholder, too, where there's no way to figure out the specific damage done by weapons, the specific level of protection offered by armor, or--more important--the nature of a number of possible magic items. Some previous experience with Dungeons & Dragons helps, of course, but I still don't know the functions of several things in my inventory.
Beholder also carries forward the tradition of not identifying monster names on-screen, but at least you can find them in the accompanying manual. Level 3 brought a bunch of humanoid creatures that I thought were werewolves before I looked them up in the manual and discovered they were "flinds," which I guess are like super-gnolls. Fish-men on the same level turned out to be kuo-toa, and on Level 4 I encountered giant spiders (I think those were the only enemies on Level 4, actually), which of course I could have figured out for myself. It was important to defeat them from afar because they can poison characters and there are a limited number of potions of "Cure Poison" on the level.
So far, combat has not been a strong part of the game, or at least my approach to it hasn't been very strong. I generally fight by backpedaling madly down the corridors while tossing missile weapons at the enemies. Rarely have I let them get close enough to engage my first two characters in melee combat, and rarely have I used any of my mage's spells. I don't know why I'm fighting like such a sissy, but it almost always works. On the rare occasions that I get into a tight space, I can always do the side-step-turn, which works as well here as in Dungeon Master.
Like Level 2, Levels 3 and 4 were both 30 x 30, but without using all of the available squares. (Level 4 had a weird wrap-around thing going on with one section that for a while confused me into thinking it was much bigger.) In fact, this game's design precludes using all the squares because it doesn't allow any corridors or rooms to share the same wall--there's always a gap. This was true of Dungeon Master too. I screwed up my map of Level 3 somewhere in the upper-right corner, and as soon as corridors started touching, I should have realized I needed to start over.
|My map of Level 3, with some mistakes in the top right that I didn't correct.|
The puzzles are getting a little harder, though not horribly so. My general approach has been to map as much of the levels as possible without touching anything first--no buttons, no switches, no pressure plates, no keyholes--then carefully return to each one and note its effects. Usually, it's as simple as a switch operating a locked door next to it, but some of the buttons have effects on very remote parts of the dungeon.
|Level 3 had a puzzle involving the placement of four gems in four eye holes. This opened a secret area leading to Level 4.|
Level 3 had some tricky teleportation traps that whisked me to opposite ends of corridors that still looked the same as if I'd been continuing on, messing up my maps in the short term. There was one room with a bunch of pits and pressure plates that I had to navigate for some treasure, and a room labeled the "Museum," full of inanimate flinds and koa-toa who came to life the moment I picked up any of the scattered treasure.
|Level 3 and its deceptive "museum."|
Level 4 completely changed the map texture, transitioning from something that looked like "sewers" to something that looked more like a planned dungeon. Switches on the wall were replaced with cute little grotesques whose arms could be manipulated up and down.
The entire place was crawling with giant spiders, and I had to carve through dozens of webs to make progress through the level. I reached the level right about the same time that commenters started warning me about the horrors of Level 4. Given that, I was expecting much more difficulty than I actually encountered.
Just as I arrived on the level, I met a wounded dwarf fighter named Taghor. He related that his king had been wounded, and his prince kidnapped, in a battle against some Drow. He wanted to join me to search for his prince and said that his people should be on the level below. It was a welcome addition to the game--simultaneously an NPC, a side quest, and a hint at perhaps more complex encounters to come. Since I didn't need any melee fighters up front, I stuck a sling in his hands and kept him in the rear.
|Not much of a roleplaying choice, but more than you typically get in a DM-style game.|
It was nice to have someone to bear equipment, because I was nearly running out of space. So far, I've been loathe to throw anything away, so I've been lugging around extra axes, maces, daggers, suits of leather armor, shields, and other items. Part of the reason is that after encountering a puzzle on Level 2 in which I had to sacrifice a bunch of daggers, I'm paranoid that some random slot is suddenly going to want, say, a mace. Also, since I know there are NPCs in the game, I thought maybe there might be somewhere to sell some of this stuff, or otherwise get some use out of it.
There's really no consequence to carrying it around. The game has no encumbrance system and items don't have weight. You can fill up each character's 14 slots whatever you feel like carrying. Only when I run completely out of room will it make sense to discard things.
|Starling's inventory is filling up. She's just put on a ring of uncertain use.|
I also have a bunch of mystery items that I found no use early levels, including a stone dagger and stone scepter (you can't use them as weapons), an extra silver key of the type needed to open doors on Level 3, and an extra green gem of the type needed to open some areas on Level 3. I've found two rings. One I can tell by the effects on armor class is a Ring of Protection; the other I can't determine the nature of. A medallion that I put on my mage is also mysterious.
For Levels 1-3, I'm pretty confident that all of the puzzles and encounters were self-contained, solvable entirely with items found on the same levels. Level 4 is the first level in which I'm leaving some squares annotated in yellow on my map (my symbol for places I have to return to). The first is a sign saying "Oracle of Knowledge" next to a slot in the wall. I was really hoping that putting unknown items in the slot would identify them, but it doesn't seem to do anything. I don't know what the slot wants. The second is a stone doorway surrounded by symbols, including an ankh, a medallion, a ring, and a gem. I was sure this would somehow involve the stone weapons I've been carrying, but nothing I tried to put in the associated slots seems to work.
|I'm also carrying some bones I found on the level, thanks to a hint from a commenter. I left one or two other sets on levels above me.|
I suspect that I need to solve these later, but if I'm wrong and they should have been solvable with items found on this level, I wouldn't mind a mild hint to that effect.
As usual, lots of miscellaneous observations:
- It took me a while to figure out how missile weapons work in the game. For thrown weapons like daggers and darts, you need to line them up in your belt pouch. After you throw one, it will automatically replace it with the next one. A neat trick for front-row fighters is to keep a missile weapon in the left hand and a shield in the first slot on the pouch. After you throw your weapon, you automatically equip the shield. For bows, you want to stock arrows in the quiver next to the character's head. Unlike Dungeon Master, you can have over a dozen arrows ready to shoot at one time, making rear characters useful throughout combat.
|My cleric/ranger's inventory. Note the 13 arrows in his quiver.|
- The ranger/cleric turned out to be a weird combination because in order to cast a spell, you have to activate the cleric's little symbol, but it's not available if the character is holding a two-handed weapon. Fortunately, I haven't needed him in combat much so far.
- The game does a really good job with ambient sound, including miscellaneous thuds and drips as you explore. More important, each creature makes a unique sound, which gets louder as it nears. This is legitimately freaky when you're fighting something like giant spiders, capable of poisoning you, and you hear them getting closer but can't see them yet.
- Commenters have suggested that enemies respawn, but only in certain areas after a long passage of time. I haven't encountered any respawning yet that I know of, but on Level 4, I never got to the point where I stopped hearing spiders somewhere in the distance, even when I couldn't find any.
- Characters get experience for doing a lot of mundane things, including opening doors and wandering into important rooms. There's no fanfare associated with leveling up; you just get a message that it's happened. At least half the time, I don't even see the message. This serves as a reminder that, in general, leveling in second-edition AD&D isn't as fun as other games, where you get to make choices about skill and attribute increases.
|Two characters level up from, as best as I can tell, walking into a room.|
- Picking up all the thrown/shot missile items after each combat is getting a little old.
- It's possible to run into your own missile weapons. They fire slow enough that if you shoot and immediately walk forward, your own arrow hits you in the back of the head.
- Combat is a little more difficult here than in Dungeon Master because the attack buttons aren't all conveniently lined up in a row. You have to dart around the screen to right-click on the weapons and make the attacks.
- I found a "Fireball" scroll at one point, and my mage scribed it to her book. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works in a first-person game. She hasn't leveled up enough to get it yet.
- Lots of potions in my inventory. Fortunately--unlike every other item--the game identifies these automatically. I've got a Potion of Giant Strength, a Potion of Speed, 4 Potions of Cure Poison, 2 Potions of Healing, 2 Potions of Extra Healing. Inevitably, I'll save them for that one combat that really needs them and end up never using them.
- So far, I've only encountered a single lock that my fighter/thief was capable of picking instead of having to hunt around for a key. Hey, maybe that's why I've got an extra silver key!
|This just about never works.|
- I like mapping, but it's also a little annoying, especially where (unlike a lot of games from the early 1980s) Beholder actually uses the mouse, so I have to get DOSBox to "release" it when I want to move over to the map. I'm going to head down to the CVS later and buy some graph paper; I think it would actually be easier to map by hand.
- While I was in the midst of the entry, commenters told me about a "secret quest" to uncover on every level. I only uncovered it on Level 2, so I'm going to have to re-explore Levels 1, 3, and 4 if I want to figure out what I was supposed to do there.
I'm having fun with Eye of the Beholder, but already I'm starting to remember the things I don't like about DM-style games, starting with how fundamentally deterministic they are. Every player finds the same encounters, the same monsters, the same items in the same places. However, the discovery of Taghor gives me hope that the game has more of a plot to uncover than the typical DM clone. I guess we'll see in the upcoming levels!
|On to Level 5!|
Time so far: 6 hours
Reload count: 1