Saturday, September 5, 2015

Antares: Langsame Fortschritte

I get the ability to travel to several new places.

Since my last post on Antares more than a month ago, all I've accomplished is the exploration of one dungeon--though as we'll see, it appears to be a pivotal moment in the game.

Before I recount my brief adventures, let's recap the plot: my crew of 5 are the only survivors of the Earth spaceship Auriga, which was shot down on the planet Kyrion while trying to figure out what happened to a previous expedition, the Hope. We soon found the Hope's survivors scattered in cave-like dwellings in the area of the planet called Lauree. The small human population is sterile and has no way to leave the planet. We received some intelligence on the alien races. The Vunoren are the iron-fisted rulers of the planet. Two other races, the Umbeken and the Questonaten, serve under the Vunoren and may be fomenting rebellion against them.

I left the opening area via a dungeon called Eriankeller, which connected to a long, linear dungeon called Philgoel-Tunnel. This latter one emerged in a new city, called Nomiris. An exhaustive exploration of Nomiris revealed two more dungeons branching off of it--Sakral and Tiefencastel--as well as a transport hub where I couldn't do anything because I lacked a PIN.

In this session, I explored Sakral, a six-level dungeon. Three of the levels were 5 x 5 squares, but two were larger, more complex diamond shapes.

The 5 levels of Sakral. I just realized there's probably a secret door that I missed in the upper-right of the last one. Damn.
Before I described what happened there, let me explain why exploring dungeons is a logistical nightmare and why I have to force myself to get started with every new session. The first set of difficulties are in-game. As you explore, you have to keep constant attention to a few things: your fatigue level, your hunger level, and your supply of lamps. Of these, hunger is the least perilous, because you can bring some food to cook and there's a good chance that you'll find some food on slain enemies.

Lighting is a little more annoying. Each character only has 6 inventory slots, and 4-5 of them are taken up by weapons, armor, and special items. I might only have 3 or 4 empty slots, total, among my party members at any given time, and a six-level dungeon easily consumes 3-4 halogen lamps.

Fatigue is the worst. It slowly drains for every character except the android and does not last 6 dungeon levels. Inevitably, the characters need to sleep. Unlike most games, you can't just bed down for 8 hours of rest and wake up refreshed. Instead, you sleep in real time, as you explore or stand still. Since there's no place safe from enemy attacks, this is a risky thing to do in a dungeon--but inevitable since this particular dungeon had a one-way door on the third level.

The game warns me that, "From here, there is no turning back!"
The internal logistics, which might just be "challenging" in a satisfying way by themselves, are complicated by external ones. To play the game, I have to have five windows open at all times: the game itself, my Excel map book, the Word document to which I copied the translation you all did, Google Translate for the small bits of text that weren't translated in the big document, and a notepad for taking notes for the blog entry. This is all tough to arrange on a single laptop screen, so I've been saving Antares for when I'm home with my second monitor, which is almost never.

While the game is tile-based, it's not turn-based. Hunger increases, fatigue increases, lamp life decreases, and enemies can attack while standing still. This makes it difficult to take notes, review translations, and add to the map during game time. Yes, there is technically a "pause" function, but the emulator captures the mouse, and anything you do to get it to release the mouse also unpauses the game. I have to remember to move to a different window, then click on the emulator window header (if I click in the middle of the screen, it re-captures the mouse), then hit the "P" key to pause.

Finally, the dungeons feature a lot of small messages in various squares, most of which weren't translated in the commenter document (that's not a criticism; I appreciate all the help you offered). This means I have to type them myself into Google Translate. Of course, while I'm doing that, there's a chance that a random encounter can appear and override the message, forcing me to fight the encounter, win, leave the square, and re-enter to get the message again. This cycle might repeat 3 or 4 times before I finish translating.

I could easily get attacked 5 times while trying to translate this drivel about needing to exercise the mind.
Overall, you can see why it's been tough to prioritize the game. At least one thing is a bit easier: commenter Anym was correct that the scroll bar to the right of the message window controls the text speed. This has been a god-send.

"Once again, you enter the empty, bare rooms of an underground labyrinth. You try to find something positive in that, but most of you are only human...." It's like the game can sense my ennui.

As for Sakral, on Level 3, I encountered the skeleton of a dead inhabitant of Kyrion, chained to the wall. The encounter noted that I found a small steel plate on his wrist that said "KOMC40." I guessed immediately what this was for--more in a bit.

Most of the important stuff was to be found on the final level, where a series of squares brought me face to face with the same Projektion that helped me in the first dungeon. The projection asked me three questions in different squares. In general, they seemed to be tests of the game's lore. For instance, the first was: "Once, she was Kyrion's most important city, but she fell victim to a Vunorian act. She was destroyed, utterly. Only a ruin tells of its former glory." Now, there's some back story here that I didn't know, but overall, I guessed correctly that the answer is LAUREE, the opening, trench-filled map.

The second question, "What does everything on Kyrion revolve around?," was even easier. The answer is the star for which the game is named: ANTARES.

This was a freebie.

It was the third one that stumped me: "They exist as particles--if not in this, then surely another dimension. They have a name--if not in another, then surely in this dimension." At first, I thought the answer must be SCHEMEN, the game's name for those ethereal party members that don't seem to have any physical form. (It translates as "specter.") Alas, that was not it.

Tell me this doesn't seem to fit perfectly.

After trying a few more options, I fear I couldn't help caving in. The translator of this section had put the correct answers in ROT-13 after the text, and it turned out that the answer was TACHYONEN, or "tachyons." Now, I understand what tachyons are, or are supposed to be, but I don't know if this was a straight riddle (if so, a difficult one) or whether I was supposed to find the answer in-game. The translated document doesn't mention tachyonen anywhere else, so I suppose it's the former.

Whatever the case, after I answered the three riddles correction, the projection (which the game seems to call a "she") congratulated me:

Congratulations, you have proven that you're intelligent enough to persist in more dangerous areas. I think that together we could succeed in breaking the dominance of the Vunorians. I possess the knowledge, you possess strength and stamina. And please, don't fret too much about my appearance. I cannot and don't want to divulge my real identity yet. This is safest for me and you as well, rest assured! As a sign of trust I will help you onwards: Travel to Akrillon and seek out an Umbeke named Ranishtar. He counts himself among the most tenacious opponents of the Vunorians and their eons-old friendship with the Umbekes. If you manage to earn his trust and survive long enough, he'll be a great help. But first you'll have to reach him. That he is still alive is proof enough that he's a force to be reckoned with, and a sign that his Questonates will confront you with serious challenges.

The helpful projection moves the quest forward.

As for traveling onward to Akrillon, the path was as I suspected: When I returned to the surface, I re-visited the transport hub and typed KOMC40 when prompted for my PIN. I then got the ability to travel to three new locations: Akrillon, Remoria, or Sistar City. I still have Tiefencastel to explore in Nomiris, though.

Entering the PIN.

A few notes: 

  • There are dozens of odd items found at the end of combats and in stores. Although I've translated some of them several times, I keep forgetting what they are and what they do: megaphon, tokero, poisodan, isolierband, krach-bonbon, marmorbuddha, schutzanzug, refraktor, and so forth. To figure out what they do, you have to ask a technically-skilled character, whose answer of course must be translated and is often somewhat cryptic. Because of these issues, and because of very limited inventory space, I'm probably not getting all the use out of the game's items that I could be. 

A megaphone does mass psychic damage in combat. I'm not sure what the other two items are.

  • As I discussed before, the types of weapons you can carry are limited by your physischer kampf skill. My first two characters are currently brandishing Walther PPKs, which never run out of ammo.

My lead character's current inventory. I'm not 100% sure what any of the first three items are for.
  • Sakral had a lot of secret areas that, in Wizardry tradition, could be entered by walking through a wall. I don't remember any such secret areas in the previous dungeons; I should probably return and check.
  • Nomiris has no items for sale that heal physical or mental damage. I either need to find the items on slain enemies, wait a long time, or trek all the way back to Lauree if I want to get my party to full health.

Although apparently, according to this message, there will be healing available in Remoria.

  • Combat is extremely variable in difficulty, but in general not overly deadly. I've lost more characters to traps than to battles. When a character dies, I've just been reloading rather than make my way all the way back to the beginning of the game and resurrect him in the landing craft.
  • My characters are up to Level 8. I don't really know what leveling does for you. Neither statistics nor skills seem to increase. I suppose maximum health must increase, but you don't see that numerically.

I haven't otherwise included a combat shot in this posting, so here's one.

I remain a bit confused and lost as I play the game, much as I often am when visiting a foreign country. In this case, I haven't been able to determine if my confusion is related to the foreignness of the game, or if the game is just a bit inept. I'd really love to see a native speaker's account of the game and to see whether you have the same issues I do with inventory and the abruptness of the storytelling. Can I persuade any of you to fire it up?

Time so far: 17 hours 
Reload count: 23


  1. There was a small update to the translation document on 1 August that should have added the small messages you find in dungeons, such as "Von hier an gibt es kein...", "SO WIE DAS EISEN AUSSER..." and "Wieder einmal betretet ihr..." (paragraphs Lab10-Lab207).

    1. Thanks, Anym. I somehow missed that. I just re-downloaded the text. Thanks for working on those smaller messages!

      You guys have done so much work on the translation, I feel honor-bound to see it through.

  2. "the projection (which the game seems to call a "she")" - this might not mean anything, as in German inanimate objects have gender too. The projection is a "she" because "Projektion" is a feminine noun.
    The funniest thing about German gender system is that a girl ("Maedchen") is grammaticaly an "it", because the -chen suffix implies a neuter gender.

    1. "In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print — I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

      Wilhelm, where is the turnip?

      She has gone to the kitchen.

      Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?

      It has gone to the opera."

      - from Mark Twain, "That Awful German Language"

    2. Mark Twain is a funny guy, but that is a gross oversimplification of gender in linguistics. The reasoning behind the gender of a noun in any given language (i.e., those that have gender) is sometimes obvious, and sometimes rather obscure. In some cases it might have more to do with euphony in its most frequent use cases.

      Here's an example: in Hebrew, a woman's breasts are a masculine noun. Makes no "sense" -- except perhaps to whoever came up with it.

    3. Good thing it's almost a dead language by now, then.

    4. Don't take Kenny's bait. This has been an interesting lesson so far.

    5. I didn't know German had both gendered and ungendered words, so I learned something new today. I assumed it was either like English where there's not really anthing quite like that going on, or Spanish where everything is gendered (even if the exact gender doesn't exactly make sense in context.)

    6. The funniest language in terms of genders is probably Dutch, which basically has two: neuter and common.

  3. I haven't played the game, no experience with emulators either, but now I don't feel so bad anymore for not really "getting" CRPGs as a child because of the language problems.
    Tachyons - I only know them from Star Trek. These things are usually involved in time travel stories..
    This game's demands to micromanagement - is it something typically german? Maybe...

    1. >This game's demands to micromanagement - is it something >typically german? Maybe...

      I'm remembering the diseases in Realms of Arcania and the possible too obvious possibilities to avoid some of that(carry a blanket with you and wear winter gear if you go into snowy mountain areas...)

    2. Yes, that is a German thing. During that time, many German games were business simulations and manager games.

      Many times, it's overdone and logistics exist only for the sake of it and not for balancing.

    3. Given the vast number of ridiculous "[Blank] Simulator" games on Steam, my impression is that this is still the hallmark of German gaming. True?

    4. Judging from the TV commercials for Empire building game XYZ and "Farm Simulator version 123", I have to say yes.

    5. >Yes, that is a German thing. During that time, many German >games were business simulations and manager games.

      Don't remind me on "Der Planer" and the various football manager games...

      Or the most ridiculous ones, "Klomanager" and "Wet - The sexy Empire"...

  4. It might have been mentioned before, but Tiefencastel is quite a fun name for a dungeon. Tiefencastel is the name of a village in Switzerland (probably best known to train enthusiasts for having a station on the Unesco World Heritage Albula railway).

    I have never thought about this before, but the literal translation of Tiefencastel is "deep castle", which is fitting for a dungeon.

    1. No, I don't think anyone's mentioned that. I appreciate the background. Without translating, I assumed it meant "thieves' castle."

  5. Are you using the FS-UAE emulator? Take a look at the keyboard shortcuts:

    You can pause the emulator using F12 + P or with the Pause key. That should be more secure than relying on the game's pause support. At least it didn't unpause for me when switching windows.

    It looks like WinUAE can automatically pause when switching to a different window, but that option seems to be missing from FS-UAE.

    1. I'm using WinUAE. That might help, though. It didn't occur to me to try to pause the entire emulation session.

    2. F12 pauses the WinUAE emulation and brings up the console window, if I recall correctly. This should also free up your mouse. Click on "Cancel" (not "Quit"!) to return to the emulation.

      I seem to recall that there is a toggle in the console which allows you to keep the emulation running when the console window is open, but I believe it defaults to pause. Very handy when mapping or copying text.

    3. I would have thought that opening up the configuration window every time I want to leave and pause the game would be a cumbersome way to go about it, but you're right that it works pretty well. Thanks for the suggestion.

    4. On a related note, DOSBox can be paused via Alt+Pause.

    5. Alas, my laptop keyboard lacks this key.

      This reminds me how much of a nightmare I'm having buying a new Dell. Every time I go online to customize and purchase one, I get 95% to the end, think I finally have what I want, and then find out that the model lacks a keypad (how does a 17-inch laptop lack a keypad? What else do they do with all that space?) or an HDMI port, or a PRTNSCR key. And there's no easy way to search and filter by these options. It's a very annoying process.

    6. Oh, and before anyone feels they have to comment, I KNOW I can change the keymapper in DOSBox. Pausing hasn't really been an issue so far, but I'll do that if I need to.

  6. Regarding electerium: That's used for reviving dead characters at your ship. (When I tried the game, I restored a pre-existing save file. A member of my party was dead, and when I tried to revive him, the game complained I didn't have any electerium.)

    1. Ah, very good. So even if I was wiling to go all the way back to the ship on every death, I could only do it a limited number of times.

  7. Well, that´s odd. I am learning a lot about german crpgs lately. I did not know there were this many...anyway...english rpgs were way cooler :-)

  8. Chet, do you perceive this game to have a rather limited color palette, or does it appear just as colorful as other titles?

    I ask because there is very little green in the graphics: it's predominantly rust-red and blue - but I'm guessing you're somewhat immune to that deficit.

    1. No, it doesn't look better or worse than other games. Except the destinations in the transport hub--the text is contrasted so bad that I can barely read it.

    2. Figures, that's pretty much the only green in the game!

  9. I continue to be amazed by your masochism. 17 hours in, and it appears like you're at best half-finished this game. This game appears to fit clearly in the category of too long for it's own good

  10. I haven't played the game myself, but going from the screenshot I'd say the game definitely seems a bit amateurish. As a German the texts seem weirdly inconsistent in tone. The game is trying to tell a serious story but incorporates slang-like idioms, especially in the battle texts ("Kratzer im Lack").
    I've found two german reviews (, one with a 47% score (although the text reads much more positive) and one with 82%. Both reviews mention the somewhat bland battle system and ugly graphics but praise the scope and length.

    1. Regarding your last few words, do they praise it for being LONG or for having the RIGHT length for its content?

    2. Well, both say something along the lines of "there is much to do and much to kill". Nothing abuut the ending or anything. Reading them again I'm not quite sure either reviewer actually finished the game...

  11. Question no one has asked in over a year: why are you using a pistols from pre-WWII? Even James Bond doesn't use a PPK anymore.


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