|The party faces a vampire, a sand man, and Cerberus.|
In many ways, Tyrann is the perfect 1984 game, because 1984 was the last year that most RPG players would have tolerated it. The novelty of combat and leveling purely for its own sake was tapering off. Games that just offered square grids with lots of monsters and no plot--Tyrann, The Standing Stones, Shadowkeep, The Black Onyx, Maze Master, Dungeons of Magdarr--would soon be outclassed by a new breed of game that filled those grids with interesting content--The Bard's Tale and Might & Magic chief among them.
There are a lot of games from this early era that are still fun to play in 2015, even after other titles built on their example. I've returned to Wizardry several times since starting this blog and probably will again. Every time I play a game like Tyrann, I appreciate Wizardry more. Although they might seem similar in broad strokes, the developers of Wizardry did a much better job giving you a reason to map and explore its dungeons. Levels weren't full of clues and puzzles the way they became in The Bard's Tale and Might & Magic, but each level did lead to at least one scripted encounter. Not until you play a game without these encounters do you realize how vital a purpose they served, breaking up the monotony and propelling you forward to the next bout of mapping and fighting.
The developers of Tyrann didn't know they were creating a game that would soon be obsolete, and as I've pointed out, there wasn't much else available for the Amstrad CPC, Tangerine Oric, or Thomson MO5. There also wasn't much--anything, perhaps--available in French. In this sense, the authors ought to be lauded. Nonetheless, I've managed to develop a simmering anger towards them. I have 2,000 games ahead of me, many of them extremely interesting, and I have to stop and waste hours on this utter lodestone of a game--a game that offers nothing we haven't seen before, that has absolutely no raison d'etre--just because it exists. Before releasing an RPG, developers should seriously consider that some day, a crazy person might set a goal to play every RPG in existence, and your game might keep him from Might & Magic III.
It took me three hours to map Level 2 of the dungeon--more than it took me to map Level 1, because the combats got a lot more difficult and a lot longer. I would go into a combat with 4 creatures and all my characters at full health, then watch incredulously as all my attacks missed and the enemies mercilessly chipped away at my hit points. Lots of enemies were capable of poison or paralysis. Return trips to the town for healing and spell-recharging were frequent.
Like Level 1, Level 2 had no messages or special encounters--nothing to do but find all the treasure chests and clear up all the fixed combats. It had a single trap, unavoidable and announced by "une trappe!" when I walked into its square. Still no secret doors, spinners, teleporters, one-way doors, etc. I don't normally like such features, but they would have broken the monotony here.
I supposed there was one oddity worth commenting. For 95% of tile-based games, once you've identified the size of the first dungeon level, that same size will hold for every level in the game. Every Wizardry level is 20 x 20, for instance, and every Bard's Tale level is 22 x 22. The Gold Box games adopted a 16 x 16 convention, and even when they seem to defy the square grid, as in Secret of the Silver Blades, it turns out to be a series of regular 16 x 16s, broken apart and re-arranged.
Tyrann established a 24 x 24 grid on Level 1 and basically stuck to it on Level 2 except for two squares that bulge off the right side into column 25. Both squares had combats that were a bit harder than normal. I feel like this must have made the level more difficult to program, but I can't articulate exactly why.
In my explorations, my characters rose to between Levels 3 and 6. As I noted last time, there's a huge variance in experience levels despite the same number of experience points, and I can't see any other variable that accounts for this.
Nothing else to report but a bunch of miscellaneous things:
- There were two staircases between Levels 1 and 2, and two between Levels 2 and 3.
- The number of spells that mages and druids can cast seems to be equal to double their current level. Every time you sleep, that number of spell slots is distributed randomly among the character's known spells. You often have to rest several times to get a favorable distribution.
|I don't think I'm going to need that many "Cure Paralysis" spells. Better rest again.|
- Parchemin (parchment) is an expensive item, but I have no idea what it does. I thought it might restore a spell slot while still in the dungeon, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on anything.
- Mage spells progressed through "Sleep," "Locate," "Fireball," "Terror," and "Soft Metal" (I don't know what the last one does yet). Druid spells progressed through "Heal," "Paralyze," "Turn Undead," "Cure Poison," "Reinforce Armor," and "Cure Paralysis." "Reinforce Armor" stacks, so if you cast it multiple times in a battle, you can become nigh-unhittable.
|The weakened party faces a spirit and a werewolf with multiple castings of "Reinforce Armor" active.|
- In a feature unique to this game, accidentally walking into a wall (or accidentally walking into a door without using the special "open door" key) doesn't damage you, but it does occasionally cause you to drop a random item from your inventory. If you're not paying attention, you can end up without a weapon or spellbook.
|Isn't "AIE" the perfect onomatopoetic representation of the Wilhelm Scream?|
- I was wrong that there are no random combats in the dungeon. They're just extremely rare. I've only encountered 3 or 4 in 5-6 hours of game time.
- Parer (parry) works better here than in the typical RPG. If a low-hit point character chooses that for his round, there's a pretty good chance that enemies won't attack him.
I drafted most of this post several days ago, just after my first Tyrann post. I had toyed with wrapping it up with a GIMLET, but a few days ago, reader MobyDX came through with some level maps that might make it possible to quickly breeze through and document the endgame. (I'm not that optimistic, as I assume I'll have to slog through hundreds of encounters to survive on the final levels.) The maps also suggest perhaps a greater depth of gameplay on the lower levels, so I'll keep going for now and see if anything more interesting emerges.
Time so far: 7 hours
Reload count: 15
Time so far: 7 hours
Reload count: 15