Monday, May 23, 2016

Fate: Bumbling Around

Winwood chooses an inappropriate time to invent a creative curse.
  
I had hoped to report that I finished the first quest by now, but I don't think I'm even close. Instead, I spent about 10 hours since the last post just messing around, mapping, fighting combats, and talking to NPCs for hints. This is an insanely slow game.

Based on the comments from last time, I ran around Larvin testing every "black" square for secret doors (and I now know not to make them black unless I've already done this). I found two. One led to a relatively small area in the southeast with an extra chapel and smith. The second led to an alternate entrance to the catacombs. More on that in a bit.

I also got rid of my adventurer, hunter, and valkyrie characters and started looking for a banshee, archmage, witch, or enchanter (there was a little disagreement on the optimal party, but it seems to be mage-heavy). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anyone of those classes who would join me. I eventually picked up a fighter just so I'd have some more combat power until a better option came along.

I continued logging hints. In previous sessions, I'd learned that Larvin's "Cavetrain" wasn't working because it had been broken by some ape-men called "mongards." King Garloth is offering a reward for anyone who can fix the situation. In subsequent hints, I heard that the "Shade Ghosts" are the power behind the Cavetrain, and that despite their name, they're not evil. The Mongards somehow have the power to control the Shade Ghosts, but so does a mysterious man named Miras Athran, known as "Master of the Shade Ghosts." But Miras Athran is reportedly an ally of Thardan, my enemy, and I've thus been encouraged to stay away from him. I really don't know where this is all going.

There was a hint about a magical axe hidden in a secret "Benth chamber" in the catacombs, and someone told me a wise druid named Mulradin, keeper of many secrets, lives in Larvin. I haven't been able to get anyone of any class to continue the thread about the island in the southeast of Larvin, even though it comes up every time I click "Hint."
    
    
A few other notes from NPCs:
   
  • If a male character (like Winwood) tries to use "enchant," it only works if the NPC is female. If the NPC is  male, the game says, "He doesn't look like a light-hearted fellow." I didn't think the message made sense until I realized what "light-hearted" must have been translated from.
  • The more I explored and leveled, the harder it became to find hostile people in town. Even muggers, thieves, and murderers were happy to talk with me instead of attacking.
   
A friendly mugger.
   
  • If you use "threaten" on these evil classes, they sometimes give you money before running away. I can't remember any game that's let me mug someone before. The chapels don't even regard it as a sin.
  • I'm continuing to gain points from talking to NPCs and asking for "help," but I've only found NPCs that will increase my dexterity, wisdom, and intelligence. Fighter types, who sound like they should be able to increase strength, never help me.
   
I tried exploring the catacombs, but until late in the session, the only entrance I knew about was in the northwest of the city. This leads to some very short hallways that quickly move downwards. I found that once I got to level 4 or 5, the monsters outclassed me and I died repeatedly from their attacks.
   
   
Lacking any other ideas, I decided to go outside and explore the environs. I mapped the area immediately around Larvin, traced the local road network, and then started to feel for the northern and western edges of the map. I was blocked from some areas by rings of dense trees or boulders, and from others by water. I'll ask explicitly: is there anything in the game that allows you to move on water? If not, I'll color in some of the middle areas.

My map of the outdoor area so far. Gold boxes are wilderness areas that you can step on (and I have); gray are roads.
  
There were tough enemies outside, too, but not as hard as the catacombs. My characters started to hit Levels 4 and 5. Combats with dwarves and gnomes--they never want to parley--resulted in thousands of coins.
   
Well, that's just rude.
   
I found hidden treasures in two locations: a set of scale bracers and an "icesword" that does significant damage against multiple enemies per round.
  
Winwood readies his new weapon.
   
My full combat post will have to wait for later, but I've noticed a much larger variety of magical effects in this game than in most RPGs. Enemies have spells that make you hungry and thirsty, destroy your items, sap your statistics, and prevent you from casting spells.

I don't know why enemies sometimes start up to 12 meters away and other times they're right next to you. Trying to advance across the battlefield 2 meters at a time while enemies fire spells is a sure recipe for death. I need to get some missile weapons soon.

As I mentioned last time, game time runs quite slowly. I explored the wilderness for almost 5 hours real-time before it started to get dark and I headed back to Larvin. My characters were hungry and thirsty, so I stopped by a tavern, and performing a "go around," I got the hint that led me to the alternate entrance to the catacombs.
  

      
The first level of the catacombs. Note all the one-way doors.
   
Instead of leading me to a series of small hallways, this new entrance led to a more traditional-sized dungeon. I mapped the first two levels, or at least parts of them. Both levels featured multiple one-way walls and doors, as well as multiple up- and down stair cases, so it seems likely that the earlier levels might turn out to be much larger. Not a lot interesting has happened so far--some combats, some traps, some treasures, some NPCs--but on Level 2, in the middle of a 3 x 3 room, I found a boulder that clearly has some kind of purpose. None of the game's actions did anything, however.
  
   
Some other miscellaneous notes:
    
  • There are separate conditions associated with hunger, thirst, fatigue, condition, cleanliness, and sobriety. A character who doesn't need anything to drink is "still," for some reason. I don't really understand "cleanliness." I had a character who became "near death" in this category until I took him to a temple and had them cast "cleanse." I don't see anything in the manual that covers these conditions.
   
"Billy," who is female, is in perfect health, at least until we try to use a bathroom in North Carolina.
   
  • The game pays homage to Zork by offering battles against grues in the catacombs.
   
I thought they were supposed to stay away from light.
   
  • More than 12 hours in the game, I finally got a copy protection request.
       
   
  • Lamps are expensive and extremely short lived. I went through 5 of them just mapping two small dungeon levels.
    
It takes so long to assemble enough material for a post in Fate that I can easily envision 3 or 4 postings happening for other games in between Fate entries. The wilderness and dungeon are turning out to be so big that you could imagine the "Cavetrain" quest being the entire game in most other titles.
  
Time so far: 18 hours
Reload count: 21

*****

Spectre of Castle Doomrock (1985) was on my upcoming list, but I'm suddenly having trouble with my Atari 800 emulator. Since some reports indicated that it's not an RPG under my definitions, I got rid of it.

MegaTraveller 2 was technically next, but I fired it up for a while and just got exhausted with it quickly. It's not good policy to postpone games for that reason, as I'll have to deal with them eventually, but I just wasn't interested in trying right now. Thus, Dungeon of Nadroj (1991) will be my next non-Fate exploration.

37 comments:

  1. I agree with others that it would be ideal if you review all the games yourself. But if you were going to delegate responsibilities to guest reviewers then a game like MegaTraveller 2 might be a good option.

    If you didn't like the original and the sequel doesn't seem dramatically different then you might not have much to add from suffering through a similar experience. A guest reviewer would at least bring a new perspective.

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    1. I've heard that the sequel is actually quite a bit better than the original. I do want to play it. It's just that for the last few days, every time I fired it up, all I could do was stare at the screen and sigh. It's worth trying again later.

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    2. That's good news. And yeah, hopefully you'll always find the energy to play through every game that comes up. But if you ever do find yourself out of time, I think relatively similar sequels of crappy originals are the best candidates to delegate. (Assuming you can find someone willing to do it!)

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    3. Just keep in mind that the character creation process in MegaTraveller 2 specifically calls out skills that are selectable, yet utterly useless in the game.

      I believe the light-colored skills are not implemented in the video game, provided instead for fans of the table-top game that would, for some reason, want to duplicate a "paper" character into the video game, complete with pointless skills.

      Maybe an expansion was planned. We'll likely never know.

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    4. I'm worried you are setting yourself up for a tedious slog to finish the 1991 games. You have Magic Candle 2 coming up in 2 games, and the after that there will be 33 games left, and arguably only 2 that are guaranteed to be good (MM3 and Pools of Darkness), as you have done a high proportion of the "known good games" already. Hopefully there are a few more hidden gems like Disciples of Steel in there.

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    5. There is a table in the game's manual called "Skills not needed to complete MegaTraveller 2"

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    6. It's perfectly fine to move MegaTraveller 2 down the list for now if you don't feel like playing it. Dungeon of Jordan, sorry, Nadroj, seems like funny little game, im looking forward to it.

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    7. "only 2 that are guaranteed to be good (MM3 and Pools of Darkness)" - Knightmare is quite fun IIRC, and Heimdall and Spirit of Adventure aren't without merits.

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    8. Mikarov, that's been a concern ever since I started this blog. Every year has more dross than gold. There's no reason to think than 1991 is going to do me in.

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    9. I'm not worried that you will give up in despair, you have already comfortably demonstrated that you have an endurance of 100! I'm more concerned that you will be annoyed that you didn't space out the gold better between the dross. At least 1992 has a pretty high gold/dross ratio.

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    10. Dungeon of Jordan, sorry, Nadroj

      When it comes to the reverse-name thing, designers seem to be going to that well a little too often. Of course we have Werdna = Andrew, Trebor = Robert already, while coming up is Amulet of Yendor, which I kept associating with the Saturn game Heir of Zendor before it dawned on me that Yendor = Rodney. I look forward to Necklace of Nosnorb, Chalice of Azzelodnoc, and Tower of Treblegne Kcnidrepmuh.

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    11. Tatanka: "I'm going to make a game about gigantic bull-like machine that fires lasers out from its horns! I'm going to call them my name in reverse!"

      *gets slapped with copyright lawsuit by ex-Lucasfilm Disney so fast*

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    12. "Tower of Treblegne Kcnidrepmuh" Im soo disappointed this is not a real thing :(

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    13. For megatraveller 2 there is a long list of skills which have no use in the game at all (it was meant that you could roll up p+p characters too if you wished). Beyond that, I find one skill critical beyond all others, Stealth. One confusing thing during the game, there are 2 planets named natoko and 2 named kinorb.

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  2. Well, looks like this is going to take a while. :) My advice would be to ignore the catacombs for now. Dungeon mapping without an Enchanter is a lot more tedious because of the tons of secret doors and teleporters. You also don't really have the firepower and staying power to comfortably deal with the monsters there.

    Instead focus on building your party and exploring the wilderness. Follow the roads, one of them near Larvin leads to someone you'll find very useful. There are also several more magic items to be found in the mountains.

    "But Miras Athran is reportedly an ally of Thardan, my enemy, and I've thus been encouraged to stay away from him. I really don't know where this is all going."

    From the Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clichés:

    "102. Perversity Principle
    If you're unsure about what to do next, ask all the townspeople nearby. They will either all strongly urge you to do something, in which case you must immediately go out and do that thing, or else they will all strongly warn you against doing something, in which case you must immediately go out and do that thing."

    "I'll ask explicitly: is there anything in the game that allows you to move on water? If not, I'll color in some of the middle areas."

    No, inland rivers and lakes are impassable. By the way, I don't think you've mentioned them so far, but jewels (Armaments/Jewel) give you an automap that should help a lot. Unfortunately they're one use only.

    "I don't really understand "cleanliness.""

    It means "not poisoned." Translation really is awful sometimes. ("You face 3 Grues *und* 2 Warriors.") Poison works as expected, slowly saps HP and prevents regeneration by resting.

    Healthy means "not diseased." Disease, if memory serves me right, is similar to poison, but it affects magic points instead.

    "I need to get some missile weapons soon."

    Throwing your weapons works in a pinch. Armaments/Examine tells you how far you can throw them. Even swords and shields can be thrown. I've never used bows and arrows.

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    1. Regarding the translation, I had to laugh when Chet listed "condition" as a condition. The German word "Kondition" means stamina or endurance.

      P.S.: Chet, I think you have forgotten to label this post, so it won't show up on "Fate" labelled posts.

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    2. Thanks. I fixed it. Do people really use those labels? I always wonder.

      Thanks for all the feedback, Zardas. Knowing that "cleanliness" is really "poison" makes a huge difference.

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    3. "Even swords and shields can be thrown" Link and Captain America wonders why this is a rarity.

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  3. "The game pays homage to Zork by offering battles against grues in the catacombs."

    Or fantasy master Jack Vance. Zork was actually paying homage to Jack Vance by including grues. Jack Vance is also the guy Gary Gygax got the idea for exhaustible spell slots from, as well as the names of many classic D&D spells, such as prismatic spray. I though you knew this stuff, Chet!

    Although the grues pictured don't fit Vance's description as "part ocular bat, part unusual hoon, and part man". So it's probably referencing zork.

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  4. I just tried out Spectre of Castle Doomrock. Remember when you called Quest for the Key of Night Shade an "excruciating pseudo-RPG"? Well, this game makes QKNS look like Wizardry. As far as I can tell, there's literally nothing to it.

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    1. Glad I dodged a bullet on that one.

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  5. Well that's a nice way to ask for a copy protection Code ;-)

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  6. You will be told when you enter the Benth Chamber. When you are there, you may want to look around a bit, using Action/Search or Action/Dig.

    That big boulder is indeed relevant. Have you looked for some way to move it in the vicinity? Now that you have learned not to take solid walls for granted... Sometimes you need to pull a switch for things to happen. If one switch doesn't do anything, you may need to pull a different one. Or yet a third one. Noise may ensue. Remember to keep examining the boulder, and at some point, a mistranslatedly weird action choice will actually do something.

    Re opponents starting out far away: there is a spell that pulls them near. And some weapons even have a nonzero reach, so you can hit opponents 2m away without throwing them.

    As to looking for specific classes: just keep looking. You will find Banshees in Larvin - they are rare, but as I said, taking the time to find one (or more than one) is certainly worthwhile. There are places in the catacombs where you'll find quite a number of Archmages wandering around, and you can recruit one of those.

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  7. It must be exhausting wading through all the "junk" games. I wouldn't be able to finish most of the games you are playing. And the 1992 was an especially fruitful year for rpgs because many hard-core and long RPGs that defined the genre came out.

    There are only several rare gems of RPG games that I would consider investing my time into today and many of them are from 1992: Might and Magic 4: World of Xeen, Ultima Underworld 1, Wizardry 7, Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny, Darklands, Ambermoon and Fate: Gates of Dawn. The early 1990's were also the Golden Age of jrpgs - the SNES console - many awesome games.

    I hope you will finish Fate: Gates of Dawn, because it is one of the few games I am curious about and would consider playing. And you will be a hero if you beat the game without a walkthrough. The game should get more interesting once the story gets going, but the beginning is slow. The same goes for Wizardry 7 - only the toughest and most seasoned gamers could finish the game without a walkthrough. It is the most hardcore RPG I have played to this date and have so many fond memories of it (I spend whole 2 month summer holidays with the game).

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    1. I don't see why I wouldn't finish it, unless I get in a situation where I can't win and have to start over. Playing one session of Fate for every 1 or 2 sessions with another game seems to be working out well.

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  8. Am I the only one that read "mongards" as "mongtards"? Perhaps I was dropped on my head too many times as a child.

    -Chris

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  9. It might be just me but I feel that average German translating this game in the 85 seemed to have a terrible grasp of english language and persvered mainly with a help of a dictionary.

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    1. I don't think it's THAT bad. We've seen worse, for sure.

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  10. Explore the wilderness first, before you go to the catacombs.

    Icesword is a must-have weapon and it is goog you found it. Its ability is to attack 1 whole group of enemies, it does not matter how many enemies are in that group you will perform an attack on each member of that group.

    I never used bows/ammunition based weapons because i hate the ammo management, it is irritating and annoying.

    Check weapon specs., as i remember you can see informations (ARMAMENTS/EXAMINE) about weapon abilities, eg. Attack range in ft, special ability (attack group, attack all, etc...), some throwing weapons has the ability "if thrown it returns" - use only them for long-range combat.

    I think Melee means attack 1 whole group and Greater melee means attack all enemies in range - yes there are even weapons capable of killing 50+ enemies with one click by one character :-D

    There is also a Witch`s school spell, with effect "put distant enemies to 2y distance" - extremely useful against that poisonous bastards. Check the manual and spells.

    Cast best light spells only, lamp ends extremely fast, there are more or less strong spells - Light s/Light m/Light l.... small/medium/large and i think one more powerful version.

    About moving on - no inland water moving is possible.

    And ALWAYS REMEMBER important informatios, probably write down all quest related infos, because you will get important hints how to solve situations whitch seems to be unsolvable. Details are sometimes extremely important.

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    1. I appreciate the tips. It sounds like I need to spend more time talking to NPCs until I have the right selection of spellcasters.

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    2. The dialogue system is really used exzessively:
      *The "stat-bonus-Minigame"
      *A "walkthrough protection" forcing you to collect story relevant bits
      *Rare and important hints
      Also you have to talk to certain types of NPCs in a certain way, the same dialogue option doesn't always yield the same result. Some dialogue options only work in rare cases.
      On top of that, you level/power plays a role.

      There might be even more. That's quite a lot of talking you have to do, so the question remains: are the dialogues interesting or does this rather feel like work?
      Will we get an article about dialogues?

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    3. Absolutely. Two posts from now. The next one is about (C)ombat, naturally, and the one after that can be about (D)ialogue.

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    4. I really like the alphabetical order! Did you use that before? Then I will like the blog retroactively even better!
      Also I will speculate about the E: End might come a little bit early. Maybe Exploration?

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  11. "Winwood chooses an inappropriate time to invent a creative curse."

    Hmmm, it looks like you marked this one on your map? Don't, these hidden chests are completely random events, they don't have a fixed location.

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  12. What are you using to make your maps there?

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    1. He uses plain Excel, he's talked about that before.

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    2. Yes, Excel with the "draw borders" tool to make the walls.

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