Friday, October 21, 2016

Game 231: Heavy on the Magick (1986)

The game has no title screen; instead, it starts with these instructions.
   
Heavy on the Magick
United Kingdom
Gargoyle Games (developer and publisher)
Released in 1986 for ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC
Date Started: 16 October 2016
Date Ended: 18 October 2016
Total Hours: 6
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 15
Ranking at Time of Posting: 24/228 (11%)

One of my best friends is British. We met in a training course on September 10, 2001. The next day, we watched the planes hit the towers together and spent the rest of the week getting drunk and watching CNN. I've visited him in London a few times; he's visited me in the States a few times. There have been some minor points of confusion over the years. I once brought him to a Waffle House and had to explain that "well done" is not an acceptable answer when asked how you want your eggs. He had to explain the whole City of London/city of London thing to me, and he laughs at my confusion when he gives his weight in "stone." But on the whole, we understand each other fine, and he's never struck me as coming from a culture so alien that he would have taken naturally to these 1980s British games we're seeing, particularly Swords & Sorcery and Heavy on the Magick.
 
I'm tempted to show him some of these games the next time I see him. Because he seems like a normal person, I expect bafflement. But I could be wrong. Maybe he'll take a look and say, "Ah, the old Speccy! My, wasn't she fine? Ah, you see, Apex the Ogre--he's a popular children's cartoon character in the U.K. Like your Rocky the Flying Squirrel, really. He shows up and offers advice at trying times. Opening doors, you say? Ah, yes, it's a common cliche in British literature that if you need to open a door, you ask the inanimate pillars nearby for a hint. We call them 'guards.' What about using a key? Oh, I understand the confusion! English doors don't have locks on the door: they put the locks on nearby tables! Say, that game doesn't let you delete letters after you type them, does it? Oh, thank god. The Accurate Typing Act of 1984 requires all software to force users to re-type the entire sentence if they make a single spelling mistake. It's supposed to make us more precise, what? My, what a grand game!"
   
In the thick of the dungeon. I'm casting the BLAST spell on a troll while the corpses of several previous foes lie on the ground. When he's dead, I'll collect that key.
   
Heavy on the Magick is an adventure-RPG hybrid that, like a lot of hybrids, doesn't do either of its parts very well. There are very few classic adventure puzzles--most involve shuffling inventory around and using the right items to open doors--and the RPG elements are limited to gaining experience for killing wandering monsters, which you can then convert to stamina.

The game casts you in the role of an obnoxious wizard named Axil the Able. (The game missed an option to make "Axel F" its theme song.) Axil likes to stir trouble by telling fake ribald stories about other wizards. One night in a crowded tavern, Axil has just finished a lewd tale about a wizard named Therion when Therion himself strides up and magically banishes Axil to the dungeons beneath "a dreary castle called Collodon's Pile." The object of the game is simply to get out. Supposedly, there are at least three exits, but I only found one.
    
This salamander charm will later get me past some fire. I don't know why.
   
Exploration occurs in a multi-leveled dungeon with dozens of rooms. Each room can have up to 8 exits (each of the cardinal directions), some of which might take you up or down, so you have to watch the descriptions carefully to make sure you haven't crossed levels, which will screw up your maps. I didn't take any video or animated GIFs, but the outline of Axil (as well as the monsters) does move around the screen. You can use LEFT and RIGHT to move him on the screen without leaving it, which allows you to interact with specific objects.

You control Axil through a text parser. (The game presents this as a language called "Merphish.")  In most cases, you strike a single letter for the first word and then type the second: for instance, P(ick up) KEY or X(amine) DOOR. You can speak to NPCs (and, for some reason, inanimate objects) by putting a single quotation mark, then the name of the NPC, then the subject you want to ask about; for instance " GUARD, DOOR.
    
Getting hints on opening a door. Note Apex's hint to me "WHO GUARDS KNOWS." Is that even English?
    
I had issues throughout the game getting the emulator to recognize all my keystrokes, meaning I either had to play really slowly or I ended up typing the same commands over and over again.

Character creation is very odd. In a system clearly influenced by the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, your attributes are stamina, skill, and luck. Stamina serves as a combined action point/hit point/spell point pool, and it decreases as you perform certain actions, cast spells, and get hit by enemies. (You also lose 1 stamina point every time you save, which is an interesting idea that more games should adopt.) As you start, the game generates three numbers for these statistics, and they're always very high, moderate, and very low, like 38-9-2 or 35-7-1. You can assign these stats to the attributes in any order you want.
    
Starting a new game. I can shuffle the points but not re-roll them.
    
At first, I thought it would make sense to assign the high number to stamina, but later it became clear that it's much more important for skill. I only had success in the game when I gave the moderate number to stamina and the lowest to luck.
   
The opening screen.
   
In the first room of the game, you find a couple of books. One of them (on the left) contains a poison that damages and eventually kills you. You have to figure that out through trial and error. The other is a magical grimoire that gives you your first spells: BLAST, FREEZE, and INVOKE. BLAST is an all-purpose combat spell and really the only combat option in the game. (There are no weapons.) FREEZE performs as expected, freezing monsters, but that doesn't do you much good because you generally need to kill them to get through a room. Later, you find some additional spells, including TRANSFUSION, which swaps experience for stamina, and CALL, which allows you to summon an annoying NPC (below).
    
BLASTing a wyvern.
   
The game's monsters include ghosts, vampires, wyverns, werewolves, and trolls. Their primary statistic is "cunning," and as long as it's lower than your skill, your BLASTS do a reasonable amount of damage. Eventually, you find some garlic which allows you to instantly kill vampires, as well as a "nugget" that allows you to instantly kill werewolves, and for all I know the other monsters have instant-kill options, too. I didn't find them if they did.
   
Killing a werewolf immediately with a nugget. I assume it's a silver nugget.
   
As you kill monsters, you gain experience, which can then be traded for stamina with the TRANSFUSION spell. There's also a "leveling" system in the game that I didn't quite understand and seemed more dependent on wandering into certain rooms than gaining experience through combat. I only "leveled" this way once in the game, from "neophyte" to "zelator," and I was allowed to keep my level even after I died.
    
Going up a level just for entering a room.
    
Much of the game involves picking up a variety of items to use in other locations, a process rendered difficult by the fact that you have only 5 item slots. At first, I tried bringing everything to a central location, but later I just marked the location of items so I could go get them if I needed them later. Most of the "puzzles" involve passing through doors. Some doors are passed by dropping keys on nearby tables, others by dropping bags of gold on nearby tables, and still others by giving a password to the door. There were a handful of doors I never found any way to open.
     
Picking up a key in a multi-exit chamber.
    
The password puzzles are the only really challenging ones in the game, and it took me a while to figure out how the hints worked. You can get password hints from the "guards" (really just inanimate pillars) that flank some doors, or from an NPC named Apex (more below). The hints are pretty cryptic, and I had to look up one before I understood what the game was doing. That one was "CRY AND ENTER DOOR." The answer to it is WOLF. As in "cry wolf." Another was "TO ENTER IS MADNESS." I tried a bunch of synonyms--INSANITY, CRAZINESS, PSYCHOSIS--before I got it with LUNACY.

In the midst of all these dungeon rooms roams a "helpful" NPC named Apex the Ogre. You can ask him for hints about the various monsters, objects, and doors, although he rarely gave me anything that really helped. You can CALL him once you get the spell scroll, but most of the time, he just showed up unbidden and generally stood in my way until I said "APEX, THANKS to banish him. Although he's not hostile, if you happen to be standing where Apex appears in the room, you'll take continual damage and die.
    
When Apex gets in your space.
    
A major part of the manual is given to a dynamic that I never really experienced in-game and didn't understand: summoning demons with the INVOKE spell. The manual lists four demons--Asmodee, Astarot, Belezbar, and Magot--each of which is supposed to help in a different way. For instance, Magot knows of "hidden treasures" and Belezbar "reveals all deceit." When you INVOKE them, you have to be holding their particular talisman--found within the dungeon--or they send you to a furnace room with no exits. If there's any way to escape from there, I never found it.
    
Invoking Magot turned out to be a bad idea.
 
A fiery room with no escape.
      
I guess the demons might be solutions to particular puzzles, but I never figured out what they were, and I managed to win the game without needing to invoke them, so I'll appreciate if another player can fill in the blanks there.

The demons are some of the nods the game makes to the "real" world of the occult. "Therion" was one of the drug-fueled names used by the occultist lunatic Aleister Crowley, and the manual encourages the reader to check out several titles from the "Western Occult Tradition," but honestly there isn't enough game content to really develop this theme. Probably some of the symbols on the walls have an occult angle that went over my head.
   
Does the SATOR square have some kind of occult meaning?
   
I'm not sure my description so far has conveyed just how confusingly weird the game feels. The text is presented without punctuation and is often awkward. Color is used like a weapon, with each screen saturated in some garish bright shade. The mechanisms for interacting with objects often don't make any sense. You can't delete or backspace after entering text, so if you make a typo (which happens frequently), you have to abort the entire line and try again. Skill and luck fluctuate for reasons I don't understand. Some of the messages make no sense. I don't know what "2° = 9°" meant for the entire game, but it was right there under my current rank.
   
One of the map levels I made.
   
I did my best to map as thoroughly as possible, and in the process of blundering around I found a door. It was past a cyclops with a high "cunning" score, and I wasn't able to defeat him until I put the highest statistic in "skill" and jacked up my stamina with multiple TRANSFUSION spells.
    
Fighting the "final battle," at least of my game.
    
The guardians at the door said "TO ENTER SAY A NUMBER OF MAGICK WORDS." Like everything else, it's an awkwardly-worded clue, but I figured it out. The manual says "the number of Magick is 11," and the door opened when I gave it that password.
    
    
The room beyond indicated that I was in "the Pile Collodon" (not "Collodon's Pile") and a punctuation-free message indicated that I had made it to an exit while my character did a little dance on screen. I could re-enter the dungeon if I wanted, but screw that. This dude's YouTube video shows him reaching all three exits in a 75-minute game, if you care that much.
    
I "won."
     
The game gets a 15 in the GIMLET, scoring 1s and 2s in almost every category (economy gets a 0). It's boring and weird, and I'm afraid I got to the end without ever really "getting" it.
    
    
Contemporary reviewers liked it a lot more--it got "best adventure of the year" in Crash! magazine and Computer Gamer gave it the equivalent of 95/100, but between what they produced and how they rated real RPGs (cf. the Amiga magazine reviews of Gold Box titles), I'm pretty well convinced that the Brits of the era simply had no idea what they were talking about.
   
From the manual, a significant waste of effort.
     
Heavy on the Magick was roughly the 6th game from British developer Gargoyle Games, which specialized in ZX Spectrum titles, including the action game Ad Astra (1984) and the adventure games Tir Na Nog (1984) and Marsport (1985). Magick uses an updated version of the adventure games' engines. The creators had greater ambitions for Magick: the manual maps a large game world (called Graumerphy) of multiple islands despite the game taking place completely underground, and it promises future titles called Collodon's Pile, The Tombs of Taro, Paradise Reglossed, and The Trials of Therlon as well as a book. To this end, the game allows the saving of Axil as a character independent of the game. Of course, none of this extra material ever happened. Gargoyle closed shop in the early 1990s, and as far as I can tell, developers Roy Carter and Greg Follis left the gaming industry at that point.

Honestly, at some point the Brits must start producing RPGs that make some modicum of sense, communicate in actual English, and don't feel five years behind modern technology. I just don't know when that's going to be. We've got three more in 1986--Mindstone, The Wizard of Tallyron, and Tallyron II. Maybe one of those will finally feel like something recognizable to a fellow westerner.

55 comments:

  1. There was a lot of strange things coming out of the UK in the 80s. I mean, that is where Warhammer came from, and a lot of very strange music.

    Those colours are truely painful, wow. I know WHY games from that era used four ugly colours (they are each a single logical operation away from one another), but damn.

    So that is what the band Therion is named after.

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    1. Also: They may have failed at RPGs, but they have the world Elite. I think they may have used up a decades with of their national supply of good games on that one release.

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    2. The Spectrum had 8 colours, but there could only be two colours in every 8x8 section of the 256x192 screen. That's why so many later Spectrum games - that used large graphics - chose to have the main play area in two colours, with the others used for buttons or information areas.

      Heavy on the Magick also cut down the amount of data squeezed into 48K of memory (6K of which was video ram) by storing smaller images and doubling their height and width - hence the 2 x 2 squares.

      The game was admired technically at the time, because it squeezed certain things out of the Speccy that were hard to do.

      I remember playing and winning it. I considered it an adventure more than an RPG, but I enjoyed it well enough.

      P.S. "WHO GUARDS KNOWS" is perfectly good English, with ellipsis. It is parsed as "[The one] WHO GUARDS KNOWS [that thing you want to know]."

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    3. I get it. If there had only been a "HE" in front of the sentence, it would have been clearer.

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    4. On the other hand, "Not Apex's hint" has to be a typo?
      I remember the gaming press raving about this game back in the day.

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    6. Why are you faulting an ogre on his command of English?

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  2. On another note, there is a YouTube channel you might find useful- Ancient DOs Games. Part of each episode is suggestions on DOSBOX settings to make the game run the best, as well as where to find copies of it.

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  3. Well this game is more of an item-based adventure, the RPG elements are very minor, feel somewhat pointless and probably could've been avoided altogether, like in Tir Na Nog. But it was a good game for its time and its platform (the Spectrum didn't really have complex graphic adventures like this) with clever (and sometimes Britishly weird) puzzles. I don't really care for juggling hundreds of items with a five item inventory limit though, just feels like game length padding.

    "I don't know what "2° = 9°" meant for the entire game, but it was right there under my current rank."

    First rank is 1° = 10°, so I guess it's a rather weird way of saying you're Level 2? As in "2 done, 9 levels to go."

    "In the first room of the game, you find a couple of books. One of them (on the left) contains a poison that damages and eventually kills you. You have to figure that out through trial and error."

    Many items are not what they look like, you must use the examine command to tell the difference. If Axil says "it looks like a ..." then the item is definitely something else. It works in both ways, for example there's an item that boosts luck but "looks like a rocksnake."

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  4. Sator squares do appear to have relevance to British occultism. Palindromes and other such patterns often feature in magical or religious superstitions.

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    1. The SATOR square was a famous magic square; the oldest ones date back to Roman times. Nobody is exactly sure what all the words mean or exactly what it was supposed to do.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sator_Square

      'Zelator' was one of the ranks of Crowley's organization and before that, of the Golden Dawn. The 10=90 bit also comes from that. 'Magick' with a 'k' was used by Crowley.

      The triangle is an old occult symbol for water (with a line across it it's earth, and facing down it's fire or air with a line across it).

      In general these guys probably read a few too many occult books and decided to incorporate it into their game.

      Do what Thou Wilt Shalt Be The Whole of the Law!

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    2. Thanks for offering a little more on that odd facet of the game.

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    3. The Sator square has a grammatical meaning. "The farmer Arepo has works [and] wheels," or "The farmer Arepo has wheels as work" (depending upon if you read opera as a neuter plural or as a first declension singular). Of course, what that sentence means itself is unclear. The long-standing association with magic, I imagine, is because it's a palindrome rather than any meaning in the words (e.g., numerical "magic squares.").

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    4. That's the basic idea of magic, actually.
      If we grind down any process in the world, we have (A) Cause and (B) Effect.
      Magic is the means (or wishful thinkings) to achieve (B) by simplifying/amending (A) or performing (A) to nullify/alter (B).
      In numerical vales, it's similar to Magic Squares whereby you can get the same number from any direction; which is layman terms of saying, "waving a wand at a man OR stabbing him with a knife = same outcome".
      Alchemy also works in the same way, where you want to get gold (Effect) by converting it from base metals (Cause).
      I think the simplest form of magic; Chaos Theory Magic, also lets normal people like us understand how most of these cuckoos think. What Chaos Theory Magicians do is that, they will draw some kind of comic strip of themselves doing some random and small actions (opening the front door) and getting what they want (finding a $1000 bill on the floor).
      Not saying that there's no such thing as magic but, wow, lots of cuckoos out there.

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    5. I fin your ideas intriguing, do you have a newsletter or blog?

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    6. Ah... dammit. Drew the wrong kind of attention to myself again.
      *back to acting like a horny dimwit*

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  5. "Honestly, at some point the Brits must start producing RPGs that make some modicum of sense, communicate in actual English, and don't feel five years behind modern technology."

    I don't particularly want to defend the first couple of charges, but if this is a game that runs on the 48k Spectrums then it was designed to run on a 1982 computer. Also worth noting that the Spectrum cost a pretty small fraction of what an IBM-compatible cost. People (okay, British people) generally fete Spectrum programming for its ingenuity in working around the quite restricted abilities of always-awful tech. There's no point at which Spectrum games are going to start looking or feeling 'good', though.

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    1. Another thing that I think a lot of people forget is that the UK market was dominated by machines that relied on cassette media. Floppy drives were available for a lot of the systems in the UK, but unlike in the US they were not an assumed accessory. As a result, games typically weren't released on disk in the UK until later in the 80's when the 16-bit machines and newer models of 8-bit machines with built-in drives took over. This had a massive impact of the types of games that were made, and hence became popular, in the UK.

      The random access afforded by disks allows for far more complex games since you don't have to have all of your data in memory at one time. With disks you can swap things in and out of memory as needed, whereas you can't do that on cassette without incurring long load times. Infocom used disks to their advantage from the beginning since it allowed them to swap chunks of text into memory, allowing for larger, more verbose stories. Many UK text adventures solved this problem differently by breaking up their games into chapters that could be loaded separately from multiple cassettes or sides.

      US gamers had complex RPGs on disk from nearly day one. Ultima and Wizardry probably wouldn't have been anywhere near as complex if they were released on cassette. Since they were top sellers, too, it pushed the US even further towards disks being the norm.

      Most of these big RPGs probably never made it to the UK in numbers large enough to register on the average gamer's radar. The result was that the RPGs that were created for the UK audience were not as heavily influenced by the early US pioneers, and their play mechanics tend to owe more of a debt to the more common cassette games of the day.

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    2. I'd excuse a game on the Spectrum if it simply felt primitive. My bigger problems is that Spectrum games of the era all feel WEIRD. Weird graphics, weird language, weird conventions. None of these things has anything to do with the technical capabilities of the computer.

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    3. Oh, sorry, Tom. I just re-read your comment and realized that your whole spiel was about my "five years behind modern technology" comment.

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    4. No worries.

      There are Spectrum games that feel weird in good, worthwhile, interesting ways but I don't know if they're going to show up as part of your project.

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  6. You have solved many a puzzle where I would have been stumped, but I happened to guess the answer to "TO ENTER SAY A NUMBER OF MAGICK WORDS" on my first try -- I counted the number of letters in "magick words".

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  7. Entertaining intro, by the way.

    Two days ago it took me some time to figure out what my British friend called 'Cantaloupes' which Australians call 'Rockmelons' and which British call 'Yellow Melons'. Despite the fact that they are orange in colour.

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    1. You don't have cantaloupe? It what are they called?

      Also, addict what's wrong with eggs well done, that's what I always say at restaurants.

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    2. Here in Aus they are called rockmelons, but they appear to have a different name in almost every country!

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    3. Here in Hungary we went with yellow melon. Our word for the color orange is literally "orangeyellow" though, so that might be an explanation.

      How about watermelons? We call them Greek melons.

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    4. In German they called "sugar melons"

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    5. In Russian it's called 'cantaloupe', but sometimes also 'Thai melon' or 'muskmelon'. However, this last term is used only for cantaloupes, muskmelons in general are known as simply 'melons', while watermelon is a completely different word that doesn't have a 'melon' in it.

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    6. Eggs well done? Cooked until they are the consistency of shoe leather? Because that's what well done means.

      "How do you want your eggs?" Hard boiled, soft boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, over easy, over hard, or poached.

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    7. Also 'in the basket' or 'with soldiers' or 'omelette with cheese, please' :)

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    8. Don't forget over medium! Although, I think many people actually want over medium when they say over easy, so that's understandable.

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    9. We call it cantaloupe in the U.S., too.

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  8. I really liked this game as a kid, but had severe problems with the real time combat when trying to replay it some years ago. Seems like high Skill rating is the key to survival, but since I had alread completed the game as a kid I didn't make much of an effort.

    As a kid I didn't reflect on it, but when I replayed some of Gargoyle Games' game in later years I realized the gameplay is rather limited, mostly revolving trasnporting items around with a limited inventory. The puzzles are also rather "weird", often involving word puns. In Tir Na Nog there was one infamous puzzle where you had to translate Celtic runes/letters to find a buried object.
    I remember invoking demons in Heavy on the Magic, and I thought it was required, but I can't remember any details now.

    Like Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach, I thought Heavy on the Magic had a good atmosphere. Especially TNN and DD with their Celtic flavour had perhaps the best atmosphere of any game I played until Thief:The Dark Project.
    But of course I was young and impressionable then, and the puzzles were a challenge. Nowadays I guess the puzzles are too easy, especially if you are a crosswords expert like Mr. Addict.
    Ancient DOS games like Wizardry 1 has stood the test of time, but I've realized that the very first "CRPGs" I played on the Speccy has not aged so well, partly due to interface problems.

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  9. I really liked this game as a kid, but had severe problems with the real time combat when trying to replay it some years ago. Seems like high Skill rating is the key to survival, but since I had alread completed the game as a kid I didn't make much of an effort.

    As a kid I didn't reflect on it, but when I replayed some of Gargoyle Games' game in later years I realized the gameplay is rather limited, mostly revolving trasnporting items around with a limited inventory. The puzzles are also rather "weird", often involving word puns.

    Like Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach, I thought Heavy on the Magic had a good atmosphere. Especially TNN and DD with their Celtic flavour had perhaps the best atmosphere of any game I played until Thief:The Dark Project.
    But of course I was young and impressionable then, and the puzzles were a challenge. Nowadays I guess the puzzles are too easy, especially if you are a crosswords expert like Mr. Addict.
    Ancient DOS games like Wizardry 1 has stood the test of time, but I've realized that the very first "CRPGs" I played on the Speccy has not aged so well, partly due to interface problems.

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  10. The Brits gave us Monty Python - and you're calling this game weird?! :)

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  11. From a technical standpoint those graphics and animation are just wow.

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  12. If nothing else, though, this game deserves kudos for reaching deep into the well of Western Esotericism for content. I can't think of any other game that does, at least not to this extent (if a US game had done so, I suspect it would have been made memorable by the inevitable protests if nothing else).

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    1. Take Apex, your guide. For Crowley, the Apex of consciousness is Ecstasy, the state in which one transcends one's own ego and communicates with the numinous, and he represents this state with the point at the top of the hexagram.

      The word Apex itself is derived from the point at the top of the cap that Roman priests, or flamina, wore; this last word is cognate with brahmin, which is the sort of East-West connection that perennialists like Crowley cherish. It also recalls the word "ape," a Beast like Crowley himself (and Apex looks more than a little like Crowley, at least to my eyes).

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    3. Ah... I see. Wait. That is pretty gross.

      AAAAARGH!
      AAAAARGH!
      AAAAARGH!
      YOU DIE HORRIBLY (in Ecstasy)
      AAAAARGH! (Realization that your death is due to reaching ecstasy by being near the the ogre is going to be etched on your headstone)

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  13. "This salamander charm will later get me past some fire. I don't know why."

    In medieval folklore, salamanders were heavily connected with fire, they were sometimes believed to live in the flames.

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    1. Yeah I tried to say this earlier, there is even a fire elemental named salamander in the secret of mana game.

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    2. Efff, I meant to say this and look insightful. Yes, Salamanders have a long association with fire, dating at least back to the Talmud: "The salamander is also mentioned in the Talmud (Hagiga 27a) as a creature that is a product of fire, and it relates that anyone who is smeared with its blood will be immune to harm from fire. Rashi (1040–1105), the primary commentator on the Talmud, describes the salamander as one which is produced by burning a fire in the same place for seven years"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamanders_in_folklore_and_legend

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    3. There's also a fiery D&D creature called the salamander. I'd always wondered why that was. Actually, don't they even make an appearance in Azure Bonds?

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    4. Yeah, they're pretty common in RPGs and are usually synonymous with fire immunity. The clue was immediately obvious to me at least.

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    5. Don't forget the fire engine in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 was called "The Salamander" and the firemen wore badges with a salamander among flames.

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    7. Or much simpler: the programmer just had the name of this salamander in his mind: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_salamander

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    8. I'm pretty sure that testing a real live salamander's immunity to fire is tantamount to animal abuse nowadays.

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  14. I wrote an article on this for Hardcore Gaming 101. All the Gargoyle stuff is really freaky, but this one with all the blown up graphics and RPG lite features is really, really freaky.

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  15. The British computer gaming scene was a hotbed of innovation in the early-mid 80's, though mainly around action gaming with a sprinkling of text adventures.

    The largest issue with RPG's at the time was the dominant presence of cassette tapes rather than disks. They made saving and loading perilous exercises since any loose connection or slightly stretched tape could result in a lost save state. I remember a night of misery after investing many hours into a precursor to this game, Tir Na Nog, only to open the tape player and see a twisted and torn mess where my save game tape used to be. As a desperate kid I tried splicing the tape back together, but it wasn't to be, which is why I now religiously keep backup saves :-)

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  16. One of your best friends is British?! You should have told us! Is he done with Shroud Of The Avatar?

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    1. At first I earnestly thought crpg addict was referencing Lord British :-D

      But recalling the addicts reviews/stories of the ultima games I think he rathers detests Lord British (at least in the games) ;-)

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  17. As some other commenters have mentioned, the graphics are limited by the Spectrum's capabilities, so you're not going to see much improvement on that platform (especially regarding blocks of colour). Memory limitations were significant and the whole game had to fit in memory at once (including the screen buffer, on most platforms) so luxuries such as complete sentences come at a premium. To be fair, the Spectrum was the weakest home computer available, but in your timeline we're still some years off Amigas and Atari STs being the standard game machines of choice in the UK, and about 8 years off PCs becoming the main platform.

    As for conventions, I'm not sure they really existed in UK gaming in the mid-80s. We didn't really have access to IBM PCs or Apple IIs or the games shipped on them, so what you see is a mixture of undiluted British culture and programmer in-breeding. :)

    ReplyDelete

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