Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fate: Holistic Improvement

Man, you don't have to be sorry. It's 3 AM and you're a weapons shop. It would be ridiculous for me to expect you to be open. I'm not gonna walk in at 10 and say, "Hey, I came by at 3 and you guys were closed! Somebody owes me an apology."
     
Way, way too much playing since the last post. I'm starting to see the wooden corridors of Fate's cities in my dreams.

As I recounted last time, solving the Cavetrain quest opened up the wider world, but before I explored it, I had a few things to clear up in Larvin. First, I had to figure out what to do about the multiple characters I now had split over two parties. I ultimately decided to get rid of Marina for role-playing reasons (what kind of party puts a 13-year-old girl in danger?) and get my banshee, Dichara, back.

In doing so, I gave up the second party. The idea is fun, but managing two parties is too annoying logistically. Perhaps the most irksome thing is that when one party sleeps, you automatically switch to the other one. If you don't want to play the second party, you either have to wait around for the first party to wake up (45 minutes - 2 hours, depending on how long you slept), or you have to put the second party to bed. The problem with that option is that if you ever need the two parties to hook up, it's almost impossible to coordinate their schedules if one of them is sleeping, especially since the minimum rest period is 6 hours. This happened to me with Dichara. I had to basically let the computer run for a while while I worked to get to a point where both parties were awake at the same time.

Later, I found another quirk with parties when I accidentally recruited a ranger in another city. If you only have one member of a party, the game won't let you dismiss him, even if your intention is to disband the party. You have to transfer a wanted character to the unwanted party, dismiss the unwanted character, then transfer the wanted character back.

Thus, more nuisance than enjoyment, though I will say that if I had a co-player, like a roommate or brother, it would be a lot of fun for each player to run his own party and swap every time one party had to go to bed. Since everyone from all parties gets experience from every kill, it's not like most games where you'd be crippled by the end from the "stolen" character development.

My second bit of unfinished business had to do with the Alarian Vaults--a little section of Larvin's catacombs that I'd declined to explore previously because a sign had said not to do it without "permission." Of course, this little side-trip ended up being 6 levels and took longer than some entire games. A key puzzle in the vaults had to do with a switch that turned teleporters on and off. There was a row of corridors where I needed some teleporters on, to advance, and some off, so they wouldn't kick me back to the beginning. This was accomplished by--you guessed it--splitting the party. I had one character wait by the switch while the others minced forwards, switching back and forth about 20 times to get the teleporter sequence right.

In the end, it was worth it. The level culminated in some kind of altar, where visits by each character increased their attributes and significantly increased the number of abilities they could improve--like doubled them.
    
The best quest reward in the game so far.
    
So lets move on to said self-improvement. Every time you level up, you get "permission to improve" an ability, and spellcasters get a permission to acquire a new spell. Both are accomplished at guilds. As far as I can tell, it doesn't matter what guild you visit to acquire spells, except variances in how much they charge. Once you've acquired all the spells of a particular spellbook, you can pay to acquire a new spellbook.

I had been holding off visiting guilds because commenters told me that there are variances in how much they improve, which is true. For instance, the Guild of Dark Wizards in Larvin will improve your intelligence by 1, but the Guild of Dark Druids in Cassida will improve it by 2--all for the same improvement slot. Thus, to maximize the uses of your slots, you want to find the guilds that improve the skill the most, and that meant solving the Cavetrain quest first so I could leave Larvin. What I didn't realize was that I could have been acquiring new spells this entire time without any potential penalty. So when I finally went to improve, most of my spellcasters went from having 5 or 6 spells to 30-40 across multiple spellbooks.
    
This guild improves intelligence.
    
For the other types of improvement, there are guilds that improve each of the 7 attributes--strength, dexterity, intelligence, charisma, stamina, skill, and wisdom--as well as those that increase spell points and hit points, and those that increase your various magic resistances, such as to stone, poison, fire, infection, critical hits, and magic in general.
    
One of two pages of improvable statistics, almost all useful.
   
With so many options, and a couple of dozen improvement slots for each character, I was paralyzed by indecision at first. Ultimately, I decided to go around cataloging each guild, and in the process spending at least one slot on the character who most needed it. As we'll see, I got through Larvin, Laronnes, Perdida, and Cassida, but I still have several cities (I think) left to go.

Intelligence, wisdom, and dexterity are all improvable by getting "help" from NPCs, at least up to 40, so it seems a waste to spend self-improvement slots on these attributes until I've reached 40. (Commenters have said that some NPCs improve skill, but I've yet to see it happen in hundreds of NPC contacts.) On the other hand, it takes a long time to do it this way. Later in this session, I started to find potions that effect permanent improvements on some skills.

Anyway, all of this self-improvement was done in the context of exploring some of the rest of the game world, which started by boarding the Cavetrain in one of its many stations. I knew the locations of 4 in the starting area: Halo Station and Park Station in Larvin, Lake Edge in Laronnes, and Moonfield Station in the wildnerness east of Larvin. I later discovered that the Cavetrain makes a continuous circuit through 16 stations.
   
   
Riding the Cavetrain is about as much fun as riding a subway in real life. First, you have to go up to a ticket window and buy tickets for each character. The game has some fun with this by giving you 8 ticket window options and a chance that any of them will have a clerk who's on lunch break, on strike, or just doesn't want to help. (This is a joke that I guess translates well across multiple countries.) You can buy several types of tickets for different time periods.
    
    
Then you go to the platform, where you're told how long the train will take to arrive. If you wait for it,  you actually have to wait. Not in real-time, but still. Then you board, and again you have to wait while the train goes between stations. That's a couple of minutes just staring at the screen and listening to the chugga-chugga of the wheels. If you're going between 4 or 5 stations, you could be on the screen for 10 minutes.

Rude ticket counter clerks, a guy with a severed limb next to a puddle of vomit, a woman being accosted by a bear, and coming up on "Park Station"...someone rode the T in Boston in the early 1990s.

You can't just go to the bathroom during this part because the game kicks you off at each station and you have to re-board. Also, a "ticket inspector" periodically shows up and kills you if you don't have a ticket. Even if you do have a ticket, you have to manually acknowledge his screens. Still, I suppose it beats walking the whole way.
    
That punishment is both cruel and unusual.
     
I settled into a pattern of getting off at each new stop and mapping a little of the area. I still haven't decided if I'm going to map the wildnerness--it's a 400 x 400 area--but I did try to map a little of the road network and area around the stations.

Some stations emerge in the wilderness; others emerge in cities. You can't tell by the names. When a train emerged in a city, I mapped it. Perdida was relatively easy, occupying a 25 x 30 area, roughly. Cassida took hours and hours--it was as big as Larvin and seemed bigger. It had a lot of shops only open during the midnight hours, so I had to make several rounds.
     
The huge city of Cassida.
     
During all of this, of course, I was keeping an ear to the ground on the next quest. In Perdida, someone told me that "something strange has happened to the citizens of Cassida," and boy was he right. Every NPC in Cassida was hilariously rude, responding to my greetings, flattery, jokes, alms, and requests for assistance with anger and insults. They didn't attack or anything; they were just uncivil. Here's a sample conversation:

Me: [Introduce] "Hi, my name is Jeanie! How do you do?"
Wizard: "Worse! I'd feel better if you leave me alone!"
Me: [Adulate] "You're able to cast great spells, I suppose!"
Wizard: "I am, but you're not!"
Me: [Enchant]
Wizard: "Stop trying to charm me, sucker!"
Me: [Joke]
Wizard: "Golly! I've never heard anyone stupider!"
Me: [Brag] "I'm a master of all trades!"
Wizard: "Gosh! You're the greatest fool I've ever met!"
Me: [Tell Fibs] "I'm looking for the end of the world!"
Wizard: "Then you should better do it and leave me alone, fool!"
Me: [Give alms]
Wizard: "Keep your lousy money, sucker!"
Me: [Ask for Profession] "What's your business"
Wizard: "My job! There's no reason to answer a dirty guy like you!"
Me: [Help] "Are you able to help me?"
Wizard: "Give me one reason to do that!"
Me: [Hints] "Do you know any secret hints?"
Wizard: "I don't think that you're worthy of my help!"
Me: "Sorry, I have to go. Bye!"
Wizard: "Get out of here, skunk. I want a breath of fresh air."
    
To be fair, "Winwood" is a pretty stupid name.
    
This went on and on with every single NPC. I tried to do the same things multiple times, tried being rude (curse, threaten, etc.), and everything else I could think of, but nothing broke the cycle. I'm wondering if I need someone with super-powered charisma to pierce the barrier.

Oddly, no one in the shops or guilds treated me any differently. Winwood was unable to get hints at any of the taverns, though.
   
    
In a square in the center of town, there was some kind of weird statue that seemed to have everyone's attention, and my characters remarked that it felt alive and it seemed we could hear weeping, but I couldn't find anything productive to do with it. Winwood kept piping up that we should talk to mages, but all the mages in Cassida were just rude and wouldn't give me any hints, so perhaps all of this is a later quest and I should go to other cities first.
     
    
I do have one other hint that I'll find a "medley of the oddest fellows I've ever seen" in the city of Valvice, so perhaps I'll head there next.
   
This might be a pot/kettle situation, though.
   
Miscellaneous notes:

  • All of this self-improvement barely made a dent in my finances. I still have nearly 700,000 "piaster."
  • But if later in the game, I complain about not having enough money, someone remind me that I have nearly 100,000 in investment accounts in the Calisto Bank in Cassida.
  • I haven't covered retreating in combat. When you chose the option to run away, the game knocks you back to your previous square and puts you in "flee" mode for a few rounds, during which you can't interact with the environment, or re-encounter the same enemy party (although it might follow you). This has a couple of weird consequences for teleportation squares. First, if you're in fleeing mode, you won't trip the teleporter. Second, if you encountered the monsters just on the other side of a teleporter, fleeing will send you back through the teleporter to your previous square, even though it shouldn't be possible. Both quirks could have gotten me past the switch/teleporter puzzle in the Alarian Vaults if I'd had the patience.
  • Neither "listening" nor "scuffle" ever accomplishes anything at the tavern.
  • And "trade" never accomplishes anything with NPCs.

If you didn't finish programming the option, don't leave the option in the game.
    
  • Each city has an awful lot of churches where you can go to pay to absolve your sins. Given this, it's a bit odd that I don't have any sins. Does this become a game element later, or do a lot of players just go around indiscriminately slaughtering friendly NPCs?
  • The new cities featured both new NPC types--including pirates, master thieves, lord wizards, grue witches, and Zool wizards--and new portraits for some existing NPC types. 
    
Footpads in Larvin looked very different.
    
  • If you cast the "Flare" spell outdoors during nighttime, it creatures a weird red effect that you can see in the first screen of this post.
  • I really wish there was a mode in which you could just walk from one place to another in a city without encountering any NPCs. Even if you immediately say goodbye, there's an annoying pause while the game re-seeds the position of the NPC you just dismissed.
  • I love the names of some of the shops, taverns, and churches. For banks, we have the confidence-inspiring Random Bank, Shadow Bank, and Bank of Chaos. The Forgotten Mage Store sits off a back alley. Bottom of the Pit is a dive bar. The Greeting Club is a tavern near the entrance of town. Midnight Healers is a chapel only open from 23:00 to 01:00. Even the Cavetrain stops could be pulled off a real city's underground: Moonlake, Lanoux Station, Cheltic Square, Crying Fields, Desert Falls, Lake Edge.
   
This is my favorite. You could imagine them franchised all over the south.
     
So: a dungeon, some guilds, two new cities, and a small bit of wilderness area, and we've added 11 hours to an already-long game. But I like it and I've settled into a groove, so we'll see where it goes next. Time to start practicing all these new spells.

Time so far: 78 hours

50 comments:

  1. It's a pity that this game didn't get a pc release.
    Its main strength seems to be in gameplay that doesn't need the amiga's graphics and sound powers, and looking on how things have developed later, it would have enjoyed a longer lasting following.

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    1. So you would ended up with a similar game on PC, but with worst sound and graphics? (yes, i'm very much an amiga fanboy, as you can see:)

      Some mostly amiga RPG's like Fate, Black Crypt, Ishar and Legend have decent following, but i take it you're not european, since as from my experience, there were way more people around here with Amigas than PC's.

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    2. And thus Fate could have sold in territories where people don't give a rip about the Amiga. How could this be considered bad? And like shankao said, it's not like Fate was stressing the Amiga in any way.

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  2. I just wanted to pop in and tell you that I appreciate that you continue to cover this game. This sprawling, ambitious beast of a game has been an intriguing mystery, and has been highly entertaining watching you get to the end of it.

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  3. "If you only have one member of a party, the game won't let you dismiss him, even if your intention is to disband the party."

    You could always let him get killed, which automatically clears up the party. :)

    "In the end, it was worth it. The level culminated in some kind of altar, where visits by each character increased their attributes and significantly increased the number of abilities they could improve--like doubled them."

    If you're interested in exactly what actions are rewarded here, I've copied the instructions: http://pastebin.com/8txyHZNF

    In a nutshell, you should periodically return here for new rewards.

    "What I didn't realize was that I could have been acquiring new spells this entire time without any potential penalty."

    Ah sorry, I guess we weren't too clear about this one. Other than spells, the only ability that requires spell learning points is the use of crystals, which costs 3 and is available at all guilds, though probably only Toronar is able to learn it because it also requires some intelligence and magic power.

    By the way, if you find any "Spell" potions, these reward one spell training point each.

    "With so many options, and a couple of dozen improvement slots for each character, I was paralyzed by indecision at first."

    I'd suggest some training at the hidden guild in Larvin (reached via the FATE letters) which trains +3 Skill that improves weapon accuracy and turn order. Turn order is huge in this game. The ability to unleash up to 7 group-hitting weapons or spells before the enemy can even act is perhaps more useful than anything else.

    "I still haven't decided if I'm going to map the wildnerness--it's a 400 x 400 area--but I did try to map a little of the road network and area around the stations."

    I'd rather you didn't, it's simply not worth the effort to make a pixel-perfect map. I'd prefer if instead you'd let us spoil the locations of the handful of items hidden in this huge area. Almost everything else is clearly visible on the automap and most points of interest even have roads leading to them. Just make a rough sketch of the world.

    "I'm wondering if I need someone with super-powered charisma to pierce the barrier."

    Nope, that's just how they are. Just outside the north gates you'll find a Beggar who will tell you their story for a few coins.

    "But if later in the game, I complain about not having enough money, someone remind me that I have nearly 100,000 in investment accounts in the Calisto Bank in Cassida."

    You'll complain soon enough when you find the shipbroker :)

    "Neither "listening" nor "scuffle" ever accomplishes anything at the tavern. And "trade" never accomplishes anything with NPCs."

    Nope, they're just joke options.

    "Does this become a game element later, or do a lot of players just go around indiscriminately slaughtering friendly NPCs?"

    It could happen accidentally, since the game isn't always clear about who's innocent. But it seems only Larvin and Laronnes have proper law and order with guards that actually care about sin, everywhere else is overrun with pirates, rude mages or worse. The only major source of sin is the Warlock's Berserker spell, which is still pretty useful, try it sometimes.

    "I really wish there was a mode in which you could just walk from one place to another in a city without encountering any NPCs."

    Experiment with the Elementary spell school, your banshee should have it by now. The Invisible spell does what you need.

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    1. "You could always let him get killed, which automatically clears up the party." I tried that, actually, but it just froze the game.

      "Nope, they're just joke options." There seem to be a lot of those in this game. I wonder if they were really "jokes," or if the developers intended mechanics that never got programmed.

      "The only major source of sin is the Warlock's Berserker spell, which is still pretty useful, try it sometimes." Yeah, I found that out when I accidentally had Winwood drink a berserker potion. He just killed every NPC we came across. I ended up having to reload for other reasons.

      "The Invisible spell does what you need." Ah, thanks. I hadn't considered that.

      "You'll complain soon enough when you find the shipbroker." The idea that there's even more territory to this game across a sea, or whatever, is just terrifying.

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    2. "I'd suggest some training at the hidden guild in Larvin (reached via the FATE letters) which trains +3 Skill that improves weapon accuracy and turn order." I ended up going there and spending about half of everyone's available slots.

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    3. Okay, someone needs to tell me if "Berserk" ever wears off. I've had the party sleeping for days and Winwood can't seem to shed it. I'll have to reload a pretty old save if it's not curable.

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    4. Ah, never mind. I see there's a spell just for that.

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  4. Oh, and your characters don't look too well equipped. The smiths of Cassida have some nice stuff for sale, on par with catacombs loot.

    Also, don't let your characters carry too much stuff, indicated by the center dot on their infobox. It cuts dexterity and skill in half. On all your pictures Toronar is constantly over weight.

    Note that items (especially lamps if you have any left over), crystals, jewels and diamonds have weight as well.

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    1. Yeah, I solved Toronar's weight problem towards the end of that session. We found a nice bit of armor that only he can wear but it weighs a LOT. I had to strip him of almost everything else.

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  5. I'm glad you like this game, despite misgivings about the length and scope, because I really want to see where this is all going. The developers seemed to have really made this a labor of love, don't you think?

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  6. Do NPCs in one place give hints about stuff in other places, or are hints 'domestic'? Coz I imagine some mages in other towns might be able to help you out with the strange situation in Cassida.

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    1. I think they're location-specific. I got hints in Larvin's catacombs that I never got on the surface, for instance.

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  8. Your resolve in beating this game is admirable. Yes, I do remember also "wasting" so many hours on hard-love games back in the day, but I don't think I could do it nowadays. Apparently, the ADD of the millennials is also creeping into me.

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  11. Hey Chet, thanks for inspiring me to play this game, I'm enjoying it a lot. Playing now sort of regularly since a week or two and still in starter area bumping between first two cities getting my party going.
    I did not entirely stop reading your posts about Fate but I do try and avoid spoilers and just get some general idea of how your playthrough progresses because it's too much fun to read. And many of the tips are welcome. That said, I'm trying to do it mostly without spoilers/too much advice, it's fun to figure this game out.
    I hope you can keep this blog going. I never posted before but I actually been reading your blog since your first posts when I still thought "Cool idea, but he won't make it far with this blog." 6 years later and I have to thank you. You're doing a great job and I'm looking forward to reading more about the history of my favorite genre of games!

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    1. Are you really Winwood from the game?

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  12. "a "ticket inspector" periodically shows up and kills you if you don't have a ticket" A: Good day sir, may I see your ticket, please? B: I'm sorry, i dont have one. I was in a hurry and... A: Whaaat??!! You bastard !!! You will not get away with this!!! *takes a crossbow and shoots a dart right through his B's heart* C: Yeaaah, good job, he deserved it! Not buying tickets, ha!

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    1. D: He's such a racist. That other guy, who was a Moron, only got his arm torn off.

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  13. Wow, this game really is an epic achievement... It doesn't even seem to be half over 78 hours in! Really enjoying reading about it, Chet, so thanks again.

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  14. I really like the Cave Train; far too RPGs feature public transportation.

    It is unfortunate that it is not possible to just sit and watch the scenery go by, e.g. the Deling City bus ride in Final Fantasy VIII.

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  15. Commenter "The Provost," in a comment I accidentally deleted, said:

    *****

    This game has to be one of the most ambitious I've ever seen pre-CD-ROM era. Then again, a lot of the game seems to be stretched out for the sake of making it longer. Still, it's quite impressive. I'll have to look into this next time I have my Amiga going.

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    1. BTW any chance you'll get back to Wizard's Crown or is that one permanently out? I've had an odd fascination with WC and Eternal Dagger since I got them as a kid in the bargain bin. They were a bit over my head as a 10 year old, but I keep meaning to pick them up again now that I'm an adult.

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    2. Yes, there's a chance. Probably before I blog about TED, I'll give WC another shot.

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    3. I so hope you do, Wizard's Crown is the next game on my list love to Here more from you on it.

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    4. I'd love to see the end of Eternal Dagger. I was so close to finishing it as a kid, and then my only save got corrupted. I was so frustrated that I never tried again.

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  16. Well done, nice progress but still at the beginning of the game :-D (maybe 15%-20%)

    Actually i am not so sure that cavetrain is a faster way of travelling around the world. Well it is if you do not know the world but after some time it is faster to travell by foot. But you have to remember some points and crossroads and after some time you will be well oriented just by your memory (i was after some 10-15 hours of walking around the world). Running from one side to another will take you just a few minutes if you "know the way".And remember - many squares of the whole world map are ocean (or sea?).

    Cassida - there is a gulid training +3 Magic Power skill/ability, i recommend you to spend here as many training points as you can. I trained MP of all my mages to 200.
    You will free this cursed city later, focus on city Valvice first.

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  17. "Also, a "ticket inspector" periodically shows up and kills you if you don't have a ticket."

    This really makes me think of the Zepplin scene in Indiana Jones.

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    1. Same thing here, first thing that came to my mind.

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  18. What kind of party puts a 13-year-old girl in danger? A JRPG party!

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    1. Of course. The oldest one in the party should be up front.

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  19. To my fellow gamers there: does this game win the title of World's Longest Computer Game? What do you think?

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    1. Eador is an rpg/strategy hybrid. The campaign is kind of like playing 50 games of Civilization. Depending on the way you play, you could easily put several hundred hours into your first playthrough.

      But as with all games of such length, there is a lot of unnecessary padding.

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    2. A completionist run through the BG saga can be >200 hours as well. Big difference is that the main quest can be done much faster and a lot of content is optional whereas here it seems to be a huge main quest. Plus from my understanding you loose a lot of time with the NPC interactions which you don't want to skip at least as long as they raise attributes (plus for the hints of course).

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    3. Most of the padding here is the need for mapping on graph paper, and the need to step on every square to find out if there's anything there. With maps and walkthrough Fate is a 50 hour game, still long but not truly humongous.

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    4. Maybe "the longest non-procedurally generated RPG" (there are games you can play forever - like Football manager, geez i hate that game :D)

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    5. Eador also has multiple endings, you'd have to play the campaign several times to see them all. Excellent game by the way (the original, not the remake)

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    6. if you're counting strategy hybrids i'm pretty sure Heroes III with its 15+ campaigns would win =p

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  20. Years from now we will tell our children about The Before Times, when CRPG Addict had not yet begun to play Fate. They will not understand - all they will know of life is Fate posts.

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  21. I'm loving reading about this game. I had never heard of it before, and it just sounds fascinating. A real lost gem, a failed masterpiece.

    Oh, and I like the alphabetic titles too - they're amusing - but I'm surprised you didn't go for a Steve Winwood theme. He has enough hits to get you through this game, but on second thought, maybe not.

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  22. While I was thinking you seemed really bummed out about Fate I'm glad you stuck with it, you seem to be hitting your grove. You've inspired me enough that I'm adding it to my list despite the fear you've put in me about Amiga.Adding disciples of steel too, you've introduced me to a lot of cool games.

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  23. Thanks for the Mitch Hedberg clip, by the way. Miss that guy.

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    1. Like so many public figures, his death was 100% tragic and 100% foreseeable. I don't know how some of his fans can quote his, "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too" joke. It's too sad now.

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    2. I probably come across a broken escalator once a month, no jokes. Some aspects of this city are kinda budget. The escalator aspects in particular.

      Every time I walk on a broken escalator I imagine Mitch saying: "Escalators temporarily stairs, sorry for the convenience"

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    3. See also Harris Wittels. I remember listening to his interview with Marc Maron a few years back where he casually discussed taking pain meds recreationally, putting him on a path that's unfortunately all too common these days. Something uniquely tragic about losing one of a kind hilarious individuals like that too soon.

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  24. I love these last few posts!

    Fate and Knightmare were two games that I really wanted to play on Amiga back in the day, and dismissed quickly, in recent years, because I could not get into their gameplay early on. (Same happened with Captive, now I get why, seeing how Knightmare shares its devs).

    Fate simply amazes me. Your playthrough is displaying a complex and fascinating game I never imagine, beyond the lush graphics (of the era).

    And I wonder how in the world the developers back then could design and manage such complexity of story and mechanics, (the quest where you must keep a character pure to access an area, or the time based quests, the advancement system are exemplar) in a time when the various githubs and task management platforms didn't even exist.

    Just the graphic assets: with this many different things required, you have to plan carefully what you need and schedule accordingly. In the early nineties.

    I understand it's not rocket science, still, it's just amzing to me.

    So Chet, thank you very much for this!

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  25. Another nice one addict! I have to admit that I started reading your blog about 3 months ago and living vicariously through your playing of the oldies from my childhood... wish I had some time to go back and revisit myself. Now though, I seem to have withdrawal when you go more than a couple of days without an update! I think your Fate is that you are going be spending plenty more time on Fate!

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