Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Addendum: Les Templiers d'Orven

Some pirates in the second scenario mercilessly beat on my weakest character until he's dead.
The comments in my first post on Les Templiers d'Orven, plus the manual that commenter Loic Daneels graciously provided, paint a picture of a slightly more complex game than it presented at the outset. The dungeon that I explored and mapped in my first entry, "The Ultimate Dungeon," is in fact the most boring of the four scenarios in the game, intended simply to give the player an exposure to Dungeons & Dragons-style gameplay. The manual explicitly mentions D&D, apparently not as worried about lawsuits a continent away.
The manual has an interesting cover, but it's all text inside.
The other three seem to have a theme and a quest. "The Citadel of Madonas" has been infested with pirates, and the players are meant to find the enemy that has a special idol, which confers some kind of special power. "The Caverns of Xand" are supposed to be a newly-discovered hole in the Earth in which the gods of old are buried; the quest seems to involve defeating some of the more deadly creatures from Greek mythology. 

"The Guardians of Knowledge" draws themes from A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996), which also inspired elements in the later Wasteland. Before regressing to savagery, the inhabitants of this land locked their knowledge in a vault and set an automaton to guard it. The automaton will destroy anyone who doesn't prove that he's capable and worthy of assuming the knowledge and spreading it. Providing such proof means outwitting the automaton's series of traps.

The scenarios seemed interesting enough that I was motivated to give the game another chance. In a long day that involved re-watching A Game of Thrones, I grinded my characters in "The Ultimate Dungeon" so they could survive the other scenarios. It took me almost 4 hours to get them to Level 3, about halfway to Level 4.

I got sick of typing the characters' full names all the time, so I renamed them to single syllables. I'm not sure anyone noticed, but I had named the originals after the Templar characters in Ivanhoe.
The reamed party fights against plants on the second level.
Leveling up is much like Wizardry, where there's a chance of gaining or losing attributes. The manual notes that once the characters reach Level 12, they can ascend to a prestige class. Scribes can become "geniuses," guides can become "adventurers," warriors step up to "knight," and templars become "grand priests."
Leveling up. I gained concentration, constitution, and agility but lost "observation."
As I earned money, the "coffer" thing became clear. When you purchase new equipment items, they're automatically equipped and the old items get stuffed in the coffers.
After upgrading most of my characters to plate mail, their former cuirasses sit in the coffers.
But even after all those hours of grinding, I got slaughtered when I entered the second scenario. The enemies are too relentless in their concentration on a single character. In most multi-character games, the danger is spread somewhat equally among all the active characters, and the total of each character's hit points effectively serves as a party hit point "pool." If one character gets whacked in one combat, it's likely that another character will bear the brunt in the next one.

Templiers, on the other hand, is very much a "weakest link" sort of game. Whoever has the lowest number of hit points will get picked on mercilessly until he's dead. Healing him with spells only gets you so far, since even at Level 3, the guide only has three "vitality" spells. This means that exploration sessions tend to be quite short, requiring the party to return to the temple and rest even when 5/6 of the party is relatively hale.
The bottom line is that while this game might offer some interesting quests, the hours it would take to grind and succeed in those quests might not be worth it. I could see investing that time if I had an Amstrad CPC in France in 1986. This would be one of only 3 RPGs available to me. But I need to start making up time, and I don't think it's best spent on this title. Seeing what happens as you solve the scenario quests would be great material for a guest post, if anyone wants to offer one.
In the meantime, I'm boosting the GIMLET rating from 19 to 25, reflecting the fact that the game really does have quests, that the encounters seem to get more interesting, and that character development becomes more meaningful later. Otherwise, I'm going to carry it as a loss and move forward.


  1. But I need to start making up time, and I don't think it's best spent on this title.

    Not trying in any way to be difficult (I fully support your decision to move on from this game), but when you talk about making up time, is it relative to some benchmark you're envisioning, or just a general feeling that you've spent too long in the 1980s? I guess I always assumed you had an open-ended "it'll take as long as it takes" attitude.

    Seeing what happens as you solve the scenario quests would be great material for a guest post, if anyone wants to offer one.

    I hope someone rises to this occasion!

    1. I want to get to the point where it is taking me less than a year to cover a year of games. For a while, my excuse was that I was playing Nethack. Then, it was reaching back into the 1980s for the non-DOS games. I have to stop coming up with excuses. The fact is, I keep losing ground every year. I can't keep insisting that I finish every game. I have to pick and choose. This game, although it offers some sense of quests, does not offer enough variance in gameplay to make the ends of those questions worth the time invested.

    2. Next excuses: I'm not doing enough work to support myself; I like spending time with my wife; I need to go to the toilet sometimes.

    3. I've even heard that old CRPG took time to breath before this latest posting... the nerve!

      Getting a year of games played in a calendar year seems like crazy talk!

    4. Addict: If you are interested in my opinion about this, here it is.
      First - I think that in past, especially in early 90ties came out much more CRPG games than let' s say after year 2000 or 2005. Maybe somebody who is bigger expert in this can come with some numbers, to know, if it' s just feeling or not?
      So it' s normal, that play through these "rich" years takes longer.
      Second - again, it can be just my feeling, but I think CRPG let's say after that 2005 are quite well covered on internet, but these early games not. So from my point of view is maybe good to keep your intention "be solely internet authority in them".
      Of course the fact, that more modern games are covered better, doesn't mean I would not like to read something about them from you, because I like your style of writing and your dedication to the cause.
      In short - maybe try to not be pressed by how long takes you to cover one gaming year, it can change. And maybe also you started to have this feeling, because you spent so long time with Fate (about which I don' t have any problem).
      So some humble comment from somebody who is relatively new on your blog.

    5. Some addendum from my side - I wanted to confirm or refute my feeling about the number of published games through the years, so I made some small analyze of your master list. It seems I was right that the peak was between years 1992-95, but after 2000 number doesn´t go so much down, how I felt. Of course I didn´t analyze how many of games will be dismissed from the list from some reasons, but if you would play all the games, number 120 games in some year gives you almost exactly 3 days for one game, which is not possible to catcgh, maybe only if you would apply your six hours rule for each of them :-)
      So it´s natural, that you can´t be able to play one publishing year in one year normal time.
      But don´t be desperate, if year 2007 is not some anomally (like year 1997), the number of games really goes down in time.
      If somebody is interested about my analysis, here it is:

      1975 - 6
      1977 - 2
      1978 - 3
      1979 - 11
      1980 - 14
      1981 - 17
      1982 - 26
      1983 - 32
      1984 - 36
      1985 - 46
      1986 - 49
      1987 - 104
      1988 - 88
      1989 - 115
      1990 - 119
      1991 - 149
      1992 - 162
      1993 - 165
      1994 - 166
      1995 - 167
      1996 - 127
      1997 - 96
      1998 - 117
      1999 - 130
      2000 - 120
      2001 - 121
      2002 - 145
      2003 - 137
      2004 - 121
      2005 - 125
      2006 - 136
      2007 - 107

    6. I posted previously that using the current rate as a guide, we could expect to get to 1997 11 years from now. Getting through one year per year requires roughly doubling the current rate - I can't see that happening without a significant amount of coverage provided by others. I don't imagine Chet want to play 6 hours of a game and then stop every single time; wouldn't be very fulfilling for him or us.

    7. Tristan: Sure, I fully agree. Point of my comment was, that because is "not possible" (without some changes, which would lead to worse, how you say) to get through one year per year, Chet could be more relaxed about the fact that he is every year more and more behind the time.

    8. Tristan: by the way, how did you count current rate of progress? If I divide 245 (number of covered games so far) by 7 (number of years of this blog) I get 35.
      Also first game in 2016 has number 208, first game 2017 is 240.
      Which means for covering one year per year Chet would have to quadruple the current rate.

      ALL: I apologize for "spam", I will try this to be the last comment for this topic from my side.
      Sometimes just something stick in my mind and I try to look on that from many angles.

    9. What will affect the rate in a positive direction is the sheer number of games that fall into the "me-too" category, or are otherwise just too bland to care about.

      Fully documenting a game like Fate isn't really a waste, as it is so different from the standard fare. Likewise, there's no real downside in covering the really good games, even if "everybody" already knows them. Particularly bad games can be worth looking at as a comparison, and there's always amusement watching somebody eviscerate such a thing.

      The legions of bland copycats? Play them long enough to find anything they did special and then chuck them in the bin.

    10. I cannnot imagine the situation in which you will ever cover a year of games in a year of real-time, even if you only played the noteworthy ones to completion.

    11. Although I agree that it's important to see these really obscure games that very few have played or even know about, I think the six hour rule is perfectly adequate to cover a lot of this material, this game being a good example. As satisfying as it is to see "You did it! The necromancer is dead!", it may not be worth 30 hours of mostly monotonous gameplay to reach an ending we can more or less predict. There are going to be obvious exceptions, and I think we'll know them when we see them (who could have predicted Fate's ending??)

    12. @Tygr

      A lot of the games in the master list aren't going to be covered - I ignored the games with an 'N' in the PlayList column. IIRC There were ~380 games between here and Fallout in '97.

    13. Tristan is right. Tygr's count includes console games that I won't be playing. The real number of PC-only games is about 1/3 of the total in each of those years. 1992 has 65, for instance, which will probably shrink to something like 50 after I reject the non-RPGs and the ones we can no longer find and/or play.

      It's still a tall order, no doubt, but one game per week on average is hardly impossible. And even if I don't literally make it, speeding up SOMEWHAT is better than losing as much ground as I've been losing.

      I'm never going to "catch up," of course, but that's not the point. I just don't want to keep losing as much ground. It would be nice if I was blogging, say, 20 years behind the current year instead of 30.

    14. Addict: ok, I understand. Just from curiosity - why do you have these games in your master list, when you know that you will not play them?
      To be sure you will not understand me wrong because of my English - it´s really just a question, I am not bitching or something.

    15. There's some value in documenting all RPGs, whether console or PC, for a variety of purposes. Putting all games in my list makes it easier to answer historical questions about RPGs in general even if I'm not going to play a lot of them.

  2. I like the idea of sub-contracting out the finishing and documenting of these obscure games that take too long, I just hope you get people stepping up. You are going to hit Deathlord in a couple of games which I've heard is "longer than Fate", so might want to employ the same strategy there.

    1. I've played Deathlord. I never quite beat it, but I'd say reached around the 75% mark, and I can say its a decent-sized game. Definitely bigger than many. However, based on the 'Fate' posts, I wouldn't say its anywhere near as long. It is pretty difficult, though. The main issue is simply getting your party to level high enough to survive many of the dungeons and later areas. The reason for this is multifold:
      - Only the killer of an enemy seems to gain experience.
      - Spell points regenerate *very* slowly, so leveling spellcasters is excrutiating.
      - There isn't an experience point total displayed for characters, so you don't know how far a character is from leveling.
      - There are some set enemy encounters, but random encounters are kind of infrequent, so you spend a lot of time simply trying to find something to fight.
      - It costs progressively more and more gold to level characters, and gold isn't exactly abundant. And there is a constant food requirement, which takes gold.
      - Your characters will die. A lot. And the game saves as soon as a character dies. Resurrection sucks up quite a bit of gold.
      - Boats are extremely expensive, and as I recall, finite. You need one to leave the initial continent (obviously). A party wipe returns your party to the initial continent, but your boat doesn't return with you. So, you lose a boat and the associated gold paid for it.

      That said, it has some of the most fiendish dungeons I've ever encountered. There aren't any puzzles per se, but most dungeons are puzzles themselves. Each continent also has a theme, which has a real world equivalent. You start on the 'Japanese' continent, but there are several others.

  3. These games must have been quite popular in their time.
    In France.
    Problem is, most people there tend to believe that their own language is good enough for them, and that it's not necessary to learn english above school level. Good luck finding someone to write a guest article about this game....

    1. Hm, that's a loaded comment if I ever saw one.
      Long story short, having lived both in France & the US and having kids go through school systems in both countries, I beg to differ.
      I personally find a lot of people in France have a very decent grasp of English, but maybe that's just the people I socialize with...

    2. Indeed, I speak perfectly well French & English too, and I'm fond of old crpgs (been a regular reader/commenter since the first year of this blog). I would be happy to help with french games, although right now my schedule wouldn't allow me to take care of this particular one.

    3. Even if what anonymous says is true--and I think he's being a bit broad--I'll happily take a review in French. Translating is trivial compared to playing the game for another 50 hours.

    4. Cool. I can do some Chinese CRPGs from Taiwan. Seeing that I probably make up about 1% of the total Chinese-literate here in your blog readership, I could put in plenty of BS and none would be the wiser.

    5. That would be interesting. Pretty much none of them are translated into English, so I think I've played a grand total of one Chinese RPG in my life, the one Xuanyuan episode that suddenly appeared on Steam out of the blue. Guess it wasn't commercially successful, as nobody seems to be following their example.

    6. Ok, now I DO need to bug Mara to keep reading, even if she isn't that good at reading Chinese.

    7. Oh wow. Mara could call me out for about 75% of BS. But I'm pretty sure you are learning Simplified Chinese and not Traditional Chinese that the Taiwanese use. And I'm proficient in both... muahahaha!

    8. @Zardas
      You'd be surprised just how big the XuanYuan franchise is in the Chinese speaking CRPG community.

      It is basically the 1st CRPG to feature creatures from Classic of Mountain And Seas & Strange Tales of LiaoZhai.

      Its popularity waned but thanks to a hit drama serial in 2005 (based on another CRPG franchise named Chinese Paladin), there was a huge revival of interest in the setting once more.

      It was pretty timely too what with more Chinese female gamers being dragged into previously male-dominated world of RPGs, first by Final Fantasy 8, then mobile game apps.

      Now, XuanYuan and Chinese Paladin have become a staple on the TVs of Chinese households. I blame the actresses being so damn hot.

  4. Great decision. No point in you burning yourself out finishing EVERY game when many don't really warrant it. Personally I'm prefectly happy with you moving on when you feel you've documented a game enough.

  5. Someone needs to code an AI for CRPG grinding. Chet can have it watch him for a bit to learn the pattern and then hand the reigns over for a few hours.

  6. I'd say there is no harm in not doing a year per year. Everyone has their take on Arcanum or Morrowind, no one has documentation of Fate and possible influences it has.

    That said, I don't think there is any harm in saving some games for latter. Think about it: It is 2025. Armed robot overlords...wait, wrong script. You are playing through the 18th Morrowind clone, frustrated with bad polygonal 3D graphics, and terrible framerates. Then you can come back to the simple line graphics of the 80s and go through all the games you didn't cover well the first time, that you skipped like this one, and so on.

  7. Maybe it's a blasphemous notion, but one way to significantly cut down on the time it takes to finish games that rely on a lot of repetitive grinding (such as this one) would be to simply cheat.
    I do realize it's a slippery slope to tread, but in games like this one, I don't really see the harm, and it'd definately be better (imo) than to zip to a premature gimlet and move on to the next game. $0.02 and all.

    1. I've done it before, just to see the end of games I know I'm not going to continue playing. In this case, I don't really know how to cheat. It's easy enough when I'm playing a DOS game and the save file is a unique file in a Windows directory that I can open with a hex editor, harder when the entire disk image is a file, and even harder when the primary mechanism of saving is save states.

      Not to mention, even if I find the right blocks and am able to jack up the statistics, I still have to explore all the dungeon levels and power through the combats (even if they're easy) to find whatever there is to find. There have been games in which I was willing to cheat but still couldn't find the ending.

    2. Aye to that. Even trainer programs aren't updated to cater to modern machines.


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