Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Game 246: Wrath of Denethenor (1986)

    
The Wrath of Denethenor
United States
Independently developed; published by Sierra
Released in 1986 for Apple II and Commodore 64
Date Started: 6 March 2017
Date Ended: 13 March 2017
Total Hours: 26
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: 31
Ranking at Time of Posting: 144/248 (58%)

The Wrath of Denethenor is the most competent Ultima clone that we've seen, perhaps excepting, if we're extending that term to it, Questron. Difficult and complicated, it at times exceeds Ultima I-II, although that might be faint praise for 1986, given what came out in between. It took me long enough to win that I could have squeezed at least 3 entries out of it, but it came up at an odd time where I'd already written and scheduled the next 5 entries, so I didn't need to stretch this one out. That's probably for the best: it's a long game to conquer, but not a lot of plot happens in between.
    
Some scrolling text at the beginning sets up the story.
    
The setup is of the typical "evil wizard" variety. Once, the land of Deledain was in balance, with four island kingdoms--Nisondel, Cestiona, Arveduin, and Mystenor--ruled independently. Then Lord Denethenor of Mystenor (a likely play on The Lord of The Rings' Denethor) started exploring the dark arts and decided he wanted to rule everything. He's sent monsters to flood the neighboring lands, and everyone is terrified. The PC is a young adventurer from Nisondel--so far, the least affected of the kingdoms--who sets out to stop the threat.
    
Approaching the King of Nisondel.
    
There's no character creation except the specification of a name. Every character starts with 5 strength and intelligence, 1000 hit points, 600 stamina, 300 gold, and no items. The game is unique, however, in that information about the character and the world state is written to all four of the game disks. More on the ramifications of this in a bit.
     
Character creation.
    
All commands are delivered by a single key, such as (C)onverse, (H)oist anchor, (O)pen door, and (R)est. Movement is with the IJKM cluster.

Each of the four kingdoms is an island, or series of islands, and the game starts on Nisondel. The monsters are easiest here, and the towns are completely safe. Each kingdom has its own map, and each map (nonsensically) wraps around on itself, as do the dungeon maps. There are multiple dungeons in the game, although some of them are completely optional.
    
Working my way through a dungeon.
    
In its opening stages, the game will seem very familiar to anyone who's played Ultima II. Monsters spawn all around the land and sometimes stack up behind mountains or on peninsulas where their pathfinding is poor. Combat is a little more complex than Ultima--instead of just hitting (A)ttack, you hit TAB (CTRL on the Commodore) and the direction you want to attack, then specify a high, level, or low attack. These options don't really add anything to the combat except force you to pay attention whether you're facing a regular creature, a small creature, or a flying creature.
     
Grinding for gold and items against a line of monsters while more wait behind the mountains.
   
When the creature dies, it sometimes delivers gold, sometimes one of the special items you need to cast spells. Anyone who remembers mowing down rogues and guards hoping to find blue tassels, keys, and powder will have a similar experience here, killing monsters to find torches, scrolls, pendants, charms, and silver powder. There is otherwise no experience or leveling in the game, and thus no reason to kill things except that they're trying to kill you.

Equipment is pretty basic. There are maybe 8 weapons, ranging in quality from whip to rapier, which adjust your strength up to a maximum of 30. There's no creative swapping of weapons here; when you hit (E)quip, you just get the best one. Armor comes only in four types, cloaks to plate, and simply absorbs a fixed number of damage points.
     
Equipping the "best items" later in the game.
     
Denethenor's somewhat odd approach doesn't become fully clear until you've played it for a while. Hit points, the most important resource of any other game, are worth virtually nothing here. The character needs only to find some safe corner and rest indefinitely to earn up to 9,999 of them. The far greater danger, just like the early Ultima games, is starving to death. A "stamina" score is boosted by food and depleted with every action and with every spell cast.

Since food costs money--as does equipment--the primary mechanism of gameplay is to get as rich as possible. You can try to do that by grinding against enemies, but they deliver paltry amounts of gold. To really bulk up your resources, you need to find treasure chests. Dungeons have them, and they regenerate slowly over time, but the best way--the way that the game seems tailor-made to support--is burglarizing them in towns and castles, just like in Ultima III.
     
Taking those chests is going to involve killing 3 guards and casting at least two instances of RESONIM--but there are enough of them to be worth it.
    
There are a couple of twists to this thievery. First, some chests are behind locked doors and energy fields, and when all is said and done, you might find that you've expended more in stamina and items than you made via the chests. Second, stealing turns the chest owners and guards hostile. Unlike Ultima II--where you could steal, kill some guards, flee town, and re-enter to find everyone alive again--NPC deaths in Denethenor are permanent and saved to the game state. Kill a shopkeeper and you'll never be able to buy what he's selling again. Kill a random NPC and you'd better hope that you got his clue first. Thus, to make the most out of theivery, you really have to study the map, figure out the best means of entry and escape, and calculate the risk/reward ratio.
    
A guard is prophetic.
    
Once you have the best equipment, the need for gold becomes less acute--food isn't that expensive--and you can give up the life of crime, but I rather found these opening stages the most interesting of the game.

The outdoor and indoor terrain will again be familiar to an Ultima player--including impassable mountains, water, store counters, locked and unlocked doors, shop names spelled out in large letters read from above, hidden areas in each town where you find key NPCs, and ships that you need to steal. NPC dialogue is also the same: NPCs have only one line, and most of them say generic things like "Having a nice day?" or (for guards), "Behave yourself!" A few key NPCs have major hints, and chief among these are the words of power that you need to speak to cast the game's 10 spells, which are more like puzzle-solving devices than traditional combat spells.
     
An NPC gives a clue as to the location of a spell.
     
Some major differences become clear after a few hours. First, the lands and cities of Denethenor are much larger than any Ultima or Questron game. I might even say that they're too large. They exhausted me a bit. Each land has islands and peninsulas cut off from the mainland, and you have to find your way around with "dimension doors," multiple dungeon entrances and exits, and (when you can find them) ships.

Second, dungeons are still top-down rather than first-person. To navigate them, you have to have been told the TULICANRE spell and have a supply of torches on which to cast the enchantment. They're full of traps (there's a "disarm" option, but I found it usually fails), treasures, and complex twisty passages. Like the lands and towns, some of them are simply enormous and require multiple hours to fully explore.
     
The mapping spell helps figure out a complex dungeon.
     
Third, the game is fairly linear. You basically progress from Nisondel to Cestiona to Arveduin to the Isles of Bregalad to Mystenor, in that order, and even within the individual maps, you often have to follow an exact path through mountains, dungeons, towns, water, and dimension doors to find your way to the next map. This makes it particularly hard towards the endgame because you lack opportunities to easily backtrack for food and supplies. The shops are very inconsistent. The best weapon (the rapier) can only be purchased on the first map, and the first town you encounter, Backwoods, has the only location where you can sell excess inventory. There isn't necessarily a food shop in every town.

Thematically, the progression of lands is fun to experience. The first three kingdoms have kings in their castles who give you 10 point boosts to intelligence. The ruler of Cestiona even gives you a side-quest to find some hemlock. Monsters get progressively harder, and by the fourth map, they're even showing up in towns. There's one town that's completely overrun by monsters, with all the shops smashed and empty, and you find the townsfolk living underground, voluntarily sacrificing themselves into a volcano to keep the orcs at bay. (This "town" is the only place where you can actually purchase spell reagents.)
    
An underground town is menaced by orcs.
    
One by one, from exhaustively talking to NPCs, you get the game's 10 spells. As I said, most of them are for navigation and puzzle-solving. SPECERE makes a map; TULICANRE lights a torch; NETRELON lets you pass locked doors; and RESONIM dispels energy fields temporarily.
    
SPECERE helps you figure your location in the large overworld.
    
A couple other useful ones are a "time stop" spell called MONSROL that lets you run past monsters, and an invisibility spell called INSLERETE. Late in the game you get spells that damage or destroy enemies, but by then stamina is so precious it seems irresponsible to waste 50 points casting, say, a LETHREN (fireball). The earliest spells all require an item to cast: a scroll for SPECERE, a torch for TULICANRE, a charm for NETRELON, and so forth. But about half of the spells--including the vital RESONIM--don't require anything.

The game does some interesting things with its disks to minimize swapping. All of the towns, lands, and dungeons in one area will be on one disk so you only really have to swap when you (rarely) move between lands. Moreover, as you do move between lands the game saves the changes you've made to them (e.g., chests plundered, NPCs killed). When you go to save the character, the game just saves him on whatever disk is active. When you quit and reload, the game has to do some scouting of the disks sometimes to find the character file.
     
The game occasionally shows a sense of humor.
     
One unwelcome element is the day/night cycle. Such a concept is hardly new to Denethenor, but what is unusual here is the length of the cycles. It takes 5 game actions for 1 minute to pass, so a whopping 3,600 actions make up a 12-hour cycle. At 19:00, the world starts growing darker and doesn't get fully light again for 3,600 more actions. This makes outdoor and town exploration difficult without wasting a lot of torches (which don't fully light up the area anyway). And you can't just sleep away the time: the (R)est command does nothing more than pass the turns in place as if you were holding down the SPACE bar. It also depletes precious stamina.
   
I'm just going to have to live with this for a while.
    
Other minor notes:

  • Enemies can blunder into traps, get hit by each others' spells and ranged attacks, and get caught when dispelled energy fields turn back on. That's always fun.
  • Hit points regenerate as you walk and rest outside or in dungeons. They do not regenerate in towns.
  • After you cast a spell, a little meter takes a few rounds to recharge before you can cast again. This has major consequences towards the end of the game.
  • Some of the dungeons are completely dark--torches don't work--and you have to navigate with the SPECERE spell or by feeling your way.
  • Some of the towns have banks, but you can't actually do anything with them except, I suppose, rob them.
    
And how often do kings wander into town?
    
  • Enemy wizards have a highly-original attack by which they send you flying away from them until you hit an impassable object. Outdoors, they can send you shooting across an entire continent until you slam into a mountain range.
  • There's a unique creature here called a terrahydra which originates in the sea but can climb up and attack you on land; it has a different icon for each location. I think all of Ultima's creatures are land- or sea-only.
  • Enemies can attack and move on the diagonal, but the character can only move and attack in the four cardinal directions.
  • When you're in a ship, you attack with ships' cannons, but you don't get any gold or items from the kills.
    
Attacking a "terrahydra" from a ship.
    
To win the game, I had to find the right paths, ladders, and doors through the continents to the final land of Mystenor. I had to look up a hint at one point when I couldn't find a way forward; it turned out I needed to visit a particular city during the midnight hour to find the teleporter (I must have missed a hint).
   
Actually, it turns out that I screen-shot the hint. I just didn't remember it.
    
Very late in the game, I found the hemlock that the king of Cestiona wanted. But by the time I found it, I couldn't figure out how to easily get back to the king. I never turned in this quest. The developer later told me that if I had, I would have received a significant boost to my intelligence, which would have made the endgame much easier.

Eventually, my ship came upon an island with Castle Denetheor. It was surrounded by energy fields that I had to dispel with a RESONIM. As I entered, I expected combats, but instead I found friendly guards and NPCs who said things like, "Someday, the truth will be revealed and Mirrih dethroned" and "the other Lords of Deledain are just jealous." Denethenor, sitting on his throne, greeted me with a friendly, "Live long, friend." I thought the game was setting me up for a plot twist, but I didn't know how to act on it, so I decided to try to kill Denethenor to see what happened.
    
The nicest villain ever.
    
He died in about 2 hits. When I stepped where his throne had been, the entire castle and its NPCs were revealed as an illusion. The facade disappeared and I was standing in a crumbling ruin next to a message that said "UrenDuirEsex." 
    
"Ruined ur sex?"
    
A teleporter outside the castle took me to the real Castle Denethenor, where I had to solve an underground dungeon maze to emerge in the castle proper. There were about one billion demons in the castle, and by this point in the game I was mostly using MOSROL to stop time and run past them. There were also a few locations where something killed me in a single hit, and I could only pass with the INSLERETE invisibility spell. Lots of doors that required NETRELON and lots of magical force fields, too. A player could easily reach this point and find himself in a "walking dead" situation because he didn't have enough spell reagents.
    
The final castle offered some challenges.
    
Denethenor's throne room was in the northern part of the fortress, and every time I tried to approach from the obvious way, he spotted me (even with invisibility active) and sent a legion of demons to kill me. (Apparently, some NPC dialogue that I missed warned not to approach from the west.)
    
    
Through exploration, trial, and error, I found an alternate route. A secret passage from a southern room led to the outer walls. It ultimately became clear that I needed to traverse these outer walls and sneak up on Denethenor from behind. The problem was, the interior of the walls was filled with magic energy fields. I could dispel them with RESONIM, but the spell is temporary, and I didn't have enough time to reach safe spots within the walls before the fields came back on and started frying me, directly damaging both stamina and health. Because you can't cast another spell for maybe a dozen rounds, I had to sit there in the fields, taking constant damage, until the game let me cast again. (Again, if I'd solved the hemlock quest, the time between castings would have been reduced and the duration of the spell would have been lengthened.)
    
This is the worst plan ever.
   
It became clear that I simply didn't have enough hit points and health to proceed, so I had to reload an earlier save, buy plenty of food, rest a lot to get my hit points up, and re-do a bunch of the game to try again. This time, I had enough resources to survive, and I was able to enter Denethenor's chambers. He was surrounded by force fields, but another RESONIM got rid of them. However, when I approached him, he spotted me when I was one square away.
    
Okay, seriously. Stop calling me a fool.
     
Reloading yet again, I found that I could approach him if I had INSLERETE active. I couldn't attack him--the game insisted that no one was there--but the magic word learned in the fake castle somehow brought about his doom.
    
I defeat the big bad by sneaking up on him and whispering something about sex.
     
The ending was reasonably satisfying. Denethenor died and his castle shook and was fractured. This was accompanied by about 5 constant minutes of cacophonous sound.

Denethenor was apparently a "load-bearing boss."
    
The game said that I woke up in an unfamiliar place. Before I could take any action, it simply gave me a winning screen.
      
Yes, where am I, exactly? This is going to bother me.
     
As okay as the ending was, it fell short of expectations. One of the reasons I forced myself to finish the game--and it really was an effort during the last 10 hours or so--was that a contemporary review promised a mind-blowing ending. "The grand finale is a masterpiece of programming," it said. I was expecting a Questron-level epilogue and really looked forward to writing about it. Later, I realized that this glowing review came from Sierra's own magazine.

In a GIMLET, The Wrath of Denethenor earns:

  • 4 points for the gameworld. The story is derivative, but it does a good job of matching game elements with the backstory, offering areas not seen in typical Ultima games (e.g., a lunatic asylum), and achieving a persistence with the game world.
     
Talking to a NPC in the insane asylum.
     
  • 1 point for character creation and development. Unfortunately, there's hardly any of either. It barely qualifies as an RPG in this sense.
     
You get strength boosts from equipping better weapons; you get intelligence boosts by talking to regional kings.
    
  • 3 points for NPC interaction. Just one-line monologues, but still more than some games of the time were offering.

An NPC gives the location of a key teleporter.
     
  • 3 points for encounters and foes. The original slate of monsters, well-described in the manual, offers a few new and innovative things in their special attacks.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. Most of that goes to the way magic is used to solve navigation puzzles. There are really no combat options at all.
  • 2 points for a minimalist approach to equipment.
  • 5 points for the economy. The strongest part of the game, and one of the few games that truly rewards a life of crime versus more banal monster-slaying.
    
Money never runs out of value.
    
  • 4 points for a main quest with a few stages, one side quest, and a few optional areas and dungeons.
    
I do wonder what this side quest would have gotten me.
   
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. Graphics and sound are only okay, but any interface that just requires me to memorize a few intuitive letters always gets a high score from me.
  • 2 points for gameplay. Alas, Denethenor is just a little too large, linear, hard, and long.
            
The final score of 31 is higher than I've rated any Ultima clone, including Ring of Darkness (25), Vampyr (28), and Legend of Lothian (23), although (again) not Questron (32). It's even higher than I rated Ultima II (21). There was some really good work here, marred primarily by size, length, and inability to shortcut certain areas.
   

Scorpia reviewed Denethenor in the May 1987 Computer Gaming World and mostly offered the same opinions that I did. She comments on its clear similarity to the first two Ultimas and says although it is "well-crafted," it "offers nothing fresh to the RPG genre." To be fair, she also notes that the game only sold for $20 in an era when the more common price was $40 or $50.

Denethenor was programmed by Christopher Crim with graphics by Kevin Christiansen. An acknowledgement in the manual suggests that the two friends went to high school together in Bishop, California and began working on the game before graduation. It was finished while Crim was halfway through his bachelor's degree in computer science at the University of California at Irvine. Crim would go on to spend his career at Filemaker, Inc. (formerly Claris). He is now at least semi-retired. We corresponded a bit last week. He acknowledges the game's debt to Ultima and says he wanted to improve on the size and complexity of the geography, which he clearly did. Having read a draft of my review, he notes that I missed a lot of clues and some beneficial side-areas and seemed surprised that I was able to win anyway.

This was the first RPG that Sierra published after losing the Ultima series in 1983. I like to think that while they enjoyed the game, the prospect of annoying Richard Garriott must have been at least a secondary consideration in their decision to publish it.

With this review completed, we've hit the end of 1986 for the second time. There's not much chance that any of the games I've played since August are going to unseat Starflight as "Game of the Year," although we do perhaps need to have a discussion about why I chose Starflight over Might & Magic. Either way, expect a transition posting coming up.

38 comments:

  1. Although it was a speedy review I really enjoyed reading this. I didn't play this one at the time but really got the flavour having put tons of time into the Ultimas Well done.

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  2. I love your blog! Always so in depth and insightful. It sounds cheesy but your posts are always a highlight of my day. I really appreciate your work and hope things are going well for you.

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    1. Loved the Adahn callback in tides of numenera!

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  3. I was really looking forward to this review. My aunt bought me Wrath of Denethenor for Christmas back in 86'(I think) when she wasn't able to find Ultima 4. Although initially disappointed (since I'd never heard of this game), I booted it up the next day to give it a chance. I ended up playing almost straight through for the next two days and completed it. I really enjoyed it at the time. I know it's no Ultima 4, but it ended up being one of my favorite gaming memories.
    The funny thing is while I did play some of U4 on a fiends computer months later, I never played it to completion until about 3 years ago. Even after all these years U4 is still an excellent CRPG.

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  4. "And you can't just sleep away the time: the (R)est command does nothing more than pass the turns in place as if you were holding down the SPACE bar. It also depletes precious stamina."

    So, sleeping makes you somehow more exhausted...

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  5. In emphasising the things that are unique about this game, you make it sound a little better than your Gimlet suggests. (So I suppose it's a good thing we have the Gimlet too.)

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  6. Is this the first time cooldowns have been used in combat? I'm curious as to your take on the modern prevalence of cooldowns in many CRPGs nowadays. Being an old school fart, there's something about it that sticks in my craw.

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    1. Cooldown is one of the tools to curb Nuke-Spams (repeated & quick usage of ultra-powerful spells/abilities) in games where either resource is plentiful or there's no resource that need to be applied for the Nuke.

      Uses/day is probably the 1st occurrence of a cooldown timer where the cooldown period is 24hrs.

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  7. My guess is you have already written the 1986 closure post and I'm a bit sad that we didn't get to cover one of the most important RPGs of the year, although only marginally connected to your real cRPG quest:

    Dragon Quest was released for the MSX in 1986 (in addition to the Famicom). There was a partial English localization of the game but the website that hosted it is down and I neglected to snag a copy before the forum went down. It's probably survived somewhere on the internet but if it has I can't find it. (Anyone want to test their Googling, it was localized by a French programmer called "Django" and so is often tagged with that.)

    You can see a brief Youtube of the translated game in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n6LmPV00UA

    Even if that is found, I have no idea how good the localization is so it may not have been playable anyway.

    Onward to 1987!

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    1. It looks almost identical to Dragon Warrior for the NES which is in english. Is there a difference between the two?

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    2. To my knowledge, not much. The MSX2 version of Dragon Quest is based on the Famicom version and it uses a password system instead of saved games. The MSX version also had somewhat inferior graphics since the system didn't have smooth scrolling like the NES.

      But the real difference is that the MSX version is a "computer RPG" and the NES/Famicom version is a "console RPG". That's why I was so hoping Addict would play the MSX version since it's such a major milestone in console RPGs and it just seemed to barely qualify as a game he would play.

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  8. "Outdoors, they can send you shooting across an entire continent until you slam into a mountain range."

    I'm curious what happens when this is cast with the player between a wizard and the seashore - inexpensive, sequence-breaking inter-kingdom transportation?

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    1. He said that the maps wrap around on themselves, so maybe you end sent back to the same wizard that can now push you back in the other direction.
      Potentially, that wizard could be able to play "tennis for one" with your character.

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  9. This backlog stuff is really boring. I can't wait to see all the cool games in 1992, but unfortunately that seems to be very far in the future. :-)

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    1. I couldn't disagree more. Like Richard below, I love the coverage of these lesser-known games -- it's probably my favorite part of the Addict's blog -- and the 1980s games are especially interesting to me. Once we get past 1994 or 1995, I'm expecting to sadly lose some of my interest as the aesthetics of the games becomes more and more like modern titles (and the number of platforms becomes fewer and fewer until only DOS/Windows and a bit of Mac are left) -- so I'm enjoying this era while it lasts.

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    2. +1, this stuff is great. Begone, anonymous internet scum!

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    3. I read this for the weird, the obscure and the forgotten. UHD rest of the internet has all the mainstream modern titles covered already!

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    4. There is a part of this blog's audience who wants nothing more than to see our host review the big games that they know. Somehow this lets them relive the experience? I dunno.

      There is another part of the audience that overlaps with the previous part which wants him to play the big famous games so they can drop spoilers in the comments. Evidently some people just find that irresistible. Remember how they spoiled the big twist of the Diabolical Demon Director in Chaos Strikes Back?

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    5. Maybe all games should be a single post to avoid spoilers. ;)

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    6. Would be a long time between posts for some games than.

      Anyway I love the bug games to get another persons opinion that I respect but it's these forgotten gems(or sometimes less than gems) that make this blog shine to be one of my favorite things on the internet.

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    7. There is a part of this blog's audience who wants nothing more than to see our host review the big games that they know. Somehow this lets them relive the experience? I dunno.

      I think it's a tribalism thing -- not just a desire to experience belonging through touchstones of shared culture, but a desire to signal tribal affiliation through liking and celebrating These Things and disdaining and ignoring These Other Things.

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    8. About spoilers. I think good defends against this behave are we, readers. We could always warn Chet about comments like that in first place.

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  10. I really love all the lesser known games. It helps to understand a more popular game in its context, and occasionally there are really good games that are left out if you go through the highlights only.

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  11. Then Lord Denethenor of Mystenor (a likely play on The Lord of The Rings' Denethor)

    Just don't tell his sons, Boromorir and Faramarir, or he'll throw one of them on a pyryryre. As the Dororoors sang, "And our lovolove become a funerenal pyryryre..."

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    1. Maybe he was piss drunk when he told the designers his name. "You fofools! *HIC* IIIII am th' great Deneth *HIC* enor!"

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  12. Don't worry about the single update for this one. You've done effin' more than most have bringing this forgotten gem to the internet's attention.

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  13. Clearly, you didn't have the volume turned all the way up!

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  14. This was quite fascinating. The condensed form might have highlighted the game's more interesting qualities, making it sound pretty cool indeed.

    It looks like the Martian Dreams summary traveled back in time to get posted before this one..

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  15. There's some interesting history behind Sierra's release of this. They had noticed the increasing popularity of CRPGs as the mid 80s rolled on, and I think did indeed want their own "Ultima killer" by this time. They had originally planned a very ambitious multi-party, epic length title called Towers of Seven, but it seems they bit off more than they could chew, and it was quietly cancelled after a few months in development. Around this time, they were also in negotiations to localize and release The Black Onyx for the US market, but this also ended up falling through. So it seems that they ended up buying this more straightforward but already completed game from these young local coders and offering it at a discount price in order to move enough product to make it worth their while. One can surmise that this whole experience may have soured them on trying to compete in the RPG market and sent them retreating back to their native Adventure scene for a while.

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  16. Hi Chet.

    I think that I have found obscure Ultima clone game for Amiga that is not on your master list.

    Its name is Antepenult, according to Aminet, versions 1.1 is from 1992.

    http://aminet.net/package/game/role/antep

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    1. I'll add it, but one of these days we're going to have to revisit my "no shareware games unless _______ " idea.

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    2. I don't know about that, RPGs aren't exactly a common shareware genre, and think about it: It'll be 1995, you'll be doing yet another big, isometric RPG, won't it be nice to find some tiny DOS shareware gem with wireframe graphics to return to?

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  17. This is the kind of interesting semi-obscurity I love reading this blog for. Fairly plain, but it sounds like it was basically well-executed.

    As I recall that you're not a Tolkien reader, I'll add that in addition to "Denethenor," several of the other proper names here are VERY Rings-derived: Nisondel, Arveduin, and Deledain are all Tolkien words with syllables swapped in and out, and Bregalad is an alternate name for one of the Ents. ("Breg-" and "-lad" are also common enough Tolkien-y phonemes, so they might as well have come up with that one through the column A, column B approach.) Perhaps that makes it more derivative, but as with some other titles we've encountered here, there's something about it being the work of high school seniors and college freshmen where that becomes not only forgivable, but part of the thing's charm. God knows I came up with some derivative ideas for computer game plots in those years - of COURSE you'd sprinkle a bunch of pidgin Tolkienese into your ersatz Ultima!

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    1. That's interesting. I Googled the literal words and didn't find anything not related to the game. I should have realized he would have made minor changes, just like "Denethenor."

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  18. "Ruined ur sex?"

    I'm really glad I'm not the only one who saw that.

    Sierra's magazine, InterAction, was a glorious staple of my childhood alongside Nintendo Power. Their write-up of Sierra's MMO, The Realm, is what shifted me from being mostly a console gamer to the PC.

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  19. I kind of like the end game in the way that you didn't train yourself to godlike power to confont the arch evil, but you have to sneak up on him and (basically) assassinate him, because he is still far stronger than you.
    It always requires a bt of suspension of disbelief if you are actually able to grind yourself to the same level as the end boss. I mean, what is he doing all the time?

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  20. In the screenshot where you defeat the baddie, you misspell the magic word (missing "e" between "duir" and "sex"). Did it work regardless?

    Regarding land/water monsters, I vaguely recall encountering daemons in Ultima IV navigating both, though with no change in the visuals. May be a wrong memory, though.

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  21. I think I was about 12 or 13 when I tried this game, and I found it impossible to make much headway. I finished Ultima III and IV, but never made it farther than the first island here. This game has fascinated me ever since, because I wondered what I missed, or even if the copy I had was bugged (unlike many games, I bought this one). Could you speak to the difficulty getting started? I think the stamina thing made it difficult to survive for long and I gave up before I figured things out. Anyway, great review, and thanks for showing me what I missed. I I've been waiting for this review since I found your blog.

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