Monday, June 12, 2017

Time Horn: Summary and Rating

Some of the missions involved defeating a "black master."
Time Horn: Il Corno del Tempo
Lindasoft (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for Amiga
Date Started:  1 June 2017
Date Ended: 10 June 2017
Total Hours: 9
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: 29
Ranking at Time of Posting: 136/253 (54%)
Ranking at Game #457: 267/457 (58%)
This will be the first time that I wrap up a game based on the experiences of a commenter, but Zardas did such a good job filling in the next stages of the game that I feel like it would simply be a waste of time if I did it myself. He also cheated to give himself invincibility and unlimited movement, so it would have taken me 10 times as long just to arrive at the same conclusion.
I had the hardest time even getting this screen.
I did play a little more on my own, but I continued to have problems that even Zardas didn't seem to experience, including characters who "died exhausted" no matter how much food and water I gave them and an inability to get out of the mission even after achieving its goal and returning to the starting location to end my turn. Also, the documentation never turned up to explain exactly why we were on these various missions in the first place.

The primary reason, of course, for declining to experience the rest of the game myself is Zardas's report that the final mission crashes with an error message. I realize this sort of thing happens under certain circumstances that I might not have experienced, but I still wasn't going to risk wasting that kind of time on a game that I probably wouldn't be able to complete.
Not the kind of thing you want to see after completing 15 missions.
Based on what we know about the game so far, I give it:

  • 3 points for a short backstory that does an adequate job setting up the adventures to come. If the manual ever turns up, I may decide it deserves more here.
Mordred begins to make a name for himself. Funny how this is in English.
  • 2 points for character creation and development. There's no creation at all, and based on Zardas's reports, the max of 5 levels per class offers fairly limited development without much sense of growing really stronger, except perhaps in spells. This is faintly understandable, because there's a decent chance that Mordred will lose one or more allies per mission and have to recruit them anew at Level 1. So those Level 1 characters can't be entirely worthless, even late in the game.
  • 2 points for NPCs. There are no NPCs to talk to, but there are some who will join the party--up to 5 per mission, if you can afford it. There are various strengths and weaknesses among these characters.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. There seem to be a large variety of monster types capable of various offensive attacks, ranged attacks, and magic, each requiring a slightly different strategy. The missions also offer some minor puzzles and traps. This category might get an extra point if it turns out the documentation describes each foe in detail.
Enemies crowd and paralyze our hero.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. I thought the combat system needed a few more options. The only real tactics for fighters are associated with the use of the environment and strategic use of movement points so you don't end up in a weak position. Both of these are complicated by the enemy's ability to see you before you can see him. Spellcasters have more options, including some impressive summoning and mass-damage spells.
  • 2 points for equipment. According to Zardas, there were no upgrades after the initial purchases.
  • 4 points for the economy. You need the money from the quests to re-hire slain NPCs, re-stock on food and water, and upgrade magic abilities. A player who scummed his way along and never lost an NPC would probably find himself overburdened with cash before the end.
Mordred is rewarded for completing a mission.
  • 3 points for the quests. You have to complete 15 missions before engaging in the final mission to overcome the Occult Master, and we don't know what that ending looks like. If it turns out there were choices or role-playing decisions, it might earn some more points. The individual missions follow a predictable pattern of 2 item fetches and 1 assault on a heavily-fortified stronghold to kill a key enemy.
Modred slays one of the sub-bosses and retrieves the "om key" needed to open the temple.
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. I find the graphics and sound to be very serviceable, but I had constant problems with the mostly-mouse interface. Simple tasks like switching between party members was harder than it should have been.
  • 2 points for gameplay. I suppose it has some nonlinearity in that you can approach the missions in any order. But I found the individual missions excruciatingly long and far too difficult, and I suspect the overall game would therefore rank low for those aspects.
That gives us a final score of 29, pretty low for 1991, but again subject to review if we ever find a manual and/or a version that we can complete.

I really do like the idea of "mission-based" RPGs, featuring a central hub where you can rest, restore, and advance, then head off on a variety of individual, independent missions in any order. They remind me of that old Airborne Ranger for the Commodore 64. But all the ones we've seen--Time Horn, Paladin, Knights of Legend, Sorcerian--have introduced issues that blunt my enjoyment of what could otherwise be an enjoyable dynamic.

It was fun to try a rare Italian RPG. Unless one surfaces before then, we won't see another one until Alfa Romeo Racing Italiano (2005), which stands a strong chance of being rejected. 2006's Etrom: The Astral Essence sounds more promising.

Returning to the field in front of us, it seems like we'll be on a Deathlord/Conan combo for at least a few entries.


  1. If the game you had was cracked it's more then likely to have issues because of it, not an uncommon problem with cracked games back in the day since many were either stolen beta copies or unlocked demo versions and with some games cracking was done with such a brute force that it broke something else entirely.

    Then of c. we have the usual old game problem of various versions of the same game (I'm looking at you Sierra and your games from early 80's) where some versions simply had bugs that made the game unwinnable.

    Unfortunately abandonware games tend to fall freely on any (and sometimes all) of those categories.

  2. Somewhere in the Deathlords/Conan run coming, there will be time for Might & Magic III to break things up, though; only a few left in 1991 and that is one of them! So, hopefully that will give you something to look forward to. Darklands also is not far away (1992).

    1. I'm thinking Darklands may top Fate for the 'Longest Played' record and if not, definitely make the list somewhere. What a great game that is.

    2. I feel like I should mention, lest we scare Chet away by comparing the game to Fate, that the main quest of Darklands isn't that long. You can do or skip the rest of the content as you wish, and it even has the option of changing difficulty levels. It's a lot like a modern RPG where you can tap out of the main story at any time and go on dragon hunting for five hours.

      In Fate, everything was mandatory and most of it imbalanced.

    3. I have to disagree about Darklands being an especially long game. I used three weeks to complete it, which is quite long, but not extremely so.
      In comparison I used nearly two months to complete Wiz 7, which is the longest CRPG I've played.

    4. M&M3 finally made it onto the recent & upcoming list on the sidebar! I've been super hyped for his playthrough of it ever since I went through the game last year.

    5. Darklands has some elements randomized ("spell" locations, using the term loosely to avoid spoilers, start, and even quest locations among a short list of possibilities).

      It can be long in game time, but it is a completely open world, as others have said. You could probably speed run it!

    6. I didn't even know that Darklands can be completed!

    7. Not "completed", but "beaten". You can beat the "final" boss, but it is an open world RPG so you do not actually can keep questing beyond that point if you wish! I am not sure if the game can ever be "completed"...I think new quests still come even after you have beaten the final boss, they just are side quests not related to the main story anymore.

    8. Mr. Popo, I agree with your sentiment. I have been waiting for M&M3 for awhile! M&M2 was the first real CRPG I played growing up, and since I never took advantage of the Cuisinart exploit (and still refuse to this day) I find it fun to go back to. I was initially not a fan of M&M 3-5 (and 6+ for that matter) because they changed things so much and I never gave them a fair shake (the magic system seemed so limited by comparison), but they have really grown on me now that I have given them a fair shot and I have realized that there really are only a handful of go-to spells anyway! Actually, one of these days, I want to play M&M 1-10 in order back-to-back and write up an article on each in succession...or possibly do the reverse, M&M 10-1 in descending order and write from that perspective, which could be an interesting twist!

      For now, though, I think I will fire up M&M 3 so it is fresh in my mind again!

  3. Update: turns out the last mission's files were missing entirely from the disk, but replacing them with another map worked. So the mission itself remains a mystery, but at least I've been able to see the ending:




    Google translation/guesswork (corrections welcome):

    "Mordred has finally recovered the horn of time. The first part of his quest has been completed. But his adventures are not over. He has yet to save his kingdom from betrayal. New, enthusiastic groups are looking for the 'horn of time'."

    So, a promise of a sequel, which I guess never came to be? Shocking. :)


      ...may be better translated as...

      New exciting quests wait for him in the sequel for 'il corno del tempo'

    2. Thanks for your work Zardas!

  4. "I really do like the idea of "mission-based" RPGs, featuring a central hub where you can rest, restore, and advance, then head of on a variety of individual, independent missions in any order."

    You'll see it again in 1998, at very least. In a Russian RPG "Rage of Mages" (Allods). But in the first game you always get one story mission and one side mission. And current side mission becomes unavailable if you do current story mission first. So it's actually linear.

    1. I think Jagged Alliance, Ogre Battle (and its successor Tactics Ogre), Final Fantasy Tactics, Vandal Hearts, Crisis Core, Disgaea, Valkyrie Profile, Valkyria Chronicles & etc. Pity only the first and last are the only ones on PC.

    2. I would pay money to see Chet's opinion of a few console RPGs. While I want to see him play say, classic Final Fantasy games, I wouldn't pay money for it. However, I'd probably throw $20 into a hat to read his opinion on Ogre Battle 64 or Hybrid Heaven. Ogre Battle is a great game, though I kind of fear putting Chet near something that addictive, as he'd probably try to get all the different troop types and whatnot. That said, he doesn't use spoilers, so chances are he'd never know most of them existed. But I'd love his opinion on the story, gameplay and whatnot.

      Hybrid heaven would just be to watch Chet have to deal with a combat system based on wrestling, and have to deal with levelling up each part of your body one by one. I might be a bad person.

    3. I would presume X-COM (1994) is also like this, although I have never played the original, only the reboots (EU/EW and 2).

    4. We've had a few games so far that had missions without the hub IIRC. Before he did X-com, Julian Gollop was responsible for a number of squad level tactics games that featured unconnected missions - X-com was a breakout game because it provided a macro level context for those missions, both in terms of story and character progression.

      In general terms, the original x-com plays similarly to the reboot. One of the main differences is that the original featured multiple potential hubs - as rather than just filling the sky with satellites, you needed to build new bases to cover additional radar space.

    5. I only want to see Chet play important console games to add a bit of context; to observe a bit of the back and forth influence across the pond. I've barely played the early JRPG entries (or JRPGs generally).

      In terms of games I personally want to see - I want to see some of the comparisons that inspired the blog in the first place. Old vs new. Fallout vs Wasteland 2 vs Underrail. DM vs LoG. King's Bounty vs HoMM 3 vs the reboot. Daggerfall vs Skyrim. Ultima VII vs Divinity: Original Sin.

    6. HoMM reboot? Do you mean 4 or 5? I've never played 4, but 5....that was NOT a good game.

    7. Nah, KB reboot.

      4 is the black sheep of the HoMM family - I liked it but it had a non-functioning AI.

      What were your issues with 5? The campaign isn't very balanced, and features perhaps the worst dialogue (and voice acting) of its decade - were there other reasons?

    8. The campaign didn't feel fun when I tried it, and the voice acting and attempt to do in-engine cutscenes were too much. So pretty much what you described. They used 'throw hands over head' for pretty much every emotion in the book since it was one of the few things they had animated.

    9. I hated hoMM 5 because it didn't continue the science fantasy setting of Might&Magic, instead turning it into a pretty lame standard high fantasy setting.

      I love HoMM 4, but I know I'm in a minority when I say it's my favorite HoMM title. The King's Bounty reboot was pretty good imo, just the mind hero was a bit underwhelming apart from starting with a resurrection scroll which drastically lowered my losses once I learned the spell

    10. There's a lot of flak heaped on HoMM 4 because it's different (Heroes can die and involve themselves directly in battle, 8 different Home units but you can only use 5) and, let's face it, pretty buggy and not a very good implementation of this new system.

      With direct involvement from Heroes, you can literally use ONLY Heroes in a single party throughout a scenario. The campaigns even forces you to do so, basically making you play Might & Magic in a grand-strategy 4x game.

      I guess that may be the worst complaint. Then again, when we look at RTS trying that, we get what-we-call-them-now Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

      Maybe HoMM4 was just ahead of its time.
      Maybe it was misunderstood and it didn't have a chance to prove itself right in a sequel (in 3DO).

      I, for one, am also a black sheep. I enjoyed the game for what it was, an ambitious strategy-RPG hybrid that allows you to create your own campaigns without the usual RPG logistic annoyances (Encumbrance, Hunger\Thirst Bar, Stamina\Endurance, Party vs. Character Alignment) and distilling all the high adventures of one into
      a game more concerned about the destination than how you got there.

    11. They tried to bring the SF elements in during one of the expansion to HoMM3. However, when they tested it, it went over like a lead balloon with the HoMM community. So they had to quickly remake it using existing units as much as possible which is why Conflux was all elemental units.

    12. I didn't mind HOMM4, despite the different treatment of heroes (and the ability to send out forces without a hero). Mostly, I tended to ignore that option unless forced into it, and when I had to use it it felt weird. I really hated 5 at first, for a lot of reasons, including the terrible graphics (going 3D meant a step back in overall quality) and awful acting. The quirky skill tree (even going to a spoiler site, I still couldn't always understand it) was awful, too. Eventually I decided that despite those glaring flaws, I actually enjoyed the rest of the gameplay. One thing they did well was the combat queue, where you could see the order in which all combatants would act, allowing for better planning. It was also neat to have the turn structure broken down into a more interleaved progression, where fast creatures could act two or three times before slow creatures went once.

    13. @Kenny: Buggy, really? It's basically the only M&M game under 3DO where I didn't experience any gamebreaking bugs. I didn't get it at relase though, so maybe they got ironed out later.

      @Canageek: I remember how that went.

      (heavy spoilers ahead for M&M canon!) In short, the evil ending of M&M VII was meant to be canonical, reviving the Forge and thus Mass-producing the "ancient" weapons (Blaster pistols and rifles, among other things). However, the HoMM community went crazy about getting some Sci-Fi stuff getting shoved into their games "for no reason" (the complainers obviously didn't play the mainline games and thus where unaware of the overarching Sci-Fi plot - or that the demons where actually mostly Kreegan Aliens) and basically forced JVC and 3DO to change the canon, instead tying it more in with M&M VIII with the hastily created Conflux faction.
      (spoilers end)

      To be fair, the units looked a bit too much over the top (Goblins with blasters, Minotaurs with Jetpacks, Zombies with Chainsaws as hands and freaking Naga Tanks) and would have been very hard to balance against the other factions, especially the lower level units. Still, I would have largely preferred this over the Conflux

    14. Keep in mind, reading up on games on the internet was much less common back then. I played a lot of HoMM without ever reading up on it; I didn't even know HoMM HAD expansion packs until after both of them were out, and didn't know it was related to an RPG series until later. So that isn't unreasonable, doubly so if you've been a fan since say, HoMM2.

    15. @Steve Weidig
      My experience with it was rather buggy. I believe most bugs were squashed with patches/expansion packs. Since I got neither, it's possible I got the worst of it.

  5. Star Wars Battlefront was a train wreck. I can't believe you would even pay any attention to the sequel.

    The only game I'm watching out for is Dynasty Warriors 9. From what was shown, the new addition to the franchise is basically a grand real-time strategy historically-simulated persistent open-world action-RPG.

    You buy/upgrade your weapons and armor at the smithy, buy/train horses at the stables, manage/recruit troops at barracks, invest/build new shops at the town hall, discuss strategies with the generals in the palace (if you are playing as the adviser/ruler) and trading.

    Weather and terrain will affect troop morale & effectiveness and the strategies you can employ (fire can't work in a storm but a flooding tactic would be great).

    Koei did a lot of historical research to make the citizens dress and act as culturally accurate as possible for that time period.

    I guess the massive beratings they got from the public finally woke them up and made Kou Shibusawa do something.

  6. Hi Chet! Thanks for the amazing blog. I noticed that the 1990 Amiga/DOS sci-fi dungeon crawler Federation Quest 1 – B.S.S. Jane Seymour was absent from your list. You can read about it here:

    1. I rejected it as an RPG for not having character development. Judging from the manual, it's one of a small group of pre-Doom action games that use tiled movement. Let me know if I'm wrong, but the manual didn't give any sense of attributes, experience, or leveling.

  7. ...Actually, with some trepidation, I'd like to suggest that it may be worth looking through , which seems to have quite a few obscure games not on the master list. For instance, the charming Bloodfest:

    1. BloodFest suffers from the same problem as above. Tiled movement through mossy corridors do not make an RPG under my definitions. It has to have character development (usually experience and levels) as well as attribute-based combat (not solely reliant on action).

  8. Missions embarked upon from a central hub where you can rest and buy stuff will be the layout of Amulets and Armor when you get to it.

    Oh, and the multiplayer option for that one can be quite fun if you have any friends who enjoy FPSRPG games. The abilities of the various classes compliment each other nicely.

  9. Hi Chet! First, thanks for your great blog. I had played this game as a kid. I remember I was very excited about it, since it was the first RPG in Italian and I could finally understand a story without searching words in a dictionary every 5 minutes. I was then very disappointed, when I realized that I could not finish any mission, due to the insane difficulty. This year I decided that I should redeem myself from this failure and try again. Actually I thank your blog for this chance, since I could not remember the exact name of this game. So, in the last week I have spent several hours with Time Horn. I figured out some interesting things. First, the fatigue system is totally counter intuitive. The amount of weight each character can carry without getting too tired is inversely proportional to his resistenza. This means that if the amazon (initial resistenza 20) and Mordred (30) carry the same weight, Mordred is likely to need much more water and food. I say likely as the system is "quantized" and intervals of weight correspond to different speeds of depletion of water and food. For example Mordred will be completely thirsty in about 14 turns if he carries 0-to-12 or in about 11 turns if he carries 12-to-55. Hunger and thirst can be tackled with food, water and milk, and reasonable resources are found during each mission. By starting with 4 characters, each carrying 5 latte (each fills about 66% of the water bar) and 3 prosciutto (each fills about 45% of the food bar) I could finish the mission of the gnomes without cheating. From combat point of view, one has to be careful to handle the spells of the gnomes, since they kill the weak characters in one shot. The key trick is giving to 2 "tough" characters the best armor and shield, and then send them directly into the fight as soon as a gnome is seen (or a spell is cast from far away). The gnomes do not use spells at close range and the fights become much easier. Moreover, all those in front of the group should always have full health, so one should use "medicine" or "erbe" as soon as a character is hit. By the way, I had the same problem you had with being unable to finish the mission. The problem is that the game is not so smart, so if the quest item is not hold by Mordred, the mission will not be considered as completed. This is very annoying and took me some time to understand what was wrong. Now I have also some bad news. As you noticed, there seem to be a sort of internal clock of fatigue, which makes the characters more and more exhausted as the mission unfolds. This is, in fact, a horrible bug. When a character consumes food, the weight of the food is not removed from the weight carried by the character! This means that the more food and water are given to tired characters during the mission, the more their "base weight" (with empty inventory) will grow and the quicker they will need more food and water. Even worse, this weight is not reset at the end of the mission, which makes all subsequent missions impossible. I do not know if this is a problem of the game versions I am using, a problem of the emulator or a real bug of the code. In any case, without solving this issue the game is unplayable. It is a pity, since I honestly appreciated the first mission, despite the steep learning curve, and I was curious to see the rest of the game.

    1. What a great post, Igor! I love getting answers to mysteries.

      Fascinating that the resistenza works in a way that's the exact opposite of what you'd expect (if I understand correctly), and that food eaten isn't deducted from base weight. (I'm assuming there isn't a dedicated excretion command, as if there were that dynamic would almost make sense.)

      If it turns out to be a bug, that sounds like the kind of thing an intrepid coder could fix; if a bad dump or emulator issue, that's well worth knowing too.

      "The more food and water are given...the quicker they will need more food and water" -- sounds like the food industry's dream, or a world in which salt & vinegar potato chips are the only sustenance.

    2. Let me echo PK, Igor: great comment. Thanks for popping in. As much detail as I try to get into about each game, commenters like you make me realize that I can only scratch the surface and I depend on you to help document each game completely.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.