Sunday, September 9, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Yada Yada Yada

The game is fond of text interludes. Normally I applaud this kind of thing, but Crusaders takes it a bit too far.
              
It's taken me a while to get going with this one--I've had two entries basically covering the opening minutes--but at last I feel like I'm "in" the game. I find it quite a bit harder than its predecessors, although part of that has to do with the growing length of things. In a simple game like the original Wizardry, a single combat takes far less than a minute. It may have been functionally harder than this seventh entry, but there you could grind a fighter from Level 1 to Level 10 in less time than it takes here to explore the opening wilderness.

As I previously noted, I started over with a new party, and I think it's safe to say that I spent longer analyzing, planning, and creating the new party than I have with any previous RPG. This is what I came up with:
            
  • Gideon, a male human fighter. I wanted a lord, but I couldn't get quite enough bonus points, so I figured I'd dual to a lord at a later date. I've concentrated his weaponry skills on the sword and shield and his academic skills on mapping.
  • Svava, a female dwarf Valkyrie. All her weapon skills go into the "pole & staff" (which includes spears), and academically I'm having her specialize in mythology.
  • Noctura, a female Dracon thief. I also have vague plans to dual her to something later. Damned 7-character limit on names kept me from putting the second "n" in there. She's also a sword specialist, but academically she's our item-identifier. At least, she will be when she gets good enough. I have too much unidentified stuff sitting around.
  • Bix, a male hobbit bard. He's a third sword specialist (perhaps I'm going to regret not diversifying) and the party's diplomat.
  • Esteban, a male elf priest. He strikes with his staff (and thus specializes in pole & staff) from the rear, and academically I pour his points into theology.
  • Prenele, a female faerie alchemist. I've split her weapon skills into several categories: wand and dagger, throwing, and sling. Basically, whenever I have some cool stuff to shoot or toss, I give it to her (I try to get everyone else into melee range). Her academic points go into alchemy.
         
One of my new characters.
        
I thought this setup gave me a decent melee party but with several characters (priest, alchemist, and Valkyrie) capable of casting healing spells in early levels. The bard comes with a lute that provides essentially unlimited "Sleep" spells, which were very handy in the opening area. I'll think about changing classes for some of these characters at some point, particularly since this configuration leaves me impoverished in classic mage spells.

I've been putting physical points mostly into swimming, with the exception of Noctura, who has to build her "skullduggery" skill to disarm traps and open locks, and Bix, who has to master music. I had hoped that I could stop once I got swimming to 10, but now I realize that's just the bare minimum to avoid drowning if you have a full stamina bar. One dip into one water square cuts that bar neatly in half. Unless I want to rest after every breaststroke, I'll need to keep feeding this skill.
         
My map of the outdoor area. Later, I found that north is to the right. I need to swim and to be able to avoid poppies to explore any more.
         
With the new party, I set out to fully explore the wilderness area and then to re-do the opening dungeon. The wilderness area is a bit smaller but more irregular than I expected. It's designed to funnel a character adopting a "rightmost path" strategy to the starter dungeon and then to New City. If you follow the left "wall" instead, you end up fighting quite a few battles against forest denizens before finding a skull and a treasure chest near an entrance to the sea. The chest contains an automap. I don't know what the skull does.
           
Finding a chest can be a wordy experience in Crusaders.
          
To the north of the starting area, there's a field of poppies that put you to sleep before you have a chance to walk more than a few squares. I mapped as much as I could here, but clearly I need something to avoid the poppies' sleep effect.

The battles in the wilderness were mostly easy enough for my new party, particularly with Bix putting everyone to sleep every round. The most difficult was the ratkin ambush on the way to New City, which I probably should have saved for after the dungeon. It took me about six reloads to win that one.

The starter dungeon proceeded as the first time, greatly assisted by the healing fountain. Bix, who started with no weapon, finally got a sword, although I still don't know what kind it is. By the time I left the dungeon, my characters were only one level lower than their imported counterparts, and with a better allocation of skills.

I had expected New City to be something of a resting point, the way most cities are in most RPGs, with comfortable places like stores, inns, and temples. While it does offer a couple of "shops" (individual characters who sell things) and one quasi-temple, it's more hostile than I expected, the area having recently been conquered by the Dark Savant.

The Dark Savant's soldiers occupy a bunch of buildings and often show up as random encounters. They come in two types--savant guards and savant troopers--and both of them are tough to defeat at this level, particularly since they don't respond to the bard's sleep tunes (I suspect they're automatons). In comparison, a large number of "Gorn spearmean" were much easier to defeat, but I got the impression that they were natives and thus felt bad about killing them. There were also more ratkin.
           
Killing these guys feels wrong, but it really added to my leveling.
          
Many times, I had to annotate a building for later return after facing an undefeatable party. Sometimes, I learned, it's worth trying a couple of times, because the fixed encounter that offered three savant troopers and four savant guards the first time might only serve up two savant guards the second time. But in other places, the enemies were just consistently too hard no matter what I tried. I have to say, I'm getting a lot of use out of the "terminate game" button, which thankfully allows you to end a hopeless combat instantly instead of fighting to the bitter end.
          
This is an unwinnable combat at my level.
           
The other annoyance I found within New City was an abundance of locked doors. Lockpicking involves the same kind of mini-game as in Wizardry VI, where a series of colors rotate beneath each tumbler, and you have to click when the light is green to trip the tumbler. The proportion of green to other colors is based on the character's "skullduggery" skill. If your skill is high enough, a light might just stay a consistent green, and if it's low enough, it might stay a consistent red. Just as with Wizardry VI, the lights change too quickly to time them (unless you cheat by cranking down the emulator speed), and clicking at the right time is more like taking a chance than playing a true mini-game. Either way, if you screw up, the door can become jammed, which is no good for anyone. There's theoretically a way to force doors, but I'm having less luck with that than lockpicking. I had to annotate a lot of doors for later return.
          
Even if I could time my click, I can't tell the difference between green and red.
         
Because of both tough enemies and locked doors, I couldn't explore a lot of the city. In particular, there's a prison with some trapped NPCs (one of them calls out a rear window for us to free him), but I can't fight my way through the enemies just yet.
             
An NPC asks for help.
             
There were a few standard NPCs in the buildings, and the game adopts the convention found in Wizardry V and VI for full-text dialogues. You have to type entire sentences and end questions with question marks, or the game doesn't always understand what you mean. Here's a talk I had with Sogheim, someone living in a southern building:

Me: Hello
S: Ahoi!
M: Who are you?
S: I am Sogheim
M: What do you do?
S: I live here, by the sea
M: Why do you live here, by the sea?
S: It is rumored a great monster guards the secret of the seas!
(I tried several questions related to the monster but couldn't get him to add anything.)
M: Do you know the Dark Savant?
S: Dread ruler of Galaxies!
M: What's happening in New City?
S: New City is where everyone eventually ends up!
         
I didn't cover all his conversation options. 50 gold pieces is a lot.
        
I met a couple of NPCs that I didn't know what to do with. One, on the road, was named "Ratsputin." Another, in town, was named an Umpani whose name I neglected to write down. Neither responded to my requests for a "truce," and I ultimately just avoided them by hitting "leave" at the initial encounter screen. I hope I wasn't supposed to do something more productive with them.
            
In case you keep forgetting who the lead developer was, moments like this repeatedly remind you.
           
A few other encounters worth noting:

  • A copper penny found in an abandoned bank vault bought my way into the "Curio Museum of Amazing Oddities," where I found a chest containing a magic cloak and "deadman's hair." More on this chest in a bit.
           
The tradition of putting a question mark in front of unknown items goes back to the first Wizardry.
          
  • A weaponry shop was guarded by a large Umpani who insisted that he was closed, "PERMANENTLY!" However, I later heard that he ran a black market, and when I returned and said "black market" to him, he relented and let me see a selection of weapons.
             
I think that's supposed to be some kind of gun, not a horn.
             
  • A statue in the center of a courtyard surrounded by water. My skill isn't good enough to swim to the statue.
           
More blah-blah-blah.
           
  • "Thesminster Abbey" held a priest who, with the right dialogue choices, let me go downstairs to a healing fountain. It would have been more useful if it didn't mean passing through so many messages and dialogues to get to it (see below).
           
These are always handy.
        
  • Because of my exploration pattern, I reached "Paluke's Armory," the putative reason I was in the city, quite late. It was underwhelming. He had a few armor upgrades to offer, but nothing extraordinary. 
              
I've made very little money since the game began.
            
Throughout the gameplay, I began to get annoyed with its unavoidable wordiness. Normally, I like textual encounters and lore, but somehow the way Crusaders presents them gets in my nerves. The first problem is that the text says simple things as if they're profound. Here's a message that you get when you step near New City's docks, for instance:
        
The great Sea of Sorrows spans before you like a vast and dense space flattened unto the sky, spreading into the far distant horizon as a desolate plain of shimmering ether. Its deep waters chant a thousand silent tales, and its unseen borders but hint of far distant lands. How universal such a compelling motion, as if behind every veil of boundless unknown lay cloaked an invisible beacon, endlessly calling. Such solace these sights bring, as if a reminder that though the trappings of mortal man be forever enshrouded in a sea of passing discords, he has but to open his eyes that he may bear witness to some greater existence of which he is only a momentary traveler.
     
Beyond the sophomoric wordiness are  couple of problems: Not only that the game is putting sentiments into my own character's minds, but also that they're a bit misplaced. Romanticizing the sea and the boundless lands beyond its horizon is something that you do on your own world, when the sea is a true frontier, not something that you're likely to do after you've just arrived on this planet, having crossed the galaxy in a starship.

Anyway, the game feeds you this text one screen at a time, using a font far larger than necessary, and often not using the entire screen, so that you have to acknowledge six screens of text before you can move on. And if you accidentally return to the square, you have to go through all of the text again. Oh, and there's an annoying delay after the text appears but before you can hit ENTER to move on. I could suffer this rarely, but about a dozen times in New City, the developers felt they needed to hijack my gameplay with some unnecessary twaddle that did more to confuse the plot than to enhance it.
              
Part of another long description that I have to suffer every time I want to use the healing fountain.
                 
As I finished my first loop through the city, my big problem became the need to cure the disease that my fighter incurred when we opened the chest in the "Curio Museum." The healing fountain in the temple doesn't cure it, and the priest doesn't seem to offer other services. None of the potions I've found are "cure disease" potions. I was hoping that one of the shops might sell them, but no luck there. The game manual warns of an increasing horrible fate, and ultimately death, suffered by a diseased character, and it warns you not to rest if anyone is diseased, so it's affecting my entire party. My best hope is that the "Cure Disease" spell pops up as an option the next time my alchemist or priest level up, but I hate to put all my eggs in that basket. I wonder if the healing fountain in the dungeon will take care of it.

Either way, I feel like I need to grind for a couple more levels before taking on the city again, hopefully exploring more buildings this time. One point in Crusaders' favor is that leveling up feels extremely rewarding. You watch your attributes increase--sometimes three or four per level--and then you can put a bunch of skill points into your chosen skills. So far, each level has a palpable effect on the next few combats.
           
I have some misgivings about the game, but leveling is as addictive as ever.
          
I hope to have some more momentum going by the time of the next entry. I've got a lot of work and travel this month, so my posting schedule might continue to be erratic for a few more weeks.

59 comments:

  1. I am a bit surprised about your dislike for the musings, they are mostly used at the start of the game and honestly I found them charming, they set up the mood and themes of the game perfectly and after soo many games which offer little to no narrative bits like these I found them great. As for the combat, yes this is a very combat heavy game which can be kind of a double edged sword since the combat is fun but rarely the kind you go into on autopilot so you can get burnt out.
    Looking at your experiences it brings back so many memories of this fantastic game, but it also reminds me of some of its limitations... the game Grimoire Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is the spiritual successor to this game but it implements so many great features like adjustable encounter rate, auto walk, automap and set combat action actions for the party that not only speeds up the more repetitive parts of the game but also makes it so enjoyable... oh and Mr Blakemore also has a lot of text musings too ;)

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    1. Yeah I just started playing a few nights ago and I'm enjoying the text interludes so far. They're groan-worthy sometimes (and really irritating if the same one pops up multiple times while you're trying to get somewhere), however I greatly prefer this to most tile-based crawlers where you get little to no description as you go along.

      MIght and Magic does a good job with them too. Compared to The Bard's Tale, Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, etc. I think Wizardry 7 is a huge step up in that regard.

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    2. He's an even worse writer, too. What an unpleasant basket case.

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    3. I must take a look at Grimoire sometime. Whatever you think of the guy, he deserves kudos for persevering with his game over a couple of decades!

      I wouldn't fault Dungeon Master or EOB for not having text interludes, these games are following a 'show don't tell' principle.

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    4. That's true Gerry, it's primarily a limitation of their format. They'd be slowed down too much if they focused on description in the same way Wizardry or Might and Magic does -- I just personally prefer the more descriptive approach, at least until we get to an era where first person games are capable of telling environmental stories through graphics alone. So far Ultima Underworld is the only one that comes to mind to have done that.

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    5. Dungeon Master couldn't have had more text since the disc was full. That's why there is a framing story in the manual. The creators had to fight a lot with technical limitations and cut everything but the essence of the game.

      But I don't think describing feelings is always a good idea anyways, it removes a lot of immersion and adds distance - which is the opposite of what the direct interface does.

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    6. "The creators had to fight a lot with technical limitations and cut everything but the essence of the game."

      And yet DM has a far more advanced game engine (and I'm not talking about fluff like more varied graphic, economy, or NPCs) than every real time blobber that followed.
      Truly a game ahead of its time.

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    7. In what ways has DM a far more advance game engine?

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    8. It has varying degrees of light, all other games' light is binary, or you don't even need light.

      More advanced combat system, with different attack styles, and each character can face a different direction.
      The game is slow enough that all four characters have time to act, which is very different from Evil's Doom which was the last RT Blobber I played.

      You can interact with the dungeon:
      Chop down or fireball some wooden doors
      Throw things through bars.
      Monsters falling into pits fall down to the level below and take damage.
      Fireballs have a physical presence in the dungeon, and can react with Teleporters. In a game like Black Crypt a Fireball spell is just a pretty effect on your monitor.
      Slamming doors hurt.
      Other RT Blobbers don't let you interact with the dungeon in this way, and the whole point of making the game real time in the first place is lost.

      Other RT Blobbers introduced things like NPCs, more varied graphics and such, but none of them improved or even equaled the _core_ gameplay of DM and Chaos Strikes Back.

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    9. Also, wounding of individual body parts.
      Wounds to legs make the party move slower, for example.

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    10. "The great Sea of Sorrows spans before you like a vast and dense space flattened unto the sky, spreading into the far distant horizon as a desolate plain of shimmering ether. Its deep waters chant a thousand silent tales, and its unseen borders but hint of far distant lands. How universal such a compelling motion, as if behind every veil of boundless unknown lay cloaked an invisible beacon, endlessly calling. Such solace these sights bring, as if a reminder that though the trappings of mortal man be forever enshrouded in a sea of passing discords, he has but to open his eyes that he may bear witness to some greater existence of which he is only a momentary traveler."

      Nah, that's WAY too much! Cutting it down to just the first sentence makes it a lot better.

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    11. I was part of the Dungeon Master modding scene in the early 2000s, so I know quite a bit how that game works behind the scenes.

      In addition to the richness of the environmental interactions mentioned, the "actuator" system in the game is very comprehensive (in fact, I'm 90% sure it's Turing complete).

      This is the system behind the scenes that determines what happens when you press a button, step on a pressure plate, and such. You can chain these effects so that a button when pressed activates another (invisible) object that performs a logical function on its inputs (and-gates, or-gates, counters, inverters; each object can have 4 inputs) which activates further objects (more actuators, or open a pit, door, etc.). You can add multiple actuators in one square which are all triggered when you target that square, so you can "fan out" signals as wide as you want.

      The inputs for the system are most obviously buttons and levers, but could also be pressure plates (that can react different to players, monsters, items, or even to specific item in player inventory), item "slots" (keyholes, coin slots, etc.), alcoves (empty, item, specific item). The outputs are most obviously doors, pits and walls (open/close), but could be other wall objects (eg. toggle text on/of, cycle wall graphics (this is how removal of the Powergem is done for instance).

      With this system you could create very complicated effects within the map, without needing any special support for it from the game code itself. The Powergem embedded in the wall is very good example, it has *no* special scripting associated with it, it's purely interaction between all the regular bits of this "machinery" that are used everywhere in the dungeon.

      Normally the Powergem sequence goes like this: you have Powergem encased in the wall, you use a Zokathra fireball to melt the wall, then you use the empty Firestaff to transfer the Powergem into the firestaff.

      Behind the scenes it works like this: the "encased powergem" is a wall object that is set to eat the Zokathra item (like keyholes do to keys), then it targets the same square and cycles wall items. This puts the "exposed Powergem" wall object on top which is set to eat the empty Firestaff object. This again cycles the wall items and puts "empty Powergem slot" item on top which is set to put the full Firestaff object into your hand.

      Even every single lever in the dungeon is built from these same components. A lever has two wall objects, first has associated graphic with the lever up, second with the lever down. When you click on it, the lever targets this square and cycles the wall items (to switch the graphics), and the second object activates the effect you want the lever to have.

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    12. Does it allow for recursion, or something that emulates recursion? Are non-terminating action sequences possible? If not, it's not turing complete. If so, I'm pretty sure it is.

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    13. You can, and that's how many periodic effects in the game are implemented (for instance, a teleporter that blinks on and off). A chain of activators where the last one triggers the first one again (after a delay).

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    14. I modded a bit of DM, but my aim was to create playable dungeons and I didn't learn too much about actuators and stuff. Actually, none of my 4 dungeons uses a single lever, I relied on buttons since that was easier to do. For more complex stuff, I had isolated rooms where I teleported appels around.
      For example, I had a set of 4 pits where always one was open and 3 were closed. You needed to have the timing to pass this obstacle. In a 2*2 hidden room next to it, I had each 2 pressure plares per floor. One to open the pit, another one to activate a teleporter after a delay. So the apple teleported around and the pits opened and closed. That is a very simple and visual example. There is the same puzzle in DM, but only with actuators and not a single apple.

      In CSB, there is one hidden room full of gigglers. They each carry a few items (special armor, bombs and stuff). Once you enter the dungeon, the gigglers randomly run around and trigger one-way teleporters. On most levels, they will die after being teleported there (because DM only allowed specific monsters per level due to technical limitations), on other levels, they will stay alive and run around further. Either way, that served as a method to randomize loot. And not a single line of code was added for that. Impressive stuff and you don't even find out unless you play it a 2nd time.

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    15. Yeah, I started before all the actuators had been decoded fully, and you had to edit the map's hex values with DMute, so I did also make use of apple-teleporter systems to start with.

      Here's another neat way how this system could be used to enrich the environment. In Chaos Strikes Back there is an area called the Cistern where you have to fight water elementals. This area also has grates in the floor, and if you lure an elemental over the grate, it drains through it!

      What the grates actually are, are silent pressure pads set to trigger by monsters, and to activate a silent invisible teleporter in that square. Only monsters that were in this area were water elementals, so when one stepped on the "grate" pad, the teleporter activated and it was teleported to the level below.

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    16. Not sure how efficient the engine could compute it, but I'm quite sure you could program something wholly else in the DM engine. On the other hand, I have 3000sth. Mhz compared to the 7 DM had. A matter of persistance, I guess. You enter the dungeon, choose a character, press a button and then a movie plays or something. Maybe a very quick slideshow of backgrounds, and the party gets teleported from one to the next. Not sure how much you can influence teleport speed. Maybe a comic. For cut-scenes.

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  2. Ah, so many memories... I also fell for the lute clutch but you´ll soon grow out of that :)

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  3. Oh and that disease is very bad, it will start affecting your character’s stats and finally kill him and resurrecting him wont heal the disease. The spells is very high level so that wont be an option so you either can go with Father Rulae and give him all your gold to get access to a healing fountain that heals all conditions too
    Belkazor’s shop changes its items from time to time so maybe there could be chance there, oh and do buy some wands and fire sticks to help you train your invocation skill which is very useful
    The last option is a little cheat... or just restoring to a prior save

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  4. I'm also playing this game for the first time and I have to say I find it oddly compelling so far. It has a unique atmosphere and "feel", and the concept of this medieval fantasy planet becoming a battleground between various space factions is an intriguing one -- though I'm not sure how much the game will actually do with it.

    I also in theory am really liking the wandering NPC aspect. It feels underdeveloped but at the same time is very unique; reminds me a lot of the Thief from Zork. I even had a little emergent situation happen where I was trying to flee from an area that was too tough for me, but one of those Umpani adventurers was wandering along the road back to town and for some reason would always attack me on sight. So it became necessary to hang around the woods and do my best to survive until the coast was clear. I imagine emergent situations like this are actually pretty uncommon but it's not the sort of thing you encounter very often in RPGs, especially ones of this style and age.

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    1. Wandering NPCs are cool in general, but here I have no idea who these people are or what they want. Making any dialogue with them dependent on the "diplomacy" skill (or whatever the game checks against when someone tries to talk) is a bit silly. I don't care how ugly or socially anxious someone is, you'd expect someone who blunders into your path to at least give an elevator speech about who he is and what he wants.

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    2. You can bribe and give NPCs things too. I find that Diplomacy works well with a good bribe.

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  5. If you think it’s bad reading through all that text, imagine playing Wizardry Gold, where all that text is spoken to you by a narrator!

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    1. Rarely has the old saying "talk is silver, but silence is gold" had a more ambigious meaning.

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    2. Yeah, good point. It's too bad that in the current era, developers think that all in-game text has to be spoken.

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  6. I find that the ESC key is good for shutting down repeated information. It does not help on the first encounter, but future encounters can made shorter. I agree; this game is trying too hard to be both sublimely clever and funny at the same time. "Munkarama" sounds too much like American slang to be the real name of a city devoted to a religious establishment.

    My party are in the "Witch Mountains". Sounds like a Disney reference. One battle, which I will not mention the foe/s, left 2 of my 5 characters dead on the field.

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  7. I’m not sure which version you are playing, but in the original there is a rather nasty bug related to the fighter class that was eventually patched out. If you don’t have that patched, it will make the going a lot more rough.

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  8. To think wordiness is a problem of newer rpgs...Pillars and Torment come to mind...the foundation for it seems to have been laid much earlier.

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  9. There's a hidden magic shop in New City.

    It's probably better to save the curio museum and its disease for later. Oh well.

    The purple bag with star items are trinkets. I guess I'll let you figure out what they do when you get the ability to identify them.

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  10. Also, Ratsputin, Rallick (the Umpani), and similar are wandering faction NPCs who are also trying to find the astral dominae I think?

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    1. True. They are the only mobile NPCs at game start. Others can become mobile after meeting the party.

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  11. Wordiness....wait until you meet the Gorn King. I have never had an NPC give me a speech until my party met this character.

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    1. His speech has considerable advantage over other texts which is that it is shown to you only once :)

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    2. I actually like the speech, but I can see how wordiness is a problem in the game.

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  12. I liked the text descriptions in Wiz7, but it is probably related to a fact that english is not my native language and all those archaic words sounded kind of cool to me back then. The description successfully created an atmosphere of "faded glory", which was something I liked as well. ... The wandering NPCs have their own agenda and are trying to reach a similar goal as you, which unfortunately can in some rare cases result in an unwinnable game state - I hope it doesn´t be your case. Considering swimming, you need only 10 points and than you can train your characters by actually swimming, but it is a bit tedious.

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    1. We know from David Bradley's own admission that he comes up with the game names by choosing cool-sounding words from the thesaurus. I think it's pretty clear that he does all his writing that way. He's definitely reaching for that "faded glory" feel you mentioned, but I don't think he has the skill to do it gracefully or with restraint. I think picking the right words helps for younger people or those who are relatively new to the language, but when you've seen this done well (Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, Steven Erikson come to mind but there's no shortage of examples), it's just irritating. I was surprised when playing this game that no discussion of it seemed to mention just how bad the writing was. I think one of my main complaints was the constant use of ellipses (...), which is meant to be ethereal and enigmatic, but just comes across as constipated.

      I should mention that this isn't my only takeaway from the game, there's lots more good and bad to say about it, but after playing the game for a good six months I really needed to vent on that.

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    2. I love that we're talking about this. I've been waiting for this conversation for years.

      I'm firmly on the side of "pro-Bradley text," though I understand why some folk aren't. Yes, his prose is... well, outright terrible in places, and likely a touch clumsy even at its best, but I find it compelling nonetheless. I love the Gorn King's monologue mentioned above; I find the moodiness of the landscape descriptions to convey something unique in RPGs; I love that Bradley is tackling big and difficult ideas in his own wacky way.

      I'm going to be obnoxious and link to a post I wrote many years back, because I have Many Thoughts on all of this. (If this is poor form, apologies.) There are some extremely minor spoilers included. http://www.alexanderfreed.com/2013/11/29/why-it-worked-wizardry-vii-in-game-text-and-a-fantasy-of-ideas/

      If there were more video games that attempted to do what Bradley attempts, Wizardry 7 might not stand out so much for me; but there aren't, so it does. I'm looking forward to seeing how all this progresses...

      ...even if I fear the Addict may be driven to despair by the end.

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    3. Alexander, that is a good analysis and I agree with the points you made. In many RPGs today the worldbuilding is overdone, and the sparse approach of Wiz7 works much better for me, it is much more evocative. Give me Bradley´s clumsy prose over any lore book in games like Skyrim.

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    4. I like the textual descriptions in Wizardry 7, too. The Gorn King speech and descriptions like for the sea of sorrows are extreme examples, though. Most dialogue and descriptions are shorter and with less pathos. There's more, but not as much as in the starting area.

      Where it gets annoying is when the text is repeated when you step on the square, especially in frequently visited locations. Paluke's is the worst, as you're likely to go there often, and his dialogue can't be skipped. On the other hand, it's a long game where you might revisit a location much later, and some of the descriptions contain subtle hints.

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    5. "I'm going to be obnoxious and link to a post I wrote many years back, because I have Many Thoughts on all of this. (If this is poor form, apologies.) There are some extremely minor spoilers included. http://www.alexanderfreed.com/2013/11/29/why-it-worked-wizardry-vii-in-game-text-and-a-fantasy-of-ideas/"

      I read it, but couldn't take it serious when encountering unsubstantiated drivel like "the game’s treatment of women and minorities leaves much to be desired."


      Delete
    6. I think it's really a matter of how intrusive it is. I never expect novel quality writing in games. Even the old Infocom games offered a choice of verbose or sparse modes. Making the descriptions only repeat on demand might have helped a lot. I remember the sounds and text taking up a lot of playtime with this game. I even recall tampering with the sounds of the Wizardry Gold version of this to have a shorter sound for the start of battle.

      I've abandoned every attempt to finish this game over the years, for various reasons. I read on with great anticipation. Thanks CRPG Addict!

      Delete
    7. In many ways, I think that reading that idiotic interview in the W6 cluebook ruined all of these games for me. David Bradley struck me as such as irredeemable git that cast a cloud over everything else in the games. Every time I encounter a goofy NPC name, a whimsical animation, or a bit of pretentious text, I picture this mustachioed doofus grinning at what a bang-up job he's done.

      Delete
    8. In case it wasn't clear from my entry: I like the IDEA of in-game text (and even some of the text here). I just don't like a lot of W7's specific text, nor the way that you can't easily avoid it on subsequent entries into the same square.

      Delete
    9. For blank-slate WRPGs, I've always disliked it when (as in the ocean text quoted) the game tells you how to feel. When an NPC (or in a jRPG where even the primary character is explicitly their own entity) waxes poetical, it's just fine, and often enhances the mood.

      But a game like this, where your characters have no actual personality beyond what the player invests in them, this just feels like the game is shouting "HEY! YOU! ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SCREEN! FEEL WONDER! NOW!".

      Delete
    10. "In many ways, I think that reading that idiotic interview in the W6 cluebook ruined all of these games for me."

      I should have just chucked that book into the trash!

      Delete
    11. Then again, maybe not. Wizardry 7 is both too goofy and boring at the same time. Too many fights have the same routine over and over. There are no "friendly creatures" as existed in earlier Wizardry games. I like some ideas in the game, but the plot is too obscure, especially for such a non-sandbox kind of world.

      Delete
    12. *W7 Pros & Cons*
      Con: The writing is pretty shitty.
      Pro: Well, he bothered to write something at least...

      Delete
  13. New City to me is a developer disaster.
    There are beginner's areas and hard areas all mixed into the city without any warning - apart from battles - see treasure chest.
    I would have vastly preferred to have it split into a "city area" for beginners and a "later area" guarded by a fierce pack of guards.

    You might get away with disease if you cheat and talk to Father Rulae about something else you are not supposed to know yet, but other than that, you really screwed.
    You definitely should reload.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh. I was diseased for like the last 4 hours of gameplay. Even if I have a pre-disease reload, I'll still lose a ton of progress.

      Delete
    2. If your character is only diseased and has not taken permanent damage, you don't have to reload. Just go to Father Rulae, ask for healing of the body and tell him you want to sacrifice everything.

      Delete
    3. Permanent damage to attributes isn't so bad if you're planning to class change, since the attributes get reset when you change anyway. It might only delay the time you can change a bit.

      Another option would be to let the character die in combat, and revive him once you've got cure disease. The other characters will get more XPs if one character is dead, and the character who missed out on the XPs will catch up in levels quickly.

      Delete
  14. You think it's wordy now, just wait until you meet Brother T'Shober.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Personally I've always liked the non-linearity of having some end-game content next to starer material, like New City. It's something Might & Magic does great too. Having an impossible battle or a locked door poses a challenge, makes you wonder what's beyond that point, makes you go back periodically to check if now you can access that, and when you finally can after like 80 hours of play, it feels so satisfying, "at last!!!". You'll end up coming again and again to New City, each time unlocking a new layer. That's much more fun IMO that simple hub.

    However it must remain fair. Getting killed in an impossible battle is kind of ok, you reload and move on. Getting an incurable disease (I don't remember it, going along with other commenters) is not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't agree with this implementation at all. But if you do it, it must be telegraphed much better. Otherwise for a new party it's just a ha-ha-you-die gotcha. Plus it's bad for immersion. How does the party know to avoid going down this one corridor, or through this one door? You know it only because of past life experience.

      But even if it's telegraphed well, it's still bad gameplay. For an experienced party for whom this content is appropriate the rest of the starting area is boring, and walking through it is trivial nuisance because they have to deal with the starter area random encounters on the way to the high level content.

      Delete
    2. Actually in M&M it works very well because it is perfectly delimitated where the mosters become tough (of all games, Superhero League of Hoboken copied this) and Gothic 1 may be the only Piranha Bytes game where this works so very well (doing a Sanfermines with the orcs or raptors to kill them bit by bit is certainly fun in there, not that much in the following games)

      Delete
  16. One of the games of past times, that i remember to be very hard and with intense story.
    Nowadays Kids dont know how to draw Maps, or even use handwritten notes. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you there. I miss those aspects of gaming.

      Delete
  17. One of the games I have been waiting for you to play since you started this blog!!!

    ReplyDelete

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