Friday, October 26, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Walk into My Parlour

At least he's up front about it.
           
We're 9 entries and over 50 hours into Crusaders of the Dark Savant, so it's probably time for a macro-level check-in. This is the situation as I understand it.

The party has arrived on the planet of Lost Guardia following their unsuccessful quest for the Cosmic Forge in Wizardry VI. "Lost" Guardia, long kept secret by the efforts of the Lords of the Cosmic Circle, has recently been rediscovered, and now a bunch of factions are vying for control of the planet and searching for an uber-powerful artifact called the Astral Dominae, created by a "scientific genius" named Phoonzang. The factions given in the backstory include the titular Dark Savant and his alien allies, the spider-like T'Rang; a pachyderm race called the Umpani; a robot agent of the Lords of the Cosmic Circle named Aletheides; and a mysterious female descendant of Phoonzang named Vi Domina, who is either the Dark Savant's ally or his prisoner.

The races native to Guardia are not mentioned in the backstory as being contenders for the Astral Dominae, but they clearly have a stake in what happens to the planet. They include the Ratkin, the orclike Gorn; the technologically-advanced, humanlike Helazoid (the race's representatives, all female so far, fly around on air cars), and two competing religious factions: the Danes and the Munks. Actually, the Munks are split into two factions: benevolent residents of the temple at Munkharama, and hostile Forest Munks.
            
I keep fighting them, but I don't yet know what their story is.
           
Depending on the ending to Wizardry VI, the party could have arrived on Guardia in the company of Aletheides (as mine did), the Dark Savant, or the dragon Bela, an ally of the Umpani. So far, I've heard nothing from Aletheides since he dropped me off, and I get the impression that no matter how you start the game, you're free to take any direction that you want.

The party started near New City, a cosmopolitan town in which most of the races have embassies. The Dark Savant has taken over most of it, and his troopers patrol the streets and can be found scattered around the planet. From New City, the party can take any number of forest paths to the various factions' territories. I've gone to the areas controlled by the Munks, Gorn, Dane, and now the T'Rang. Each has offered a series of puzzles and combats, culminating in treasure chests in which I apparently was supposed to find pieces of maps. Sometimes, those maps have been gone because I spent a bit too long building my characters. I'll have to recover the missing ones from NPCs later, I guess. I don't know what the maps are for or how they relate to the Astral Dominae, of which I've heard nothing since the game began.

Fully fleshed-out plots are rare even in 1992, so I hesitate to criticize any game that offers one, but I've found the plot of this one silly and unsatisfying so far, and I suspect there isn't going to be much of a payoff when it comes to this Astral Dominae and whatnot. I'll be happy if I'm wrong. In the meantime, most of my enjoyment of the game has come from the combat mechanics, the character development system, and the many small encounters that pepper each map. The variety of monsters, with their special attacks and defenses, come together with the variety of spells to create fun tactical situations. While it's true that you can rest after most combats, you only get a small amount of restoration from each 8-hour rest period, and a number of small factors discourage you from resting many times in quick succession. So even though individual combats play the greatest role in the game's difficulty curve, the accumulation of many combats plays some role. Anyway, despite what may have been excessive negativity in my entries regarding the plot and the interminable text sequences, I am enjoying the game overall.
             
Starting a new area.
              
When I left off, I had finished closing a loop to the northwest of New City. I had just discovered the city of Nyctalinth, occupied by the T'Rang. I figured I might as well explore it next since I was already there.

Nyctalinth turned out to be my favorite area of the game so far. It had some interesting lore, and the T'Rang are original, and satisfyingly alien, without being (as so many of David Bradley's additions are) overly goofy. The city had once been occupied by a native race, apparently now extinct, with only their buildings and cemeteries left as a testament to their existence. The T'Rang took over the area when they came to the planet; there's a large landing field for their spacecraft at the north side of the city. They turned the old temple into breeding grounds for the giant insects that they eat.

As I entered the area, a T'Rang approached me and said that the "watchers" had told him that I was coming, and that I could "enter, but be wary" as the T'Rang "do not like [my] kind." He recommended that I hasten to the "high chamber" where "H'Jenn-Ra T'Rang awaits."

As is normal for the game, I ended up attacking and killing a lot of wandering T'Rang while I tried to find the "high chamber." The ruins were also swarming with Savant troopers (which made sense, given their alliance), Ratkin, and Danes, many times attacking in very large packs of four or five groups apiece.
             
A typical T'Rang group in this area. The "elders" are capable of "Death" spells.
             
Following the right wall, I first came to an "observation control center" in which Savant guardians were messing with some equipment. The game, speaking from the understanding of the characters and not the players, coyly describes what are clearly computers as "shimmering boxes" and such. On one of them I was able to read some text ("SERVER: 023@41A2 HOST: Black Ship Command. Remote Access Terminated Memory Purge Complete"), but the guardians hastily shut down the others before attacking me. I believe it was here that I first met a Savant Controller, capable of numerous psionic attacks and spells, including those that cause party members to go insane.

When the dust cleared, the game mused for a while from the perspective of my characters encountering these strange machines:
            
It is a thing altogether different from your world and what you have known, for these entities seem to wield a power unknown to you, a power that seems to defy the laws of nature itself, a power to weave abstract mathematical thought into a reality composed of new unfathomable dimensions, tempering the energy of the spheres as if it were but a weight of common steel. And yet, for all their magicks, still do they walk and bleed and die as mere mortal men, and seem driven by the same hungers of conquest and domination that has ruled life since times primordial. How very strange.
              
Whenever I think I'm enjoying the game, I picture someone who, having wrote that text, sat back at his terminal with a satisfied smile on his face, content in his contribution to the project for another day, and I have to take a break and play something else for a while.

Moving on, I found the T'Rang landing zone to the north, and in an office a "T'Rang Portbook," which I gather is some kind of flight log, though written in a code. In a security office, I gathered several cylinders called "finger rods" that turned out to be the keys to unlocking several areas.

I next came to the "high chamber," where pointing T'Rang funneled us into a square in which, through a grate, we met the bulbous, drooling leader of the race, H'Jenn-Ra T'Rang. She (I'm guessing) said that she would "test" us by sending us with a message to "Shritis." The message was to "strike," and we would get to this Shritis by using something called the "Anthracax."
             
          
The Anthracax turned out to be a teleportation device in a nearby chamber, which took me to an area that was at first unknown, but later turned out to be the interior of the T'Rang embassy in New City, which I had otherwise been unable to enter. Shritis greeted us in a room outside the teleporter. Not being a particular fan of the T'Rang, I tried to botch the mission by giving him different orders ("KILL YOURSELF") or by saying nothing at all, but I could neither get past the Shritis or H'Jenn-Ra T'Rang's guards back in Nyctalinth until I resolved the issue.
            
I tried.
          
The order to STRIKE apparently meant to strike the Umpani, as Shritis was delighted at the chance to destroy the "nosy Umpani toads." He asked if we'd help, and I again said no, and this time he let us go. Searching his chambers, I found a chest with a dead Savant trooper and a "control card" inside. This control card let us into another New City building I'd been previously unable to enter. Inside were a bunch of Savant troopers operating computers. They attacked, and when I killed them I was able to type stuff at one of the computer terminals, but I didn't have anything in particular to type, and nothing obvious seemed to produce any result.
              
            
We warped back to Nyctalinth, where H'Jenn-Ra-T'Rang gave us another quest to "find the place of the rat men" and bring a "map of the boat" from "behind a rack of six spears." He gave me some cryptic clues that indicated the six spears would pose a number puzzle whose solution would either be 534261 or 534612.

Continuing around, I looted an armory for a bunch of "shock rods," which I think are the same polearms used by Savant Troopers, plus some "mystery ray." ("It makes you wonder about the intelligence of these creatures to have to go to so much trouble just to make something that a broadsword could easily accomplish with a few good swipes.") Southwest, I found a church--which the T'Rang had converted to pens for their insects--and beyond that a large cemetery with gravestones for the race that used to live in the area.
            
An amusing note after we killed all the beetles.
           
A shovel found in the first room of the cemetery seems specifically intended to dig up the graves.  Most just have rotting bodies, but one offered an undead combat, and another produced some jewelry and an artifact called "Ymnu's Paw." A force field prevented my entry to the cemetery's western section.

In the south of the cemetery are two small rooms. There was a jeweled staff in one of them, but a ghost appeared through the wall and stole it just as I was approaching, moving it to the other room. Every time I entered the room with the staff, the ghost showed up and took it to the other one. While I was pondering this puzzle, I dug at a grave and it opened up a hole that dropped the party into caves beneath the city.
             
This is what we get for all standing together in a blob.
            
So far, I've been completing one entry per faction area, but I'm afraid that isn't possible this time. I'm stuck in those caves, which form a large, windy map full of fights with giant bugs, including these horrid things called "cave thraxes" that have like a million hit points. It's been very hard to rest without interruption in these tunnels.
         
I wonder what this thing is in its adult phase.
            
Passage in one area is blocked by "large gooey balls" that mire us in syrup and force us to turn back. A couple of other areas have spores that release deadly gas when you step on them. So far, I can't find any way out of the caves, but it occurs to me that I haven't tried "Levitate" at either location. When I do get out, I still have a bit of Nyctalinth left to explore.
                
Some writer enjoyed himself during this section.
           
Random notes:
           
  • This noise constantly drones in the background as I play the game. I've heard it on YouTube videos, too, so it's not just my configuration. What is it supposed to be? Why would they include such an obnoxious cacophony?
  • A commenter suggested that I need to read, not "use," the maps I've been finding. (You "use" the area map, so you can see the source of my confusion.) They don't actually offer maps, and frankly I'm not sure why I got the idea that they were maps since they don't actually say "map" in the item name. Instead, they seem to offer cryptic hints about how to get through the associated areas. For instance, the "temple" document (or whatever) talks about the importance of finding the statue of Phoonzang to move forward and finding the various stones in the water around the statue. I feel like I solved the area without the document, so maybe they're not all necessary.
           
Some of the text on the "Crypt" document.

           
  • Only a few times in this game have I encountered any arrows or sling stones for my missile weapons, even at places that sell weapons. I feel like it would be a bad idea to invest too much in those skills.
  • Leveling has slowed a lot but hasn't entirely stopped. Everyone is Level 12 or 13.
          
I have absolutely no idea what percentage of the game I've played at this point. I still have to find the Ratkin area, the Umpani area, and the Helazoid area, at least, and judging from the game map there are some areas within the seas that have nothing to do with any of the named factions. Maybe, generously, I'm at 40%?

One hopes to have quick, easy alternate games at such times. Alas, one has instead Legends of the Lost Realm.

Time so far: 53 hours



20 comments:

  1. another good post, and according to howlongtobeat is the avarage playtrough 99 hours

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  2. Replies
    1. The wind and that Wiz6 and Wiz7 did weird stuff to play samples on the sound cards and that stuff is not emulated correctly in DosBox, as it was really hacky. This is why it sounds so bad.

      I see in GOG workarounds to use the pc speaker output as that is better emulated.

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    2. Yes, that seems to be the problem. This is not really a problem with DOSbox emulation, I had the same issue when I played Wiz 6 and 7 on my old DOS PC with an origninal Sound Blaster. Turn off Sound Blaster (for FX, you can keep it for music) and switch to speaker; the effects are digitized samples which sound pretty good from the speaker. Just give it a try.

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    3. Sounds like "standard" c64 lightning sound effect SID chip was not very good with lowkey base sounds.

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    4. I'm 99% sure that I set it up for PC speaker, but I'll check again when I'm back on my regular computer.

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  3. I had a thought about what to do with the computer in New City. Rot13 just in case:

    Lbh znl unir gevrq guvf nyernql, ohg nsgre ernqvat guvf ragel, V frr lbh'ir nyernql pbzr npebff fbzrguvat va Alpgnyvagu gung jbhyq frrz gb or eryrinag.

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  4. Is it possible to get out of Nyctalinth's graveyard the way you came? When I played the game I was wondering if that particular section of the game might deadlock you if you approached it too early.

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    Replies
    1. It doesn't appear so, unless it involves the use of an item I'm not seeing.

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  5. The T'Rang look like they're straight out of a bad Star Trek episode. It's not just the name and the goofy design, they actually look like they're wearing cheap masks.

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  6. The Nyctalinth caves have an exit. Maybe you've missed it? I found the wall textures in caves sometimes made things hard to see.

    As for the computer in New City, are you sure it is plugged in? Have you tried turning it off and on again?

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  7. Have you considered doing two entries between Wizardry 7 ones?

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  8. Unfortunately, the t'rang and the umpani aren't completely original. They're obviously based off of two Spelljammer races: the neogi and the giff.

    The neogi look like a wolf spider with an eel head. Evil slavers usually killed on sight by everything else. The only similarity being the spider component.

    The giff look like hippos, not like the umpani being rhinos, but are almost exactly the same. A militaristic race of mercenaries that love guns.

    The fact that the umpani are almost exactly the same and that the t'rang are evil and have a spider component clued me in when the game first came out. At least the t'rang are different enough.

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    Replies
    1. Baha, I remember seeing those mercenary hippos on one of those "stupidest D&D monsters" lists. Right up there with the clothes drawer that attacks people.

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    2. I guess that was important to know, even if it diminishes my thoughts on this game a bit. Thanks.

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  9. Replies
    1. No. I used to, and should probably get back to it. I don't feel like the count would be very high for this game, maybe one per hour or two.

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  10. There are two exits from the T'Rang under ground, one of which you can reach now. The ladders are really hard to see in the textures. You'll need to come back later with something from another faction to get past the eggs.

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  11. A note on cave thraxes:

    They have no resistance to "special" and only 25% resistance to "cold". Thus armormelt and various ice spells are your friends.

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  12. Sorry, but your complaining about the game's flavour text is getting unpleasant. You literarly said the thought of someone enjoying their work disturbs you, while I found the text itself funny, since what would you expect from people from the middle ages. And more importantly, what you think is on your head, so the writer can only write about the characters' reaction.

    ReplyDelete

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