Thursday, December 20, 2018

Legends of the Lost Realm: The Four Towers

The party emerges victorious from the fourth and final tower.
            
A few days ago, I was happy. I had put another 5 hours into Legends of the Lost Realm, but I was stuck, legitimately stuck, and nothing I could find online would help me out of it. I was on the second floor of the Magicians' Tower and I'd only found one of four map pieces. I couldn't figure out how to get into two large, closed off areas of the tower. A teleporter in a central room had led me to one area, but it only ever led to the same destination. I had bonked my head against every wall and found no secret doors. I had the perfect excuse just to wrap things up and move on.

Then yesterday, in the shower, my dumb brain had to go and say, "I wonder if the direction you enter the teleporter makes a difference." I wasn't even consciously thinking about the frigging game. What made my subconscious think that I actually wanted the puzzle solved? And why wasn't it working on any of the financial issues I'd already given it? What do I even keep it around for?

Sure enough, that was the answer. And thus this entry ends not with a GIMLET. You may rightly ask why I don't just quit anyway if I dislike the game so much, but I have two ready answers for that:

1. It's not so much the game I dislike as the persistence of 1989.

2. I don't want to bail on two Mac games in a row. Moreover, while I may not like Legends, at least I get it (mostly), while I'm not sure the same will be true of Taskmaker or Theldrow--also both Mac games--coming up.

Then again, my comment boards for Legends aren't exactly filled with fans clamoring for the latest entry. Maybe if no one steps up to defend the game here, I'll pull the plug.

Since our last outing, I have completed the four corner towers. I had finished the Tower of War last time and had just started the Thieves' Tower. I then finished the Thieves' Tower, the Magicians' Tower, and the Tower of Pain. I finished collecting all of the map pieces. All towers were two levels, and all levels were 20 x 20 (but some of them were more 20 x 20 than others). All had an encounter on the first level that provided experience rewards to the class represented by the tower, and all had an encounter on the second level that indicated I had "completed" the tower and provided an even greater reward. Each tower offered four pieces of a map or puzzle; more on that in a bit.
          
Level 1 of the Thieves' Tower and the four map pieces I found there.
            
Level 1 of the Thieves' Tower consisted of a bunch of small rooms with locked doors between them--doors that I had to pick open, and which reset every time I left and returned. Each lockpicking expends one "spell point," so there was a functional cap to how long I could explore the level before I had to leave to recharge. (You can recharge by sleeping, but the easier way is to pay the magic shop owner, a theme that goes back to The Bard's Tale.) Occasionally, thieves would drop "Lock Blasters" (which allow you to pick without using a point) and "Thieves' Stones" (which restore a few spell points) after random combats, extending my time.

Another common post-combat loot item was a 50-foot rope. In a grievous mistake,  I didn't realize I needed more than one of these--and thus stopped collecting them after I had one. This turned out to be a big problem when I reached Level 2 of the tower, which consisted of several sections connected by holes in the ceilings and floors. The thief can CLIMB up into a ceiling hole and then lower a rope for the rest of the party. For floor holes, he just has to lower the rope. Either way, the rope remains with the hole after you use it--you can't pick it up again. I thus could have used about 10 ropes trying to explore this area. You can go through the floor holes without a rope, but you take a lot of damage.

Let me pause here to explore one of the game's mysteries. The equipment shop sells ropes in 10, 20, 30, and 40 foot lengths, but if you try to use any of them at a hole, it says that they're not long enough. You need at least 50 feet. That alone is pretty crazy; unless these dungeons have cathedral ceilings, 10 feet should be more than enough. But even if you accept the weird length requirements, all of the store's ropes are useless. Only the 50-foot ropes that you find, relying on random chance, get you to where you want to go.
           
How is that remotely possible?
            
Maybe. I can't help but think there must be a way to combine, say, a 10-foot rope and a 40-foot rope into a 50-foot rope. It seems crazy that you can't, the same way that it seems crazy that you can't combine small stacks of arrows into larger stacks. But I can't find any explicit instructions for doing so, and I've tried COMMAND-clicking and COMMAND-OPTION-clicking and such to no avail.

Anyway, by grinding thief battles on the first level, I finally found enough ropes to explore the second. The holes eventually led to a large maze-like area with lots of traps, and neither my thief's "Remove Trap" ability nor my magician's "Zap Trap" spell did any good. I just had to eat the damage and cast healing spells. Eventually I got to the "completion" square and left. There are three doors on the first level that I still haven't unlocked, as the game says my thief's level is not high enough to pick them.
         
Trying to pick a lock in the dark.
         
The first level of the Magicians' Tower consisted of a bunch of equally-sized rooms with unavoidable traps that caused electrical, fire, cold, and wind damage; fights with magicians and wizards; and the occasional message. Of the puzzle, I learned that "four [pieces] should be found in this tower" (that's true of every tower), that "the blank must be used more than once," that I should "beware the false pieces," and that "Cirinik's puzzle has but one solution."

A repetitive level.
             
The battles weren't too hard except that wizards inevitably cast "Fireball" every round, so I had to prioritize attacking them and try to clear them out as quickly as possible.
              
Killing the wizards is the top priority.
       
The second level had a central room with the teleporter described above. In its passages, I found an iron key and a Cap of Mind Shielding. I had to kill the game at one point when I faced a battle with three green slimes. They resisted every magical attack, and every physical attack just caused them to divide and create more slimes. I couldn't run away, either. It was pretty infuriating. But eventually I reached the end of the level and the mage in my group got enough experience to make a level.
             
It didn't take long for the slimes to get out of control.
            
The final tower was, for some reason, called the Tower of Pain. It was aspected to the shaman class. It wasn't too hard except that my characters kept dying suddenly for no reason. I have no idea what was happening, but I'd be wandering down a hallway at full hit points, then I'd go through a door, and with no intervening message or anything, one of the characters would suddenly just die. I had to keep zipping out of the keep to get resurrected.
            
This was actually the answer. Didn't we see the same "riddle" in another RPG?
           
To even enter the keep, I had to fight battles with shaman guardians, and shamans were frequent random encounters inside as well. Shamans are tough foes because they keep casting "Dancing Blades" every round, and two rounds of the spell are enough to kill at least a couple of characters. Usually, I could kill the shaman in the first round, but if I faced a couple of them, or I got unlucky, it was off to the temple at the end of the battle. I should mention that there isn't much to spend money on, so I don't really mind all the resurrections.

The Tower of Pain had a lot of messages. "Only those who solve Cirinik's puzzle can conquer the moving walls," one said. "The Great Tower must be conquered in four steps," I learned, and "the second step is the teleport maze." Another suggested that I "take the path of least resistance." One message was maddening because it cut off: "The greatest resistance presents the greatest challenge, and the greatest--" What? The message didn't continue.
            
Level 2 of the Tower of Pain was mostly 4 x 4 rooms.
            
Both the Tower of War and the Magician's Keep provided special items to their respective classes--the Gauntlets of Ogre Strength and the Cap of Mind Shielding. The Thieves' Tower may have such an artifact behind one of the locked doors. I'm pretty sure I explored every inch of the Tower of Pain and didn't find anything for the cleric.

Last time, I talked about the experience imbalances and how all the experience awarded in the Tower of War obliterated anything I'd earned through combat. Well, the situation changed in the other three towers, but not necessarily for the better. Where the Tower of War gave a lot of experience to fighters and only a little to the other classes, the other three towers gave experience only to their specific classes, and that was only enough for one level-up. In eight hours of gameplay, then, my thief, mage, and shaman only leveled up once and my three fighters didn't level up at all. It's feast or famine with this game.
          
Why only mages?
          
At this point, I've found all 16 pieces of the map puzzle, and as per the clues, I know that some of the pieces are "false" and the blank is used multiple times to make up for those false pieces. Given those parameters, I started to get to work on it.

I'm assuming the pieces are meant to be arranged 4 x 4. Every piece shows a 5 x 5 grid, so if you arranged them 4 x 4, you'd get a standard 20 x 20 dungeon level. I could be wrong, but if there's no 4 x 4 restriction, the number of variations is much higher and I would say impossible to deduce. Even with that restriction, there are a lot of possibilities. Here's one:

In this configuration, the three pieces to the right are "false" pieces.


A3 and A4 are clearly end pieces, to they're a "must," and the A4, B4, and C4 all have to go together because no other configuration continues their lines. Same with B2 and C2. I also like this configuration because it ensures that no row or column is completely blank. But note that B1 and D2 are completely interchangeable (and either could be replaced with the pair in column F). A2 is superfluous; I could move A3 into its spot and replace A3 with a blank. Unless I get more clues, I'm not sure how to solve it. Then again, I'm also not even sure what the puzzle is for.

Miscellaneous notes:
           
  • An oddity that only an experienced RPG mapper would comment on: stairwells take up two tiles instead of just one.
           
This stairwell doesn't look 20 feet deep.
            
  • The game's copy protection is really annoying me. Because it's so hard to read the codes in the manual, I decided to record each answer in a text file every time I had to look it up, assuming that the game would eventually re-use some of the same codes. Days later, I have 53 entries in the text file and do you know how many times the game has asked for a code I already recorded? Once. I don't think it picks a random code so much as cycles through all of them. At least Pool of Radiance had the decency to only ever ask you for like six possibilities on its codewheel.
  • Mystery items in the general store: bottles of oil (ostensibly to refill lanterns, except that they cost as much as new lanterns), blow torches, crow bars, pick tools, dynamite, pieces of string, pieces of wire, and I suppose any of the ropes since they're never long enough. I've tried all of them in various scenarios, and they do nothing. Pieces of wire don't help with lockpicking, dynamite doesn't create a hole in the wall, etc.
  • The icons across the top of the party indicate whether certain spells are active, just like in Crusaders of the Dark Savant. In this game, though, each icon has multiple purposes. The shield indicates whether any of the "Group Shield" spells are active. The eye lights up with both "Detect Traps" and "Detect Secret Doors" and perhaps others. The torch blazes when both magical and physical light sources are active. The circle contains the magic "Compass." The "X" changes to represent a summoned creature, NPC, or other addition to the party, none of which I've been able to explore yet.
  • No prestige class is available yet.
           
I'm not sure about next steps. I figured that the four corner towers would take about half the game and the central tower would take the other half, but there are way too many spell levels left, without even considering class changes, for me to be anywhere near halfway through the game.

In addition to the central tower, there's an underground to explore--the first level of every tower had one or two pits. To explore this area, I'll need to find more rope. There's also the dungeon attached to the magic shop.

Time so far: 28 hours

48 comments:

  1. The problem with this game appears to be the excessive length. If you really are not half done... not good. My suggestion is to keep going but re-evaluate every X hours and if you hit a "must grind" point that will add ridiculous hours, shelve it.

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  2. I can't "defend" the game since I haven't played it: Taskmaker is the 1989 Mac RPG with which I have direct experience, not this. But I will say that, so far, Legends makes for interesting posts, and I'm somewhat tempted to play it.

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    1. I might have to boot Taskmaker to 1993. I can't find the original 1989 version to download, and it appears that quite a few changes were made to version 2.0, making it more a 1993 game than a 1989 game.

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    2. That's more than reasonable. I think the 1993 version is the one with which most of us are familiar (I've never played the original black & white release), and it'll probably offer a better experience anyway.

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  3. You make this game sound interesting so far. I hope you keep trying until it becomes too much of a chore to play.

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  4. But please go on with the game, not finishing it: bad addict, bad ;)

    Finishing games is an obsession for me. When I start it, I _have_ to finish it, no matter what. The only game I retiered on howlongtobeat.com is Metal Gear Solid 3, couldn‘t stand that game. But it is only retiered, eventually I will come back to it...

    I was really shocked, when somebody told me that you cannot finish Skyrim, because some quests are auto-generated. What gruel game designer does something like this in an RPG?

    This blog is also a support group for people with RPG „problems“, right :)

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    1. Well, technically you can finish Skyrim as the proper content is centered on the handmade quests. The randomly generated quests are generic and boring and don't really count as content,so you're fine.

      Besides, Chet has finished roguelikes before by playing one character to completion, reaching the end of the game with him. But since that genre creates levels randomly, you can re-play these games infinite times and always have something slightly different.

      They're still beatable, however.

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    2. If that's the case I would hope they wouldn't be tracked in completed quest journals. They're probably also not on the main line. I can't imagine they'd be very interesting either if they're auto-generated (kill/protect NPC, get item, etc.).

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    3. They are almost excluaively FedEx quests or variations of these. Boring, repeatable, unimaginative and they DO appear in quest log, but I believe once you completed one type of quest once, they are relit when you get them again. So once is enough and you are done.

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    4. One of the ways Elder Scrolls Online improved on Skyrim was clearly marking repeatable quests. I think Fallout 4 may have done this, too? All of Skyrim's repeatable and minor quests are in a separate tab, and I remember my last playthrough had dozens of items in it. I wish Skyrim let you drop quests, like ESO does, because otherwise you just have to accept the quests you don't want being in your journal forever :/

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  5. Do I understand it right that all combat experience so far didn't even add up to a single level up? And there isn't a good grind spot? Odd how big the differences in HP are in your group.

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    1. All the combat in the town/castle level got me to Level 2. Since then, every level-up has been from quest experience. Combats wouldn't have provided enough to get even halfway to Level 3, let alone to Level 6/7.

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  6. it sounds like you experienced most of what the game has to offer

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  7. "Geek the mage first" is an important rule in shadowrun, and I guess in many other fantasy RPGs as well.

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    1. I've been playing pathfinder: Kingmaker and that rule has applied there so far too, except its geek the alchemist then the mage.

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  8. Last entry you wrote that you couldn't beat flat head and his mom, even unarmed, but that's how it should work according to that what I read:

    "If you are having trouble killing an enemy, like flat head or flat head's mom, try attacking unarmed. From the combat screen, select USE and input "0", or outside combat, unready your weapons."
    http://legendsofthelostrealm.wikia.com/wiki/Tips_and_Notes

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    1. I'm wondering if there's a similar trick to the green slimes. Maybe not unarmed, but weapon type (like sword vs hammer)? That's a RPG trope that pops up occasionally.

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    2. I wonder if you can crash the game by creating too many slimes.

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    3. "I wonder if you can crash the game by creating too many slimes."
      I didn't see it myself, but I loved reading about the Great Atlantic (I think) Slime Crash of Ultima Online.

      Slimes used to divide when damaged in UO. Then someone found an easy way to do low aoe damage to them, trapped one in their house, and went to town on them. First day they released the horde to see what would happen, and crashed the Atlantic shard. Second day they tried extorting the other players for a small amount with fewer slimes, but crashed the shard again. Third day, emergency patch.

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    4. Wow, I imagine that today on any MMO they'd be banhammered. Hard.

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    5. Why? Because a company can't figure out that an endlessly reproducing mob needs a limit otherwise it'll crash the system?

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    6. They would surely fix it (probably), but ban would be nearly certain, as it probably harms their business model. I don't endorse this practice nor think it is good.

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    7. The person who did that thought the same thing. They didn't post what had happened until years later.

      Do note that they weren't trying to crash the server. The second time they tried it with fewer slimes and it happened anyway. There were slimes filling every space they could reach. In an MMO. And given they way pushthrough works in UO anyone caught by the slimewave was dead.

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  9. From what I remember you will probably enjoy Taskmaker a lot more, hah

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  10. I looked online quickly, and what's left is sbhe zber fznyy qhatrbaf yvxr gur gbjref (1/2 yriryf), naq gura gur "svany" qhatrba, juvpu vf RYRIRA yriryf.

    So I'd say you have completed about 1/3 of the maps approx.

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    1. After ROT13... ouch!

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    2. Yeah and wiki linked by Fincki suggests, that this is rather AARRRGGGHHH! than a simple "ouch!".

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    3. Also note that cntr qrfpevovat svany qhatrba fgngrf gung vg vf dhvgr cebonoyl arprffnel gb ernpu yriry guvegl bar jvgu sbhe punenpgref, ohg V zvtug unir zvfernq fbzrguvat. Fvapr Purg vf ba yriry fvk gb frira jvgu uvf punenpgref guvf arneyl thnenagrrf ubhe nsgre ubhe bs zvaqyrff tevaqvat. Ohg znlor rkcrevrapr erprvirq ba "pregnva fdhnerf" znxrf vg n oerrmr. V qba'g xabj naq V'z abg fher V jnag Purg gb qb vg. Abg gb zragvba gung nsberzragvbarq cntr pbagnvaf jvaavat fperrafubg naq V'z abg fher vs bar be gjb fragraprf ner rabhtu sbe fhpu unffyr.

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  11. The map puzzle is pretty cool - I sure hope it's implemented correctly.

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  12. Two comments:

    1) I, too, often get ideas while standing in the shower. I suppose relaxation helps the brain focus on other matters.

    2) The very same puzzle with teleporters can be found in the semi-RPG arcade game Gauntlet (1985). Approaching the square from the "correct" direction is the key to reaching the desired destination. That may have been an inspiration.

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    1. I'm 100% sure I played another game recently where the direction from which you enter the teleporter affects the direction in which you're sent. (I remember figuring it out late in the game and feeling foolish that I hadn't clued into it earlier!)

      It might have been Virtual Hydlide on the Saturn, or Dragon View on the SNES -- both console-exclusive entries that conclude an RPG series that began on computers, now that I think of it.

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    2. I'm pretty sure there are plenty of top-down games with similar teleporter puzzles, though I can't think of any examples off the top of my head (Chip's Challenge maybe?). But I can see how this could trip you up in a first person game.

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    3. Not an rpg as such, but Damocles, the second in the Mercenary series of first-person adventures, features teleporter cubes that send you to different destinations depending on which face you enter.

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    4. Teleporting via the moonstone in Ultima VI? Also direction dependent.

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    5. The mother of all direction-of-entering-a-teleporter-decides-destination puzzles has to be the bank puzzle in Zork 2.

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  13. I just noticed you renamed Pete to Gideon, seems you did it sometime during the last post's playtime. I'm enjoying the review of this one. Never played it, but it's one of those rare few I'm enjoying reading more than I would playing.

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  14. This post is reproduced at http://reposts.ciathyza.com/legends-of-the-lost-realm-the-four-towers/

    Keep at it, we love hearing you bash your head against a game. You played that one game that took over 100 hours, this one is a piece of cake in comparison. Besides it's totally hardcore to actually play an obscure game like this that nobody really cares about to completion.

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  15. The spell name "Zap Trap" seems to be based on Bard's Tale's "Trap Zap".

    I may be stating the obvious, but it looks like the puzzle solution is a path that you have to take through a dungeon level, presumably one with moving walls (given one of the hints you cite). So then it would indeed make sense to limit yourself to a 4x4 grid for the overall 20x20 dungeon size, which means that replacing B1 or D2 with the pair of tiles in the F columns would not work (you'd need 5 columns then).

    So this would only leave 4 possibilities: B1/D2 swapped or not, and A2 present or not. Perhaps the arrow in tile B1 has a meaning that makes sense in context and helps disambiguate, but even if not, with 4 possibilities it's perhaps an option to just try out the various solutions. Maybe some of the solutions can also be rules out while walking the path because there are obvious obstacles in the way that make that path infeasible.

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  16. I think the other magic-word-is-please RPG was Tangled Tales.

    This game seems not as bad as others you have stuck through. I need you to beat these games because I never will!

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  17. To be honest I'm super thrilled to see what awaits at the end, it's either gonna be legendary or a total letdown...
    But that must make me a bad person because I'm totally not willing to do it myself...

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  18. I find the screenshots of this game fascinating to look at because the weird mac-ness of them is so different from everything else. And the story of the ropes was interesting.

    But I can't imagine ever wanting to play it.

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  19. Sometimes with these games you get the distinct feeling that the designer DMs for their local D&D group and takes their role as "antagonist" a little too seriously. Some of these decisions, like the useless ropes for sale, just seem spiteful.

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  20. Unless you have prot from fire running, takes a lot of sting out of the alchemists ;) (320 hours in the game and counting, suffering from chronic restarteritis...)

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    1. That’s in reference to Bakuiels Pathfinder comment, didn’t nest properly...

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  21. For what it’s worth Chet, I’m enjoying these posts and would very much like to see you finish this rather interesting game.

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  22. Ultima gives an awesome backdrop. I suspect it´s trainee programmers that do these things.

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  23. "The greatest resistance presents the greatest challenge, and the greatest--"

    Maybe the missing part is "reward"?

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