Monday, January 7, 2019

Game 315: Lords of Time (1992)

           
Lords of Time
United States
Hollyware (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for Amiga
Date Started: 3 January 2019

Well, here's an interesting find. Rarely does a game appear on my "upcoming" list with no one ever having commented on it, no one saying he was looking forward to it, and so forth. What makes this all the more unusual is that Lords of Time is a clear successor to a game that, eight years later, I still get grief for prematurely abandoning: MicroIllusions' Faery Tale Adventure (1987). Lords' nominal developer is Steve Postma, not Adventure's David Joiner, but the development company, Hollyware, was reconstituted from the remnants of MicroIllusions, and it's easy to see Postma being passed the existing code and engine and asked to create a new title.

The intervening five years have produced some growth in that engine. The axonometric perspective is the same, but the graphics are a bit better. There are more sound effects. Adventure's attributes--bravery, luck, kindness, vitality--have been replaced with a more standard set of RPG attributes: strength, dexterity, and intelligence. The inventory system is improved. But the joystick-based interface and the extremely basic combat system haven't changed a bit. Neither have some thematic elements, including a pre-defined main character and a largely empty game world. It was that latter element that sunk my interest in the original game; we'll see what happens here.
         
This guy probably couldn't pronounce "flux anomaly."
            
The backstory is, I feel, needlessly complex. Lord British only needed a moongate to bring the player to Britannia, but here the protagonist--goofily named "Major Thom," an air force test pilot--arrives in The Realm when a "multidimensional friction propulsion generator" sends him through a "flux anomaly." He crashes on a primitive planet with fantasy trappings. During a period of semi-consciousness after crashing, he sees a vision of an old man, who tells him to seek out the "human king Tanor." He awakens to find a dagger and a Bag of Holding and sets off.
             
Couldn't I have just gotten there by magic? That works for other franchises.

Where I come from, bub, people get to know each other before they start using "thou" and "thee."
           
And he's almost immediately killed. The initial stages of the game are laughably difficult. The character gets attacked by randomly-spawning spiders, fighters, and undead within seconds of start-up, and he has only a flimsy dagger to protect himself. (And when I say "spawn," I mean they literally grow up from the ground right in front of you.) There are environmental menaces such as man-eating plants that kill you instantly if you wander into their radiuses. Spiders can inflict poison, which you have no way of curing. I must have reloaded 20 times in the first 10 minutes. (Fortunately, the game allows quick-saving in memory rather than just saving to disk.) The only advantages Thom has are an ability to run slightly faster than his enemies and slow regeneration of health as he runs.
             
Not a very hospitable planet.
             
The game comes with a map, but at the beginning you have no idea where you've crash landed, and in true Faery Tale Adventure tradition, the scale of the game window is extremely small. It could take easily take 30 minutes in real-time to cross the continent, even with no obstacles. I later figured that I'd arrived just east of the Dark Forest, in the southwest-central part of the map, but that was only after I made my way down to the coast and started feeling along the edges. Oh, and the character needs food and gets hungry during this process, too. On my first attempt, I was starving by the time I made it to Murkvale, and I only had time for a few conversations before I died.
           
The game map, with my travel route this session outlined in blue.

            
Combat involves simply pressing the FIRE button on the joystick, which waves your equipped weapon in the direction you're facing, hopefully hitting an enemy. Sometimes subtle matters of distance and alignment prevent you from connecting (but, of course, not them from hitting you). Later, I guess there will be spells. I hope they supply a greater tactical challenge.

The rest of the interface is a little more complex than Adventure. Certain commands are always available, such as look, cast, search, and game options. These can be activated with individual keys, and hitting the SPACE bar brings up a menu with all available commands. The neat thing about the SPACE bar menu is that it also has contextual commands, based on where you're standing and what you're facing. Such commands might include drink from a well, read a sign, or search a cabinet. 
            
I'm not sure why I need a branch from a tree, but the option is there.
         
On my second attempt, I made it to Murkvale before I died. The town has a tavern, a bank, an inn, a magic shop, and an arms and armor shop. It took me a while before I discovered that food, weirdly, is sold at the arms and armor shop. A portion of waybread costs 10 gold pieces, so I wasn't able to buy much at the outset. I bought enough to sate my stomach and consider my next move.
               
A lot of the areas have text descriptions as you enter.
              
In towns, walking up to people causes an interaction interface to activate automatically, giving you various contextual options depending on the person. In the tavern, there were a few people I could converse with and get tips. I learned that enchanted dwarven armor is second-to-none, dragonsbane can be found in the mountains, and "Restoration" cures poison as well as restoring health. Towns also have private residences that you can loot (I'm not sure if there's any penalty; there wasn't in Adventure) and sleep in their beds.
              
Not all conversations result in hints.
           
From Murkvale, I followed the river north to what was marked on the map as a castle. (It's one of two, but the other specifies that it's a dwarven castle.) A town called Castleguard sat at the feet of the castle. To enter the town, I had to get past a guard with various options for persuasion and bribery. The first one I encountered, at the south gate, wouldn't believe any of my excuses, but when I told the north guard I was there to purchase items, he waved me through. The town largely had the same types of services as in Murkvale.
           
The guard wasn't impressed with any of my excuses.
          
I managed to find a suit of plate mail in one of the houses. Rather than wear it, I sold it for enough money to buy a short sword, some leather armor, and some more food. I had enough left over to bribe the guard at the castle gate, which was the only way I could get in.
             
The castle has a small dungeon. I think putting stocks inside a cell kind of misses the point.
            
Inside the castle, the king asked if I was the "one who rode in on a pillar of flame from a distant land." I said I was. He said that only the archwizards Bessak and Kruel are able to help me return home, and between them only Bessak is likely to help. He lives in a citadel in the Dark Forest, where I just came from. I was a little disappointed that the king didn't give me a more locally-relevant quest, or explain how he knew I'd arrived, or explain why he was interested in helping me, or really anything.
            
The king's court consists of a king and one guard. I remember this emptiness characterized Faery Tale Adventure.
           
I slept, awoke in the dark, and started heading back to the Dark Forest. I soon discovered that not all enemies can be outrun. In particular, some kind of wolf or hound is more than capable of keeping pace. Moreover, when you get to an area dense with objects, like a forest, difficulty navigating around the trees means that even slow enemies can usually catch up with you. I must have reloaded two dozen times.
           
It's easy to get lost, stuck, and swarmed with enemies in the forest.
           
Eventually, with some systematic exploration, I found what I think is the citadel. But the main door is locked and resistant to my attempts to bash it. This is where I leave off the first session. If I can't figure out something in the area, I'll start systematically exploring the other towns and keeps on the map.
            
Unfortunately, I have no keys or lockpicks.
             
I'm not sure about character development. I've been earning experience points, and my max hit points seem to have increased, but this isn't like Faery Tale Adventure, where every successful combat directly raises your attributes. I've found a couple of "Increase Attribute" spells, but I don't have the ability to cast them yet. The manual suggests I need to find various guilds to learn martial and magic skills.
          
I'm also not sure about the "score" business.
         
It's an interesting RPG that I was in no way expecting. This is what I was looking forward to in 1992.

Time so far: 3 hours

56 comments:

  1. Is axonometric the true isometric projection? I remember reading that isometric games are not really isometric.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this is very important to know. We must have a discussion about this highly fascinating subject.

      Hmm...this game has flown under my radar. I knew there was a Faery Tale Adventure II released in 1997, though.

      Delete
    2. FTA2 is amazing. Shame it was never completed - you can still finish the game but a walkthrough is mandatory.

      Delete
    3. @PetrusOctavianus A little more nerd culture please! ;)

      Delete
    4. I find it funny how, even though it was released 10 years later and for a different platform, FTA2 proudly carries the first game's main flaws - huge empty world and horrible controls.

      Delete
    5. Nah, Axonometric just means the projection while isometric is specific case of axonometric projection. See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axonometric_projection and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isometric_video_game_graphics

      Delete
    6. There's really no winning this one. If I use "isometric," the pedants show up to say that the game isn't REALLY isometric even though the term has always been used loosely when applied to video game graphics. If I use "axonometric," which is more technically correct, I confuse people who have never heard that term. Either way, we have to have a big discussion about it.

      Delete
    7. I personally consider the pseudo-isometric projection used in computer games close enough to isometric to fudge it. It's within limitations of the medium. (And it's just 7.5 degrees off anyway)

      But this game definitely absolutely is not isometric in any way whatsoever, so for this the only correct terms are "axonometric" or "orthographic" projection.

      The terms go in specificity from least to most: orthrographic -> axonometric -> isometric
      Isometric is a single specific axonometric projection, and axonometric projections are a specific subgroup of orthographic projections.

      Delete
    8. You could say it's just ordinary 3D, using a small window and infinite distance.

      Delete
  2. I think this game will addict me again to refresh your web dialy as it happened to me with Fate.
    Congratz finding this little gem.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice little gem indeed. Rarely did an unknown game pick my interest beyond only the historical value.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's refreshing to see something a bit different rather than just another Ultima clone, but it would really be nice to never again see goddamned cod-Elizabethan thee-ing and thou-ing. No-one ever talked like that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Speak for thy self.

      ;-)

      (Added the wink since it came off a little harsh at first!)

      Delete
    3. I wouldn't be surprised if Richard Garriott adopted that way of speaking for a while IRL..

      Delete
    4. Methinks thou dost protest too much.

      Delete
    5. People who use "methinks" in all seriousness are the very worst. "I think," takes less typing, and it doesn't make you look like a pompous ass.

      Actually, even worse still is "&c." instead of "etc." Let's not even go there.

      And, JArlFrank, you make a good point. I should have said that no-one, other than Richard Garriott, ever talked like that.

      Delete
    6. the whole usage of island people tongue is rather ridiculous

      Delete
    7. Thou will answer for thy wrong pronouns!

      Delete
  5. Looks like this might take you Loads of Time.

    Bad jokes aside, I vaguely remember playing Faery Tale Adventure a long long time ago, and I'm sure I never beat it. I skimmed your articles to refresh my memory and all I remember were the jade skulls, the brothers and the turtle. I'm guessing I got bored too like you. Hope this one's better, though dying of starvation shortly after you arrive at a town sounds like a really horrible way to start the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Faery Tale Adventure is a little more tolerable on the Genesis, and I don't think the port loses much compared to PC in this case. It's still a largely an empty world that doesn't have a real payoff for finishing it.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I figured I'd just watch either a Longplay of it or Elanarae's Let's Play of it on the Genesis. And I note that even the Longplayer said "This game has many more places to explore and more quests to do, but enough is enough.", which isn't a strong recommendation for it.

      Delete
    3. "Yeah, I figured I'd just watch either a Longplay of it or Elanarae's Let's Play of it on the Genesis."

      <3

      Delete
    4. "[D]ying of starvation shortly after you arrive at a town sounds like a really horrible way to start the game".

      It does suggest harcore but winnable, though, so not all bad if that's your meat.

      Delete
    5. Definitely not my meat. While I still love RPG, I've gotten so lazy and picky with what exactly I'm willing to do in one that I find myself mostly just watching or reading about people going through them these days.

      Delete
  6. Not your fault but I wish the dialog windows had a nice light color instead of that medium blue, which I'm really having to squint at to read the screenshots!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have very fond memories of this game. Even considering that at the time I was very young and didn't understand English too well. Simply exploring the vast map, although mainly empty as you said, was enough for my younger self. I am keen on reading about your experiences with it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've you've played it before, I could seriously use some hints. I really have no idea what to do next, and I've played for about four hours beyond this entry.

      Delete
    2. you can try czech walkthrough;) https://www.oldgames.sk/mag/excalibur-14/page/24/

      Delete
    3. I won't of much help. Although I spent quite a few hours exploring never got that far into the story. I didn't have the map either, which would have been of great help I guess. And what little I knew has been forgotten with the years. I have tried to play the game in more recent years but never got beyond the fuss of configuring WinUAE. I couln't find any let's play either in video or text to satisfy my curiosity.

      For what is worth, I recall spending quite some time grinding in the area next to an inn by the river. Looking at the map my guess is that it should be the one between Castleguard and Murkvale. There is a decent weapon and a few utilitiy spells there (one for light if I remember correctly)

      Sorry I cant be more helpful

      Delete
  8. Playing two Amiga-exclusive games at once.
    That's a first, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankfully, I've finally made peace with the WinUAE emulator and understand how to properly set and save configurations.

      Delete
    2. You'll be starting to agree with Amiga Power's reviews next...

      Delete
    3. To do that, I'd have to play the first 5 minutes and then nothing else.

      Delete
    4. Maybe not a bad idea with the next generic Ultima clone...

      Delete
    5. I was a big Amiga fan and I don't remember this at all, despite the Miggy being a bit starved for RPGs.

      Delete
    6. Yes, I also have no memory of this one, which suggests it didn't make much of a splash.

      Delete
  9. Hey, speaking of action-RPGs where combat is basically hammering a button to wiggle a sword around, what happened to Ys I? Released for DOS in 1989 but I don't remember it being covered. Just that these games seem to have some similar sensibilities...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ys 1 didn't even require you to hit a button. You just slam into your opponent at the correct angle and they take damage. Call me crazy, but I always thought that was kind of fun. Regardless, it was covered in 2011 under the name "The Ancient Land of Ys".

      Delete
    2. Chet did cover it, way way way back in January 2011!

      Delete
    3. http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2011/01/game-45-ancient-land-of-ys-1987.html

      Delete
    4. And I agree with Coder: simply running headlong into enemies would be preferable to the feeble waving that this game features.

      Delete
    5. Hah, I'd forgotten you covered Ys, probably because it's one of your early reviews and doesn't mention most of the things I remember as memorable about the game. (Such as the final dungeon being literally 50% of the game.)

      At the time you thought you wouldn't be seeing Ys again until 2003, but Ys I & II got a Windows release in 1997, albeit in Japanese.

      If we keep seeing Ys games (and there's at least a reasonable argument we shouldn't, as subsequent games continue to turn down the roleplaying elements and increase the action/platforming focus), it's going to be a weird series to follow.

      Ys Chronicles is the definitive version of Ys I and II, but it's not released till 2009. The original Ys III is console-only, but it gets a remake that includes a Windows release in 2005. There are several completely different console versions of Ys IV, and then just this year we got the Memories of Celceta remake that doesn't follow any of them. Ys V has no English or Windows release. Ys VI, as mentioned, is 2003 (two years before we finally get to play a decent version of I and II). Ys Origin is an unnumbered prequel (although a damn good one) from 2006; and only after that do subsequent Ys begin to reach us in some kind of sensible order.

      But as mentioned, post Ys II there's a pretty strong argument for these not being RPGs but rather action games with character progression elements.

      Delete
  10. What I can´t figure out is where is the time element to the story? Something´s amiss.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I guess you know that amiga lemon has a hint doc for this game?
    http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1018

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s not for this game. It’s for a game of the same name from 1984.

      Delete
  12. I may have said this before, but Addict: I think you made the right call on dropping Faery Tale Adventure, and this game may not be any better.

    When it came out, I think FTA may have been the only RPG for the Amiga at all, much less an original one that was actively designed around the machine's hardware. So I think it got a lot more attention and focus in the Amiga community than it really deserved, by people who didn't have anything to compare it to. Plus, the Amiga zealotry effect was very powerful: the OS was literally about ten years ahead of its time, and people who used it regularly *knew* it was far, far better than DOS. (it's got an amazing number of capabilities for an OS that ran on a 7.16Mhz processor.) If Amiga games were better, that meant the *Amiga* was better, so I think people tended to strongly overrate Amiga-native games, and remember them today as being much better than they actually were.

    Now, keep in mind that I'm speaking as someone who used to sell the machines. I'm not carping from the sidelines, I *was one* of the Amiga zealots. But as an Amiga owner who tried to like it, back in the day, I think you definitely made the right choice in dropping it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I´ve been doing some Amiga Streams lately where I dive Headfirst into some old games I haven´t played when I was younger and honestly most of them are Pretty Graphics and awful gameplay o.-

      I loved the Amiga back in the day and I still love playing the old games but I can´t blame the Addict for not liking FTA, I couldn´t imagine trying to solve it today without any "Meta Knowledge".

      Delete
    2. I was a fan too, but reasonably realistic. For me, DOOM and Windows 95 were what killed the Amiga. The slow main processor meant it could never compete with the PC for Doom-likes, even though for many game genres it was still better at the time (especially Sonic-style arcade games.) And for all its flaws, Win95 had pre-emptive multitasking, and it was actually better in some ways than the Amiga's, despite what the fanboys claimed. (In either Win95 or Amiga, if you were smart you rebooted when a program crashed if you wanted to be sure of retaining unrelated work. But it was more likely to trash your whole system in the Amiga, because it had zero memory protection. On modern systems, a crashed program is usually pretty well isolated from infecting others.)

      Some devs (17-bit I think) did a Doom clone on the Amiga which was very playable, but it had to do the same trick as the Spectrum's Heavy on the Magick, and use 4-pixel blocks instead of pixels. The Amiga's slow main processor wasn't too much of a problem because it had other processors to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Also CPU caches were smaller in those days, so there was less benefit in rising above the speed of main memory. But where you had to do some hardcore calculations (DOOM before the days of advanced graphics cards) it couldn't compete.

      Delete
    3. FTA had really good medieval music. It changed depending on time of day, where you were in the game, and it switched to combat music when you were attacked.

      Bird Totems gave you an overview map, but were scarce. I would use one and then reload. I astounded my friend who owned the Amiga with how many I had in storage.

      Delete
    4. Gerry Quinn, I remember the Amiga community being obsessed with getting a Doom-clone running on the system, with mixed results. Some weren't too bad; I remember Gloom from Black Magic being one of the better attempts, but that was 1995 and by then it was far too late.

      Delete
  13. This title might suffer from the same issue that Faery Tale Adventure: a big open world where key items only had a single clue to find without any of them being interconnected. The only way I was able to complete the game was by a map in the manual, and some additional clues that I don't think were in the DOS manual.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amiga Lemon mixes things up. The 1984 plan 9 adventure solution is posted as being pertinent to this 1992 game of the same name. What a mess. It´s explained on this message board (http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=3380&page=2&styleid=4). Maybe the author of this one simply liked the phrase "lords of time." It´s not explained and it seems the net doesn´t have any site with a true walkthrough or explanation of any kind.

    ReplyDelete

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.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

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?"

Also, 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.

As of January 2019, I will be deleting 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.