Monday, January 14, 2019

Lords of Time: After the Snap

This tavern is literally the most populated place in the Realm.
         
You may recall at the end of the last session, I was trying to figure out what to do. The king had told me that the wizard Bessak might help, but the front door to Bessak's keep was locked, and I had no way in.

I decided to regard the world as an open possibility, and I began exploring counterclockwise around the coast. I first came to an unnamed hamlet west of Murkvale, where there were a couple of fields of grain, a few houses, and a general store. I bought a length of rope, a canteen, two torches, and two matches in the store.

There was a shrine further along the road, but I couldn't figure out anything to do there.
           
"Helloooo!"
         
Soon I came into Murkvale for the second time. I found more structures this time--it's very easy to miss parts of cities because the exploration window is so small, and I don't have "Fistak's Mapping Spell" yet. In the tavern, one of the patrons had a crystal key around her neck. She said she was a "poor wizard's wife, drowning the loss of her husband with buckets of ale." I thought the key might be what I needed for Bessak's keep, but she slapped my hand every time I tried to take it, and the only other option--give her a drink--didn't seem to produce any effect no matter how many drinks I gave her.
          
           
The bartender warned me about "maneat plants" along the road. Other patrons talked about an island covered with gold in the southeastern ocean, and one said that Bessak was seeking the Druid Book of Life. That might be a clue. I had previously stopped at the Druid Temple (I think I forgot to relate it in the first entry) but couldn't find a way in.

Another new building was the bank, where I deposited 20 gold pieces. On an island east of the city, I found a place where I could rent or buy a raft.
         
50% interest and I have to pay it back the next day? Hell, yeah!
        
The biggest new discovery, however, was a "guild shop" in the northeast of town, where I could take several "continuing education" courses.

  • Potion Identification Made Easy
  • Lock Picking for Beginners
  • Intermediate Lock Picking
  • Advanced Lock Picking
  • Basic Spell Casting
  • Plant Identification
  • Swords for Beginners
  • Learn to Throw Daggers the Easy Way
  • Armor Polishing
  • Shoplifting Done Right
  • Creative Begging
  • Personal Money Management
         
These all sound cool.
           
I only had enough for one class, so I took "Swords for Beginners," and supposedly was trained in better use of the sword, though it didn't reflect anywhere in my statistics. I sold a couple of excess items at the armory and returned to take "Basic Spell Casting," but the guildmaster said that I needed 750 experience points. That was about 100 points shy of where I was, so I went grinding for a while. This ultimately provided enough money to take two courses when I got back, so in addition to "Basic Spell Casting," I took "Lock Picking for Beginners." Once I took the spellcasting class, I started to earn magic points (although I still have no spells to cast). The lock-picking class came with a set of picks.

There was nothing happening at an unnamed hamlet northeast of Murksdale, on the east coast, so I kept going north. I eventually came to a walled watchtower with a locked door. I couldn't pick it, but the town across the river had a general store that sold iron keys. One of those keys got me through the door. There were two guards inside, and neither seemed perturbed that I had just broken into a watchtower. One, in fact, was drunk, and I had the option to rifle his pockets. The other, named Taran, told me that the realm had not been attacked in over three hundred years.
               
This whole kingdom is run by a skeleton crew.
             
I followed the road northwest out of the hamlet, then took a branch that bypassed the castle. The road came to an end at the northern coast, at an unmanned watchtower that wasn't on the map. There was nothing there. The road curved west and led to yet another outpost, where I found a dagger. I suppose, if nothing else, all these outposts would serve as a place to rest if you were in the area at night.
         
"Anybody here?"
           
A mountain to the southwest had an icon on the map that suggested a dungeon, so I walked towards it. When you walk up a mountain in the game, the graphics and movement actually suggest a character elevating up a slope, which is an interesting addition to this type of perspective.
           
You kind of have to see it in animation, but I'm walking "up" this mountain.
         
I found a mine entrance with a shop next to it called "Stantho's Occult Goods." It sold weird items that seemed like spell reagents. I bought a skeleton key but didn't have money for much else.
           
I have a feeling that these all are going to be a solution to a quest or a spell.
        
The entrance led to a two-level mine where dwarves worked with picks. There were mining carts on tracks that I could push around. Gems gleamed in the walls, but I didn't have any tools to extract them. None of the dwarves were interested in talking with me.
         
I do like the environmental descriptions.
        
Night was falling when I left the mine, so I returned to Castleguard to sleep. While in town, I found a library (missed before) which had a few clues among the books, including the four sacred trees of the druids and a hint about other worlds existing through portals. In the tavern, a patron talked about mysterious disappearances "around the Island Keep," a castle off the northwest coast.
              
My dilemma in summary.
              
I returned in the end to Bessak's keep, just to make sure one of the iron keys or the skeleton key wouldn't open his door, or that I couldn't pick it now that I had the skills and tools. Nothing worked.
          
My explorations this trip, minus the return to the Dark Forest at the end.
         
Throughout these explorations, I routinely fought, and was often killed by, the only four enemies I've encountered so far: spiders, some kind of undead, some kind of fighter or dwarf, and wild dogs or wolves. They spawn so often that you're rarely truly alone on the road. My experience has been increasing and with it my hit points, but I haven't seen any signs of improved combat effectiveness. Combat remains a joyless affair in which the difference between victory and death often comes down to a few pixels in one direction or another.

Miscellaneous notes:
         
  • Examining items gives you a one-paragraph description. The descriptions aren't terribly interesting, but I like games that offer them, and such games are rare in this era.
          
A description of some hiking boots.
        
  • Each shop allows you to try to steal. It's tempting, but failure means that you get kicked out, and the shopkeeper refuses to do business with you permanently. You could save-scum, but you can only save outside of shops, and there's a long loading transition between buildings and the outdoors. I haven't needed anything that bad that I couldn't afford.
  • Particularly with my color-blindness, these plants are annoying.
           
It was right in the middle of the road, too.
                  
Over eight years ago, in the midst of Faery Tale Adventure, I wrote:
           
This game world is huge, sparsely populated, and devoid of any clues . . . . I've slaughtered countless ogres, goblins, skeletons, and phantoms, built up my bravery and vitality to epic levels, and yet I have no idea what to do next . . . . It's like I started the game too late, the evil necromancer has already won, and I'm one of the last five people alive.
          
The same emptiness and gloom pervade this game. Each city has about five people, and they're all in the tavern. No one appears in the private homes even at night. No one is out and about on the roads. Shops don't have any signs out front to advertise that they're shops. The king sits alone in an empty castle. Most of the buildings you stumble upon have no people at all. I hasten to add that, if intended, this would be a great setting for an RPG--some kind of post-apocalyptic world, empty except for monsters, in which you have to piece together what happened from notes and other evidence. I'm just not sure that such an atmosphere in Lords of Time is deliberate.

I guess I'll keep exploring the map. I still have to check out the northwest, including the Dwarven High King Holde, Lord Dervak's Holde, Wyvern Mountain, and (if I can reach it) Island Keep. There also appears to be one town I missed south of Castleguard. But it might be time for explicit hints if any readers have played the game.

Time so far: 7 hours


44 comments:

  1. I wonder if the shoplifting or begging skill would allow you to steal the key from around the woman's neck or convince her to give it to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seems like a good suggestion. By the time I finish exploring the map, I'll probably have enough money.

      Delete
    2. You have to buy an orange potion, then pour the potion in a beer and then give the beer to the woman.

      Delete
  2. Your description of your explorations actually sounds quite fun. But I guess you left out all the wandering through empty terrain. Still, from the sound of it, this seems a bit less sparsely populated and a bit more narrative-rich than FTA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the closest RPG to what Chet is talking about is Scavengers of the Mutant World, which he hated.

      Delete
    2. It's the same problem with FTA. Nonlinear exploration of ruins and towns could be fun if there was ANYTHING interesting in those places. In this game, though, until the plot brings you to a location, there's nothing to do there--and even then, there isn't a lot to do.

      Delete
  3. I probably would have gone for Personal Money Management, just to see if it's a wealth multiplier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe greater interest rates at the bank, if that's a thing.

      Delete
    2. I eventually took the course but didn't notice any difference in my accumulation of money. And the bank terms stayed the same.

      Delete
  4. Maybe they just caution you against using the payday lender, er, I mean bank. "Live within your means, don't use credit!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder what the consequences of not paying back your loan are

      Delete
    2. "Thou hearest the voice of a great wizard, Dave Ramsey."

      Delete
  5. Can you kill NPCs? Because if all else fails, maybe that's how you'd get the key

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would that be cold-blooded murder or a merciful family reunion?

      Delete
  6. You should buy orange potion(sleep potion) and put in the beer. Get pickaxe in shop and go mining for diamonds to mountains north of starting area

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jesus, this game literally has you dropping roofies in a woman's drink...

      Delete
    2. Thank you. I wasn't expecting adventure-style puzzles in the game for some reason.

      Delete
    3. Frankie, if you know how I'm supposed to tell which night the moon is "blue," I'd appreciate that hint, too.

      Delete
  7. "I hasten to add that, if intended, this would be a great setting for an RPG--some kind of post-apocalyptic world, empty except for monsters, in which you have to piece together what happened from notes and other evidence."

    I almost hate to bring it up and risk another flame war, but this is basically what Fallout 76 is. It gets a lot of flak for not having any human NPCs, but there is a good reason for that. Figuring out what happened before your Vault opened is the main plot of the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't played it, but I watched a fair amount of it on Twitch when it first came out.

      I thought it honestly looked pretty awesome, although not like something I would spend too much time playing.

      It DOES sound like the roguelike Caves of Qud, though, which has been tempting me to be my next play through.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. I got the impression that it was a multi-player game without much useful single-player content. Is that not true?

      Delete
    4. The game is "always on" multiplayer, but it looks like a majority of streamers play with it as a functionally single player game. Other than the social aspect, it doesn't look like the multiplayer is actually integral to the game in any way, unless maybe for endgame dungeons?

      Delete
  8. The non-RPG Gone Home, released about 5 years ago, as well as the more recent Firewatch, both run along the lines of "you are alone wandering through a desolate setting, unraveling a mystery with sparse clues" plotline.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are called "walking simulators" and they can be pretty fun. Myst is an early example IMO.

      Delete
    2. Myst had a fair number of more puzzles than I recall most walking simulators have, at least that's true for Firewatch. I haven't played many of them, including Gone Home.

      Delete
    3. Yeah but for the time Myst had very little action, no combat and relied heavily on a mysterious setting. I will agree that walking sims tend to have less intense puzzle solving but they often use mystery or discovery as a driving force.

      Delete
    4. Irene and I played Gone Home based on reviews. The atmosphere was great, gameplay was great (for its genre), but the resolution was a real let-down.

      Delete
  9. That's not your colourblindness talking, that plant is literally the same colour as the surrounding grass, only with a slightly different pattern. That it's in the middle of the road is the only real hint it's there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm guessing, as I haven't played the game, but I suspect it's the slightly lighter and smaller tree just above the word "from" in the text beneath the map.

      Delete
    2. It's quite insidious. The leaves of the plant (which capture you) blend in with the background, but the flower part stands out and looks like something that you might want to pick up. I keep falling for it.

      Delete
  10. Ah, I love games that let you steal from the shops! I spent so much time getting killed by shopkeepers and getting mobbed by Keystone Kops in nethack. I just couldn't resist ripping them off. I remember the thrill the first time I thought to shoot a wand of teleport down a line of items and they all disappeared, randomly distributed about the level. I also remember the time I was badass enough to actually engage and kill the shopkeeper. Screw you, Asidonhopo!

    Stealing from shops is pretty rare, isn't it? What other games allow it as a mechanic? What subset of those actually give the strategy a decent payoff instead of forcing you to save scum? "12% thief skill? Steal, get caught, reload. Steal, get caught, reload. Steal, get a leather armor, reload because what I really want is that +2 ice sword, which I'll get eventually if I just reload enough times." In nethack, because there were so many ways to shoplift it became something of an art form.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could shoplift in Baldur's Gate, I believe. I never did it, though, because I'm not an animal (and there wasn't very much good stuff to buy).

      Delete
    2. I'd only do it in that game for role-playing reasons.

      Delete
    3. Elder Scrolls games starting from Daggerfall at least (don't remember how it was in Arena). In Morrowind you would be caught by a shopkeeper if you tried to sell him back an item you stole from him - "Hey, that's mine!"

      Delete
    4. @JarlFrank There's a hilarious hack in Skyrim for stealing with impunity. Because getting caught is based on line of sight, if you put a basket or cauldron over the shopkeep's head you could literally rob him blind.

      Delete
    5. You can steal from some stores in Ultima VII, although it's not a skill check or really distinct from any other case of just picking up stuff that doesn't belong to you. I believe Ultima II and III let you steal food from stores, too?

      ToME 2.x (an Angband-branch roguelike more or less unrelated to the modern ToME 4) allows you to steal from stores. It's a completely broken mechanic in that theft chance is based on item weight, without any consideration for value. That means that rings, amulets, and the like are the easiest items to steal in the game -- and it's possible to get the steal chance up to 100%. Worse, stores will restock if you buy everything they have to sell. That means that without too much skill investment you can turn a ring store into an endless, risk-free firehose of artifacts. (You can't resell stolen items, but you don't really need money when you have crazy rings that give you +20 to everything.)

      You can usually steal from stores in the original Fallout games. A lot of 'stores' are just people with stuff to barter for, but I know that in at least some cases it's possible to steal stuff off shelves/tables. It's mechanically the same as pickpocketing out of a vendor's inventory.

      I think theft is one of those game mechanics that's hard to do in a balanced way if you allow reloading. The penalty for failed theft needs to be significant enough to matter but survivable enough that it's not an automatic reload. The Elder Scrolls does OK at this, although I suspect most TES players reload after being caught stealing. In Fallout it's fundamentally broken because getting caught stealing in many cases makes the game unwinnable by aggroing the entire town.

      Delete
    6. Make your game such that each pickpocketable entity has its own RNG seed for the pickpocket action and save that seed when you save the game. That way you can't change the result by saving/loading/trying other things.

      You can still undo a bad check, but you can't change the result. If it got you caught, then doing it again after you reload will still get you caught.

      Though, I might make it so that improving your skill will reset all the seeds, so that you will get a new fair chance at success at everyone, even the people you failed with previously (and would probably still fail otherwise with old roll even against your new slightly improve skill check). This seems fair, so that if you happen to have a really terrible RNG roll saved at some vendor, it won't be set in stone forever.

      Delete
    7. The "Realms of Arkania" trilogy allowed pickpocketing in shops. But you only could steal money. Got also kicked out after being caught.

      Delete
  11. [quote]I hasten to add that, if intended, this would be a great setting for an RPG--some kind of post-apocalyptic world, empty except for monsters, in which you have to piece together what happened from notes and other evidence[/quote]

    Other commenters correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is what Dark Souls's setting is intended to be

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how I see it, although it's completely unnecessary to piece together the mystery to play the Dark Souls games. There are tons of youtube videos where folks try to figure out the lore from everything from it descriptions to architectural details.

      Delete
  12. Speaking of fairy tale the walk through takes 2,5h straight so even if you'd now what you're doing it takes a lot of running a round to win.

    Consequently game is also so boring to watch that I've never managed to watch the video through without skipping.

    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.