Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Legacy: Bad to the Bone

The enemies get more terrifying and grotesque.
The Legacy is a much bigger game than I expected going in. I figured it would be a typical adventure game set in a haunted house with maybe three levels and a basement, all of them relatively compact, with all rooms serving some kind of purpose. But the creators of this game made a true hybrid, and from the RPG side, that includes enough levels, with enough space, to satisfy a Wizardry or Dungeon Master fan.

From what I've discovered so far, the main house has at least five levels. I've explored three of them, made a quick visit to the fourth, and read about a fifth. There are three separate basements, although only one is full-sized, and at least one sub-basement below that. And there are portals to other planes or worlds--maybe as many as one per rune symbol, which would be about a dozen so far. 

Given the size, my usual approach to adventure games--have one or more characters run around, map everything, annotate puzzles, don't worry about whether they screw something up, then play the game "for real" with a final character--wasn't going to work. Despite some reader warnings, I'm just going to have to trust that the game won't place me in a "walking dead" situation. I've reserved two magic crystals (which regenerate spell points) in case I need a final bit of spell power, but beyond that I'm just going to have to trust my instincts. Thus, after taking Major Robert Kowalski into a few final areas, I re-started the game with the witch Irene Bolingbroke. I re-did the first level as efficiently as possible. Despite knowing the location of the Juju fetish, I did end up killing all the zombies. The CRPG player in me just couldn't live with a bunch of enemies roaming around.
I darted up to the second level long enough to get the bulletproof vest and then took on what turned out to be a shotgun-wielding zombie in one of the lower levels. It took me a couple of reloads, but I eventually killed him with my own guns and looted his shotgun and sunglasses. Between the vest, the shotgun, and the sunglasses, Irene looked pretty badass for most of this session. Late in it, I found an anti-magic tiara which replaced the sunglasses and changed her look entirely. It's amazing what a little headgear can do.
Looking at that portrait of Irene, you can't help but hear the opening chords of George Thorogood's guitar.
The main basement, right off the entry hall, was a standard 22 x 22 level with a lot of one-way doors that funneled me along specific paths. The toughest monsters were these gray demons that I labeled "gargoyles." They took forever to kill and hit hard but fortunately didn't hit often. Irene ultimately found four different types of handguns and two different shotguns, a knife, a baseball bat, and an axe. I don't remember what weapons I used to kill what foes, but I ultimately killed every one I encountered except for the "beholders" I described last time--a note indicated they might even be beneficial--and some others that I'll note below.
The basement also had some smaller demons that could poison Irene, but fortunately I found a healing spell before they became much of a problem.
If they didn't poison, they'd be almost cute.
In one of the basement rooms, I found an electric toolkit, which turned out to be the key to fixing the fuse boxes. Every level so far has had a fuse box, and once I fixed it with the kit and turned it on, darkness ceased to be a problem. I was able to do most of Irene's exploring without wasting the batteries in the flashlight. I ultimately found two more sets of batteries, too, plus an oil lamp, plus a spell that lets you see in the dark, so I think I'm all set on light.

In both the basement and second floor, I finally found rooms marked by triangles. Each had a bed and was thus marked as a safe space to rest. My character couldn't rest, however, until late in this session--the game kept saying she didn't need it. I was well into my sixth hour before she needed rest or food. Unless the game is vastly longer than it seems, I can't imagine that running out of food is going to be an issue.
Awakening after I was finally able to sleep.
Beyond that, my primary find in the basement was a dimensional gateway that led me to a freaky area that I didn't feel I was ready to explore yet. There was also a special room with a demonic skull and a ray of light, but I couldn't think of anything to do there. I trust it comes into play later.
I think I might be here a bit too early.
The second floor had all those ghosts, and I ultimately found the painting that got rid of all of them with a single match. I wasn't so lucky with the winged demons, but I was ultimately able to kill them all with firearms and melee weapons. There was one series of corridors where I had to walk in the opposite direction from the one I intended to progress, which was kind of fun to figure out.

The person knocking behind the locked door turned out to be the private investigator sent by the real estate agent to find out what happened to the previous owners. She hadn't made much progress before the zombies and ghosts scared her out of her wits and she got trapped in the room. The room she was trapped in had a plaque denoting it as "Room 7." To free her, I had to find the doors numbered 1-6 and walk through them in sequence (this was explained by another plaque in the southwest corner). She took off running after a brief conversation.
I didn't expect to find dialogue options in this kind of game.
The third level was an insane asylum. The game's story is that the owners of the house were running a private asylum on their third floor, complete with padded cells, sterile tiled floors and walls, and security doors. I guess they were taking inmates on contract from other facilities, but the owners were secretly feeding the hapless souls to demons (more on that in a bit). I'm left wondering how they got the inmates to the asylum--did they parade them through the main part of the house? There are no exterior entrances that I can see.
One of the padded cells of the asylum level.
The only inmate remaining was Ellen Prentiss, sister of the last owner, Robert Prentiss (we had a bit about her last time). She was wandering the halls in a straitjacket, wielding an axe, and she attacked me just as soon as I appeared, shouting that I had Winthrop blood so I had to die. I couldn't find any way to reason with her or stop her, and since there was a puzzle later that required me to be wearing her straitjacket, I assume killing her was the right thing to do.
I hadn't yet found the fuse box when Ellen attacked.
The level also featured numerous floating snakelike things with mouths at each end. They died in a few blows of the axe. Later, behind a secret door, I encountered blobs of living fire that defied all weapons, but fortunately died from the use of two fire extinguishers found on the level.
Taking on a living ball of fire with a fire extinguisher.
Behind one of the padded walls of the asylum, a human figure begged me to free him from the Ethereal Plane and not to summon "the Karcist."
Unless "the Karcist" is the local medical examiner, you're fine.
All of the levels I explored were full of items, some of which I had an immediate use for (first aid kits, magic crystals, ammunition), but most of which I have no idea what it's for. Since inventory space is limited, I've mostly just been annotating the locations of unknown items and trusting I'll be able to find them in their original locations if I need them. Such items include three demonic figurines, half a dozen "Chinese coins," several runestones, and something called the "Hand of Glory."

I've also found new spells at regular intervals, but I've hardly cast any of them. I started with "Flames of Desolation," an offensive spell, and "Crimson Mists of Myamota," a protection from physical harm. Over the course of the game, I've acquired "Aura of Mystic Defense," "Shroud of the Dark Walker" (a displacement spell), "Sight of the Dark Walker," "Belgor's Mental Violation," "Elixir of Health," "Key of the Shadow Lord" (unlock doors), and "Dimensional Rift," the last one only just acquired. I've put most of my spell points into "Elixir of Health," probably getting less out of the defensive spells (and thus reducing the need for health) than I could have. They seem to last a pretty long time, too.
Finding a key spell.
That leaves the story. There are a lot of documents in this game, and fortunately a couple of "document wallets" to collect and organize them. I'm keeping an ongoing timeline, plugging things in as I learn them, rather than just updating myself with the latest, so some of this will be a repeat.

The issue here is less a haunted house than an evil ancestor; hence, the "legacy" of the title. Elias Winthrop was dedicated from the beginning to bringing evil demons into the earthly plane, and has guided his descendants to do the same.
  • 1599: Elias Winthrop born in Telbury, England.
  • 1620: Elias Winthrop marries Ann Puttnam.
  • 1639: Elias Winthrop builds Winthrop House in Longport, Massachusetts.
  • 1662: Elias Winthrop burned in Boston as a warlock after confessing freely to his sins. He is said to have taken command of numerous demons and devils. The house passes to his son, Hildebrand Winthrop (1641-1699). Elias somehow cheats death and becomes "the Karcist."
  • 1665: Hildebrand constructs a number of "secret areas" attached to the basement.
  • 1693/1694: Josiah Winthrop and Alaric Winthrop born to Hildebrand Winthrop. Both later take on new last names (Maitland and Mayhew, respectively). Josiah occupies the house but has no grandchildren, so the house eventually passes to Alaric's line.
  • 1699: Hildebrand dies in a fire after years of "debauched revelries" in the house. 
  • 1727: Third and fourth floors added to the house, presumably supervised by Josiah Winthrop.
  • 1729: Josiah Maitland tries to dig down into the deep cellars where his father held his debauched rituals but is repelled by the rock demons (what I called "gargoyles") living there.
  • 1730: A tunnel is built connecting the basement to some natural caves.
  • 1780: Fifth floor added to the house, but with no access from the lower four floors.
  • 1790: The Cult of Melchior forms this year or sometime before it.
If the cult was going to worship one of the Three Wise Men, this painting suggests it would have made more sense going with Caspar.
  • 1792/1793: Lawrence Mayhew, son of Alaric, and Lawrence's wife Grace both die. The house passes to Miles Mayhew. Grace's ghost ends up haunting the house, and in trying to lay her spirit to rest, Miles ends up opening the house to supernatural forces.
  • c. 1827: Miles Mayhew marries Mary Locke. The have two daughters: Miriam (1828-1898) and a second one not named.
  • 1841: Edgar Allen Poe visits his friend, Miles Mayhew, at the house and later writes about his terrifying experience. 
  • 1841: Mayhew opens a Museum of Esoterica on the fourth floor of the house, exhibiting occult artifacts that Hildebrand had owned. The museum is continually maintained from this point, though not open to the public.
  • 1843: Strange lights reported in the skies above the house, accompanied by disappearances in Longport.
  • 1848: Miles Mayhew's wife, Mary Locke, is possessed or goes insane. She claims that the Karcist is her new husband, and she torments Miles daily with demonic visitations. She dies the same year. Their unnamed daughter, the "Siren of Longport," is hung as a murderess in Boston after killing a series of men. Miriam becomes a member of the Cult of Melchior.
  • 1850. Elias Winthrop's paternal line ends with the death of Miles Mayhew. The house passes to Miriam, who has married a Giles Murchison. They have a daughter, Abigail (1861-1925), born after Giles dies in 1860.
  • 1861: The house's third floor is converted to a private insane asylum under Miriam's direction. It opens for patients in 1865.
  • 1880: Miriam is running the insane asylum and giving some of its patients as sacrifices to Sea Demons. She puts a cult member named Anton Wisniewski in charge of the asylum.
  • 1893: Strange lights reported in the skies above the house, accompanied by disappearances in Longport.
  • 1899: Anton Wisniewski is still running the third-floor asylum, handing over its hapless residents to "Sea Demons" so they can be made into "Servitors."
  • 1900: Nathan Prentiss (d. 1964) is born to Abigail Murchison (1861-1925) and Tom Prentiss (1872-1931).
  • 1902: Sarah Prentiss (d. 1970) born, sister of Nathan. She will later marry Alexander Cowley. The player character is the son, grandson, or great-grandson of this union.
  • 1915: Karen Daniels born, who marries Nathan Prentiss sometime before 1940.
  • 1920: Anton Wisniewski casts a spell to summon "hellions" to roam the lower levels so that the sea demons can no longer enter the house and demand human lives. 
  • 1937: Nathan Prentiss learns that the runes scattered around the house appear every time the Rite of Opening is performed. A "lurker" (what I've been calling "beholders") also accompanies each gate.
  • 1940: Ellen Prentiss born to Karen and Nathan.
  • 1942: Robert Prentiss born to Karen and Nathan. He will marry Catherine Rosemonde (b. 1950).
  • 1943: Strange lights reported in the skies above the house, accompanied by disappearances in Longport.
  • 1962: Robert Prentiss and his Acolytes of Doom complete the Rite of Forbidding in the Egyptian temple. 
  • 1964: Robert Prentiss murders his father, Nathan, and learns from some documents about his heritage. He vows to continue opening gates so that the "Great Beast, Belthegor, Lord of the Dark Triumvirate, can enter the earthly plane."
From Robert's diary. This is how I learned about Belthegor for the first time.
  • 1967:  Ellen Prentiss tries to burn down the house and is locked in its asylum.
  • 5 July 1992: Robert Prentiss reports a growing number of incursions to the house from other planes. He notes that the time for opening the "final gate" will soon be here.
  • 2 September 1992: The sea demons are apparently back, because Robert writes about driving into town and kidnapping a vagrant to appease them.
  • 12 September 1992: Ellen Prentiss escapes from the asylum and murders Karen and Catherine. Robert becomes convinced that he is "The One"--the inheritor of Elias Winthrop's legacy. He accidentally fills the asylum with fire demons when trying to cast a spell to locate Ellen.
  • Late 1992: Robert summons a "dark god" named Alberoth to patrol the lower levels of the basement. Ellen doesn't find him a threat as she can just run past him. 
  • Late 1992: Ellen Prentiss kills Robert. Knowledge of the disappearances or deaths of Karen, Catherine, and Robert make their way to the outside world. Ellen dedicates herself to freeing Belthegor but needs to find Elias Winthrop's heart and somehow get to the fifth floor "through the gates behind his face."
  • 1993: Marcus Roberts, an amateur paranormal investigator, takes it upon himself to enter the house. He sees Ellen but manages to avoid her. He finds portals to other dimensions and accidentally releases zombies into the main part of the house. He becomes convinced that he must find the Golden Torc in the basement, but he is (probably) killed there by a shotgun-wielding zombie.
  • 1993: The realtor, E. Croxley, hires private investigator Dee Kirby to find out what happened to Karen, Catherine, and Robert. She is scared and locked in a room by some ghosts and basically discovers nothing.
  • 1993: The player inherits the house and begins his investigation, just as the disappearances and strange lights are scheduled to resume.
If you don't feel like reading all of that, the result seems to be that I have to stop Elias Winthrop's spirit, known as "the Karcist," and perhaps his human agents, from completing the final Rite of Opening and bringing the demon lord Belthegor to Earth. To do this, I'm apparently going to have to travel to other planes. I can apparently do this by casting the "Dimensional Rift" spell where there are already existing glyphs on the walls of the house--the very runes I've been wondering about. There are already at least a dozen of them, so I don't know if they go to a dozen separate locations or just separate coordinates in the same map. Either way, a note suggests that I'll need to protect myself with the "jade god of the Mayans" before I go.
Instructions on taking gates through other planes.
(Incidentally, I think you get most of the experience in the game from reading notes, not killing enemies or solving puzzles. Hence, even players who have already been through the game once and know the story will want to stop and read everything to make sure they get the points.)
Quite a few mysteries remain. I don't understand the relationship between the Karcist, Belthegor, and the Melchior and his cult, for instance. Nor do I understand the role of the Sea Demons--are they in league with Belthegor or just an ancillary menace? Who are the other two gods making up the "dark triumvirate"? Do these demonic statuettes that I keep finding--named Cartag, Pthark, and Skaruk--have anything to do with it?
As I end this session, the most viable way open for exploration is the fourth floor of the house, where there's supposedly some kind of museum. I have several ways to access the sub-basement, but every time I go there, some floating ball of tentacles stops me and kills me pretty fast. It's very hard to push around him. I wonder if this is supposed to be the "dark god" Alberoth that Ellen wrote about. She mentioned that he appears in the lower level and can seemingly be in multiple places at once, which explains why he's always at the bottom of whatever staircase I take. I think the real reason I'm making the association is because of Aboleths from Dungeons and Dragons.
A dark god, or just an annoying creature?
Late in the session, I found a second way forward when Ellen's note about finding a portal "behind Elias's face" reminded me that I had yet to do anything about the painting in the entry hall, and I had just the thing--a green gem that seemed likely to fit into the hollow in the painting's pendant. It did so, revealing a secret door behind the painting. (It tore the painting in half in doing so. Did someone have to re-paint the thing every time they wanted to close the secret door?)
The secret door led to a special room with a portal.
The secret door led to a room with a teleporter, which took me to some weird Egyptian-inspired temple. Unfortunately, the place is full of locked doors I can't access yet (but that was before I got the "Key of the Shadow Lord" spell). There's a guy hanging around one corner who looks just like a regular guy, not a monster, but he won't talk to me.
I don't want to kill him because he's a normal-looking guy in a suit..
Other open puzzles and blocked ways are:

  • A locked door in the southern part of the second level. It defies every attempt to force it. I can't remember if I tried the spell yet.
  • Two locked doors in the asylum, coincidentally right above the part of Level 2 that I can't access (which, come to think of it, would correspond with the nailed-shut doors on Level 1). I have tried the spell on them, to no avail.
  • A basement room where every time I try to enter, my eyes get blurry (sunglasses don't help), something screams, and I'm knocked back out and down the hallway.
  • A dimensional gateway in the basement. 
As I was compiling the information above, I realized I never found anything that looks like the "catacombs" that Marcus Roberts was planning to explore as he headed down the set of stairs that led to the shotgun-wielding zombie. That area, as I mapped it consisted of a single hallway of eight squares plus three alcoves. Perhaps there are secret doors or something else I missed down there. I need to head back and check it out.
In short, I don't know if I'm more than halfway through what is shaping up to be a very long, large, and interesting game. I particularly like that most of the lore is presented in epistolary form, found more or less randomly, and the player has to piece it together

Time so far: 13 hours


  1. The question of pre-rendered 3D graphics came up on an earlier entry about this game, and looking at the monsters and NPCs I'm starting to think that some of them might have been created in 3D and converted to sprites. Particularly on the guy in the grey suit, the smooth lighting and lack of detail give it a very early, very low-budget 3D vibe.

    1. Um, early - yes, but low-budget? Google screenshots from Alone in the Dark to see how even high-budget 3D looked in the era. Real-time rendered 3D in games started affording smooth curves only by late 90s, if not early 00s.

    2. AitD is real-time 3D, not prerendered.l I'd say the intro to King's Quest VI is the benchmark for high budget prerendered 3D in 1992 games.

      I watched some videos of this game and the 3D sprites look pretty good for '92. Not too different from the prerendered 3D in Daggerfall and that game came out in '96. Looking at reviews, it looks like the graphics (including the animations) were praised as realistic.

    3. To my eye, just about everything in the game aside from the main character ragdoll and the paintings is prerendered 3D. Certainly the environments and the creatures have that look to them.

    4. Alone in the Dark is documented everywhere, guys. Background is pre rendered (or pre drawn), characters and everything that moves is 3D. Ecstatica and Resident Evil were the same. And 3D pre render was everywhere in the early 90s, usually being way uglier than here - remember Bureau 13, Chronicles of the Sword, Hell, Bloodnet, Chronomaster, long, really long etc.

      I mean, it's so clear that the background of AITD are a bitmap that... oh well, I saw people in youtube also unable to notice when the midi was General Midi or OPL3 or when graphics were at 320x200 or 640x480 so...

    5. Most of the games you mentioned were mid-'90s, Bloodnet is '93, the rest after. I think most of the time 3D wasn't used unless necessary, probably more expensive then regular art or even real actors would be. I think a better idea of 3D from that era would be some of those weird 3D films, which escape my name at the moment.

  2. "It tore the painting in half in doing so. Did someone have to re-paint the thing every time they wanted to close the secret door?"

    This - puzzles that destroy part of the environment to allow you to progress- always bugs me in games of this sort unless they're somehow justified.

    1. Well, in this case it's clearly an enchanted painting, so it likely repairs itself.

    2. Also when they appear in places where it makes sense for a game but not for a space that was supposed to have some other purpose. Did these ancient priests really want to collect 3 gems and put them in these statues eye sockets in a separate hall *every time* they went to their bedrooms?

  3. Personally I'd say Irene looks a lot like Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. So watch out for a beefy dude with an Austrian accent. He might be a good guy - or not ;-)

    1. That would be the shotgun zombie in what the game calls the mausoleum.

    2. I'll be honest - I didn't read the article at first, just scrolled through looking at the screenshots of Irene progressively getting more badass until the tiara just capped things off. :)

  4. "Normal looking guys in suits" are the _real_ monsters, of course.

  5. Thanks for inspiring me to try this game out.

  6. If it is of some help to find its purpose, a "Hand of Glory" is the dried and pickled hand of a male person who has been hanged, and it is supposed to have magical powers. I've seen some RPGs in which it is represented as a magical item which given invisibility to its user or lets him to cast "Hold Person"-like spells. Sometimes, to use it you must lit the fingers of the hand like a candlestick.

    1. It protects you from some of the enemies on the fourth level. Unfortunately, I didn't find the note that clued me in on that until I'd already explored most of the fourth level.

  7. I think running those early characters was still beneficial in making early game easier and less tight on the resource management. So you should be ok with regard to walking dead scenarios, as long as you're reasonably conservative with your resources. Although my inner purist can't help but be outraged by all this blatant disregard for the "right" way to play this game.

    1. What is it that you think I'm doing so "wrong"?

    2. Isn't it obvious from my previous comments? Fighting everything.

    3. Kinda ironic that the best way to avoid a walking dead scenario is to let the zombies roam free.

  8. This games is absolutely fascinating. I'd never heard of it, but it seems to have fairly directly inspired System Shock 1 and 2, as well as the Bioshock franchise, by extension. All the elements of System Shock are here - a large, open (but confined) world, enemies whose existence connects to the story and with weaknesses to certain types of attacks, the story told in found bits of written (er... recorded) material, even the magic has an analogue with SS2's psionics.

    Also "If the cult was going to worship one of the Three Wise Men, this painting suggests it would have made more sense going with Caspar" is absolute genius.

    1. I would love to see the digital antiquarian (because of course chet only covers RPGs) do an article tracing back the mechanic of scattering writings/recordings around a game to piece back the lore.
      Given how common it is now, it would be awesome to see how it evolved. Given how many things Magnetic Scrolls pioneered/perfected like the Magnetic Windows interface itself, it would be interesting to see if this was another thing they conceived of or whether they improved upon something else.

    2. I'm not sure this is much of an inspiration for System Shock? After all, Ultima Underworld 1 was released before this and Ultima Underworld 2 not long after. (Also the developers for the Underworld games and System Shock are the same...)

    3. I don't see much System Shock here either. SS was a scifi version of Ultima Underworld with fewer RPG elements but more complex levels.

    4. The mechanic of scattering writings around a game is at least as old as Phantasie (1985).

    5. I haven't played the game, so I defer to those who have, but Chet's descriptions here are strongly evocative of SS1 and 2. To me, at least.

    6. I think its just that a lot of developers had the same ideas that eventually led to System Shock. Day of the Viper apparently features a similar antagonist to SHODAN, but other than that there's no indication they were even aware of it.

  9. You're about at the point where I usually end up getting killed, my more magical focused characters usually end up crushed by the second floor, and the solution to dealing with Albereoth usually overwhelms my more physical characters. I think if you can get past him you should be good for the rest of the game.

  10. Interesting how this replicates a lot of survival horror elements. I thought it might be directly inspired by Alone in the Dark, but they seem to have come out around the same time. So I suppose it's just a case of them both playing on the same horror fiction themes and cliches.

  11. Turns out, 'fireballs' are *not* always the rpg gamers best friend.


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