Saturday, July 4, 2020

Amberstar: A Streak of Luck

This makes me wonder what the chipmunks in my yard are plotting.
My second session started bleak. I had several quests in Twinlake, both of which required me to descend in two dungeons, the Dancing Dragon Inn wine cellar and the city sewers. The wine cellar seemed like the easier of the two, but it had a number of locked doors for which I needed a crowbar. I couldn't find a shop that sold a crowbar.

Worse was the enemy difficulty. The first foes that Viola and Silk faced were giant rats. Combat--which I'll describe in more detail anon--did not go well for us. The classless, Level 0 characters, clad in simple clothes and armed with kitchen knives, hardly ever managed to hit the enemies, let alone kill them. Meanwhile, their 4 hit points didn't last long against rats capable of doing that much damage in one hit. I had to save and reload several times before each battle with the rodents, then rest or retreat to Sir Marillion's pool to restore my health afterwards.
The outcome of too many early-session battles.
Fortunately, you don't need that many experience points to join a guild, and it was only three or four combats before Silk had enough to get into the thieves' guild. Rising levels confers a lot of extra hit points (Viola went from 4 to 77 in 3 levels), plus a pool of points you can distribute to your various skills. More important at the beginning of the game, making your first level allows you to equip that class's weapons and armor. So Silk immediately became a decent Level 1 fighter, with 16 hit points, a short sword, and leather armor.
Distributing skills upon achieving a new level.
Unfortunately, even in his improved state, Silk was no match for the rat king that lay in wait in the sewers, nor the "wine slime" that served as the mini-boss for the wine cellar, so I went from feeling good about my prospects to feeling pretty poor. I could have made things easier by having Viola join the warriors' guild in Twinlake, but I didn't want that for her. I wanted her to be a paladin or ranger.
This got me thinking that clearly you're not supposed to last very long without joining a guild, but Twinlake only has two guilds. I realized that I'd been assuming that Amberstar would follow the pattern of a typical RPG, where you clean up the introductory city before moving on to the wide world. Maybe I was meant to go outside first. There might be easier encounters there, or I might be able to make it to other cities with the guilds I wanted for Silk. I might also find other NPCs to join the party.
It turns out that there are random encounters in the wilderness, with orcs and trolls and such, and they were a bit too tough for my party. But they're also very rare. The probability is that you'll make it from one town to another without triggering one (wow, was that a nice change after Final Fantasy).

I didn't do very well here, but I eventually got better.
The map of Lyramion shows Twinlake in roughly the center of the map.  The closest cities were Illien to the northwest and Crystal to the north, on a little peninsula. Although I had a specific purpose for this expedition--find a more desirable guild--I was already thinking about how I might go about exploring the map, and it struck me that I could probably do the northern panhandle first, then work my way around the map clockwise or counterclockwise. Thus, I headed for Crystal. Given what happened after this, I will forgive you for thinking that I probably looked at a walkthrough, but I swear it was just luck.
Reaching this was easier than I expected.
Crystal was about the same size as Twinlake. As usual, I went with a "rightmost" exploration pattern, which brought me to the inn shortly after entering. There, I started talking with NPC, and it wasn't long before I met Gryban, who was in town seeking . . . the Guild of Paladines. He joined the party but--apparently knowing that as an NPC he was putting all his choices in my hands--begged me to join him to the paladines rather than some other guild.
Believe it or not, that's exactly why I came to Crystal!
I explored the rest of the city and pushed past most of the special encounters and quests, trusting that I'd explore in more detail later. I soon realized that this was a mistake, as some important messages only come up the first time you enter an area. Once I realized this, I started taking more meticulous notes about things happening in Crystal, but I might have missed some early messages. 

At the Guild of Paladines, I learned that Viola had enough experience to join but not enough cash. I needed about 500 gold pieces. I started circling around the city looking for money-making opportunities or treasures. Among the encounters:
  • Lord Chancellor Drebin's house introduced a mystery. The chancellor fancied himself a demon-summoner, and recently summoned a small demon into the body of a homunculus, which he then imprisoned in a glass globe. The creature refused to recognize him as its master, but that didn't stop the chancellor from resolving to summon a larger demon into a pentagram in the basement. He was convinced that the pentagram was strong enough to contain the King of Hell, Bralkur, himself. His wife and son report there was some kind of ruckus in the basement a few days ago, and the chancellor hasn't returned since then. The homunculus is speaking a language I don't understand, and his cellar door is locked with some kind of seal that I couldn't find in the house. 

I so hoped that one of the portraits would show his ancestor, Frank.
  • In the tavern, I found another NPC willing to join the party: Trasric, a black wizard. Unlike the other companions I've found so far, Trasric actually had some levels under his belt, along with spells like "Hail Storm" and "Fireball." He related that black wizards haven't been very popular since the events at Castle Godsbane, which involved one of their number, Marmion. (This the second Thalion game in which the "black" in "black magic" doesn't technically mean evil, although every spellcaster who ends up threatening the world just happens to be of the black variety.) He said that the guild is in the southeast of Lyramion, in a valley that I'll need a ship to reach. I'll also need an artifact to unlock it, which Trasric hid in a flowerpot in the chambers of a fellow denizen of the inn.
Maybe you need a better term than "black magic."
  • While I was searching flowerpots, I came to a courtyard. Searching one of the pots in the courtyard revealed a whopping 5,000 gold pieces, along with a note. The note was written to someone named "Kelvin" from the "Riddlemaster," and it gives Kelvin directions by ship to an island where he can "get his harp back." The gold is clearly meant to buy a ship, as that's exactly what the shipwright charges. I used it to solve my other financial woes for a while. Nearby, an NPC reports that Kelvin was a bard who used to play in the inn but hasn't been seen for months.
Visiting Crystal was the best decision I've ever made.
  • A man named Thonion specializes in painting "mindgates"--a series of structures erected around the land that apparently allow travel across great distances, but only if you have a special necklace. Sansri, the Goddess of Snakes, is rumored to have one of them.
  • A man named Firlas lost his Bone of Wisdom in Twinlake when he was attempting to help with the sewer problem.
Viola braces herself for the worst pickup line of all time.
  • A secret door led behind the counter at the town's general store, where I could have looted 1,200 gold pieces from the shopkeeper's chest. If I hadn't found the 5,000, it would have been tempting, but for role-playing reasons it's probably not a good idea to join the Guild of Paladines with stolen gold. Then again, I suppose the gold is no less "stolen" just because I found it in a flower pot. 
Calm down. We were just investigating a secret door.

Having achieved our original goals and then some, we returned to Twinlake and attempted the wine cellar again. The wine slime was still pretty hard, capable of poison and sleep attacks as well as physical attacks. Trasric did the trick, though, with a "Tornado" spell.

Combat takes place in a separate combat interface. Graphically, the enemies are depicted in front of the party, but their specific positions, and yours, are annotated to the right of the main screen, on a 6 x 5 grid. The party members all start in the bottom two rows of the grid, in positions determined by the default party configuration that you set up outside of combat. Melee attacks can be made from any adjacent square, including diagonals.

Each round, you can click on each party member and then specify an action, including moving one square, fleeing, attacking, defending (which the manual gives as "parade"), and casting a spell. You then hit the "OK" button to see the results of your actions, threaded with the enemies' in order of a background initiative roll. It's basically the system that goes back to Wizardry but has the added consideration of specific position rather than just relative rank. Enemy attacks are accompanied by animations in the main window that show them thrusting forward or waving a weapon or whatever.
Trasric casts a spell in combat against the wine slime.
Rounds pass somewhat slowly, so there's a "fast forward" button to change that, but unfortunately the button doesn't change the speed of the enemy animations. I wish the button had made the animations go away but still delivered the messages at normal speed. I also don't quite understand movement. Characters seem to be unable to move forward from the second row, meaning that when enemies decide to flee, they can do so with impunity because the party can't chase them.
Fighting the rat king. There was a cute little crown on his head.
Combat will become more tactical as I obtain more spellcasting ability, so I'll revisit it later. For now, it's not a bad system, a bit slower than necessary, but made tolerable by the relative rarity of battles. Neither the wine cellar nor the sewers had any "random" battles, and as for fixed battles, there were only maybe eight between them.

The bottle of good wine was in a crate a few steps behind the wine slime. I returned it to Breth, one of the cooks, for 100 gold pieces.

The sewers were smaller than the wine cellar (oddly), but had more interesting textures, including animations of water flowing out of pipes. One of the drains had the ring that the other cook had lost.
I didn't make a GIF, but trust me that the water here is animated.
There were a couple more rat battles and then a final confrontation with the rat king, who spoke English and was about to sacrifice Felix the Cat when we burst into his room. "First the cats," he screamed, "and then the humans!" We killed him and his companions in melee combat and retrieved both his head and Felix. Two of my characters were poisoned during the battle, which causes them to lose a couple of hit points every round. I had no way of curing this, so we sped for the town healer as soon as we exited the sewers, and got there with no time to spare.
I have a feeling these pools are going to be useful throughout the game.
It was time to turn in several quest rewards, but first we stopped by the cemetery to use Sir Marillion's health and mana restoration pools, since healers don't heal regular hit points for some reason. When we entered, an NPC we hadn't seen before was hanging around the tomb. It turned out to be Gwendolyn, Marillion's former lover. She lamented that his spirit was caught between planes. She could release him with the Rose of Sadness, but it only blossoms every century in some unknown place called the "Sea of Peace."
In my defense, it's not like your icon ever appears anywhere else.
After speaking to her, we waited around for a long time until she left and Marillion's spirit returned. He didn't know anything about the Sea of Peace, but when we spoke to him of Gwendolyn, he gave us the key to his tomb, where we could recover his armor and sword. The key opened the door at the back of the tomb, and it contained not only armor and a sword but 589 gold pieces. The armor and sword are usable only by a paladin, so it was a bit of luck that I found that guild first. The items significantly improved Viola's fighting ability.
I feel like I didn't deserve this just yet.
Back in town, we returned Felix to his owner, Sunny. The "secret" she promised was a pretty big one: the ability to talk to animals. I used it immediately on the dog in my former home, whose name turns out to be Spike. Not only did he join the party (!), but he has a bone that I suspect is the Bone of Wisdom that Firlas needs (since I otherwise didn't find one in the sewers). Now I wonder if I can join Spike to a guild. He comes pretty buffed already, with 40 hit points and relatively high skills in "Attack," "Parry," "Swim," "Listen," "Find Traps," and "Search." For his high search ability (70%), I made him the leader of the party, but I have to remember to switch to someone else when I want to talk to an NPC or else no one can understand him. Is this the first game that allows a dog to join the party, or was it possible in Wasteland? That makes me realize that there's a game I've never seen: one in which the main character has an ability like the "Beastmaster" and slowly assembles a party of animals, each with unique abilities.
I love how even though I can understand the dog, somehow part of his speech is still "woof, woof, woof!"
Lord Karwain gave us 600 gold for the rat king head, and Olddaniel gave us a crystal ball for his ring. Silk got another level at the thieves' guild, after which we went back to Crystal, where Viola got a couple of levels in the Guild of Paladines and Gryban joined the same. For diversity's sake, it would have been better to have a warrior, but having just made my main character a paladin, I couldn't very well do something that cruel. The guild has a shop selling spells scrolls, and paladins are capable of white magic, so I purchased some first-level healing scrolls for both Viola and Gryban, although neither has any "Read Magic" or "Use Magic" abilities yet. I'll prioritize those the next time I level up.
It's always useful to have the favor of a town's lord.

The 77 hit points I have now is a big jump from the 4 I had a few hours ago.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • There's an old estate north of Twinlake. Every time I approach it, no matter from what direction, I fall into a trap that dumps me into its cellars, causing enough damage to kill at least one party member. Maybe we'll be strong enough now that no one is Level 0.
  • I don't remember where we got the clock, but Viola had it in her inventory for a while. I assumed I'd have to "use" it every time I wanted to know the time. Instead, the first time I used it, something delightful happened: the clock disappeared and the time appeared permanently in the main game window. That's awesome. I wish more games featured items that worked that way.
I now know that it's 9:35 exactly as we leave Twinlake.
  • The interface otherwise continues to annoy me, particularly in the inventory screen and in shops. There's more clicking than is necessary; clicking on an object ought to "use" it automatically without requiring an extra button first. And when trading an item, you ought to be able to just hit the number of the character you're trading to, without clicking on his portrait. But worst of all is the way shops work. To buy anything, you first have to put gold on the table, and the easiest way to do this is just to pool all the characters' gold with the button that does that. After you buy something, you then have to make sure you give it to a character. Most important, you have to retrieve your gold before you leave the shop, or else you've just given it all to the shopkeeper. There is a warning that comes up if you're about to do this--which for me is every time--and it's just a matter of time before I accidentally click the wrong button and lose all my gold. I hope I at least notice it when it happens.
It's just a matter of time before I click the wrong thumb.
  • You can swim pretty far out into the ocean before the characters' lack of "Swim" ability kicks in and kills them.
  • So far, the automap has done a good enough job that I haven't felt the need to manually map, although I probably will map the towns since I have to visit and navigate them multiple times. 
The small sewer area, to which I'm probably never going to return, didn't need me to make a map.
  • An NPC based on developer Karsten Köper appears in Crystal. 
I started this session in a bad place with the game, but my subsequent streak of luck--choosing Crystal in the first place, finding the gold, encountering Gwendolyn at the right time--turned things around, and now I'm feeling pretty positive. One of the things I'm enjoying is the way the developers bent the usual rules and tropes. The manual lays out the races and classes that can join the party but then allows a dog to join. For the hundredth time, you fight rats in a sewer, but this time they're led by a king with greater ambitions. The game blends both iconographic and 3D interfaces without making the transition seem awkward or clunky. The 3D sections of the game use textures like a thousand similar titles, but some of the textures are animated. It's little additions like these that make a game memorable. Thalion has a history of this, I should add. Their Dragonflight (1990) took a lot of ideas from previous games, but arranged them in memorably different ways. I look forward to seeing what's next.
Time so far: 8 hours


  1. Well, this game is looking promising! Excited to see what comes next. I wonder if there would have been repercussions for taking the money from the shopkeeper after finding the secret door.

  2. Trasric is actually a "wizrad," not a wizard. I assume he has a skateboard and a 'tude. Is it always misspelled when you look at his class, or just in the screenshot?

  3. "That makes me realize that there's a game I've never seen: one in which the main character has an ability like the "Beastmaster" and slowly assembles a party of animals, each with unique abilities."

    That game exists; it's called Pokémon.


    1. Dang it, I was just about to post this, literally word for word.

    2. Or the first Ni no Kuni, Tales of Symphonia New World, the Dragon Quest monsters sub-series (and DQ 5-6). And if you consider the demons in SMT animals (a reach, I know), there is a whole series. And if I remember corectly, you could theoretically make a party full with animals in Grimrock 2...?

    3. In crusaders of Centi, an at the first glance Zelda like Sega game you lose the ability to speak to humans but gain the ability to speak with animals and you recruit animals which help you through their special abilities. first animal you can recruit is also your dog

    4. Grimrock may be a bit of a stretch, but Wizardry 7 had lizards, cats, wolves and apes as playable races. Bradley's next game, Wizards&Warriors, has an even wilder selection with rats, boars, lizards, tigers and elephants being options. Elephants are even sufficiently big that regular armor doesn't fit them. But the funnies thing is that you can ride a horse, and since the party moves as a single unit, it's one horse for all seven of them. Imagining seven elephants riding the same poor horse always cracks me up.

    5. I feel like Chet was baiting us with that one.

    6. I feel you can't really count Wizardry 7/8, as those fantasy races are meant to be just to look like animals we know for better relatability, a Mook is not literally an ape for example. If we stretch the definition of animal to cover all those races in Wizardry 7/8, we would have to go back and include all games which feature Humans, Elves and Dwarfs, too.

    7. That thought crossed my mind, but I had to make that comment. Someone would have, either way.

    8. How about wizardry 4?

    9. Wizardry and Grimrock are similar, they have humanoid races based on animals, like many other series (Elder Scrolls for example).

      In Ultima 6 you could enlist Sherry the mouse.

    10. Oh, and it's a slightly different concept, but Chet did play Shapeshifter last year, where the PC, well, shapeshifts between snake, tiger and mouse.

    11. I had forgotten about Shapeshifter. Although it was bungled in that game, that's closest to what I had in mind. Not just animals that can join the party, but that provide some utility based on their unique abilities. Like if you get an eagle to join, you can get a bird's eye view when you're outside. If you get a cat, you can see in the dark. Dogs can track and alert you based on scent. That kind of thing.

    12. Pokemon allows that kind of thing (utility based in abilities) to some degree.

      Water monsters can learn to cross water obstacles with you (swimming lakes/river/sea with you on their back and some of them can also climb against waterfalls, whirlwinds, or dive underwater, depending of the game).
      Some of the flying ones can learn to carry you to zones (towns, cities and other points of interest) that you already visited before.
      And there are a varied bunch that can help you to produce light, allowing you to explore otherwise dark caves, or eliminate/move obstacles allowing you to reach secret zones.

      More rarely, some can learn to get you out of caves and buildings if you want to quickly get out, and even more rarely, very few can learn to heal other monsters outside of combat.

      But all of these are learnable movements that can be used outside of combat. Later games in the series include more innate and unique abilities, and some of these also grant utility beyond combat.

    13. The Golden Sun series is like that too, but with elementals, and not monsters/animals.

    14. I just read the blog entry, and I see everybody already thought the same as me :D :D :D

  4. The game clearly wants you to play as a warrior on your fist playthrough, maybe as a paladin or thief if you're lucky to find the guilds. And the warrior is a pretty good choice, as he's tough and hits pretty often. Playing a monk on the other hand would require the character to go through most of the game without a class, unless you know the secret word and the location of the guild (which you do if you have played the game before, or looked at a walkthrough).

    The estate is the one mentioned in the tavern in your first post.

    In combat, your characters only occupy the first two rows. Ambermoon and Albion let you advance all characters if the row in front of them is empty - I was looking for this option in Amberstar, but it doesn't seem to exist.

  5. The game comes with a map and a rune table. Both of them have items you can find in the game which "allow" you to use them. The same counts for the background story, the mage Shandra in Twinlake has the according book.

    The slow fights are the most annoying part of the game for me, just before the slow interface. Still I completed the game with most classes, you can make everything work. Spike can't join a guild, sadly (unless you use a hex editor...).

    There are other permanent items to fill the space around the clock, you have found one already in the first entry. The smaller box below is for buffs.

    Nice job with Gwendolyn, I didn't find that out when I completed the game for the first time.

    Curious for your next steps.

  6. This game is starting to look more interesting. I may have to give it a go myself and see if my comment on my play list - "Sounds boring" - really is correct.

    "Is this the first game that allows a dog to join the party, or was it possible in Wasteland?"

    Well, there was Woof the Bika in Dungeon Master.

    1. I thought there was a dog in Interplays LOTR, although the more I think on it, I think it was actually a horse or pony... fair point Chet, as there really is a lack of animal companions across CRPG's. Dogmeat for mind is possibly the most famous?

    2. I still think the ass in Dungeon siege which only ability is to have a huge inventory should b included in more rpgs

    3. Various kinds of monsters can be added to your party in the Bard's Tale series, although I don't remember if there were dogs in any of the games. This could happen through summons, charms, or offers to join in some cases. There were definitely wolves, but I'm not sure about dogs.

    4. @Bluerazor: There are "mad dogs" in The Bard's Tale, which can join your party.

  7. Now I have a picture iny mind, coming to the rat king and he is talking about killing while somebody in the party shouts loudly "look at his tiny crown, how cuuuuute!"

  8. "parade" is a French term usually translated as "parry" in English, so it makes sense for that being used for your defensive movement.

    1. More to the point, that's also the German word for parry. ;)

  9. "That makes me realize that there's a game I've never seen: one in which the main character has an ability like the "Beastmaster" and slowly assembles a party of animals, each with unique abilities."

    Someone else already made the Pokemon-joke, so just let me add that in Lufia II, you can collect up to 7 monsters to help your party out (even though only one at a time is allowed to join a battle).

    Ironically, this helps with the common JRPG-problem of having far too much money at the ends, as it takes an astonishing amount of equipment and items if you want to train all your monsters up to max rank (they grow by eating swords and stuff).

    On stealing in games, I was trained by my first RPGs (all JRPGS) to just walk into everyone's homes and nick everything I can find. This started to cause trouble when I began playing games like Baldur's Gate, where mindlessly collecting everything you see can end with heavily armored soldiers in full plate to teleport in and chop your head off.

    Nowadays I only steal if there are no consequences or if the game in question lacks the lackadaisical nonsense-approach where you can find the Ruby Sword of DeathKilling by ransacking the Baby crib of random villager 3

  10. "has the lackadaisical nonsense-approach of most JRPGS" -should have been that.

    Man, I wish correcting typos was an options with comments here.

    1. I can't really think of too many JRPGs where you can actually steal anything useful. Mostly you get small amounts of gold or free healing items, nothing too impressive. Star Ocean 2 is the only game I can think of with an actual stealing mechanic where you can get some broken stuff, but that game is... wild.

      Then there are those games where you have to hunt down a bunch of invisible collectibles by mindlessly mashing the action button on every single piece of scenery, but those games can go to hell.

    2. Out of battle stealing, I mean, not to be confused with the common "Steal" command used in battle, which usually gives you items that the enemy somehow doesn't drop upon death.

      Of course, any game where things have a "rare steal" can jump right into hell too.

    3. This reminds me, there are actually 3 different mechanics for stealing in JRPGs: Some, like you said, have an actual out-of-battle stealing mechanic like Star Ocean 2, others have some characters or jobs with actual in-battle steal commands (most of Final Fantasy, for example) and the third one (the one I was talking about), where you just unthinkingly ransack someones house while they're looking at you breaking open their ancient clock heirloom, go "sweet, another elixir" and walk out without comment.

      Only very rarely do you see JRPGs play with this. The one example I can remember is one chest in the penultimate land of Secret of Evermore, where opening a certain chest counts as stealing and you won't get what was inside. (Later you can get it as a gift if you show some self-control.)

      The worst about this was FFIX, where you can do dumb shit like stealing a child's belongings or an old grandma's stash of money. You even get little messages pointing out what you're doing, to make sure you as the player knows that you're committing a crime! The actual consequences are zero, of course. The kicker? The main character of FFIX is a thief. At least the game is honest!

    4. Well, there's Chrono Trigger, where you can steal an old man's lunch and get sent to prison for it.

  11. I swear I've seen another first-person dungeon-crawler where using an item permanently adds it to the interface. Lands of Lore, maybe?

    I wasn't quite getting that these were the developers behind Albion until I saw that dungeon view and the combat grid. Uncanny. Well, if it ain't broken...

    Glad to see you're buried in two RPGs that you seem to be liking, Addict. Hopefully that merchant interface doesn't drive you nuts.

    1. Lands of Lore does that, but you don't need to use the items, only to find them.

    2. Not quite the same thing, but either Chrono Trigger (SNES) or Chrono Cross (PlayStation) has findable, in-game items -- frames -- that make cosmetic changes to the main interface screen.

    3. Wasteland had a geiger counter build into the main interface that would only work when one of your chacters had a geiger counter in their inventory. Might & Magic games also had some interface changes based on certain party enchantments.

    4. You can upgrade the robots in Liberation: Captive 2 with components that add different windows to the main play screen. There's a clock and a map, I think, and also a Space Invaders game.

    5. I think it's Dungeon Master 2. When you find the map at the start at the abandoned inn at the start I think?

  12. I have been wondering where my harp went...

    1. Rumor has it you can play every single song in the game on it.

  13. Could you add a label to your posts about Amberstar (like you did for Dragonflight)? This would make linking your Amberstar specific posts much easier.

    1. I'm sorry, Gerry. I haven't used labels in years and I don't intend to start again. You can find my entries in the right-hand navigation panel, or wait until I'm done with the game and all of the links will be in the indexes.

  14. "I so hoped that one of the portraits would show his ancestor, Frank."

    This made my day so much better.

  15. That sounds like a rough start to a game. I wonder how many start out with the possibility of full party wipes in the first combat, needing to get lucky to get a foothold. I remember Might and Magic being a bit like that.

    1. That isn't really a full party so far, so...

    2. I interpret a full party as all party members you could have at this point in the game.
      But I like the idea that a new character have to get a little lucky to even get started from a roleplaying perspective, unexperienced characters could fumble and die all the time, even if it is a bit brutal for the player to have to restart several times to even get the first momentum going.

    3. Well, not so old crpgs like the original Baldur's Gate have one of those. At the beginning, when the party is only you and Imoen, you can be wiped out by a pack of wolves or a bear.

    4. Amberstar clearly means for you to gather some people before you try anything serious, but playing it the first time, you have no idea where to go to do that, nor do you even know it's the kind of game where you can hope to survive for long trips in the outdoors. I figured it out, but it could have stood to be a little less opaque at the beginning.

    5. Or you could make your starting character a warrior, then the quests in the first town aren't that hard.

    6. Baldur's Gate set it up well that you were a fledgling running for their lives, and there was a goal to the east to head towards. When exploration is left mainly up to the player it seems awkward to feed them so many ways to die at the outset. Frustrating new players and learning from death have always seemed like odd mechanics.

      Unless you can change your guild later on, expecting players to choose warrior after telling them they have all these options is also strange.

    7. The start is rough, but you have several options - you have to find them, though. Or reload a few times.
      You start as young commoner, not as adventurer. Not that many people are trained in combat.

  16. When you were talking about a "wine slime" I kind of thought it would look like... well, wine. Like a creature made entirely out of alcohol that puts you to sleep by forcibly making you drunk. Whatever that little green jelly bean is actually made of, I don't want to drink it.

    1. Maybe it's absinthe and gives you hallucinations.

      Or herbal rubbing alcohol remedy...

    2. As a semi-frequent eater of wine gums, I don't have any issue connecting that bright green tone with a wine flavor -

  17. I have been playing along and I'm liking it a lot (I'm probably some 20hrs ahead of this post).

    Not without issues, but this is an original, creative, really engrossing game.

    I love the open-endedness, and how the game expects full player agency from the beginning. It is clear from the start that the main quest is very loose and nonlinear, so most decisions are dictated by survival and trying to get stronger, and what is impressive is that it is achieved mainly through exploration rather than grinding.

    The game is indeed rough at the beginning, and it will stay like this for a while. Weight and encumbrance are annoying, but they discourage hoarding, and the limited resources make some dungeon expeditions really tense.

    Taking notes and exploring in detail is vital, there are at least 4 things in this post that I missed out in my own exploration (Gwyndolyn, recruiting your dog, the cook's ring and the pictures in Drebin's house).

    The variety of the quests and situations is nice, finding an item or figuring out some information realizing it will open another location it is very satisfying, as it is world exploration.

    Issues so far the GUI (not bothered like Chet by mostly mouse-driven interfaces, but it is a bit clunky), the manual is missing tons of details (still trying to figure out what some item stats are), and some bugs/glitches (the most egregious of which is a magical item with Identify that systematically kicks me to DOS).

    So far, so good.

    1. I'm glad you like it. Your experience seems very compatible with mine.

    2. Weapons and Armour have each a "magical" value, called M-B-W or M-B-A, telling you how magical it is. The other item stats should be obvious, since they increase values.

      There is also a cat in Twinlake you can talk to, telling you where the thieves guild is if you didn't find it.

      About the interface: I found that I mainly use the numpad in 3D view and the mouse in inventory and 2D view (to examine stuff). I'm probably better used to it, though.

      I tried to play along with a solo (duo) run, but found out the rat king starts every combat with stunning a party member. Gave up after a couple of tries, I don't want to hex edit even more (made my hero a half-elf already) and I fear there will be more problems in future.
      Do you have a version where you can wear 2 rings? My english DOS version can't do that.

    3. I know this is an old post, but as someone who has played through this game many times, I though I might as well comment :)
      The DOS version is a VERY bad port. There are some glaring errors - most obviously the one you mentioned (you cant wear 2 normal rings), but also it crashes a lot, and the combat system has a bug where you can roll to parry EVERY turn rather than the ones you actually choose parry, meaning anyone with 100% parry (paladin + shield of parry) is impossible to hit other than with magic and can strike at will. For a better experience, use an Atari ST or Amiga emulator and play the original ;)
      Completing the game duo is possible. Ive done it, but temporarily hiring other characters as mules to store gear. Make your starting character a paladine and take Boldin the thief as the second character. If you havnt already realised - Boldin is AMAZING. You can beat any non-magical non-Sprite encounter ingame that has 1-4 monsters with 100% confidence using Boldin and any other character (even a 4hp unguilded starting character!). Against 5-8 monster encounters, you only need to tank 1 enemy then its an auto win, against 9+ you have to tank 3, but only one at a time. By that time you should have mithrilmail, shield of parry, 45+ attack, and tanking a couple of orcs should be no problem.

    4. If you are still playing this, heres a couple of hints:
      1 - you really want to play the Atari or Amiga emulated version rather than the DOS one. The DOS one is a terrible port and full of bugs.
      2 - Get Boldin! I have completed the game using just the main character and Boldin, 5 fighters and Boldin, fighter, paladine, 3 wizards, and Boldin, and probably the hardest - all 3 hybrids (paladine, monk, ranger) and Boldin. But Boldin is always the common denominator. Boldin alone makes about half the games combat trivial.


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