Friday, August 21, 2020

Game 375: Theldrow (1988)

A "series" of one game begins.
       
Theldrow
United States
Independently developed and published as freeware
Released 1988 for Macintosh; updated periodically until 1992
Date Started: 13 August 2020
Date Ended: 15 August 2020
Total Hours: 12
Difficulty: Hard (4.0/5)
Final Rating: 29
Ranking at Time of Posting: 202/379 (53%)
             
Theldrow has one feature so overwhelming that, until you get past it, it obscures everything else notable about the game. That feature is a near-sociopathic difficulty level during the first half of your time with it. I say "first half," but that only applies if you finally decide to break down and cheat by making backups of your character file (as I did). Without that, chances are you won't get out of the first half, and if you do, it will only be through sheer luck after fielding dozens of doomed characters. But I don't want to suggest that the second half is in any way easy. There is no time in the game that a pack of five giant ants isn't a major threat.
        
Exploring a cavern in Theldrow, the game about which this entry is.
       
Odds are high that a new character won't even make it from the starting square to town, which is only 15 steps away. If he doesn't die in his first combat, he will likely die from an accumulation of them. There's no way to save the game except to quit, and death is written immediately to the character file. If you die, you can resurrect yourself for half your gold and get half your attributes, but this just helps ensure that you're even less likely to make it to town. The only way to heal reliably (in the early game) is to stay at the inn, which costs money. Hardly any enemy in the starting area (or, frankly, the entire game) drops any money, so even if you manage to survive your first few combats and make it to the safety of the inn, chances are reasonably good that you'll soon run out of money and won't have any way to recover hit points.
          
No matter how strong you get, these enemies will be capable of killing you if you're not careful.
      
The difficulty is somewhat legendary, and if you consult any videos or walkthroughs that cover the game, almost all of them encourage you to cheat. I eventually did, but only after I mapped almost everything with about 30 walking dead patsies. The funny thing is that, as stacked as the odds are against you, they occasionally go deliriously in your favor. For instance, there are only a few fixed combats in the game. In the 15 steps from the starting square to the town, you'll probably face at least two random combats, but you might face none at all. If you stumble into the spider lair (5 steps from the starting square) early in the game, you will almost certainly die, but there's a minuscule probability that the "Fireball" spell will work and wipe them all out (which leaves you feeling fantastic until you die three squares later in an encounter with two boars). So while one character individually probably can't survive more than five minutes, a couple dozen characters cumulatively can explore most of the game.
        
A lot of characters died for this map of the surface world.
         
Backing up: Theldrow is a first-person, tiled game with a single character. It has some superficial resemblance to Might and Magic, although with the Mac's obsession with cutesy icons and clicking on everything. I played version 2.2 from 1989; later versions add color and a gloriously over-the-top enemy death scream that you have to hear to believe. I would have enjoyed it the first couple of times and then turned off sound for the rest of the game.
           
This is the screen you see most often in this game.
       
The game is set in a world (Theldrow) recovering from some kind of devastation at the end of the Age of Magic. The author, Glenn Andreas, spent a lot of time developing a pantheon of gods for the setting--far, far more than is actually used in Theldrow--which is just one of several signs he intended Theldrow to be just one of many titles set in the "world of adventure" (as the title screen has it).
          
A hermit claims to have known my father.
          
The main character is the 17-year-old son of a scholar named Leoric who went missing when the PC was just a child. The character and his widowed mother moved into a monastery, but now the mother has passed away, and the child is interested in finding what happened to his father. Following his father's notes, he has arrived at the outskirts of the city of Boden, near Castle Cravenshaw.
         
The character walks alongside the river by the castle.
       
Character creation consists of allocating a pool of points to the standard set of Dungeons and Dragons attributes--strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and charisma--all of which the game actually uses. The cost of adding points rises so steeply (20 points per increase to 14 but 100 after that) that I suspect most players end up with roughly the same character with most scores at 14 and maybe one or two set to 15 or 16. You also choose a god during character creation, from Berabaku (God of Light), Ipeke (Goddess of Wind), and Suzes (Goddess of Lightning and Music). Berabaku is the only one with a temple in this game, so it's probably best to choose him, although he is "allied" with the other two gods and you can still use his temple to get divine favor.
      
Character creation.
       
The starting square is northwest of Boden, amidst a forest that wraps around the city. You can head towards one of two entrances, east and south, but the south one is locked. Along the way to an east entrance, you might get sidetracked by a trail that leads to a nest of deadly spiders. Otherwise, you'll probably get killed from the giant ants, boars, or bears that occupy the forest. If you can reach the safety of the city, you'll find it isn't very "safe"--you can encounter monsters on the street with an equal probability of finding them outdoors--but at least it has an inn where you can rest and heal, if you can afford it. You start with an amount of money dependent on how many points you had left over from character creation, plus a single dagger. Boden has a weapon shop, an armor shop, a potion seller, a gem seller, a temple, and a bar where you can get a few hints if you tip the bartender (or have high enough charisma). Hopefully, you have enough money to afford some armor and a better weapon.

Combat features enemies sensible to the environment: giant ants, giant rats, bears, and boars around the woods; undead in the crypts; humanoid enemies in other dungeons. In combat, you and the enemies take turns attacking. Your attacks can include physical attacks (which you make by specifying the hand holding the weapon you want to use), mage spells, and cleric spells. Your available mage power is governed by a "power" bar and by a hidden probability associated with casting each spell successfully based on your experience (also hidden) and intelligence. Your ability to cast cleric spells depends on your experience and the amount of "divine favor" you've stored up by tithing and praying at the temple. It's supposedly indicated by the lines around the religious symbol in the upper-left corner, but I found them too short, thin, and inconsistent to use as a reliable gauge as to whether a spell would work.
            
This boar is about to kill me.
           
Character development occurs as you exercise these three options. The cleric's "meditate" spell helps you determine what your relative levels are in each "class." There are 10 fighter and mage levels and 5 cleric levels. I ended the game only at about the fifth fighter and mage level and the fourth cleric level, so clearly some room was saved for future titles.
        
An early-game assessment of my skills.
            
Because of the difficulty in the early game, every increase in level is a godsend, although nothing is really gated by level. That is, you have some vague probability of being able to cast any mage or cleric spell at any level; it's just that the probability starts quite low. As you level up, it increases. As usual in the world of CRPGs, life becomes a lot easier when you can cast "Fireball" reliably. But the real line is crossed once you're able to use some of the higher-level cleric spells like "Heal," "Neutralize Poison" (this is otherwise a near death sentence), and "Word of Recall," which whisks you back to the starting square. It's a good idea to tithe and pray liberally at the temple to facilitate this development.
         
"Turn Undead" does its job against some skeletons and leaves just giant centipedes behind.
         
The author did a particularly good job with spells. Most are derived from Dungeons and Dragons and work as advertised, but there are a few original inventions. "Magic Chest" calls up a temporary chest in which you can store excess items, for instance. The cleric's "Meditate" tells you about your own strength, but "Augury" tells you about the enemies that you're currently facing. At the top end of both spell systems are a pair of spells, "The Void" for the mage and "Improvement" for the cleric, that supposedly boost your attributes. I didn't develop enough to cast either. A lot of spells require spell components, of which there are an extremely limited number in the game. Again, this was an area clearly meant for continued development in future titles using the same engine.
          
The "Augury" spell cast on a stalker, one of the more difficult enemies in the game.
        
You'd think you could simply grind until you achieve mastery in the classes. This would be true except for two things. First, a pack of five giant ants is never not a threat, and these are frequently encountered even in the safest areas. Second, hardly any enemy has any gold. Giant rats occasionally drop a little, but at the beginning of the game you need to rest in between every 1-3 battles, and the cost to rest goes up as your level does. (A related oddity: for some reason, the game seems incapable of telling you exactly how much gold you have. Instead, it estimates to the nearest 5.) You thus have to start searching outward and downward to find ways to earn money. Eventually, you'll find gems or a ring that you can sell, and your day-to-day financial troubles are over, but you still need to scrimp if you want to afford any of the magic items at the "Bizarre" (the game has some spelling issues). Rings, incidentally, are potentially-useful magic items, but they only last a certain amount of time before they "crumble to dust." I think their longevity is based on CPU cycles rather than game turns, so if you don't have any way to slow down your emulator (which I, using Basilisk, do not), then you might as well sell the rings because they'll otherwise only last a few minutes.
         
Preparing to cast a "Fireball" against an unholy assortment of enemies.
        
The game is pretty small. The top world is only about 17 x 20, including Boden, the forest immediately around it, a cemetery to the northeast, a forest to the southeast, and the outskirts of Cravenshaw Castle across the river. The underworld is a separate 19 x 34, and Cravenshaw itself has its own small interior zone of 8 x 9. Many of the squares are unused. If it weren't for the difficulty of combat, you could easily clear it in an hour.
          
The "underground" part of the game.
        
There are multiple ways to get into the underground, but almost all of them are behind secret doors. The game really likes secret doors. There are two in Boden, which is only 5 x 5 squares. There are three more in the woods outside Boden. Each one requires that you attempt the "search" option multiple times before you find it--sometimes 10 or more. Then, even after you find the secret doors, most of them lead to holes, not stairs. At a certain level, you can climb back up the holes, but until then you need an expensive "Recall" scroll to find your way back to the town. To avoid the holes, the only exploration path is a stairway in the crypts northeast of town--which themselves seem to lead to a dead end unless you search multiple times for a secret door.
          
After about a dozen tries.
         
Both the bartender and a hermit outside of town will say that they knew your father, but you don't really get any significant clues until you start exploring the abandoned Castle Cravenshaw. Bits of Leoric's old journal are strewn about the castle, and together they suggest that Leoric was researching the titular builder of the castle, the wizard Crav Enshaw (yes, groan), who somehow opened a portal to something called the Dark World.
           
Part of my father's journal.
        
Opening the portal required four parts (called the "quadparts"), which Leoric eventually found but which are now strewn throughout the underground. Specifically:
     
  • The Bell of Thon is in a room in the northeast part of the underground, under the old grain storage building in Boden.
          
Recovering the bell and some other goodies.
        
  • The Book of Krell is located in the giant ants' egg chamber at the end of a cavernous maze. You have to fight multiple battles with large packs of giant ants. "Fireball" mostly got me through.
  • The Candle of Knorsos is at the end of a maze of one-way doors in the middle part of the underground.
           
The candle is found in a dead end.
         
  • The Skull of Something That I Didn't Write Down is in the ruins of Crav Enshaw's bedroom in the castle.
      
Other scrolls tell you how to place the items in a special chamber in the underground to open the portal to the Dark World.
         
Using the bell to open the portal.
         
One of Leoric's notes says he was captured by ettercaps on the other side of the portal. You fight some as you make your way through the final area, which is a lattice of four rows and four corridors. There's a teleporter at every intersection point. You ultimately have to find your way to the northeast, and through a final door, where a disappointing message says that your adventure will continue in the undercity of Thelos in the sequel.
          
The "won!" screen.
           
I had to restore my character backups about a dozen times to win, and I question whether anyone has ever won the game "legitimately." Aside from the difficulty, and in fact partly because of it, I mostly had a great time. The mechanics of this game are solid. It's mostly just too small, more like a proof of concept than a final game. Some elements I can't rate high simply because there aren't enough of them; for instance, the game uses an Ultima-style keyword system for talking with NPCs, but there are only two NPCs. There's a stealing mechanic, but you get banned if you get caught, and there aren't enough shops in the game to risk it. There are only two traps in the game, a couple of teleporters, one lever, and a small number of fixed encounters. It's too bad we never got Thelos or any other game in the setting, but Glenn Andreas went on to create Cythera (1999) for Ambrosia Software, which looks a lot like Ultima VII.
         
Cythera has graphics and dialogue a lot like a game we recently reviewed.
            
Andreas currently operates Gandreas Software but doesn't seem to sell any games except for a Macintosh port of Rogue.
          
In a GIMLET, this one gets:

  • 2 points for the game world. There's not much to the setting, but the character's motivation is pretty clear.
  • 4 points for character creation and development. It gets most of this for relatively satisfying development. The game doesn't last long enough to really experiment with different "builds," but in a longer version it would be interesting to see how a combat-focused character compared to a magic-focused character.
  • 2 points for NPCs. The mechanics are good, but there are only two of them and neither really tells you anything vital.
  • 3 points for encounters and foes. It makes good use of the Dungeons and Dragons bestiary, including special attacks and resistances.
          
Fighting an owlbear.
       
  • 4 points for magic and combat. The combat system is tactical enough, and it really opens up once more spell options become available. As I mentioned, the spells themselves are interesting and well-programmed, and I liked the variances in how mage spells worked versus cleric spells. The magic system deserved a longer game to really shine.
  • 3 points for equipment. There's a modest variety of stuff, identifiable with the "Identify" spell.
  • 3 points for the economy. It's a bit stingy at the beginning and a bit generous by the end. Giving weight to gold and thus necessitating the "gem" system was a needless addition.
         
A good deal for a ring that probably won't last very long anyway.
         
  • 2 points for a main quest with no side quests or role-playing options.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are serviceable. There's no sound in this version, and I think the effects are a bit too much in the color version, but if you don't agree, add an extra point or two. The interface mostly works all right. There are keyboard shortcuts for movement and most of the actions, like attacking, searching, and bashing doors, but having to click on the menus for spells got annoying. The game interface is 2-3 windows that you can move or size yourself, but which always show the Mac desktop behind them. I hate that part of playing Mac games.
         
Atmospheric messages occasionally enhance the graphics.

        
  • 4 points for gameplay. The difficulty is pitched a bit too hard, but then again the game is awfully short, so the factors almost cancel each other out. It has some limited nonlinearity within its small world, but I wouldn't say it's replayable. 

That gives us a final score of 29. I was hoping it would land closer to my "recommended" threshold at 35 because I really did end up enjoying it, but then again that was only after several hours of pain.

It's always nice when I can bang one out in a single entry. I don't expect that to be the case with The Summoning. I didn't like its predecessor much and I can't imagine that I'll have the stamina for the entire sequel.
  

47 comments:

  1. Interesting that this same person made Cythera, because before you mentioned it I was going to bring it up as one of the rare actually good Mac-only RPGs. It is, as you noted, rather shameless in copying things from Ultima, but that's not a bad thing if you actually do it well. Other games I remember being ok we're Taskmaker, Tomb of the Taskmaker, and no other games. That's all we got. And maybe Centauri Alliance, if you really really really love Bard's Tale...

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    1. Those sprites look directly lifted from UVI.

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  2. Actually I think that The Summoning is very good and interesting game. At least it was for me and I have some fond memories for that. But of course your experience can be different, depends on your taste.

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    1. I loved the Summoning as well, though I will admit that I never could get through the teleporter maze. I may go back and try again; maybe with a guide up so I can get through that damn maze.

      It's definitely better than Darkspyre. I like the same-engine sibling Veil of Darkness as well, which I did manage to get through a few years ago. I still haven't gotten around to Dusk of the Gods.

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    2. Yeah, teleport maze. I think it was "copy protection" and the solution was in manual. I was able to go through that by leaving different things on the floor and after to map which teleport from which thing is going where. I was quite proud to invent this solution in my cca 16 :-).

      Veil of Darkness I started, but not finish. Maybe could be good to give it another try. Thanks for reminding me this game.

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    3. It would be a good game if it was 1/4 of its length. And I thought that when finished it in my teens so probably it would be better 1/8.
      Anyway it has one of the most satisfying endings. *wink*

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    4. Nah, I wouldn't be so radical. It were the Otherworlds that did me in on my recent playthrough, so I would say 1/2 of its length would be quite alright.

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    5. I've actually started, and I agree that it's better so far.

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    6. To me it felt like it had more in common with Dusk of the Gods than with Darkspyre.

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    7. For what it's worth, I loved the Summoning (but found Darkspyre tedious). I remember long, late nights playing it while listening to Pearl Jam's Ten on repeat in my Dad's home office.

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  3. The Summoning is a very different game from DarkSpyre - it has plot and NPCS, a somewhat open world, and much more forgiving puzzles. There are a lot of them though, it's a big game. If they defeat you midway through, be sure to use the cheat that allows you to experience the ending sequence, the game has a brilliant ending: Jura lbh zrrg lbhe svefg ACP, fnl "mroh" gb uvz vafgrnq bs nfxvat sbe pbvaf (vg jba'g jbex vs lbh fnl nalguvat ryfr gb uvz orsber gung).

    Oh, and one more ending tip: Vs lbh svaq lbhefrys ybfg be xvyyrq ol gur thneqf nsgre qrnyvat jvgu gur ovt onq, lbh zvtug jnag gb erybnq n fnir sebz gur ovt onq'f punzore naq qb fbzrguvat ryfr.

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  4. Early CRPG designers really had a thing for anagrams, huh. Then again, it's not like contemporary designers' brains don't immediately break when tasked with coming up with names for their worlds. That's why instances like Dragon Age's "Thedas" still happen.

    Anyway, appreciate whenever a new Mac RPG shows up; that's not a library I'm well acquainted with. And The Summoning at least sounds interesting, even if it may not be your cup of tea.

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    1. That stands for "The Dragon Age Setting," right? Yes, it's pretty lame. But it's tough to come up with the names of fantasy lands. When you name a land, you're also making a statement about the nature of language in that world, which of course also says something about culture and biology, and so you have to think about the ramifications. If I call the world "Grakkengrag," do I really want to deal with so many hard consonants in other proper names? "Grag" seems like a suffix; does that mean I need to append it to a few other place names? That kind of thing.

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    2. The name for the world in its entirety is the hardest thing when it comes to naming fantasy places. When I name fantasy lands, I try to go with something that fits to the culture living in that place. If it's Mediterranean, give the country a Latin or Greek name. If it's generic medieval, something High Middle German or Anglo-Saxon works well. Arabic for middle eastern, etc. Something more unique for a fantasy culture not directly based on a real world one. I like how Morrowind used different naming conventions for Imperial forts, Dunmer cities and strongholds, Daedric ruins and Dwemer ruins. Linguistically they took a lot of elements from ancient Mesopotamia, as you can clearly see in place names like Ashurnibibi.

      But what do you name your world? In most languages, planet Earth is called... well... either earth or world. So the most logical choice would be to take the most important culture of your setting, take their word for earth or for world (or the name of their earth goddess) and call your world that.

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  5. Anyone else notice "Theldrow" is just an anagram of "the world"?

    And you need a bell, book, candle and skull to enter the Underworld. Hmm...

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    1. I thought that was so obvious that I didn't bother to put it in, but I suppose I should have since I've missed some obvious ones before.

      I thought Bell, Book, and Candle were a common enough trope that it somehow didn't occur to me that when combined with the skull, the game seems to be referencing Ultima IV specifically.

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    2. Personally, I completely missed the anagram, but that's nothing unusual for me

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    3. For not native English speakers it’s really hard to catch things like that, at least in my experience.

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  6. I think the exploration graphics look rather nice for a black-and-white Mac game.

    Was there some mandate against making full-screen Mac games in a single window, or did Mac owners and developers really buy into the philosophy this whole-heartedly?

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    1. That's a question I'd like answered, too. I'm not sure I have a good grasp on what's happening, in technical terms, when a game takes over the entire screen. I mean this for both the Mac and Windows.

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    2. A lot of modern games just open a full screen window with no border, or offer such a method as an option. Thus the entire screen is covered with the game, but it's much easier to alt-tab away without the game and the OS fighting for control of the monitor since the game itself is just a regular window.

      As far as I know, all DOS games just completely control the monitor for as long as the program is running. I don't have a clue about old Macs though, since I've never even seen one in person let alone used one.

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    3. In Windows it's basically just a window with parameters set to have no borders, be the right size and position, and always on top. Other than that it's not really any different from other windows.

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    4. Macintosh computers had a builtin graphics framework called QuickDraw, which allowed developers to draw graphics and create windowed applications with a few simple commands. It was also highly optimized by industry experts, giving the 8 MHz processor more time to do other things. Finally, since it resided in ROM, programmers didn't have to waste precious memory on custom drawing routines.

      Using this framework was simply much more convenient for an amateur developer, at the cost of all games looking similar.

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    5. While I have no concrete anything for this, I'd imagine most Mac games went for the window system because the people making them were Mac users that would have been more used to that sort of thing than full screen stuff. With people developing for other systems, the idea that a program should take up the whole screen was far more common

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    6. The whole idea of a game running in a window instead of full screen will also appear in some early Windows games. Castle of the Winds is a great example, as is Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. Zardas: I imagined it was probably something to do with graphics in the era before APIs like DirectX (not sure what the Mac equivalent would have been). I seem to remember Windows having something similar to QuickDraw... GDI+ maybe? I'm sure it's a shameless copy.

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    9. You know, Windows 3.1 has the same weird fully-windowed navigation thing going on, but programmers also had the option to just make their games run in DOS so I think they mostly did that instead. I wonder if there'd have been more stuff like that on Windows if devs weren't trying to maintain support for the older systems where GDI didn't exist.

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  7. That feature is a near-sociopathic difficulty level during the first half of your time with it

    Sounds a lot like Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a game so hard that turning on god-mode only increases your frustration as you deny yourself the sweet, merciful release of Death.

    Theldrow comes across as a project someone grew tired of, but wanted to have something to show for the time. Just ramp up the difficulty of the combats, that'll be good for a few more hours of playtime. Done, ship it.

    Still, it's easy to criticize. Not many people were programming games for the Macintosh and fewer were programming Macintosh-native games in 1988.

    We probably would've gotten a good game here if more time had been spent...and if the Mac GUI could be overlooked.

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    1. I thought Kingdom Come was awesome. The difficulty is extremely realistic given the nature of the character, and you have lots of alternatives to fighting. (It's possible to win without killing anyone, right? I think there's even an achievement if you do.) I loved it FOR its difficulty, particularly since it's an open-world game and combat is integrated into the regular exploration engine, so you have lots of options for defeating foes.

      In games like Theldrow, which trap you in a special "combat" screen, some combats are literally unwinnable in a way that's almost never true for open-world games.

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    2. Oh, don't get me wrong: I love Kingdom Come, but it takes quite a bit of personal recalibration after coming from the likes of Skyrim.

      I knew its reputation, so I figured I'd play my first go with Kingdom Come with a god-mode mod to get a feel for how to play the game, then play "for real".

      Playing "for real" is less frustrating than being immortal.

      I'm not sure if it's possible to win without killing anyone, but the developers certainly gave the player a wealth of options to deal with nearly any situation.

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    3. Why is "god mode" so frustrating? Do you still get knocked out or something? Or is that even though YOU'RE immortal, you still can't hit anything?

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    4. There is one boss that must be killed, but otherwise you can win without killing anyone, in fact there's an achievement for doing so.

      I think the difficulty was quite the refreshing experience, actually. It's the rare game that doesn't open up its legs and give you everything just because you mashed the X button hard enough. And while it never becomes effortless, training, skill and gear does make a huge difference.

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    5. Or is that even though YOU'RE immortal, you still can't hit anything?

      Exactly this. I might be immortal, but my opponents may as well also be immortal because of how combat works behind the scenes: the difficulty of the battle is determined by the difference in skill levels between the enemy and the player.

      So an unskilled, but immortal, Henry may not die, but he's also going to land approximately zero blows on his enemy, and if he does manage a hit the damage will likely be deflected away by armor.

      It's pretty much "old school" dice rolling in a 3D world a la Morrowind, but obfuscated in such a way as to trick the player into thinking they have more control over the outcome than they do.

      Once I realized this the game became a lot less frustrating.

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    6. I like difficulty in general, but I gave up on Theldrow pretty quickly. Not a fan if the difficulty is based on random chance rather than deliberate design. You can get a guaranteed death scenario with an unlucky random encounter, which isn't fun.

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  8. Have you considered using MAME to run your Macintosh games? Unlike Basilisk II, it targets specific Macintosh models and doesn't tie emulation speed to the speed of your CPU. There are also CHDs of Macintosh HDDs with System 7 pre-installed, which makes it exponentially easier to get everything up and running. The only catch is that audio isn't quite working properly, though I don't expect that to be an issue for you.

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    1. I'm sure it's a great emulator, but I've never had anything but grief with it. I used it for my TRS-80 color gaming and was happy when those games were over.

      I suppose I could check it out again, but honestly, once I get an emulator for a complex system like the Mac working, I'd rather live with its problems than spend time learning another emulator.

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    2. I use SheepShaver for Mac emulation but haven't tried Mac OS versions this old on it. I mainly use it for late 90s and early 00s Mac games.

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  9. "the cost to rest goes up as your level does" ugh

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  10. I'm going to go ahead and second the other commenter who praised Cythera. I grew up with a Macintosh, and apart from an excellent Mac remix of Ultima III, it was the only long form RPG I had on the computer. It is a complex open world game, more similar to Ultima VI than VII, although the combat is more VII. I recently sat down and played it again with an emulator and really enjoyed it. Of course, Ultima VI is better.

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  11. Since spells are launched from the menu and I assume the menu is using standard Mac desktop stuff, are there no keyboard accelerators you could use?
    There's no direct shortcuts listed I see, but does it also not support semi-assisted menu operation, like how in Windows Notepad you could type Alt to bring the focus to the menu bar, then E for Edit, then U for Undo, etc? (Not at a PC so the keys may be wrong, but you see what I mean.)

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    1. Not in this version of the OS, no. I could play around with later ones, but the game was over before it got TOO annoying.

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    2. I don't remember the Mac having such a feature, no. Either programs would define shortcuts or they wouldnt--that was it. There was no keyboard menu navigation or anything like that.

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  12. -Giant ants bane of early game PCs?
    -Giant boars in the wilderness?
    -Green Dragon Inn?
    -Knock, Magic Missile, Lightning Bolt, Scare (Monster), Web?
    -Cure Light Wounds, Identify, Bless, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, Cure Disease?
    -Pick Lock, Detect Traps, Pilfer, Search Area, Kick Door?
    -Obsession with secret doors?

    Did Thomas Biskup of ADOM fame played this a lot?

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  13. Congrats on the win. I'm rather fond of Theldrow, despite the difficulty being too unfair. I strongly suspect even Mr. Andreas never finished the game honestly.

    Still, there game does have its simple rustic RPG charm.

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  14. I just noticed: with Theldrow done, there are no more unplayed 1988 games on your master list. Congrats on clearing 1988! Sure, there are a couple of games that were retired early, but there's no way avoiding those.

    Probably no need to reconsider 1988's Game of the Year title, Theldrow isn't especially likely candidate to dethrone Pool of Radiance :)

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  15. I had this one on a games CD back in the early 90s but naturally never got anywhere in it so nice to read about the full game.
    Cythera is a fairly good game though it's a very faithful cross between Ultima 6 and 7 with an overworld/town map structure. It even has the same framing device of "you are an ordinary guy from modern day Earth who gets transported to a fantasy world".
    The only sort of annoying thing about it is that in the years up to its release, Ambrosia Software was hyping it up as having a really unique game system and immersive world that had never been done before. Using all the same examples people often use to praise Ultima 7's world interactivity, like the ability to bake bread.
    Since Ultima 6 and 7 were never released on the Mac, I bought into the hype of Cythera having a totally original game system and didn't realize that it was pretty closely copied from Ultima until several years later when I had a Windows PC and got interested in the Ultima games. I imagine a lot of other Mac only players were fooled by this advertising.
    Although Cythera has a self-contained story that doesn't end with a sequel hook, much like Theldrow it was intended at the beginning as an engine that would serve as the basis for multiple games, but it was the only one ever released.

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