Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Game 376: The Summoning (1992)

The title and opening graphic suggest to me a very different game than what ensues.
          
The Summoning
United States
Event Horizon (developer); Strategic Simulations, Inc. (publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS, 1994 for PC-98
Date Started: 16 August 2020
     
Most of the time, I can't remember where I was or what else I was doing when I played any of the previous 375 games. A few moments occasionally pop out. I remember being on my hotel terrace in Port of Spain when I played The Land, getting all those updates from Mike Riley. I remember playing Cobra Mission in Kiev just because the juxtaposition seemed so absurd. Most of the time, though, there's a complete disconnect between what my calendar shows and whatever game I was posting about. When I was going through the worst trouble of my life, I was blithely writing about The Magic Candle or The Black Onyx with no sense of my difficulties in the entries.

But I will never, never, never forget the hotel bar that I was in in Urbana, Illinois, on the nights that I played, lost, ragequit, and eventually won DarkSpyre (1990). I was there on a two-week gig at the university (I think I wrote about it in one of my PLATO entries) and didn't have much to do in the evenings, so I spent hours and hours grinding through that goddamned game. There were a billion levels, you could only save once per level, my weapons kept breaking, and the puzzles were ridiculous. (I don't like purely mechanical puzzles in the best of times anyway; I was so happy to side-step Alagner's Laboratory in Ultima VII.) When I made my way through the absolute nightmare of the penultimate level and then found that saving was broken, I have never been before or since so angry at a game. "Screw this game and anyone who likes it," I concluded in one particularly bitter article.

I thus have not been looking forward to its sequel, despite assurances from readers that it's a better, easier game. Readers say stuff like that all the time. Still, Matrix Cubed turned out to be more tolerable than I expected, so maybe my luck will hold.
        
The game begins with a cinematic that overlaps the manual's narrative reasonably well.
      
DarkSpyre was wrapped in an elaborate framing story written by Scot Noel, who returns to do the honors here. It told the tale of a land besieged by three entities calling themselves the Gods of the Ways. Lord Borel of Laeytroeb, wielding a demon-possessed sword, and leading an army made up of several kingdoms, managed to defeat the gods. Where they fell, the titular tower emerged, and the gods threatened to return in 300 years and eliminate humanity unless a champion could make it to the top of the tower. Lord Borel was one of the first to try; the PC of that game was the only successful one.

The Summoning opens some time after the events of the first game. Lord Borel is remembered as a traitor who brought the gods upon the world in the first place. After he entered the tower, his lover, the witch Chesschantra, and their putative daughter, Abighael, were arrested and exiled to a remote island. There is a strong suggestion that Abighael was not Borel's daughter but rather the daughter of the God of Magic, who seduced Chesschantra before his defeat. In any event, they lived there for a while before wizards and brigands arrived, seeking to enslave them and make use of their powers. Chesschantra held the invaders off as long as she could, but ultimately had to sacrifice her life in a final unleashing of magic that rained devastation on the invaders and teleported Abighael off the island to safety.
          
The Council summons a hero--a descendant of the first game's champion--to answer the threat.
           
The island, now barren, slowly assembled a population of brigands, thieves, exiles, and other unsavory types cast off from the mainland. Eventually, they grew large enough to form a civilization, first harrying ships and villages along the coast, but ultimately growing into a full invasion force, led by a mysterious figure called the Shadow Weaver. Scrying shows that a mysterious citadel, with a labyrinth at its base, has somehow been built on the island.

Powerless to deal with the invaders, the council of lords sent one of their number, the old and shrewd Jairus, to travel to other lands seeking assistance. Jairus returned with a young, beautiful, and powerful prophet and sorceress named Rowena, naming her a queen in exchange for her help. Rowena wears a necklace, which she claims to have stolen from a temple, that once belonged to Chesschantra. It keeps her young. Jairus wants the necklace for himself so he can take on a youthful form and marry Rowena.
           
The character learns from each of the Council members.
          
As the days pass, Rowena is tormented by nightmares of the Shadow Weaver as well as the history of Chesschantra and Abighael. My interpretation is that Rowena is Abighael, somehow having forgotten her own past, but I could be wrong. Anyway, as Shadow Weaver's horde conquers more and more land, she divines that the way to defeat him is to find a descendant of the champion who conquered the DarkSpyre, sending him to infiltrate Shadow Weaver's citadel while the lords' armies occupy Shadow Weaver on the mainland. The council finds the youth and trains him or her as quickly as they can in the arts of war and magic. As Shadow Weaver's armies near the castle itself, Rowena rouses the troops with an address cribbed word-for-word from Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech, although in the case of the game, the good guys nearly immediately lose. As Shadow Weaver breaches the inner chambers, Rowena teleports the Champion to the island citadel and also does something with her necklace that reverses time or something. It's not clear. There's also a suggestion that Shadow Weaver has been influencing Rowena's dreams and that he for some reason wanted her to send a champion to his citadel. Perhaps these mysteries will unfold during the game.
          
Shadow Weaver makes his play.
           
Whereas DarkSpyre's story was clearly a framing story, referenced hardly at all within the game itself, the opening cinematic of The Summoning recaps the manual's story relatively well, though from the Champion's perspective rather than Rowena's. Character creation begins as the Council reviews all of the living descendants of the first champion. My transgendered hero of DarkSpyre didn't just accept her femininity; she embraced it, producing 42 male and female descendants in which must have only been a couple of generations. You'd think with 42 faces, I could find at least one I liked, but I didn't care for any of the male faces. Most of them were ridiculous.
           
I can almost guarantee that no one has ever deliberately selected this character portrait.
          
I finally settled on a female and named her Jera, after both the Futhark rune and the girl who worked at the Piercing Pagoda in the Newington Mall in 1991. (In the unlikely event she is reading, I would like her to know that I married a much better girl, whom I have taken to Paris five times.) The game lets you pick three methods of allocating attributes: random, manually from a pool of points, and a hybrid between the two. I chose the second option, but basically balanced all of the game's attributes: strength, agility, endurance, accuracy, talent, and power.
           
Assigning attribute points.
          
The game then recounts your backstory and your training in the castle, allowing you to choose the type of weapon and magic in which you specialize. I chose long-edged weapons and healing magic. Events happen as in the backstory, and the character is shoved through the portal with only some clothing, a falchion, an Apple of Vigor, a palimpsest that allows for the automap, and a scroll with the "Liquefy" spell. (It appears the apple is a healing object and not an indication that the game has a food system.) A man tends a fire nearby.
           
As Rowena shoves me through the portal, she ensures I have an apple. How motherly.
           
The interface is a slightly modified version of that used in Event Horizon's Dusk of the Gods (1991), which itself had been modified from DarkSpyre. An axonometric exploration window shares the screen with an action-and-inventory window. As with the previous two games, the player can drag and adjust the border between the two windows, filling the screen with just the character sheet if necessary. The mouse is supported, encouraged even, but almost everything can be done from the keyboard. Thankfully, you can save anywhere, not just when you have a specific rune. That was a big problem with the last game. I generally support limited saving, but not to the degree of once per level, particularly when there are so many ways to screw up the level.
          
The opening screen in default view.
And with the character portion pulled almost all the way up.
          
The game includes Dusk of the Gods' NPC dialogue system, which I test on the guy tending the fire. He introduces himself as Malachi, a "secret messenger" of Rowena. He says that to fulfill my quest, I'll need to first make it through the labyrinth to the front doors of the citadel. He points out that there are two paths from the chamber we're currently in; the northwestern path is faster but the northeast past will somehow "better prepare" me for the challenges of the citadel.

Malachi gives me the 4-1-1.

Keyword options with a later NPC.
     
The game allows you to choose keywords drawn from the NPC's speech or to type your own keywords. In further conversation, I learn that I'll need a seal to unlock the front door and that the Shadow Weaver split it into six pieces and scattered them throughout the labyrinth. Rowena had told me to ask him about COINS, and he responds by giving me a sack and explaining that you can often barter with other denizens in the labyrinth.
          
I find another falchion on the way to the exit from this small area. As in the first game, weapons can break, so it's good to have a backup. You can also dual-wield.
        
The auto-map works reasonably well.
       
I gather that the northeast exit will take me through a kind of tutorial level while the northwest one is for more experienced players. I thus go northeast. The next area opens with a guy named Lagmane carving a woman out of a piece of wood. He points to a nearby skull impaled on a pole, and he says that Shadow Weaver has set up those "magic mouths" throughout the citadel. (This one just says that he marks the entrance to the labyrinth.) Lagmane says that I may later find skulls that belonged to powerful wizards who tried to breach the citadel before me.
             
The first magic skull has little to contribute.
         
A pressure plate opens the way forward, and I find myself in combat against my first foe, a mercenary. I know this because the manual has a description of all the foes in the game. The mercenary is the basic unit of the horde, unimpressive except in groups. There were several packs of mercenaries in the level, plus bats. The combat system is roughly the same as DarkSpyre, which ultimately comes from Dungeon Master (1987). Each item you wield offers a different set of options--right hand on the top row of icons and left hand on the bottom. Falchions allow thrusts, swings, and throws. Some of the options are only unlocked by skill levels. Each action has a "cool down" period, which is why it is helpful to have an item in the off hand. You can also (mercifully) use the 1-6 keys on the keyboard instead of clicking the action buttons.
                                
Fighting a mercenary.
            
The four blue icons are reserved for spells that you've memorized. There's a "memorization" window where you line up hand movements (much like lining up the runes of Dungeon Master) to prepare a spell. To figure out the hand movements, you have to take a look at scrolls that you find. I suspect you no longer need the scroll once you've noted the hands, but I haven't tested that yet. I started with "Liquefy," and by the end of the level, I had "Flame Arrow," "Freeze," and "Kano" (opens some locked doors).
        
The hand movements necessary for "Freeze."

And the associated memorization window.
       
I later found a bow, a spear, and an axe, and I tried them all out. I only found three arrows for the bow, so I'll save more extensive use for later. I noted that when you hit "T" to take spent arrows after combat, they go directly into the quiver, which is nice. The spear is a two-handed weapon that allows nothing in the off-hand. It's already broken.
           
Some of the things along the walls seem like they should be interactive.
          
As you use a weapon, you increase your level in that weapon's category. The game encourages you to vary your weapon choice, leveling in all categories, because you never know when your favored weapon will break. This makes sense but it also ruins the purpose of having a weapon specialization system in the first place. Spells work similarly; you gain levels as you cast spells in each of the four classes. In addition to spell-specific and weapon-specific leveling, you also have a general character level based on experience. The maximum is 12. I rose to Level 3 (Campaigner) during the beginner's area alone.
         
I create a potion. Note I am "Average" with edged weapons and a "Neophyte" with polearms.
           
Enemies drop items when they die, although their corpses often obscure the items, so fortunately I figured out early that you want to circle the corpse, hitting "T" multiple times to make sure he didn't have anything.

I meet a few other NPCs on the first level. Otto is a sorcerer who gives me the "Kano" spell. Isadore is a young girl who tells me that moonstones protect against lightning, bloodstones protect against fire, ashwood wands cast the "Fireball" spell, rowan wands cast the "Lightning" spell; Apples of Vigor heal; and rabbits' feet are good for luck. A warrior named Leander sells me nightshade sprigs (which restore spell power) for one gold piece each. Funny how both this game and Matrix Cubed have NPCs named "Leander."
       
Good thing Otto is generous, or I wouldn't have made it off the level.
        
In their attempts to replicate Dungeon Master-style gaming in a third-person interface, the authors also introduced a lot of puzzles. Puzzles got to be a bit much in the original DarkSpyre, as I outlined in a September 2013 entry. A room might present you with half a dozen switches, plates, rolling balls, and teleporters, and you had to figure out the right combination through trial and error. I don't know if this game is going to feature puzzles that hard, but it does have most of the same elements, including:
            
  • Locked doors that require keys
  • Locked doors that require tokens
         
I use a key to unlock a door.
        
  • Locked doors that require the "Kano" spell
  • Teleportation portals 
        
A teleportation portal promises to take me to "the arena."
        
  • Levers that open doors or teleportation portals
  • Doors that open from pressure plates
  • Sequences of pressures plates that open some doors and close others and you have to get them in the right sequence
  • Pressure plates that must be weighed down, ideally with the corpses of enemies (you can "dribble" them for this purpose)
  • Rolling balls that you mostly have to avoid but occasionally have to shove onto pressure plates or in teleporters
  • Magic mouths that provide clues to these various things
      
My big concern as I neared the end of the level was that The Summoning seems to be a closed game. It appears that you have a fixed number of enemies to fight, always in the same locations. Items are also fixed, including healing items. Closed games often leave little room for player error; if you take too many hits and use up your healing items too soon, you could end up in what we might call a walking-almost-dead situation. That's why most RPGs offer at least one inexhaustible resource--an abundance of respawning enemies or found treasure--so that you can make up such deficits. For this reason, I was excited by a teleporter near the end of the level that promised to take me to "the Arena."

Sure enough, it brought me to a large open area with four mercenaries as enemies. I used the "Freeze" spell to stop them in their tracks long enough to engage them one at a time. I figured that every time I returned to the Arena, I'd have a new batch of enemies. Unfortunately, I was wrong. When I got out and returned, the four mercenaries were still dead. So I'm not sure what that was about.
         
The aftermath of Arena combat.
        
Still, it appears that I do have at least one inexhaustible resource: spell points. Unlike hit points, they regenerate on their own, and thus you can cast unlimited spells as long as you're willing to wait. (The regeneration is quite slow.) There doesn't seem to be any downside to waiting in the game--no time limit or hunger mechanic. Thus, I could see prioritizing the use of ranged damage spells to limit enemy opportunities to attack and to avoid wear and tear on equipment. Once I get the "Heal" spell, the game will be theoretically even easier, although it's a high-level spell and I get the impression that it won't appear until late in the game.

It's been a tolerable start, but it's also the sort of game that isn't very interesting narratively. This is probably why I covered its predecessor in only four entries despite spending about 30 hours with it. We'll see if this one gives me more to write about.

Time so far: 2 hours

75 comments:

  1. "I finally settled on a female and named her Jera, after both the Futhark rune and the girl who worked at the Piercing Pagoda in the Newington Mall in 1991. (In the unlikely event she is reading, I would like her to know that I married a much better girl, whom I have taken to Paris five times.)"

    Jera looks suitably pissed off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I literally laughed out loud when I read that sentence. I am not that much older than Chet, and I have only the dimmest recollection of a girl that I was crushing on in 1991. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing...

      Delete
    2. One of my first crushes - also in ~91, taught me long division and showed me Ultima 4. We were 8.

      Delete
    3. Didst thou lose an eight?

      Delete
    4. Has it occurred to you that in the unlikely event Jera is reading, she is the one person who knows your identity and can have her vengeance by revealing it to the world?

      Delete
    5. Jera was a popular girl. I'm sure she broke a lot of hearts in her day.

      Delete
  2. The story will pick up a bit after you're finished with the tutorial area.
    As for it being a closed system, what could you grind for? There's both a level cap and caps for individual skills, and the economy is also very limited and closed. Besides, IIRC there are at least two unbreakable weapons in the game, you'll get the first soon enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (Btw, I did a review of The Summoning for the CRPG Book https://crpgbook.wordpress.com/)

      Delete
    2. (Btw - sorry for a cascade of btw-s - but I've just noticed your caption for the title screen and wanted to say that its content will make perfect sense to you once you reach the ending)

      Delete
    3. I noticed the significance of the items in the title screen after finishing the game! Also, knowing the full story of the game also gives context to the box art of the game.

      As my previous cRPG experiences was "Eye of the Beholder" and its sequel, I was really grateful for the "quality of life" improvements of "The Summoning", as the automap, and it was my first cRPG which wasn't based in the AD&D rules. There are little details in the game which I found highly evocative, as how, after creating your character, you are shown a dungeon wall with the Shadow Weaver sculpted in it, and then the wall cracks vertically and becomes your inventory screen.

      Delete
  3. Actually, once you have all 12 of the hand movements, you basically have access to all spells in the game. You don't need the scroll to memorize the spell; just be lucky enough (or cheat) to get the combination down.

    The Summoning is one of my favorite games I've never managed to finish. If I wasn't already in the midst of a Final Fantasy 6 game, I'd probably play along, if for no other reason than to see how far I got.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @DRG: ...and it wouldn't actually take the WHOLE life of the universe to type in every single possibility. But close. And, it's exacerbated by the fact that symbols can be reused, although they cannot be adjacent to one another.

      However, it is (marginally) practical to get all the low level spells that are only 2 or 3 symbols long.

      On a separate note, in the arena, I noticed that if I pushed the bodies to the location of the teleport portal and then flipped the switch, they disappeared. Since they didn't turn up on the other side of the teleportal, then I don't know, I guess that in some mysterious place is a putrifying pile of corpses.

      Thanks, CRPGAddict, for yet another game I'd never heard of. So far it's mostly fun, although I was mildly disappointed that in my lifetime, I could never enumerate all possible spell choices :)

      Delete
  4. I really liked playing this game and I think that the "final battle" was a stroke of genius, because you need to have been keeping attention to the background of the setting to understand how to win. Also, there are multiple endings, and some of them are a bit unusual. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience, and knowing that it was from 1992, I have been waiting for the moment in which you would start to playing it.

    There is no hunger mechanics nor time limit, so you are correct in that always waiting for spell points to regenerate will make the game easier.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I´m sick of isometric view games and worse still they always lean to the up-right.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just for fun I predict this game will get a gimlet rating of 34. Who will take me on?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 34 seems a bit too low. DarkSpyre got 30, Dusk of the Gods got 37, and The Summoning combines the better parts of the two.
      Looking at individual categories of the two games, I'd say it'll be somewhere in the 40-45 range.

      Delete
    2. Seconded VK. From the coverage of Darkspyre, and my experience with the Summoning, it seems to be a largely improved version of its predecessor, but it retains the same core gameplay of mechanical puzzles that Chet does not particularly enjoy.

      45 is my guess for the final score.

      Delete
    3. reading this blog for so long I think the final number going to be one that you didn't mention just for the sake of it being mentioned... so 38

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

      Delete
    5. I was going to reverse thirteen-oclock's 34 to make it a 43, buyt as that number it is already taken by Risingson Carlos, my guess score will be 42.

      Delete
    6. This is fun. I am going for 39.

      Chester, will there be a prize for the winner? E.g. choose the next game on the upcoming list?

      Delete
    7. Well, shit, since we're going for an exact number, I'll have to say 41, since 42 and 43 are already taken. But keep at it folks, at this rate Chet will be force to either give a score that matches one of the predictions, or put The Summoning in the top 10, both of which outcomes are fine by me.

      Delete
    8. VK, I don't think you've ever e-mailed me offline. If you have a chance to do so in the next few days, I would appreciate it.

      Delete
    9. Nice to see the fun competition in scoring. See, I sparked some interesting debate, making it all worth it. I am quite sure Chet will make up his own mind with his own reasoning, whether it tallies with one of our guesses or not. Prize? Not needed but yeah good suggestion about choosing the next game.

      Delete
    10. I'm not sure why, but gameplay reminds me of Prophecy of the Shadow, which received a final rating of 35.

      Delete
  7. I don´t mind the lens perspective of a game, provided it´s engaging to play. It looks like a typical early 90s game to me. There were some good ones floating around at that time. One does have to be patient with crpg´s. They take time to build up and pay off. Some of the best produced things are a drip-feed of fun-factor until you get deeper in.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a game I completely forgot existed. I owned it at one point. Seeing the artwork in the intro definitely brought back memories. I never finished it, though. So I'll be looking forward to watching your progression.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "I can almost guarantee that no one has ever deliberately selected this character portrait."

    It has some Don Quijote vibes to it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chet is never happy with portrait selections! He doesn't like long-haired guys, he doesn't like blond guys with shaggy hair, but when you give him a bald guy he's not happy either! :p

      Delete
    2. If I'm not mistaken, he also dislikes animal-people too. Chet is only satisfied with truly expressive characters like the PC from Atari's Adventure. :)

      Delete
    3. I'd take that guy. Reminds me a bit of Diego in Gothic, which I only played recently. Was pleasantly surprised that many of the NPCs in that game were actually mature people, with widow's peaks and all. It felt more inclusive.

      Delete
    4. I was recently watching someone streaming Daggerfall and noting that all female NPCs look like 10/10 supermodels, making (at least to me) that world look less plausible.

      Delete
    5. I thought the faces in Daggerfall all looked kinda goofy, for any combination of race/gender. The bodies all look the same mostly because of the paper-doll inventory (probably the biggest reason why Khajiits are just people instead of anthropomorphic cats.)

      Delete
    6. Yeah, I was referring to how they look in the 3D view.

      Delete
  10. I had trouble getting through the intro without giggling. "Laeytroeb" makes me think of the "glass-lined tanks of Old Latrobe" mentioned on every can of Rolling Rock beer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That one bothered me in the last game, too. My mind wants to interpret it as a backwards spelling but of course that doesn't work. Nor does it seem to be a clear acronym for anything, but a lot of words ALMOST work, like BETRAYAL and EARLOBE. Argh.

      Delete
    2. Maybe there's a Taylor Bee who worked for Event Horizon?

      Delete
  11. I am mostly confused by the weird shapes all those cutscenes use. Why are the pictures all portrayed in weird curved windows?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is odd. Maybe just to save the artists from drawing stuff that's outside the frame?

      Delete
    2. Seems like a deliberate artstyle decision to me. They look like weirdly shaped comic book panels. I could see Alan Moore designing a comic with panels like this. Check out his comic series Promethea, it's very creative with unconventional panel and speech bubble shapes. This kinda reminds me of that.

      (Though Promethea came out much later so it can't be an inspiration for The Summoning's intro. Still, I think they were going for a similar vibe)

      Delete
    3. Yeah, just seems like a stylistic choice. Those tend to be more successful if there's an underlying reason for the aesthetic (a nod to a different art form that inspired it, or related to genre or setting). I don't see an obvious answer for what inspired this specific choice, though. Maybe this is all being spied on through the facets of a gem by the big bad?

      Delete
    4. I recall this style in a number of games that came out around this time. X-Com is probably the best known.

      Delete
    5. It looks like they were just going for an antique storybook look, but didn't quite get it right. The weird part is how all of the panels are curved and off-center, giving them a sense of motion like they're swinging from side to side. Lots of strange choices going on here.

      Delete
    6. The shapes gave lugs at the top and bottom, it reminds me more on some antic earrings or something you can chain together to a necklace/bracelet

      Delete
    7. Nevermind, those are decoration (gems?) and not lugs...

      Delete
  12. "A room might present you with half a dozen switches, plates, rolling balls, and teleporters, and you had to figure out the right combination through trial and error."

    I don't like those puzzles where you get a specific set of tetris-like blocks and you have to figure out the right way to fit them all perfectly into some space. My mind just can't or won't figure out how to reason about the problem, how to break it down into smaller problems, and just like what's described above it ends up being unsatisfying trial-and-error until I stumble on the solution.

    When playing through The Talos Principle I just started looking up the solutions so I could get on with the rest of the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually quite like puzzle games of that sort, but I think they'd actually be ruined by the leveling and inventory management. It really looked like the worst of both worlds, honestly.

      Delete
    2. I generally prefer mechanical-style puzzles to riddles and other types. If you experiment long enough with a closed system, eventually anybody will be able to tease out some detail that exposes the whole thing. Riddles, word puzzles and so on almost always rely on obscure word associations or archaic word choice. You may get it instantly or spend hours fuming over it, depending on if you happened to be on the right train of thought that morning.

      Delete
    3. A big problem with word-based riddles is that ESL people have a harder time coming up with the right word. I'm fluent in English and have a broad vocabulary and usually those riddles are no problem to me... at least these days. But when I was a teenager still learning thw language? Word riddles usually meant it's walkthrough time.

      But even when you're fluent with the language, if the riddle is badly designed you can get stuck in a "guess the word" situation. You know what the answer is but not which synonym the game wants you to type in. Is it fire? Flame? Candle? Hearth? Maybe it's a compound like candleflame or hearthfire if the riddle is particularly nasty. And of course, only one of these words is correct.

      Delete
  13. Just looking at the screen shots, it reminds me a lot of Diablo. Is that just me, or does it feel like an action RPG?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Combat certainly has a Diablo-sh feel, though with less compelling animation and sound and with a cool-down timer on actions.

      Delete
    2. Diablo really distilled the satisfying core gameplay loop of RPGs (combat, loot, character improvement) to its very basics, removing a lot of the complexity normally associated with it, providing very streamlined interface and controls and removing any major obstacle between the player and his engagement in that basic loop (such as lengthy dialogue or puzzles).

      This game feels more of an attempt of a third person Dungeon Master than a proto-Diablo.

      Delete
  14. Loved this game! First PC game I ever played, the experience was quite memorable for me. Since I didn't read the manual, the plot of the game would otherwise have been too easy to spoil. For the best experience I would suggest playing through without posting or reading any further comments or online faqs until completion.

    One thing that really bugged me was the inventory management, having to backtrack to retrieve various throwaway items now required I might have dropped three or or four levels back. It got old quick. A unintentional bank of sorts does exist, light spoiler alert.

    ROT13
    Bapr lbh yrnea gur Tngrjnl fcryy, lbh pna hfr Xvat Rirezber'f punzore va Bgure Jbeyq 1 sbe vgrz fgbentr. Xrrc rirelguvat; lbh arire xabj jura fbzr cvrpr bs whax vf arrqrq gb fbyir n chmmyr. Nyzbfg rirel pbzzba vgrz vf hfrq ng fbzr cbvag, rira n srj bs gur fcryy cnepuzragf. Perqvg wnryhf.pbz

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Rowena wears a necklace, which she claims to have stolen from a temple, that once belonged to Chesschantra. It keeps her young. Jairus wants the necklace for himself so he can take on a youthful form and marry Rowena."

    I sense a possible catch in this plan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I didn't make clear is that Rowena isn't old enough yet to really NEED the necklace. So if Jairus took it and used it, they'd both be young.

      Delete
    2. So the effect of the necklace is to make you young? The way it's phrased, as "keeps her young", I'd assume it preserves your current age. If it gives you youth even when you're already old, I'd phrase it as "makes her young".

      And if he wants the amulet for himself so he can marry her, do they have to take turns wearing it so they both stay equally young?

      Delete
    3. It's complicated. The manual says that, "to all appearance the woman before them was no better than a girl, a woman of twenty summers who might command any man in love." That suggests she's older than 20. On the other hand, in a later passage, Jairus has to tell her what the necklace does, so it suggests she's not a LOT older than 20:

      ****

      Rowena smiled, "Then it will keep me young?"

      "No," said Jairus. "It will make me young! We, together, will explore its powers to that benefit, and securing such ability I will transform myself into a more vital form."

      ****

      So it seems like the necklace is keeping her young, but also that she's not THAT old in the first place. And maybe the user's youth doesn't immediately disappear when taken off, so two people could trade it back and forth. And maybe Jairus isn't so much interested in wearing it as analyzing it so he can replicate the magic. Whatever the case, I'm not sure it's THAT important to the story.

      Delete
  16. hit a bit of a wall. i've noticed something undesirable on my version (v1.2). when i'm holding something with the mouse (not in my character's hands, but instead, in transition) it just disappears. so, i've lost a key and am stopped dead.

    the game is relatively unforgiving in the sense that there is one and only one tchotchke for each entrance, and loss of one ends the game.

    i've noticed weapons disappearing. usually the game tells you when they've broken by zooming to the character screen, but sometimes i just realize i have nothing in my hands.

    finally, i'm confused about the mend comand. it doesn't mend the broken vial that i found. the weapons don't go through a partially broken phase during which they might be mended; they just disappear when broken. so far, it's of limited utility.

    anyway, i'm finding this one mostly worthwhile and interesting, but with some drawbacks, and i definitely would not classify it as absolutely wonderful.

    fwiw

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that warning. I'll be careful not to do that.

      Delete
  17. one other cool thing: during character creation, you can choose to allocate a randomly generated pool of points. striving for a large pool leads to an opportunity for the formerly mentioned "reroll rhythm." every 20 or 25 attempts, i saw 98 or 99 points. after more than 200 attempts, i got a pool of 103 points for allocation to the six abilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. I'm pretty sure I got 105 in just a couple of attempts. I didn't realize that was notably large. Maybe I'm misremembering. My final stats were 16 agility, 18 talent, and 17 everything else.

      Delete
  18. Futhark runes are fun. I love the song by Sassafrass that sets the runes to a complex version of the ABC song with some beautiful harmonies.

    ReplyDelete
  19. another game-ending situation... on beginner two, with the two black balls where the skull says (afterwards) "you were warned." If the two black balls are stopped together at thre right of the screen near the skull, it's possible to walk through them and then be trapped in that corner, unable to walk back through them. with the two balls stuck together, pushing or kano doesn't budge them.

    *sigh* time for another reload

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seems like something you have to actively hunt for. Either that or you're playing some very bugged version. There's one legit walking dead situation in the game (don't barter for pearls, ever), but otherwise I don't remember anything like that happening in my playthroughs.

      Delete
    2. Can you clarify "don't barter for pearls?" I just sold a black pearl for some runes on one of the early levels. Is that okay?

      Delete
    3. What you did is fine.

      Delete
    4. No, I'm not actively hunting for failure. This is a fairly specific situation in which those huge balls that I was pushing around to rest on switch plates, happened to have landed in particular locations. I needed to get to the other side of them to push them back, and that's where I was trapped. I spent 20 minutes or so trying to get out of the corner. I think this situation could easily be very rare, but here it is, another game-ender. I acknowledge that I'm responding emotionally (to the game) and defensively (to the perceived criticism). On the plus side, I've enjoyed quite enough, so don't worry, the hazy gauze of nostalgia won't be punctured by further tactless criticisms on my part.

      Delete
    5. @Addict, pearls (both black and white) are both trade items and required for some puzzles. Selling one this early in the game should be fine, but I remember finding myself in a situation later on where I sold too many and couldn't progress in a puzzle.

      Delete
    6. @Rangerous, sorry if I sound too grumpy. That wasn't intended as a criticism. I'm just surprised reading that you have so many problems with the game, because my recent playthrough was very smooth.

      Delete
    7. No problem, sorry for being prickly. I must be displacing in-game-failure bad attitude. My apologies.

      Delete
  20. The very definition of a forgotten great game; had this game had a bit more of a realtime combat it could have beaten Diablo to the punch. Its still one of the few RPGs I have replayed multiple times and would love to see Dos Box playing it properly. I especially enjoyed the multiple path storylines and the great gesture based magic system...plus the ending was a very good subversion of the “Evil Foozle wants to conquer the World”

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh Chet and definetly keep one of those Black Pearls... you will thank me later

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

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

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.