Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Summoning: I Hope You Crush That Little Dude's Rock

Cool. The last level had like 20 challenges.
         
I had a good last session with The Summoning. The enemies became more challenging and the puzzles retained what I thought was already a satisfactory challenge. (Uber-fans of DarkSpyre probably think it's too easy.) My inventory problems were ameliorated by a Bag of Lightness. I got some more information about the main plot. Everything moved along in a reasonably fast clip. It's not a bad game. But at the same time, I feel like I've gotten its basic experience and I don't really need another 20 hours of it, but another 20 hours seems inevitable whether I "need" it or not.
    
When I left off last time, I was just entering the "Elemental Barrier" levels, of which there turned out to be three. The last one had three elemental barriers in the corridor leading out of the level, and my goal was to find three spheres, have Duncan "activate" them, and then throw them at the barriers so I could pass. By this point, all of the levels have multiple small areas interconnected by teleporters, so exploring them isn't as simple as just always following the right wall. Since you never know where a teleporter is going to take you, and if you'll be back, I've taken to fully exploring each section before moving on. It's also a good idea to toss an unwanted item through each teleporter just to make sure it doesn't have some effect in your current area. 
           
In the midst of battle against hellcats. Man, was it hard to find arrows on this floor.
       
On the first Elemental Barrier level, I met an NPC named Skulk who said he hired himself out as a mercenary and also sold rare and unique items, and I thought I might be able to hire him as a companion or buy some things from him, but despite the dialogue seeming to head in that direction, no such options came to light. Instead, Skulk told me about nine wizards who had tried to defeat Shadow Weaver at the behest of the Council, something I don't remember from the backstory. The wizards were all defeated, and eight of them had their heads impaled on sticks, their souls imprisoned within, and cast into the labyrinth. The ninth, Balthazar, was corrupted to work with Shadow Weaver. This was the first suggestion that I would have to find the eight wizards' skulls.
           
Levels are becoming groups of interconnected areas rather than cohesive structures.
          
Elemental Barrier One (which, confusingly, was the second of the three levels) offered combats against a bunch of ghouls. Ghouls can only be damaged by weapons of silver. Fortunately, there was a sword maker named Kern on the same level. He said he'd need a supply of silver and a holy emblem to make the sword, plus 5 gold pieces for his service. I was delighted at the prospect of finally getting rid of some of the gold I'd amassed, only to find that the level itself provides you with at least the 5 gold pieces you have to pay Kern. Anyway, the holy emblem was in the possession of Rhegad, an ex-priest who had become disillusioned with the world and decided to join Shadow Weaver's horde. Lacking martial ability, he wanted to trade the emblem for a Book of the Sword, a magic object that improves your skill with edged weapons. It's a good thing I met him before finding the book, because I would have used it for myself. I don't know if it's possible to kill him after he gives you the holy emblem and take the book back. I'm not evil that way.
        
A cinematic showed Kern forging the sword. Apparently, it will never break, but it sucks against regular foes.
       
The silver came from a chalice that a warrior named Greyreign was carrying. He had been wounded, but his code prevented him from accepting magical help. Instead, he wanted me to find him a "healing mango," which sounds like magic to me, but whatever. There were a couple on the level, so I gave him one and got the chalice. Kern made me the sword, and I used it to wipe out what seemed like dozens of undead. I was frankly a little annoyed that I couldn't break regular weapons on them.
          
Amidst the remains of ghouls.
         
Other new enemies on this level were "hellcats," which look like small cats. I think by now I was also getting attacked by harpies pretty regularly. Minotaurs joined the bestiary on Elemental Barrier Two.
     
It was somewhere on this level that I found a Bag of Lightness, which changed life enormously. The bag has 12 slots, and nothing you put in it weighs anything unless you're holding the bag. I was able to shuffle a bunch of stuff and finally get back below my weight threshold, but that didn't last forever, and by the end of this session, I was back to having to drop a chest at the beginning of the level, explore, and then return for it. 
            
The bag helped, but my new samurai armor made me overburdened again.
         
Elemental Barrier Two started with a combat against an NPC named Murc'met who said he was a great swordsman but died in like two hits. Later, I met one of his former companions, Toh, who talked smack about him. She also talked about making an effort to find the blade Warmonger, the demon-possessed sword created by King Borel and used by the character in DarkSpyre. She discussed a couple of rumors about where it might be held, including a hidden chamber before the elemental barriers or an underground cavern within the territory of the White Knight. I hope it wasn't in a secret area on the Elemental Barrier levels because I never found it.
 
Later, an old man named Nigel introduced the possibility of a multiverse: he said that when he died, he expected to move on to another plane, and he thinks there must be magical ways to move between planes. He cited the example of the Gods of War, Magic, and Intellect, who clearly came from some place external.
          
Punching through the elemental barrier.
           
I otherwise didn't write down much about the Elemental Barrier levels until I got to the end and flung the three spheres into the appropriate barriers. (This required me to take them back to Duncan, but each level had a way to shortcut it on the way back to the beginning.) My shots show a lot of the usual: keyed doors, levers, pressure plates that had to be weighed down (there were a lot of these on the last level in particular), doors that had to be opened with the "Kano" spell, and so forth.
     
Using a rolling ball to weigh down a pressure plate after stopping it with a "Magic Wall." Yawn.
        
As I got through the elemental barriers, I was once again visited by the apparition of Rowena, who confirmed that Shadow Weaver intended to use the Staff of Summoning (I had already learned as much from Dunstan on the Broken Seal levels). The Staff is apparently broken into two pieces, one of which Shadow Weaver already has, the other of which is in another world. To get there, I'll need to learn a special spell from the skulls of the eight wizards. I'm preparing for a twist ending in which this isn't really Rowena visiting me, but we'll see.
          
What do you want to bet that this "other world" coincidentally consists of dungeons with puzzles?
         
The area after the Elemental Barrier levels is called the Realms of the Five Knights. I've only explored one so far, but I'm assuming it ultimately consists of five levels, each ruled by a different colored knight. The first level was the Blue Knight's, and as I entered, I was greeted by one of his warriors, Makabre. He gave me the lay of the land. The other knights are White, Ebon, Green, and Crimson, and the five are constantly looking to undermine the others, sometimes forming alliances, sometimes breaking them. The Ebon Knight is the most powerful of the lot, the Green Knight the weakest. Each wears a medallion, and to get out of the area, I'll need to collect all five medallions and drop them in a hole in front of a great door. Man, I really hope Shadow Weaver has a secret entrance; otherwise, when he's in the mood for a taco, getting out of his own fortress must be seriously inconvenient.
         
You may come to regret that you offered this information so freely.
         
The Blue Knight's level made me complete three "challenges": the mind, the fighter, and the mage. The fighter challenge just had a bunch of enemies, and the mage had a puzzle involving the "Magic Wall" spell that was no harder than a regular puzzle. The "mind" one wasn't hard, but it was funny. The walls in this section were built like an equation, with holes between the operators: HOLE + HOLE = HOLE. There was a chest with three objects in it: a rock, a Jera potion, and an empty potion flask. To solve the puzzle, I had to swallow the potion and hurl one of the flasks at the wall, breaking it, and then drop the resulting objects in the holes so that the equation was ROCK + FLASK = BROKEN GLASS. Unfortunately, the creators made it so the holes would only accept the proper objects, so it was a bit too easy.
      
This was a cute idea.
       
Enemies started getting a lot harder on this level with the introduction of samurai, and then eventually I had to kill the Blue Knight himself. Still, "harder" doesn't mean very hard. Even though the enemies might be capable of pounding away my hit points in a few hits, I can always cast "Freeze," then run away from combat. The spell lasts long enough to make and quaff a couple of healing potions, at which point I can re-engage and cast "Freeze" again if necessary. You can't even run out of spells because the spell preparation window (unlike the inventory window) freezes the action on the screen. To be a real threat, an enemy would have to be immune to magic or last long enough that you exhaust your spell points. That hasn't been a danger yet.
            
This line of samurai was tough, but the pressure plate allowed me to crush some of them in the door.
         
I started finding the wizards' skulls on this level, ultimately finding three: Erastus, Zana, and Sea Raven. Each taught me one symbol for the "Gateway" spell. I figure if I get six of the eight, I could figure out the rest on my own. I don't know if I need to keep the skulls after talking with them, but I have been.
          
It feels rude just to dump them on the floor.
         
The Blue Knight's level ended with a fiendish puzzle. Involving a large area of 20 small rooms, each with two or three doors connecting them to the other rooms. A large chamber nearby held 20 levers, each of which opened at least one door and some of which closed others. I had to test them all, carefully noting the effects (when I could even see them) on the opened and closed doors in the chambers. Each chamber had a will-o-wisp, which has a lightning missile attack. The whole area took a while, but it ultimately led me to the teleporter to the Blue Knight and then to the level's exit. The next area appears to be the White Knight's domain, and here I signed off.
           
My heart sank when I walked into this area.
            
Beyond that, there's not much to tell you except miscellaneous things:
    
  • One puzzle gave me a room in the shape of a clock. There were 12 pressure plates that I clearly had to weigh down with rocks, and a skull told me that I wanted "eagle's position." Through trial and error (and reloading, because the wrong choice sent fireballs hurling at me), I figured out that the right positions were 12 and 7. What does this have to do with eagles?
       
Is there some in-game context by which this makes sense?
        
  • Since I eventually had plenty of weapons, I tried to prioritize the ones for which I had low skill, starting with missile weapons. By this time, I was carrying two bows and had a quiver full of arrows, including a couple of barbed and poison arrows. While you can pick up arrows after combat, I find that I slowly lost about half of them just because they can be hard to see. But the thing I like is that you just have to run over them and hit "T" ("Take") to pick them up, and they go directly into the quiver. I wish Dungeon Master made it so easy.
  • The game has an annoying copy protection system. When you start up, you have to consult a page in the manual, each of which has a string of five faces at the top of the page, which you replicate in the game window. Some of them are kind of hard to make out in the book. 
         
This discourages short sessions.
              
  • Melee weapons and shields have broken plenty of times. Armor, greaves, helms, gauntlets, and bows have never broken. Do they?
  • Some of the doors are tough to pick out from the surrounding walls.
          
Note the closed door to the southwest of my character.
        
  • I'm carrying way too many extra Raido, Gebo, and Thurisaz runes, all of which teleport you to their respective floor sigils if the level you're on has them. So far, I haven't found very many floor sigils that aren't accessible through non-teleportation means.
           
This was a rare exception.
         
  • Amulets use up their magic and disappear in less than five minutes. They may as well have not even included them.
  • So far, every time the game has called for a miscellaneous item, it has offered that miscellaneous item somewhere on the same level. I assume, given all the warnings I've received, this must change at some point. If not, you're making me carry around a lot of extra junk for nothing.
  • Character development slowed to a crawl this section. I ended the last one a "Cavalier" (8/12) and remain one hours later. My edged weapon skill went up to "Savant" (8/10), an increase of one, and my use of missile weapons went to "Skilled" (5/10). Healing magic increased by one category to "Sage" (8/10), but that's only because I used a Fehu rune (creates random objects), which in turn got me a Perth rune, which levels up a random spell skill. 
            
My current status.
      
As I acquire new spells, it's getting harder and harder to memorize them, and inconvenient to refer to screenshots of the hand motions. Now that I have all 12 hand positions, I've assigned a number to each one, and I have a notepad where I've written down every spell's numerical code. This works if I have plenty of time, but I needed something faster for the spells I might want to quickly memorize and cast in combat, so I unwittingly found myself adopting a mnemonic device for the most common spells, based on what the hand movements could represent. 
    
Ultimately, I had labeled the 12 movements, in order:
   
  1. "Point." It looks like someone saying "Point of Order!"
  2. "Hope." Because I initially interpreted it as crossed fingers. I had to go with what works.
  3. "One." That was the laziest one.
  4. "Crush," because it looks like someone crushing a soda can.
  5. "Commodore." It was the first thing I could think of that began with "C."
  6. "Paper." From Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  7. "Hook," because that's what he's doing with his finger.
  8. "Swear," because it looks like someone taking an oath.
  9. "Waiter," because it almost looks like someone carrying a tray.
  10. "Rock," also from the game.
  11. "Dude." I realize the sign is usually with the thumb, not the index finger, but you go with what you first think of.
  12. "Little," as if the person is saying, "just a little bit."
      
Waiter! One little rock, dude.
           
After this, the trick is to string them together along with an image of the spell. "Flaming Arrow" becomes CRUSHING a ROCK, and you picture a flaming arrow doing that. "Kano" (which opens doors) is similarly CRUSHING HOPE, so I picture an enemy on the other side of the door desperately hoping that I won't get through. "Restore" is tougher: ONE POINT is that the DUDE is a WAITER. I don't know why, but for some reason I could hear Robert Downey Jr. saying that sentence, and he was in Restoration with Sam Neill, so it works. I'll probably remember that long after I've forgotten my own middle name.
     
Time so far: 21 hours


34 comments:

  1. "What does this have to do with eagles?"

    The answer of seven is right there on your automap. The game files also contain messages "Three," "Seven," "Nine," and "Twelve." Maybe something saying Twelve is in that section?

    "As I acquire new spells, it's getting harder and harder to memorize them, and inconvenient to refer to screenshots of the hand motions."

    What about the manual? It has a blank table for the spells you can print and hand-fill.

    "I'm carrying way too many extra Raido, Gebo, and Thurisaz runes, all of which teleport you to their respective floor sigils if the level you're on has them. So far, I haven't found very many floor sigils that aren't accessible through non-teleportation means. This was a rare exception."

    Let's just say it's not the only one, so keep a handful of each rune around.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You can also type in the spells using the letters A-L. If you completely disable the mouse, the F10 (spell memorisation) screen includes these letters with the hand movements.

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    2. Nevertheless, your solution is awesome.

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    3. About the clock puzzle (I think it's fine to spoil it as Chet has passed it and he will likely never go back to that area), in my playthrough I got that the big 7 shown in the automap had something to do with it, but I don't think I saw either the connection with the eagle or where you get the "twelve" information, and half brute-forced it.

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    4. About remembering the gestures, at the bottom of the manual there is a reference card suggesting you assign a letter of the alphabet to each one, and some blank lines to annotate the spells, similar to your first approach.

      The mnemonic approach is brilliant, though.

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    5. Maybe the "eagle's position" is a hint to look from above, though that hint would only make sense when thinking out of character.

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    6. I think it might just refer to the hands of the clock forming an angle that kinda resembles a bird spreading its wings.

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    7. "Eagle's position" could be a cipher for "bird's-eye view" and also a reference to eagles' famous ability to scry the shape of dungeon tunnels through solid rock.

      Alternatively, perhaps they're Chicago fans and it has something to do with position #17, the spread eagle.

      Delete
  2. I actually created a cheat sheet long ago, with (crudely) drawn approximations of the hand symbols linked to their letter (A-L). Then a list of spells, with the codes wrote in. Now when I want to play, once I have all the hand signs, I have all the spells.

    I don't recall needing any of the spell scrolls myself, but then I always got stuck somewhere around where you are now.

    The DOS program Neverlock can remove the annoying copyright protection scheme. I uploaded it to Archive.org. It also covers a good range of older DOS games, so it may be worthwhile to download, since you have a few more years of dealing with them.

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    Replies
    1. You providing an easy solution to the copy protection problem has forced me to admit that I'd rather complain about it than solve the problem. I wonder how many other things in life that's true about.

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    2. I think we call that "being human".

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  3. There are a couple of exceptions, but most of the time items needed for puzzle solutions can be found in their immediate vicinity, yes. It pays having a backup though because, first, they might be hidden behind a difficult or just annoying puzzle; and second, they often are regular item that you may accidentally use for something else and thus lose. Anyways, you'll soon get a spell that will solve all your carrying problems.

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  4. Hope the waiter's a dude I can hook up with.
    My character is made out of paper, I swear.
    This is awesome.

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  5. The gesture you call "dude" makes me think of devil horns, albeit with one finger bent down so it's just as much of a stretch.

    I'm trying to think of mnemonics/nicknames I've used in games, because I know I have before, but I'm drawing a blank.

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    Replies
    1. The "dude" is actually know as "Mano cornuta" or "Sign of the horns". It has been brought to fame by the late Ronnie James Dio, starting around 1979 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sign_of_the_horns#Heavy_metal_culture). If you ever come across a Heavy Metal festival you will know what I mean :).

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    2. In German affectionately/ironically called "Pommesgabel" (French fries' fork).

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    3. In Italy (as the stereotype would have it, we are the world's experts in expressive hand gestures) "Le corna", the horns, has not one, but two possible uses.

      In general, it is used as a superstitious gesture to ward off bad luck.

      Or, when surreptitiously placed behind someone's head, usually when posing for photos, it is a juvenile prank well beloved by Italian teenagers and former prime ministers, as someone is "cornuto" (with horns) if his wife/girlfriend cheats on him.

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    4. I'm actually kind of surprised that Chet didn't make the connection to any of the various meanings of the sign of the horns (which is a common enough hand gesture that there's an emoji �� for it now). But this is what he means by the "dude":

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaka_sign

      When held sideways it's the "call me" sign ��.

      @Vince: I was going to wonder whether the similar "bunny ears" prank was related to the Italian cornuto gesture, but then I found this website which goes into some more detail:

      http://hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/the_bunny_ears_prank_revisited

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    5. @vince The heavy metal horns are directly taken from the superstious gesture to ward off the Evil Eye.

      Ronnie James Dio, one of the legends of the genre and a progenitor of Hair Metal and what would later become Power Metal, grew up seeing his Italian grandmother use the sign.

      While touring with Black Sabbath, he wanted to make a gesture to the crowd like Ozzy Osbourne (the frontman of the band), but didn't want to copy Ozzie's peace sign. So he used the old gesture.

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  6. Could someone actually explain the eaglepuzzle?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's meaning "bird's eye view" as you see in the mini map there is a large room in shape of a "7"

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    2. Here:

      https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-PdONvE6ALbE/X2K-PfDD_5I/AAAAAAAAwN8/rA8oOmDCOCkoasXinw5lBzgiGJHOCaEXwCLcBGAsYHQ/s640/code_517.png

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    3. Thanks, that is actually clever. Strange wording but still a fun implementation of the mapp.

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  7. Ah, I remember loving this game and must have played it similarly to you, testing out weak weapon skills to level them. I regret not finishing the game, but I surely spent a long time grinding for best stats to start.

    Micromanaging the feeble duration of levitating boots and later a wizards hat which restores mana was among the most frustrating.

    I also recall a lot of savescumming for that random rune but I don't remember what I was vying for.

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    1. I vaguely remember getting Warmonger from the Fehu rune ages ago. I may be misremembering though, and I haven't attempted a playthrough in probably a decade.

      I think I used them to generate the stat boosting rune, Odin I think. I'd have to consult my notes.

      Maybe it's time I actually get down and beat this one. It's only been in the list since 1993.

      Delete
  8. "Melee weapons and shields have broken plenty of times. Armor, greaves, helms, gauntlets, and bows have never broken. Do they?"

    Chest armor can degrade, reducing its Armor Class, but I think that greaves, helms and gauntlets never lose AC, and bows seem to be unbreakable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I can stop carrying that extra bow, then.

      Delete
  9. About the copy protection system, I am the only one who assigned nicknames to all possible faces to better remember the sequence shown in the requested page? In the photo shown, my nicknames for the upper row were (from left to right): Baldy, Leonidas, Scarface, Caramon, Druidess and Robin Hood, and for the lower row: Blondie, Leonardo, Crusader, Bathrobe, Happyface and Deanna.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That goes with my mnemonic theme quite well, but I'm not sure how it helps since there are over 50 pages of them. I don't hate the copy protection system so much that I'm going to memorize 50 pages.

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    2. I just use to memorize the entire sequence between reading it in a PDF of the manual and typing it in the screen (instead of having the game and PDF windows both open simultaneously in the screen).

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  10. I am now sad there's no middle finger among the possible hand positions. If this game had been made by me, every offensive spell would have included it, and the most dangerous spell would have been just two middle fingers.

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  11. Questions answered.

    Bows do not break, nor do greaves, helms or gauntlets. Armor does not break but slowly gets reduced to half its armor rating when damaged, then takes no further damage.

    The best use of a Fehu rune is to get an Odin rune to increase strength, giving extra melee damage and carrying capacity.

    Assign letters to the hand motions instead of numbers. You can type the letters out on keyboard in lieu of clicking the mouse, ex. Freeze - ACA. Also you'll find the spells you cast the most often are the cheapest ones, found on the early levels. The remainder tend to be window dressing or quest specific.

    Strength amulets can be handy to increase carrying capacity temporarily, the others are not that useful.

    Raido and Thurisaz are in limited supply, preserve these. Gebo runes can be used liberally if you possess other means.

    You don't need to carry around everything. Reserve a place to organize overflow items, level locks are typically good and easy to backtrack to, until you discover a better method.

    Pair boots of lightness with a shield of swiftness to get more bang for your buck.

    Please advise the results of your mnemonic device regarding the Gateway spell once you learn it.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The hand sign thing seems like one of those early design elements that's cool and unique when you first start designing it but you don't realize how tedious it's going to be dozens of hours in. Once you hit a certain level of proficiency you should really just be able to pick it from a list. If you were your character, you'd have the muscle memory down for the hand gestures after practicing them enough times, but the interface for it doesn't map to any sort of real-world muscle memory, so it never becomes as instinctive for the player as it should be for the character. Better to just fudge it after a point. Still, kudos to them for trying something different.

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  13. 3 barriers, 5 knights, 8 mages... What's next, 13 amulets oO !?
    Just one of those would be enough to fill an entire game.

    ReplyDelete

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