Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Dark Queen of Krynn: Won!

I think I see Corey Cole off to the left.
The final hours of Dark Queen of Krynn began with our arrival at the Tower of Flame, the draconians' secret fortress in the middle of the Lava Sea. We flew there in a gnomish wind-ship; the gnomes were particularly interested in helping us because the Tower was kept aloft by a magic stone called the Grathanich that the gnomes wanted to get their hands on.
Dragons attacked as we arrived, and the party had to jump from the wind-ship to an upper-level deck. We were supposed to have the impression that the battle continued to rage outside, and indeed every time we opened a port-hole to look out, we received confirmation of that.
They battled for this entire session.
We had barely started exploring the level when we were forced to cross a rickety bridge. Crysia, the charmed sister of Captain Daenor, appeared on the other side of the bridge, and he ran to her. She clapped her hands, unleashing some spell that caused the bridge to collapse and dump us down to the bottom level, leaving Daenor behind.

The Tower of Flame ended up consisting of five levels. The bottom was 8 x 12, the next two 16 x 16, and the last two 12 x 12. They were very confusing. There was something to be accomplished on every level, but our progress was hampered by inconsistent ways of moving between levels; a staircase or air shaft available at one point might be closed the next time we arrived. Events conspired to keep dropping us from higher levels to lower ones. A lot of fixed encounters required other encounters to activate, so we'd find them even in areas that we thought we'd cleared. Random encounters never stopped, and resting was difficult. Beholders attacked randomly on all levels and occasioned a lot of reloads.
Draconians were everywhere, as both random and fixed encounters. Fire elementals and fire fiends came pouring out of the walls themselves. We also kept encountering troops of gnomes, some of which would join the party and help us out for a few battles until they all died.
That seems a little unfair.
On the bottom level, we ran into fire giants, salamanders, and other monsters tending "tower engines," and we fought repeated battles with them. We also destroyed a room full of chains and manacles, clearly intended for use during the invasion of Ansalon. Finally, we destroyed the engines that allowed enemies to traverse the tower's shafts at will--elevators, I take it.
I can't remember what the key battle was on Level 2, and I didn't take enough screen shots to help. On Level 3, there was a prison, and we freed a woman named Dahmia Sreen Luminar from one of the cells. We could tell at once that she was the mother of Elea, the young woman we met among the Hulderfolk. We got experience for telling her her daughter's name, which was a joke because there was nowhere left in the game to train. She showed us how to get to the next level by jumping on a bed, then disappeared.
"Arms that never held me / lips I've never kissed."
We found a central room on Level 4, which later turned out to be important, where draconians went through the ritual to change them from regular to "enhanced" versions of their species. The power behind this transformation turned out to be the very Grathanich that the gnomes were seeking. We interrupted the ritual and killed a bunch of draconians.
Gnomes helped us to Level 5 by flying a wind-ship up a shaft. We re-met Captain Daenor and Crysia there, and managed to break the draconians' bond on Crysia with "Dispel Magic." Daenor re-joined the party but seemed to have lost all of the equipment that we gave him last time he was with us. He was only with us for one battle before he carried his sister to a wind-ship and accidentally knocked away the anchor. The siblings sailed off into the distance.
"Missile" clearly wouldn't have worked. I wonder if the endgame would have changed accordingly.
Central to Level 5 was a chamber with a tripod holding the Grathanich. As we approached it, draconians closed in from all sides. This was the first of many battles that I thought might be the "final battle," particularly since Takhisis spoke to us through the mouths of the draconians as the battle began: "I have always intended that my next footsteps upon Krynn would be upon the heads of irksome unbelievers." That was a little inaccurate. Clearly, we believe in Takhisis--she's talking to us, after all--we just don't follow her.
"Red carpet" is, I suspect, a metaphor.
The ensuing battle pitted us against multiple small groups of beholders, draconians, fire fiends, dark wizards, and fire giant mages. I was able to win only after I fully buffed the party with resistances, bonuses, and "Haste." Practically every enemy was capable of high-level mage spells. Arrows, "Power Word: Kill," and "Monster Summoning" largely saved the day. 
Immediately after the first wave, though, we had to fight a second wave of creatures that included more draconians, dragons, skeletal dragons, efreet, and even a lich or two. They were a bit easier, owing to my ability to destroy dragons nearly instantly with the dragonlances, plus my clerics' abilities to turn undead. Still, it was a tough battle, and you can forgive me for thinking it might be the last.
As we contemplated the dead bodies around us, a man's voice spoke over rattling chains and invited us to "come." We were somehow sucked into another plane--the Abyss. We landed on a featureless plain, but a little exploration led us to a stone building full of monsters. They parted to let us approach the man they were torturing, a black-robed figure with dark skin and long blond hair, chained to a wall. He demanded that we kill his tormentors. Magic was useless in the room, and the ensuing battle against draconians, white dragons, and purple worms left all but three of my characters unconscious or dead. Fortunately, I was able to rest soon afterwards.
At least someone wants us to feel welcome.
After the battle, the chained man revealed himself as Raistlin Majere, "the Dark Queen's deadliest enemy." Gasp, some of you are saying, those who have read the Dragonlance books. Other than he was a playable character in Heroes of the Lance and thus one of the titular heroes, I had no idea who he was or why he was here. I tried to read about him on Wikipedia and got the idea that he was an anti-hero ("soon I will be revered on Krynn once again" kind of gave that away), but I couldn't figure out where we currently were in his long bio.
I hate this guy.
Raistlin told us that Takhisis had somehow managed to open a portal to Krynn, and all she was waiting for was the perfection of a mortal form to inhabit once she made the passage. Raistlin suggested we escape through the portal and destroy it behind us. As he led us to it, he demonstrated his power by dealing with a company of beholders with a wave of his hand.
We reached another building where we found Takhisis sprawled on a throne, meditating on the portal. Trying to attack her led to instant death (I thought we were god-level characters!) Instead, we had to creep to the portal, disturb Takhisis's meditation by throwing a rock at a bell, and watch and wait as she and Raistlin fought each other long enough for the mist in the portal to clear. At one point, she wrapped Raistlin's hands in silver chains, and the episode was clearly the inspiration for the game's cover art.
"Attack" was the wrong option with Takhisis.
The portal finally cleared, and we leapt through, leaving Raistlin to be eaten by ghouls and serpents. We landed on the other side, bruised and battered, to find a bunch of gnomes worshiping the tripod. Without any time to rest and heal, we investigated the tripod and found it to contain an egg--which promptly hatched (somehow) into a full-grown five-headed dragon. This had been intended as the vessel for Takhisis's return.
It apparently was not by just a little bit that Firebreath failed to make the grade.
Surely this will be the final battle, we thought as it began. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. The dragon had black, blue, red, white, and green heads, each capable of those dragons' respective breath damage. It also had a very high armor class. To kill it, we had to attack and kill each head independently. Fortunately, it was susceptible to the dragonlance damage, and despite taking some damage from breath attacks, we were able to kill it.
This was a pretty cool graphic.
With the beast dead, the Grathanich came floating out of the cauldron and floated away down the hall, throngs of gnomes in pursuit. We heard Takhisis's voice speaking to someone named Vlaahg, telling him that she wanted the stone found and taken off Taladas. As we neared the exit to the room, we found the source of the voice: a draconian holding a magic mirror that enabled him to communicate with Takhisis.
Surely this will be the final battle, we thought as another huge draconian fight ensued. But when it was over, there were no endgame messages. There was also no indication of where to go and what to do. Wandering through the hallways, we kept glimpsing the Grathanich (also called the "Greystone") as it floated through floors and ceilings and otherwise evaded capture.
This nonsense lasted for over an hour.
I must have spent 90 minutes wandering all around the five levels again before I finally ran into a group of draconians holding the mirror they had used to communicate with Takhisis. They set it down in front of the party and an image of the Dark Queen appeared. "Raistlin sends his fond regards," she said, and we immediately smashed the mirror. (The game gave me the option to Talk, Smash, or Leave. "Smash" seemed the most satisfying, but I have to admire the party that just sighs, turns around, and walks away.) Nonetheless, Takhisis kept talking.
You think you have defeated me, but of course you are quite wrong. You are mortals; do not dare to think more than mortal thoughts, lest you join Raistlin. One day you will grow old, and weak, or foolish. Meanwhile my malice goes on and on, growing stronger, deeper, more subtle. Which is why I propose this bargain to you. I enjoy a good opponent, and you are too talented to be sacrificed to old age.
We never heard the bargain because we chose "Smash" again, this time grinding the pieces of the mirror to dust. For the record, I never thought we "defeated" Takhisis. I just thought we escaped her.
I may try to reload and explore the other options for the final entry.
As we turned to leave, a horde of draconians attacked us from behind. Ah, the final battle!, I thought as it began. But the battle was relatively easy, and the draconians were soon dead. The mirror pieces briefly coalesced into an angry whirlwind, but "the queen's rage is impotent against your valor."
We had some more wandering around to do before we encountered the real final battle--that is, before the technical one. On Level 3, we stumbled into a room full of draconians staring at the Grathanich with awe. A machine they had constructed was slowly attempting to encircle and seize the magic stone. "Soon, the queen will possess it once again," the draconians said. "Open the shafts! And summon the dragons to bear our prize away!"
Here's the game's description of what's happening, in case mine didn't make any sense.
I was in bad shape at this point, so I just killed the emulator, restarted from my last save, and re-entered the room, fully buffed this time. Thus commenced four unskippable battles, with no opportunity to rest in between. I think this is a Gold Box record. Sensing this was the case, I took the time to cast healing spells at the end of each combat, even if it meant going into extra rounds.
A fully buffed party.
Wave 1 had a large batch of draconians. I did the usual: summoned a couple of fire giants to serve as a buffer between us and them, then picked away at the exploding draconians with arrows and other missile weapons. Unfortunately, our arrows were almost out at the end of the battle. We had long exhausted all the magic arrows I purchased in the gnome citadel, and we were even running low on the non-magic arrows I held in reserve.

The second battle involved draconians and several red, green, and blue dragons. It's been a long time since dragons were a real threat: Dutch and Midsummer, both hastened with dragonlances, can kill as many as eight per round by themselves. Dragons are all susceptible to "Delayed Blast Fireball," even (oddly) red ones, not to mention "Magic Missile" and "Lightning Bolt." Even without those spells, my other characters can easily melee one or two dragons to death. 
I love that "Leave" is still an option, as if the game's going to let us just turn around and walk out.
Making it even easier, however, was a horde of about 20 gnomes who joined the party for the final three fights. They had something that my regular characters didn't: arrows. They were only regular arrows, shot by regular short bows, but the sheer number of them was enough to take care of the exploding Baaz, Aurak, and Sivak draconians.
After the second fight, we watched as the draconians' device finished snaring the Grathanich. Dragons prepared to fly the artifact away, so we had no choice but to attack. (At least, we felt we had no choice; I'm curious what happens if we had chosen "Wait" or "Leave" at this moment.) Thus commenced the third battle, which was about the same as the second one, but with the inclusion of skeletal dragons. They die at the tips of dragonlances just as easy as regular ones, and again we had the gnomes as meat shields and to help with the exploding draconians. Piece of cake.
A gnome takes aim at an enchanted Bozak.
As the third battle wrapped up, the gnome pilot Hrumbishnog showed up in his wind-ship and tried to grapple the device holding the Grathanich. To distract the draconians from him, we had to attack again, this time facing a couple of enchanted Auraks and a large number of black, blue, green, white, and red dragons. We had "Resist Fire" and "Resist Cold" activated, so we prioritized the blues, greens, and blacks, and they went down pretty fast. A couple of "Delayed Blast Fireballs" devastates them, and the knights can mop up the rest.
This looks like a perfect place for a fireball.
Hrumbishnog couldn't steal the device--it was too heavy--but he did snag it and pull it to the edge of a shaft. As we watched and the draconians howled in horror, he toppled the device into the shaft, down several stories, out the bottom of the Tower, and into the depths of the Lava Sea. He was nearly dragged with it, but we had Squirrel fire off a "Magic Missile" that severed his cord. 
"Shoot an arrow" was one of the options, but we were out of them.
"You can hear the Queen shriek all the way from the Abyss," the game said. "She vents her fury on the minions that have failed her. It is terrible to behold." We jumped aboard a wind-ship and at last escaped the Tower of Flame. 
"Grunschka, stop singing about evisceration!"
On the way back, we learned that Daenor and Crysia had been rescued and taken to the gnome fortress, and that Dahmia had flown off on a dragon. The mood among the gnomes as we arrived back in the citadel was triumphant. A band greeted us on the flight deck, and Tasslehoff Burfoot . . . was there. As we strolled the hallways, gnomes shouted, shook our hands, threw confetti, bought us drinks in the bar, and otherwise celebrated. I assumed this was the endgame but still took time to level up, deal with excess equipment, and otherwise make a tidy party. 
This is how every game should end.
When we were done with logistics, we headed up to the king's throne room. Daenor and Crysia greeted us as we entered the palace. There were messages almost every step. Gnomes feasted at a banquet. Firebreath gave rides to children. The king gave a speech and unveiled a "royal cheese nutball," at which mice immediately started gnawing. We got a wide shot of the hallway with all of the NPCs and celebrants; it looked like it could have been inspired by Quest for Glory.
You got the bigger image up above, so here's a close-up of some mice eating the cheese.
The celebrations ended abruptly as a fireball hit the palace and dragons swarmed through the windows. These were not minions of Takhisis, but rather Tremor and his allies, deciding to fill the power vacuum our victory had left. Baldric, the silver dragon, scolded Tremor, morphed into his dragon form, and began fighting the red dragon while we turned and faced Tremor's allies.
History has not been kind to those who call us "fools."
The ensuing battle must have involved about 50 dragons--black, blue, white, red, and green--but as I've already covered, dragons are nothing to this party. I could kill eight at a time with "Delayed Blast Fireball" and at least another five or six with melee attacks. That's without even bothering to buff and "Haste." Plus, we had a bunch of gnome allies during the battle. Not only were we victorious, I'm not sure we even took any damage. The only problem we had was that a bunch of the dragons spawned on behind a section of walls that made them unreachable. I finally ended up setting the computer to auto-combat and letting it make everyone dither while I wrote sections of this entry. The battle eventually timed out and victory was declared in our favor.
One of several screens full of dragons.
After our victory, the game related that Baldric won his fight with Tremor, ripping the iron dragon scale from his chest and sending Tremor plummeting to the earth. Baldric announced that with the iron scale removed, the evil dragons would cower in their lairs once again. With a promise of a second victory celebration to come, the game ended with a "THE END," but then allowed us to keep playing and return to the overworld map. "Now you can explore places you haven't seen yet," it even offered.
"Well, guys. I guess we live here now."
I had mixed feelings about this session. I spent far too much time walking around the Tower of Flame than I would have liked, and there were far too many things that felt like the final battle. I really had no interest in the "confrontation" with Takhisis or the appearance of Raistlin Majere. (I suppose one of my major issues with all three of the Dragonlance games is that I've just never cared anything about the setting.) On the other hand, the real final battle--the sequence of four sequential combats--was fun and satisfying. I didn't find it terribly hard, but that's because I had so much experience fighting dragons and draconians by then that I knew precisely how to handle them. Although I beat them in one try, it felt less like the game was soft-serving me and more like it was allowing me to demonstrate my accumulated tactical mastery. I suppose maybe it could have been more challenging with fewer allies.
The dragon battle at the gnome citadel occurred after the major victory screens and was clearly intended as a fun coda--something that allowed the party to feel insanely powerful against an enemy that would have been insurmountable back in the early hours of Champions of Krynn.
We will? Is Baldric setting up a fourth Krynn game?
As for the rest of the victory, I would have liked a little callback to the origin of our quest (General Lauralanthalasa) or some discussion about how we were going to get back to Ansalon. But beyond that, it was fun and satisfying--one of the more elaborate of the Gold Box endings.
I'm not aware of any post-game challenge dungeons for this one, but let me know if I'm wrong. Otherwise, we'll have the "Summary and Rating" in a few days, and then we'll finally open up a couple of new RPGs for the first time in over a month.
Final time: 36 hours


  1. Congrats for the win!

    Although you have missed the REAL final battle against Raistlin, as he escapes Thakisis and returns to Ans... nah, just kidding.

    This game just doesn't know when to stop... the part where you are dumped back to the tower with no clear directions or goals is really annoying.

    I agree that the ending sequence after that is satisfying, though.

    1. Ages ago someone cracked and dumped the text of the game and there's apparently text in there for a scene where Raistlin wins and says, "and I am Raistlin, your new god", but I'm not sure if there's any way to get it, or if it ends the game or something else happens.

      If you hang around too long (or rest after releasing Raistlin) Takhisis passes through the portal and you're left to wander around the Abyss. Theoretically you could fight monsters until you die if you wanted to, I guess.

    2. I honestly think that having Raistlin as the main opponent would have made for a far more interesting plot, at least for someone that read the novels.

    3. Huh. I always thought I had finished the game back in the 1990s when I escaped the Abyss and killed the five-headed dragon, but I guess there was more to it...

  2. I find it funny that dragons are majestic, dangerous, and high-ranked enemies everywhere EXCEPT in DragonLance, where they are just mooks that die in one hit.

    1. To be fair, most settings don't have facilities for large-scale artisanal production of dragonslaying weapons.

    2. If you start a fresh game of Dark Queen of Krynn, dragons are TERRIFYING until you get your first Dragonlance from the Sea Elves, and even then they're still pretty scary when you have only one Dragonlance.

  3. I too hate endgames that take too long. When the ending is just around the corner, every unexpected hurdle feels like an annoying waste of time rather than a new, mounting challenge.

  4. And thus an era came to an end.
    Congrats man, I may someday finish this one, but I fell harder off this than any other gold box, even the Buck Roger's games. It's a shame the Gold Box series ended, but at the same time it means you're getting closer to a bunch of games I am eager to see you play through

  5. The final Gold Box game... a decent ending to the era, but not the best of the bunch. The next SSI D&D game is going to be Dark Sun: Shattered Lands. You're going to love this one. It's pretty much an earlier and better Baldur's Gate in my opinion.

    Well, there's also FRUA but that's a level editor with plenty of fan levels rather than a game, so I dunno how you'll handle that.

    1. " earlier and better Baldur's Gate..."

      Damn right! It's easily the best D&D game... besides Torment of course.

    2. Even before Dark Sun and FRUA there is Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace, which also has a modified Gold Box combat engine, although nobody seems to be looking forward to it.

    3. I never played Spelljammer despite being really into the setting. It has a reputation for being somewhat buggy, unfinished and underwhelming, but maybe it's gonna be a pleasant surprise.

      It certainly won't be half as buggy as the second Dark Sun game :p

    4. I loved Dark Sun: Shattered Lands... which is probably the primary reason why I was so disappointed with Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager.

    5. Dark Sun 2 was super promising but yes, the amount of bugs ruined it.

    6. I know my main memory of Wake of the Ravager was having to restart the game because I somehow finished the first battle in a way that trapped me in a building, along with it being the only D&D game where I felt like I had to lower the difficulty

    7. And since Chet is trying a lot of console games lately, he might now like to try Warriors of the Eternal Sun (1992) for the Genesis.

  6. Wow, the final sequence really didn't take the 'less is more' approach.

    I wonder if playing on highest difficulty is appropriate for this one. I think all it does it makes enemies roll max HP, which would certainly make DBF and even dragonlances a bit more 'fair'.

    1. I don't know it would have mattered much. They still would have died in a couple of "Fireball" spells. Maybe some of my characters might have taken some damage before they died. I'll reload and give it a shot on the highest level to see (for the summary and rating).

  7. I remember that I got progressively more annoyed with the tower as I went through it, despite very liberal cluebook use. I also really didn't like how the game felt like it was ending about 5 times before it actually did, especially when a good chunk of it consists of aimless wandering. It ended up feeling like they were rushing to make sure everything in the plot was neatly wrapped up, even when some stuff really didn't need to be, like the dragons.

  8. It's not an exaggeration to say the entire Krynn series was leading up to the moment you get to meet Raistlin. He was by far the most popular character in the series - I was certainly a big fan in junior high.

    Of course, now he irks me endlessly because he's clearly someone's angsty roleplaying character that they just decided to narrate into god-tier. Ugh.

    1. Naturally, he was the antihero nerd brother of Cameron the quarterback.

      I kinda cringe at all the fanservice cameos - but the whole story seems completely forgettable, so it's not like they cheapen something that has gravity.

    2. I don't know how conscious the frame is (and I know very little about the world of Krynn apart from these games) but the whole Champions story starts out with you looking for Caramon in Throtl.

    3. I doubt the entire series was leading up to meeting him. Personally, I doubt they planned on making this game to begin with, considering the first two games felt like they were planned out a bit, while this one felt tacked on a bit

    4. In retrospect you can clearly see that Raistlin was the "I'm going to get you back!" school shooter/misogynist/gamergater type. He was a revenge fantasy for the bitter, incel, angry at the world kind of nerd who loved those novels and loved Raistlin best.

    5. Apparently he was the favourite character of the author Margaret Weiss.

    6. With all that in mind, it was hilarious that the Addict initially describes Raistlin with long *blond* hair, rather than white.

    7. It is probably the most complex character in the novels (which it's not saying much).

      In theory, the reader should feel some sympathy towards him, as the bullied nerd brother of Caramon the quarterback, to cite Tristan; but it becomes quickly clear that he is just a self-centered sociopathic a**hole (so that Caramon becomes the character deserving sympathy instead).

    8. Having Fistandatalus stapled to his soul probably didn't help. Probably the biggest Bad Idea in the early books, from a writing point of view.

    9. Compared to the other fiction coming out of TSR back in the 80's, I'd say that rather than being bad ideas, Dragonlance had some interesting ideas implemented poorly. The time-traveling shenanigans of the Legends books (with all of the related Fistandantilus stuff) as well as the "he's so good he's bad" Kingpriest / Cataclysm ideas being prime examples.

  9. In other D&D settings, one of the gods is a five-headed dragon. I think the only way you ever see one is if she's involved, either personally or by creating one to send to you. So it's odd they decided to have the draconians just somehow make one, but it makes a good boss fight (and yeah, maybe should have been the final boss).

    1. Apparently, looking at the wiki, Tiamat and Takhisis are meant to sort of be the same thing, so I guess this is an acknowledgement of that? D&D is confusing and dumb.

    2. Yeah. According to some of the sourcebooks that deal with the cosmology of multiple DnD settings, Takhisis and Paladine are basically just the forms Tiamat and Bahamut take when dealing with Krynn. Similiar to the idea of Zeus vs. Jupiter in Greek/Roman mythology.

    3. Takhisis has a number of forms, one of which is the five-headed dragon; that form was being designed to be her avatar when she came to Krynn to burn/freeze/choke/melt/electrocute her enemies in person. But without her in it, it couldn't just cast I Win the way Takhisis could when Chet attacked her in the Abyss.

      The Dragonlance writers are honestly really bad at writing antihero characters or nuanced villains.

    4. The five headed dragon cannot move. So after killing most of my party, the rest retreated behind a wall and ...waited... waited. The monster surrendered. It was a satisfying victory.

    5. Takhisis is a diferent entity of Tiamat , one is inspired in the other, but takhisis is a greater deity , tiamat not, the concept of spheres is from FR setting .

  10. I replayed the Krynn series last year, and enjoyed it a lot, but I burned out about halfway through Queen. It just got so damn tedious. I'd beaten the tower with all the otyughs in it, with the mage up on the top floor, and arrived in the city with the old woman who wanted a kiss. I finished that little questline, was wandering around the city, and realized I was desperately bored. I saved, quit, and never restarted.... it wasn't really an intentional drop, I just wasn't enjoying it and didn't go back for long enough that I forgot the limited plot almost completely. After that, it was pretty much a lost cause.

    Glad to see you power through it, and it reinforced the decision to quit. I think I would have been ready to murder the devs in that final tower, or at least send them a tart letter. Devastatingly tart.

    1. It really helps me that I alternate games. If I'd hit upon that strategy earlier in my blogging "career," I never would have dropped half the games that I did.

    2. For what it's worth, I played the whole series back-to-back a couple of months ago and I also got tired midway through DQoK, although I managed to finish it.

      I believe in part it was due to Goldbox-fatigue, playing three similar games in a row, but also because DQoK gets somewhat tedious in the long run.

    3. Champions and Death Knights had clear, understandable plots, some good side quests, better diversity of opponents that grew more difficult as the games went on, and only once set of lore to learn.
      Dark Queens pacing suffers from a lack of these. The whole brother sister plot line is dumb and irrelevant. The constant vampire and draconian battles get a little old. (These guys again?) The new setting with names/places etc completely different from the other games is confusing, even to someone who played the first two games and read the books (different names for the same gods etc). I feel they missed a big opportunity in making the non-plot central cities all menus. Pools of Radiance and Death Knights did this well, every location had at least one encounter and something cool to find. Curse did this okay with its little dungeons (they needed but rewards for exploring them). Nothing is worse then a loose plot and an empty world full of random encounters. Once the plot picks up it was good until the last part of the lava tower.

  11. As someone who loves the Goldbox games, but has never even completed a single one, I have really appreciated your coverage of these games.
    I have this problem where I really like making characters, so I tend to restart the beginning of games over and over and never make progress...

    1. One of the hardest tasks in CRPG design is making the ending as fun as the beginning.

    2. If you ever feel the urge to write another special-topics article, a list of "CRPGs that stick the ending" would be pretty interesting.

  12. With the end of the gold box games, I wonder if it’ll be worthwhile doing a post going over the series in general - they were interesting games with an engine that eventually aged and just had games churned out. But at the same time, it’s was initially ground breaking. I would to hear what was the high and low points, what did the engine do well and what did it really suffer from, etc.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I'd love to read a Gold Box retrospective post.

    2. I feel like that would fit as part of the Unlimited Adventures exploration.

    3. I want to write such an entry, but only after some more research that I don't have time to do this month. So it will probably be in the context of a UA entry or just some random special topics entry when I have more time to devote.

    4. I too would love to read such a post. And I don't think you need more research to write about the experience of playing.

  13. It’s fun to see the differences in my play through and yours. I remember having a lot of trouble with the battle after smashing the mirror, but the beholders seemed as under powered as dragons by the time I got to the tower... it just goes to show how robust the tactical solutions are I suppose...
    I also never used Monster Summoning at all, it sounds like it is pretty awesome.
    I ended up fleeing the last battle after not being able to reach the dragons that spawned on the other side of the wall. It created the most tension yet, after deciding to flee, because I foolishly didn’t save after/during the last battles in the tower. I was terrified I’d have to refight the last five battles! Ironically leaving the gnomes with a few dragons tearing their city part from the inside out didn’t end up a being a big deal!
    I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in post-game exploration.

  14. I used the wand of monster summoning in the final battle of Baldur's Gate while peppering the guy with arrows. Meat shields are great - he never got close to me, let alone doing any damage.

    1. Yeah, the lack of a summon cap made it a hilarious (and extremely powerful) item.

    2. Both BG games made it far too easy with summoned monsters. By the time you get to the end of BG2, you can completely cheese both final battles by sending summoned monsters individually into the fog of war. Enemy spellcasters always cast their highest-level spells at the first creatures they'd see. When they were down to "Larloch's Minor Drain," you knew you could wander over and hit them with impunity.

      I remember that Icewind Dale made it so that enemies didn't react until they saw YOU, not your monsters.

    3. …and then later again in Neverwinter Nights fighting high level mages again often comes down to bait out the (di)spel(l)s with slightly buffed summons.

  15. a 4th game is Baldrics cunning plan.

  16. Just a question: why do you always choose to show those pretty small pictures instead of bigger ones?
    Bigger pictures shouldn't be a problem with Dos-Box, right?

    1. The screen resolution is 320x240, therefore DOSbox takes the screen shots in that resolution.

    2. I'm not sure how the ones anonymous linked are done. As the second anonymous says, I don't think I have any control over the resolution DOSBox uses.

    3. I'm pretty sure I've linked Felipe Pepe's article on correcting DOS era screenshots:

      MCGA was actually 320x200, but was supposed to be displayed at 1:1.2 scale (aspect ratio of 320x240 with square pixels). The pixels themselves were not square, they were tall. There were many other modes, including 320x240, but they were not IBM-compatible, so most games avoided them for compatibility reasons.

      DOSBox outputs screenshots in native resolution, even if you scale it in your configuration. Which means if you have it scaled right, your gameplay will be 1.2x taller than your screenshots.

      I cobbled together an ImageMagick script to do this resizing mentioned in the article in as lossless a way as possible on animated gifs. I'll dig it up at some point.

    4. I'm not running every image through Photoshop. If it doesn't happen automatically when I hit CTRL-F5, you're just going to get smaller images.

    5. Fair enough! My goal is just to proliferate knowledge, not to pressure you to add to your workload.

      ImageMagick is an open-source command-line image processing program, FWIW. It's not really all that easy to run on Windows, in any case. Maybe the answer is that it should be integrated into DOSBox.

      Sooo, this command will perform the transformation mentioned in the article, which minimizes the distortion caused by the 1.2x vertical stretch, but isn't huge like the 500%x600% scaling.

      convert "${source}" -coalesce -filter Point -resize 200%x600% -filter Triangle -resize 100%x40% -layers OptimizeTransparency "${destination}"

    6. Err... So, still no pressure, Chet, but just to correct myself: ImageMagick is actually pretty easy to run in Windows.

      It uses the command `magick` instead of `convert`, sensibly enough. Also, the "${source}" is a BASH variable, so you'd substitute the whole thing with the source filename (and same for destination).

  17. The engine was showing its age, although I still enjoyed the game. The tough mages with high defenses were a challenge to fight, and forced a emphasis on ranged combat as well as new spells like cone of cold (A annoying limitation of the engine, Sometimes you could dispel fire shield, but you couldn't tell for sure until you attacked.) Still a good ending to the series. Looking forward to you playing some of the best FRUA modules in a year or so. The Night below is my fav.

  18. BTW, there is a second and a third ending when meeting the Dark Queen. Both endings trap you in the Abyss forever!

    The second ending is, when you waste to much time when going to the portal room after freeing Raistlin. The portal just closes and there is a small talk with Raistlin.
    The third ending is when you wait too long before the portal to Krynn, you will be entangled in snakes as well and the Dark Queen enters Krynn leaving you behind, the Portal closing behind her...

  19. Reading through this play of Dark Queen, made me realise just how tacked on that last Icepeak section of Treasures of the Savage Frontier was. This at least was all thematically consistent.


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