Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Summoning: Behind Enemy Lines

          
Sentries open the gate as I arrive at Shadow Weaver's Citadel at last.
        
When I last wrote about The Summoning, I thought I was stuck. It turned out I had overlooked one teleporter. That one teleporter took me to a brand new area that had several of the items I needed for the additional slots on End Five, including a crucial gold key that opened a couple of ways forward. Before I discovered the teleporter, I also Fehu-scummed for a couple of the additional items (that is, I used my Fehu runes, which generate random items, and reloaded if I got something that didn't help.), but they only opened doors to other treasures.
    
It's amazing that something like my impasse hasn't happened before. There are a number of places in the game where all action funnels to a single point--a door, a teleporter, a lever that opens a door, a pressure plate that activates a teleporter, and so forth. There are a million ways that you could miss or misinterpret one of these many objects and thus have no idea how to proceed. I've been very lucky so far.
   
While I was trying to figure out how to proceed, I allowed myself to briefly consult the hint book. I hardly ever consult hint books while playing the games; they typically ruin the experience for me. But I was so sure I was stuck that I wanted to see if I could find the specific solution to my problem.
   
The hint book is 164 pages. It is my opinion that anyone who looked at the hint book before playing the game would immediately put it down and at least slowly back away, if not turn tail and run. It looks like something that Satan would hand an RPG addict shortly after his arrival in hell. The problem is not that the book isn't accurate (although it often is not) but that seeing it all laid out like this makes each level look like a Kafkaesque horror. There are hundreds of numbered annotations per map, sometimes with both numbers and letters, sometimes double letters, often in no sensible order. For instance, the opening room for End Five has the annotations 1, 2, 3, 51B, and 54.
         
This is an area of End Three that I didn't find too hard to solve. If I'd looked at this first, I never would have gotten started.
       
The bigger problem is that some of the annotations are wrong, including the key one that would have helped me with this level. I figured out the teleporter I needed to advance in the level, the door I needed to open to get to the teleporter, and the slot that I needed to feed to open the door. The slot requires a gold key. Nowhere on the map does it say you find a gold key. There was a gold key in End Three, but I needed it for a necessary door there. I've needed all the gold keys I've found so far. Why would the game expect me to save a random one just in case I needed it in a later level?

Well, it didn't. The gold key is dropped by a cyclops in an area accessible by the "missed" teleporter. The hint book says that he drops a gold coin. That's a big difference. A spot check reveals several other inaccuracies, including index numbers that don't appear on the map or mismatches between the number on the map and the textual description of that number. "Open this door by operating the lever at 17," the book says, with the number on the map pointing to a teleporter, not a door. Anyway, I'm happy to put the hint book aside. This is a game that you need to experience as it feeds it to you, not all at once.
    
Having sorted things out, I was able to open the way to two new areas. The first went to a part of End Three that is inaccessible from the rest of the map. To get there, I first had to solve a puzzle in End Five. I stumbled into a room with Algit, Sowelu, Isa, and Nauthiz runes. (None of these do anything interesting enough that I was excited about them this late in the game.) There was a slot in the room next to a talking skull that said, "It's your job to solve my riddle, fellow guild members. Trust your initial instinct!"
   
"Initial instinct" sounded like some kind of letter-based puzzle, and it didn't take me long to realize that the letters A, S, I, and N can spell ASSASSIN. There were enough runes to make the word, so I fed them in the slot in the right order, and the way opened to End Three.
             
Well, I'm set on "Cure Poison," "Freeze," and "Cure Confusion" for a while.
       
The "hidden" area of End Three was shaped like a raven, and it was swarming with assassins. I feel like I killed 50 of them. I adopted some funny combat preferences for this level and the subsequent ones, incidentally. I started to find weapons again, so I set aside Warmonger for spears, axes, and maces in an attempt to build those skills. Later in this session, I had run low on disposable weapons but high on magic-regenerating stuff, with multiple wizard's staffs and magic hats. Thus, for a while I prioritized killing enemies with magic. Warmonger is always a nice failsafe, but I wish it were one-handed. I have so many shields to get rid of.
            
The game gets cute with its wall pattern.
       
The assassin area's primary puzzle was a series of locks, positioned all over the level, that had to be opened in a specific order. It wasn't much of a challenge, just a lot of trial and error. The locks opened the way to the assassin leader called the Raven. When I encountered him, he sensed that I had the magic mirror from like 18 levels ago and threatened to kill me if I didn't give it to him. The conversation went downhill from there, and soon we were in combat. He was surprisingly easy. He took a long time to die, but his own attacks were very mild. I didn't have to "Freeze" the action once.
           
Raven fundamentally misunderstands the situation.
         
When he was dead, I used a Gebo rune to teleport to the other side of the level, where a guy named Hiram had offered me a reward for Raven's head. The reward was 12 gold coins, a Book of Spears, and a Figurine of Resurrection. The 12 coins were exactly what I needed. Added to the 3 I already had, they gave me enough loot to purchase the lava boots and the healing spell.

I returned to End Two to purchase the boots from the boot maker, then went on to explore the lava level. "Lava" is a bit of a misnomer, as I never really saw any. Instead, the entire level just glowed red with heat. Standing in the level without the boots causes you to rapidly lose hit points. With the boots, you stop losing the points, but fire-based enemies (fire giants, phoenixes, and snake statues) cause a lot of fire-based damage, so its best to keep "Fire Shield" going. As I started to explore the level, I was worried the lava boots might turn out to be temporary items, like the amulets or Boots of Levitation. But they lasted the entire level, and I assume now they're permanent.
            
A cinematic interlude shows the boot maker working on my boots.
          
The lava level was mostly about providing item rewards to the player. Enemies and pressure plate puzzles led to fairly large caches of treasures, most of which I didn't need or want, but the experience was probably good. There was one clever puzzle early in the level ruined by the game's own mechanics. The puzzle consisted of 7 skulls arranged in a circle, each of which had a clue that resolved into a number. You had to be paying attention to the game's lore and mechanics to figure out the number. The clues were:
    
  1. Wizards who attempted to defeat Shadow Weaver (9)
  2. Hand motions in a magic wall spell (4)
  3. Items in a sack (10)
  4. Offspring of Chesschantra (1)
  5. Wizards whose souls were entrapped in their skulls (8)
  6. Weight of a boulder (5)
  7. The Gods of Darkspyre (3) 
     
Each skull had a pressure plate in front of it. The idea was that as you encounter locked doors throughout the level, you weigh down the appropriate combination of pressure plates. So a nearby door whose skull announced "4103" required me to weigh down plates 2, 3, and 7. There were large blocks of wood in the room for just that purpose, but only three of them, so you couldn't just weigh down every plate--except you could if you dribbled in nearby fire giant corpses. Without much effort, I weighed everything down and spared myself repeated trips back to the room.
         
An interesting puzzle ruined by its own mechanics.
        
After I was done with the lava level, I took the long slog back to End Five. I still hadn't found two of the items wanted by the floor slots--an Odin rune, a rowan wand, and a "Zap Away" parchment--but I figured I could live without whatever treasures they revealed. I stopped in the level's foyer and spent most of the rest of my gold on the "Heal" spell, which completely restores the character and removes the need for swapping in a potion bottle during combat. On the other hand, it uses 99 spell points compared to the 5 that "Liquify" uses, and it only takes 3 "Liquify" spells to fully heal me. I'll save "Heal" for emergencies.
    
I finally made my way to the exit from End Five, which is the entrance to the Citadel. Two guards stood sentry by the door, saying: "Nobody enters the citadel, save for Shadow Weaver's messengers." This was my clue to don the stone messenger's outfit and hat and to carry the stolen message. With the equipment on, the sentries opened the door, and I was at last in the Citadel.
         
Don't I look dashing.
      
A downward ladder awaited me right at the entrance, and it led to the Citadel Basement. A second ladder was right there, and it led to the sewers, the alternate way into the Citadel. I started to explore it from this direction, but I soon sank into the muck again and gave up. I don't know how much experience or treasure I'm leaving in the sewers, but it doesn't seem worth it.
   
I explored the basement next. All the Citadel levels are roughly circular. The basement had a couple of outer "rings" with a few structures in the middle. There was a lot of open area and the same types of keyed doors, pressure plates, levers, and teleporters you've heard me describe a million times. Enemies were specters and particularly difficult skeletons. I found two Books of the Spear in the area. Spears break very fast, so it's hard to otherwise develop skill with them. There were lots of other runes. 
         
Chesschantra's spirit rises.
         
The center building housed the crypt of Chesschantra, the sorceress from the backstory. She had been King Borel's lover but slept with the God of Magic and had an unnatural child, Abighael. I had long suspected that Abighael was either Shadow Weaver or Rowena. Chesschantra's spirit arose from her coffin and cleared things up:
                
Do not fear me, Jera. Come closer. I must speak with you. I am the witch Chesschantra. Or, should I say, the ghost of Chesschantra. I know that you must seek out half of the Staff of Summoning that Shadow Weaver does not possess. You must then mend the Staff and use it. Hold a personal possession of the one you wish to summon in one hand and the Staff in the other. Then invoke the Staff's power!
 
I must tell you, Shadow Weaver is actually my daughter, Abighael. She plans to use the necklace of runes to summon back the God of Magic. She hopes to defeat him and assume his state of existence. She does not realize that she cannot win. The god will overpower her, and then release his own wrath upon this world. When you have mended the Staff, summon ME. I will then be able to take care of my daughter. I know Abighael has brought great pain to this world, but she must be forgiven. I can convince her to make amends, and to bring peace and happiness back to this world.
          
Somehow, "I am the world's only salvation" gives me pause.
        
She then gave me her skull to use in the ritual. Her plan makes sense, but I can't help but wonder what will happen if I hold other items in my hand when invoking the staff--one of the speared skulls, say, or even Warmonger. I might have to play around.
   
The upper floors of the Citadel had clean, crisp textures, with polished floors and golden doors, suggesting recent construction.  Enemies were guards, stone golems, and hags, none of whom were fooled by my messenger's uniform. There weren't a lot of difficult puzzles on the first level, but I could only explore half of it; the entire northern half must be accessed from Floor Two. I could only explore most of the southern half of Floor Two, also, so it's possible that I'm going to have to get to Floor Three before I find the way back down to Floor Two and then the Ground Floor to finish the maps.
           
I could only explore half of the first level. I assume there's another half. There was in the basement.
        
I haven't found the ladder to Floor Three yet, but I've been vexed by a particular puzzle on Floor Two. There's a small room surrounded by doors. It has a pressure plate in the middle, and the room is so small that you can't help but step on the plate when you enter. Stepping on the plate closes the north and south doors but opens the east and west doors. If you weigh it down, the configuration remains permanent.
          
This one has me stumped. I need to go south.
          
I can approach from the north, east, and west, but I need to hold the south door open so I can go south. That's what I can't figure out how to do. You can't step off the plate while still in the room, so there's no way to avoid the plate while getting anywhere near the southern door, and stepping on the plate closes it. Maybe I'm not meant to go that way. I still have to test my three teleportation runes on both floors to see if they take me anywhere new.
    
Miscellaneous notes:
    
  • I still haven't found a black pearl to progress in the Otherworld. I have revisited sometimes to use the foyer as my personal vault.
              
Don't mind me, your majesty.
           
  • Jere made it to "hero" (Level 10/12) a while back. She has 157,501 experience points, and it's hard to imagine her reaching the 256,000 needed for "champion" level, let alone the 600,000 needed for "vanquisher." She is "expert" (Level 9/10) at swords and axes, "adept" (7/10) at polearms, and "stalwart" (6/10) at missile weapons. For magic, she is "master" (10/10) at healing and between 6 and 8 in the other three disciplines.
          
I make a level in polearms while killing a snake statue with a spear.
        
  • The only spells I haven't found are "Swiftness," "Lightning Shield," "Weapon Skill," "Shape Change," and "Alteration." The latter two are apparently plot-driven.
  • This note isn't specific to The Summoning, but I don't think I've ever mentioned it. To take a screenshot in DOSBox, you use CTRL-F5. Mis-reach and accidentally hit F4, and you've started an audio recording of your game session. I frequently exit a long session to find I have a 7 GB .wav file in my screenshots folder.
         
The manual suggests there are 4 levels to the Citadel. I still have to explore the equivalent of three of them, plus however much is left of the Otherworld. Still, I bet I can wrap it up in one more entry.
    
Time so far: 45 hours


21 comments:

  1. "It is my opinion that anyone who looked at the hint book before playing the game would immediately put it down and at least slowly back away, if not turn tail and run."

    Heh, reminds me (IIRC) of a certain addict who saw a picture of the penultimate level of Wizardry 4 and failed his morale check. :-)

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    1. That's funny. You're right--it's the same situation. If I had taken that level one square at a time, it would have taken me a long time, but I would have figured it out.

      Of all the reasons to quit the game, that was relatively stupid. The problem was, I hadn't started my practice of alternating two primary games yet, so I felt I had to wrap up one before beginning the next. It made it easy to quit out of frustration. That wouldn't happen today. I should give Werdna another try.

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  2. "if I hold other items in my hand when invoking the staff--one of the speared skulls, say" - IIRC one of the skulls specifically tells you not to summon any of them. Which makes sense: if the powers of 9 wizards combined weren't enough to defeat the Shadow Weaver, what use would resurrecting one be?

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    1. Explicit spoiler: the black pearl you need for Otherworld is in Otherworld. All the black pearls you find in the Citadel are crucial to finish the Citadel.

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    2. Okay, thanks. I'll take another run.

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  3. About the accidental keypresses, Ctrl-F4 is for swapping CD/Floppy images, while Ctrl-F6 starts the wave recording, by default. You can simply disable the latter combination in the DOSBox's mapper, if you don't need that function. Or rebind to, say, Ctrl-Alt-F6, that will make it really hard to press accidentally. Just enter the mapper, select the "Rec Wave" box, check the "mod2" box that appears in the lower-left and save.

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    1. Yes, you're right. I meant CTRL-F6. Either way, I miss it by one. As Folding points out, the "problem" is less the extraneous file and more the fact that I didn't get the screenshot I was going for. You're going to tell me that I can solve that by re-mapping the screenshot key to an easier option, but if I do that, I'll inevitably miss a bunch of screen shots for the next 6 months as muscle memory takes over. Then I'll get a new computer and forget to re-map the command on my new installation and spend an entire game session for which I get no shots.

      And all of this ignores the fact that sometimes I'd rather just complain about a problem than solve it.

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    2. Actually, no, I never considered a recommendation to remap the screenshot key. Exactly because it is one of the most used functions and it's virtually always a bad idea to mess around with something used on a regular basis over a long time.

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    3. I can't say for certain what it'd be for you, but I changed the screenshot button to just the "Home" key a year or so back and never really had any problems after the change. Mind you, I've never taken the sheer number I imagine you must and I chose that key because its useless in almost every game I play.

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    4. Okay, my apologies. I shouldn't have assumed. I was just noting that I have reasons for not doing the obvious thing, and I wanted to get it out there before Harland came along with another condescending lecture about a master knowing how to use his tools or whatever.

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  4. True the keymapper is there, but it means wasting time setting it up. Another way is through repeated discipline, you can exercise your finger to always reach correctly to the F5 button instead of F4. After all, many of us learn how to type with the alphanumerics. The F keys are only a little more. I had a job where I was frequently using F keys for their custom software and I managed to get good at it without looking down with my eyes

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  5. Reading the description of your experiences with the cluebook makes it worth giving you the link to it.

    As I said en the previous post, I don't remember killing Raven, and now I wonder how the "ASSASSIN" puzzle was translated to other languages, as the runes' initials wouldn't match that word written in other idioms. Clearly it was one of the puzzles which I didn't solved.

    The plot of "summon a god, defeat it and assume his place" reminds me of the "Dragonlance Legends" trilogy, where a mage plans to challenge an evil goddess and assume her place in the pantheon of gods. And Raven's appearance has a bit of a resemblance to a character of another "Dragonlance" trilogy: Sturm Brightblade.

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  6. There is a Black Pearl in Otherworld 3. It's a pain in the arse, but it is there.

    I made it to Champion by the end of the game, and I didn't bother with the Raven sub-quest, or the Lava area. By that time, I was frustrated with the game and wanted it over with.

    It is worth it to save at the end before using the staff of summoning. But, there are only a few items it works with.

    I found the clue book to be wrong about half the time I consulted it. Unfortunately, there are no good walkthroughs either online.

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  7. "Raven fundamentally misunderstands the situation."

    He's also redundant: Dead lifeless fingers, as opposed to live lifeless fingers?

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  8. I can't imagine how difficult it is to write a walkthrough for a game. If you're writing as a player, of course there's always the opportunity to miss things or misinterpret causes and effects. Of course a developer has access to the entire game all at once but in some ways the bird's-eye view is even more difficult to work with, like trying to describe the street-level appearance of neighborhood from a satellite photo.

    Then there's the trade-off of writing the walkthrough in development, when things are still changing, versus trying to recall it all from start to finish at the very end.

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  9. In my play I made it to the Citadel. I think I maybe missed Raven and lava level, because I don´t remember that Assassin riddle, but on the other hand it´s long time since I played this game. I think I was able to cross the sewer level. I had many things to take with me and I was not able to take all in one turn, so I remember I returned and used the second messenger uniform for second turn. After I was able to find Chesshantra skull and do something in Citadel, but in the end I was stuck, because I was not able to find enough black pearls. So close to the end. I was sorry for that, but in that time internet almost didn´t exist, at least not in my country, so it was not possible to find some hint or to watch some walkthrough.

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  10. "There are hundreds of numbered annotations per map, sometimes with both numbers and letters, sometimes double letters, often in no sensible order. For instance, the opening room for End Five has the annotations 1, 2, 3, 51B, and 54."

    This makes sense to me - presumably, they don't want you accidentally reading too many hints at once, so mixing them up means that if you need a hint for item 51B, you won't accidentally read the other hints for the same area and be spoiled.

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    1. Or they finished the first run of hints ending at 50, but then realised that they wanted to add two more in the first room. So they added them at the end, rather than having to renumber all subsequent entries.

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    2. With that many annotations, they should have put a grid over the map and just described every necessary square (A12 lever - opens door at G25 etc) That would have been somewhat readable and easier to edit as well.

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  11. Generally you can get any items required from a level, on that level itself with few exceptions.

    Completing the otherworld before the citadel makes things easier. The black pearl resides in a chest with some other stuff as I recall, its fairly easy to find if you remain methodical in your exploring of the otherworlds. However depending on how many items you've hoarded from earlier levels, you can absolutely finish the otherworld sequence without the pearl. Beyond the locked door is (rot13) ebhaq xrl, guhevfnm ehar. You may already have extras of these items and if so you can just proceed to finish the otherworld without doing the puzzle. However since these two items are the rarest of their type its not recommended.

    Fairly certain the remainder spells can be found in the otherworld. Pay attention to the magic mouth's clue if you get lost in the otherworld.

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  12. Vexing puzzle. You can glide over plates and such with a rare magical item. Only two exist in the game so use sparingly.

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