Monday, May 31, 2021

Game 415: Abandoned Places 2 (1993)

I always think it's weird when a game has a subtitle but its sequel doesn't. How hard could it have been. "Another Time for Different Heroes."
Abandoned Places 2
ArtGame (developer); International Computer Entertainment (publisher)
Released 1993 for Amiga
Date Started: 22 May 2021
It's been about a year to the day since I started Abandoned Places: A Time for Heroes, a Hungarian Dungeon Master clone that I recall as pleasant but also a bit too easy. Right now, though, I find myself looking for exactly such a game. A Dungeon Master-style game is a nice contrast to Darkside of Xeen; while they may superficially look similar, the nature of gameplay is very different. More important, the "too easy" part would be a nice contrast with Mission: Thunderbolt, which I am still playing, one very slow level at a time.
Like its predecessor, Abandoned Places 2 is set in the world of Kalynithia. In the first game, four heroes prevented a demonic sorcerer named Bronakh (given as "Bronagh" in the second game's manual) from rising to power by scouring the land's dungeons for a collection of artifacts, then confronting Bronakh in his fortress. Now, four hundred years later, Bronakh's "creator," an extra-planar being named Pendugmahle, has crossed over to Kalynithia to take revenge. Once again, the Ancient Order of Arbitrion has decided to resurrect four heroes from carbon freezing, or what the game calls their "diamonised state."
The opening cinematic shows some kind of creature emerging from the ground and being teleported to the well of a castle. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
As with the predecessor (and Dungeon Master), you don't create the party so much as choose from a roster of 34 existing characters. But you can change most of the defaults, including the five attributes (strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution) and name. You can allocate attributes from a pool of points, though in a way that makes little sense. It takes 1 point for each increment from 1 to 7, then 2 from 7 to 8, then 1 again from 8 to 9, then 2 from 9 through 13. Going from 13 to 14 takes 7 points, and 14 to 15 (the maximum) takes 9. You could give everyone 13s across the board (with two 14s) or sacrifice a lot of points for more 14s and maybe a 15.
There are only two character classes: fighter and mage. The original had clerics, but in this game, clerics are just mages who specialize in a particular magical sphere. For mages, you cannot change their starting magical abilities. There are three magical spheres: cosmos, elemental, and necromancy. The manual says that necromancers are best at healing spells, which is a bit nontraditional. "Conjurers" (who use the elemental sphere; keep up) are good at attacking spells, and "voiders" (cosmos) are balanced. The original game forced you to play two fighters, a mage, and a priest, but this game makes no restrictions. I chose one fighter and three mages, one each of the three specialties. I gave them names that help me remember who they are, because that's becoming more of an issue.
Creating a new "cosmos" mage.
The characters begin with no equipment in a small room. The square leading out of the room has a text encounter in which we're told that the "master" who awakened us suffered some sort of injury or weakness from the ritual and needs a healing elixir, to be found somewhere in the same dungeon. Right away, we see something that the first game didn't offer--messages or mini-encounters triggered by specific dungeon squares. This was a feature of Eye of the Beholder, but I don't know if the Abandoned Places authors took from Eye directly. 
We get our first quest.
The game window has been redesigned since Abandoned Places. The first one arguably tried to cram too much on one screen. This one is simpler. The view window is about twice the size of the original, and the character portraits (including combat actions) are now below the window. A pane to the right is used for inventory and spell selection (alternating between the two with a right-click), with a compass and a GTFO panel to the lower right. If you need to see the full character sheet, you can toggle it on and off (it replaces the view window) with the SPACE bar. My assessment is that graphics have been improved since the original; this one offers such interesting visuals like grates and artwork that I assumed at first they must be interactive.
This grate and this relief are so intricately designed that it feels like you ought to be able to do something with them.
It took me about three hours to map the first level--a large 31 x 31, using the "worm tunnel" approach, with space between all adjacent walls. These are the moments I cherish in RPGs, setting out with no equipment and a blank piece of graph paper, slowly learning the game's conventions, taking what the game throws at you, one square at a time. It occurs to me again how integral mapping is to my enjoyment of this type of game. There are times I don't feel like doing it, or am not in a good place to do it (my process really requires two monitors), and at those times, I should probably just play something else. 
There were only two enemy types on the first level--skeletons and skeletons wearing some kind of armor. As with any Dungeon Master-derived game, combat is in real-time, and is largely about right-clicking on your weapons and then waiting through the "cool down" period before you can do it again. The one oddity here is the way the game handles spells. The right-hand panel allows you to browse through your available spells and cast them, but to make things quicker, you can set an "active" spell that gets cast automatically when you right-click on a spellcaster's empty hand. Right-clicking on a fighter's empty hand just makes him punch with that hand. 
My first combat.
I thought this would be confusing, but I got used to it quite quickly. It turns out that the game--or, at least, the first level--is well-suited to a mage-heavy party, as spell points regenerate fast. If you run out in a particular combat, you just need to retreat for half a dozen squares to regroup. My voider started with "Magic Missile" and my conjurer started with "Meteor Swarm" (which sounds like a much higher-level spell), both of which performed well against the skeletons. My necromancer didn't have an offensive spell to start (except "Sleep," which I assume didn't work on skeletons), leaving him to clean up with "Cure Light Wounds." My only complaint is that when you fast-cast the spell by right-clicking on the hand, it assumes you want to cast it on the necromancer himself. Only by casting it from the book do you get the option to target a specific character.
All four characters can attack enemies--none of this Dungeon Master nonsense where it's limited to the first two (or, worse, the Captive nonsense where if you attack with the two rear characters, they actually hit the first two characters). It seems that if you're making a melee attack, it doesn't matter if the enemy is on the left or right side of the view window. But if you're casting a spell or using a missile weapon, it does matter, so it's important to have one offensive mage on each side of the screen.
A "Meteor Swarm" dissolves a skeleton to the left as another approaches on the right.
I can't give the game an A+ in its use of the keyboard, but it's not bad. The movement panel is mapped to the numberpad, and you can select characters with the 1-4 keys. SPACE toggles the character sheet. Beyond that, however, there isn't much keyboard redundancy. I would have liked a key (TAB, maybe) to switch between the inventory and spell panes, and of course I'd always prefer keys to execute attacks in combat.
As with its predecessor, characters earn individual experience, but based on all successful actions rather than just killing enemies. They get experience for each successful hit and each spell cast, including non-combat spells. That said, killing enemies does seem to deliver the most experience, and by the end of the level, there was a significant imbalance. Oddly, the imbalance didn't favor my fighter (7,511 experience), but my voider (23,538), who always seemed to nail enemies with his spells. My conjurer ended with 9,548, and my necromancer with a paltry 4,534. This translated to Level 4 for the voider, Level 3 for the fighter and conjurer, and Level 2 for the necromancer.
One of my criticisms of Abandoned Places was that it didn't trot out any puzzles until quite late in the game, when it not only introduced them suddenly but made them incredibly difficult. This level suggests a greater use of easy to moderate navigation puzzles. Among the things that I mapped include:
  • "Dark" squares for which you need a torch or "Light" spell.
  • Magic missiles that speed along corridors and hit you unless you time them carefully. I haven't yet determined if these damage enemies.
  • Button doors. You can't smash enemies in them, alas.
The doors have a pretty funky design.
  • Squares with fire. I assume some spell allows you to walk in them, but I don't believe I have it yet.
Why would these even exist?
  • Water squares. You need "Levitate" to cross them. My conjurer got the spell at Level 2. I don't know what you do if you don't have someone capable of casting "Levitate," but then again, I don't think anything absolutely necessary was on the other side of those squares.
Getting ready to cross some water.
  • Pressure plates that lower walls.
  • Illusory walls that you just walk into.
  • Manual buttons that lower walls or pillars. I had to make a couple of loops through the level before I even spotted one button type; it strikes me as a bit unfair.
That tiny thing above my cursor is a button. At least now I know to look for it.
  • Magic-draining squares.
  • "Slick" squares that slide you to a destination square. "Levitate" doesn't do anything to counter them.
  • Spinners. The first level had one, and it keeps you spinning constantly until you step off.
It took me a few tries, but now that I know what to watch for, I think I'll be able to map further levels a bit faster.
There were maybe half a dozen treasure chests, and between them and items found on the floor, my inventory has grown rapidly. I need to experiment more with inventory items. So far, I've found:
  • Weapons: long sword, axe, dagger, two maces, two clubs, three short swords. Only the fighter can use the axe or long sword. The game gives you no information about damage, so you have to guess. Even in combat, your only feedback is visual.
  • Darts. The problem is, if I equip them, I can't cast spells from the same hands until the darts are gone. I think I'm going to make this one Dungeon Master clone where I don't waste half the game running around picking up missile weapons. I'll use my spells and melee weapons and that's it.
  • Piles of coins. You "use" these (put them in a hand and right-click) to convert them to your "money" statistic.
Opening a treasure chest. Only the items in the six "holes" are interactive. The skull, sword, potion, book, and chalice are all just decorative.
  • Scrolls. Any spellcaster can use any scroll, even if they don't have the related spell. Still, it's hard to think of a situation in which they'll be really necessary. Maybe if there's an entire area where regular magic doesn't work.
  • Staff of Water. Casts the "Globe of Water" spell, a missile spell. 
  • Food. More on that in a bit.
  • Burning oil. Casts like a spell and causes a fire square to erupt in front of the party. I haven't tried it in combat yet, but it seems cool.
  • Torches. There were only a couple of squares on this level that required them.
  • Gems and rings. I assume these are to sell later.
  • Rope. No use yet, but I'm sure some later puzzle will require it.
I've found only one item to go in the character's "fixed inventory," found on the character sheet. This is where you put wearable items that aren't going to change very much. I found one suit of leather armor, which I gave to my voider.
The character sheet shows the more permanent wearable items.
You supposedly have an encumbrance statistic to go with all this inventory, with over-encumbrance causing slower attacks, but it seems to be invisible.
I'll close this first entry with a couple of major annoyances. The first is the food system. Your characters have a "food" statistic, and if it runs out, they start going hungry and taking damage every couple of seconds. This started about 10 minutes into the game. Fortunately, I discovered that spell points regenerate fast enough for the necromancer to keep up with the hit point loss by casting "Cure Light Wounds." I just had to listen to all my characters yell "Hrugh!" with hunger pains every few seconds. The only items of food I found in the dungeon were "badberries," which seem to poison you instead of replenishing your statistic. Eventually, my conjurer leveled up and got "Create Food," and by the end of the level, all three of my mages had it. Each casting creates one food item that you can right-click to eat, restoring your nutrition. Thus, the need for food is easily solved, making the entire system just an annoyance, requiring us to stop exploration every 10-15 minutes for a round of fish and cheese. I don't mind a food system when it adds to a game's strategy, but it's silly to include it and then trivialize it.
This is just an image of a pillar that I thought looked cool.
Incidentally, I twice had to take a break while gaming, forgot to put it in "pause" mode, and came back to find all the characters dead from starvation. I don't mind real-time combat in tile-based games, but nothing else should be real-time. It punishes players who map.
The second problem is the game's sound. Technically, it's quite good. When enemies are near, you can hear them walking, and you can also hear sounds like the roar of fire squares. The sound designer managed to include echoes and the creative use of stereo to indicate the direction of the enemy. The major problem is that when the game begins, there are so many enemies around everywhere that you're constantly listening to what sounds like a herd of horses in the next corridor. I wouldn't have minded a bit more subtlety.
One thing that doesn't annoy me much but probably annoyed some era players is the speed of saving and reloading. Saving takes 1 minute and 25 seconds. Reloading requires you to first quit to the main menu, which requires a disk swap, and then hit "Continue an Old Game," which requires another disk swap. At that point, loading takes about as long as saving. All told, you're looking at about 2 minutes to reload, which you have to do after each character death in the early game. Fortunately, the game isn't that hard, and I rather like that there are some consequences to death. I'm always saying that modern games should artificially increase their reloading times so that the player is more incentivized not to die. (And yes, I know there are ways around the speed issue with the emulator; I try to avoid these unless the game is unbearable otherwise.)
My map of Level 1 so far.
As you can see from my Level 1 map, there's a blank area that I couldn't access. The game seems to be eager to take up all its available space (within the confines of worm tunnel design), so I suspect that either I missed a button, or that area is going to be accessed from another level.  
I spent a little time exploring Level 2. "Put your weapons here and receive a bonus fireball," a message offered soon after we arrived. There was a pressure plate nearby, but it wasn't clear at first that we were to put our weapons on the pressure plate, not on the square where we got the message. It turned out that once three weapons were loaded on the pressure plate, it lowered a secret wall nearby. I never got a "bonus fireball."
Weighing down a pressure plate.
A corridor offered a devious spinner (the type that makes it look like nothing has happened) and ended in a room that, according to a message, was called the "sauna." It cleverly had a fire square next to a water square, and a "slick square" trap forced us to traverse both before dumping us on the other side. At the end of the area, we stepped in a teleporter. I started to map the subsequent area, but it looked familiar, and I realized that we were simply back in the northeast corner of Level 1. The only other way to go on Level 2 leads to a down stairway, so either Level 2 is really small (15 x 12) or once again, we're going to find alternate stairways.
I'm curious to find if the sequel has the same approach to its overworld, towns, shops, and so forth as the first game. I guess I won't know until I find that elixir and get out of the starting dungeon. On we go.
Time so far: 4 hours


  1. The manual says that necromancers are best at healing spells, which is a bit nontraditional.

    Well, that depends on what you consider "traditional". Healing spells pertain to the school of necromancy in D&D; it's been that way since first edition. Although since generally wizards can't cast healing spells and through most editions they're the only class that can specialize in a particular school, it doesn't really result in necromancers who cast healing spells, at least not using the core rules. (There were probably numerous ways to achieve that using third-edition supplements, though.)

    1. I guess I consider "traditional" the fact that the word "necromancy" literally means spells of death, so you would think healing would be the opposite of that.

      I don't really understand what you're saying anyway. You're saying healing spells are within he school of necromancy, but wizards can't cast healing spells. In what way do healing spells functionally "pertain to the school of necromancy," then?

    2. Traditionally in D&D all spells belong to a school - it's an entirely different thing from class spell lists, or that wizards can specialize in schools. In AD&D1e and AD&D2e cure spells are Necromancy spells, while in D&D3e they became Conjuration spells, and in D&D5e it became evocation. Typically they are cleric and druid spells, but bards got them too since D&D3e. As if why it was originally in Necromancy - ask Gygax. I can see a logic behind that keeping you from dying or bringing you back from the dead is considered Necromancy.

    3. Every spell in D&D pertains to a particular spell school, not just wizard spells. The spell school is explicitly listed in the spell description, and cure light wounds and the other healing spells are stated as belonging to the school of necromancy. They have been since the first-edition Players Handbook, back in 1978.

      Really, the spell school didn't actually mean much of anything in first edition. The school of each spell was listed, but it didn't have any real game effect at first; I think Gygax may have just put them in for color. (And now that I look at the PHB, it they weren't even called "spell schools" yet; the book just refers to the "type of magic".) It wasn't till second edition that wizards could even specialize in particular schools. (Except illusionists, who for some reason were a separate subclass in first edition.)

      But even though the fact that the healing spells belong to the school of necromancy doesn't generally affect whether or not a particular cleric can learn them, the school that a spell belongs to may have other consequences. In early editions, for instance, certain spell schools worked differently on different planes, and in third edition identifying a magic item or enchantment might let you know the spell school corresponding to the effect even if you don't learn its full abilities.

      Anyway, though, by saying it depends on what you consider "traditional" I just meant that given the amount of inspiration that so many CRPGs take from D&D, it's entirely possible that that's where the makers of the game got the association of healing with necromancy from. Though it's not entirely impossible they came up with it independently. I think there is a possible rationale for it, after all. If necromancy is the magic of death and the spirit, then (one could argue) it should also encompass effects on its mirror, life, and what is healing but bolstering life and staving off death? (I'm not saying I necessarily buy this argument myself or would classify healing spells as necromantic if I were making up my own original fantasy setting; I'm just saying it's an argument I can see being made.)

      If we're really going by the literal meaning, though, necromancy doesn't mean spells of death—it means specifically divination by death. So a literal necromancer should be calling upon the spirits of the dead only to ask them for predictions about the future; they shouldn't be raising skeleton armies. Of course, though, I concede the word's long since lost that original meaning in fantasy and fallen into general use as encompassing any magic dealing with death and the undead.

    4. Whoops... got beat to the punch by another poster while I was writing my, uh, perhaps overly long post. I realize I tend to be... kind of verbose.

      And, whoops, Tamás Illés is right that the healing spells aren't necromantic anymore. They were in first and second edition, but I'd forgotten that they were changed to conjuration in third edition; my mistake. Though of course third edition didn't come out till after this game, so healing spells still would have been necromantic in D&D at the time.

    5. As the Addict suggests, it IS a bit weird to have healing effects under necromancy. This is why they were moved to the "conjuration" school for third edition, and to the "evocation" school for fifth edition (fourth edition doesn't have spell schools).

      And yes, school is largely irrelevant on anything that's not a wizard spell.

    6. School used to matter on non-wizard spells for purposes of feats like Spell Focus: [School]. Unsure if those still exist.

    7. Well, can´t a necromancer be considered just a late healer? I remember evolve had one of it´s healers only being able to revive.

    8. "Thanks for the heal. It was looking bad for me there. Just one thing... I've noticed I don't seem to be breathing any more."

      "That's a normal result of the healing process - don't worry about it."

      "But I won't be able to smell anything if I don't breathe, will I?"

      "Emm... that's probably for the best, actually."

    9. > School used to matter on non-wizard spells for purposes of feats like Spell Focus: [School]. Unsure if those still exist.

      Not sure offhand if they still do, but feats as a whole definitely did not exist prior to D&D 3e. The closest you could come was Nonweapon Proficiencies in AD&D 2e.

    10. Feats are still a thing in 5e, but they're much less important than in 3e, they're completely optional, and there are a lot fewer of them. Spell Focus is not among them. That was unique to 3e.

      Offhand, the only real game effect I can think of to the spell schools in 5e outside of wizard specialization (or "arcane tradition", as it's now called) is that the detect magic spell lets the caster know the spell school of any magical auras they detect. It's very possible there are some other edge cases I'm forgetting where spell schools could matter, but it's still mostly color.

    11. Healing spells are Necromancy in 1E/2E because "reversible" spells are a concept in those games. Since the reverse (inflicting wounds) is clearly Necromancy, the opposite must also be true. Also, any effect involving life energy tends to get classed in Necromancy.

      Healing spells are Conjuration in 3E because in that edition, conjuration is the "dumping ground" for all effects where they couldn't decide on a school; and also because Necromancy tends to be viewed as evil and healing clearly cannot be evil.

      Healing spells are Evocation in 5E because they evoke a burst of positive energy (i.e. life/angelic/good energy), and Evocation is all about throwing energy around.

      One might argue they fit best in Transmutation, since all shapechanging and body-melding magic is in that school, except for healing.

      (the other schools are Abjuration, Divination, Enchantment, and Illusion; in case you're wondering).

    12. That's a good point about reversible spells; that may very well be why Gygax put the healing spells in necromancy in 1E/2E.

      Although reversible spells were another of those Gygaxian technicalities that had very little actual game effect. A spell and its reverse still had to be memorized separately; you had to decide which version you wanted when you prepared your spells, not at the time of casting. I think the only time that it mattered that a spell was reversible (as opposed to there being two separate spells) is that a spell and its reversal only counted as one spell in a wizard's spellbook, and the wizard only had to check once to see if they could initially learn the spell. Aside from that, and for anyone except wizards, a "reversible spell" might as well have just been two separate spells... and of course, post 2E, they were.

    13. Yeah, and for numerous spells you'd have no plausible reason ever to prepare the reverse, either.

      Reversible spells are kind-of-sort-of in 3E as spells that "counter and dispel" one another, e.g. Haste and Slow. Since that, too, is very rarely used, it was taken out in subsequent editions.

    14. Well, this has all been educational, and certainly the way D&D did it supplies a plausible source for this game. I think if I ever find myself in a fantasy setting for which I don't know the rules and I take an injury, I'm nonetheless going to say, "Find me a cleric!" rather than a "necromancer."

    15. I'm surprised Addict - I think most people are *dying* to see the necromancer.

    16. I think it is also reversible in the way healing spells harm undead, while harm living heals undead. Though that might be a 3e Things and brings us back to evocation through positive and negative energy.

    17. One argument for healing spells being "necromancy" is that they involve manipulation of life energy. I believe that's why the very few healing spells in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup are in the Necromancy school (the Regeneration spell was glossed as reanimating your wounded flesh, etc.).

    18. Don't forget that there are the energy planes in D&D. The Positive and Negative Energy planes, part of the elemental planes. The Negative Energy plane was the main source of power for the undead, though mummies drew from the Positive plane in either 1st and/or 2nd editions. BOTH planes were lethal to enter, either draining you to dust (lose hp every so often) or empowering you until you explode (gain hp every so often, explode at 2X)(mummy rot, from being hit by a mummy, was caused by positive energy damage).

      Since the two planes were so connected (despite having no actual connection, the two energies canceled out explosively) and both affected life, all magic that dealt with life through them was "necromancy".

    19. Given that the energy planes were brought up in a comment thread in the previous post, I don't think they're being forgotten, but I think citing them as the reason healing spells were necromantic is a big stretch, especially since they hadn't even been developed yet when the 1E PHB came out. (The energy planes were mentioned in Appendix IV of the Players Handbook, but only very briefly; all the details about what they actually did came later.) There's a simple enough connection to be made between life and death without bringing the Energy Planes into it.

      Fun fact about mummies: Mummies being tied to positive energy was originally a typo—it was meant to be negative energy like other undead! (This was confirmed by Gary Gygax himself.) As for why, then, they continued to be tied to positive energy in 2E, I don't think I've ever seen that addressed, but I guess since it had appeared in print TSR figured it was canon now and they had to keep going with it, even if it was originally a mistake. Of course, later there would be much bigger changes and retcons between editions, but maybe at the time they were more concerned with consistency.

    20. I am totally guilty of this myself but I find it funny that we hold D&D as the gold standard for what is and isn't "true" about fantasy. It's the same way with Tolkien and fantasy literature.
      Which is funny, cuz Gygax etc al used a lot of Tolkien to create D&D.
      The whole thing reminds me of an interview I heard on a local public radio station. The discussion was between the station literature guy and an author of a werewolf story.
      Lit Guy: So what research did you do to create your werewolf story?
      Author : Werewolves aren't real, so really I can make up whatever I want about them.
      Lit Guy: Touché...

    21. Necromantia literally means 'corpse divination'. A 'mantis' is an old-time pagan mystic who divines the future in the guts of animals and the like for the ancient greeks. They fulfill all the basic archetypical roles of a 'witch doctor'. In that umbrella, you would go to the creepy witch doctor to get some sort of herb concoction to cure your gout as much as you would to get information about the future.

      For more information you can read some Asterix comics.

  2. This looks nice, I am a huge DM clones fan, and I didn't know about this series, probably because it was on Amiga. (I had an Atari ST and then a PC, back in the days.) I kind of don't remember your blogging on the 1st game, will go check that out and follow this one with interest, thanks! :)

    - This char creation screen looks so much like EOB they should be sued.
    - You're so right about food and the way it's trivialized. There's a post to be made about this in general as it's a common design flaw - having a mechanic present in the entire game, but the solution to which is found in the first 5%, rendering the next 95% useless. You have the same issue with mountains/forest in Might and Magic right now.

    1. Funnily, EOB has the exact same issue with food, although it's less annoying about it. The first game in particular has food rations stashed away in all kinds of hidden places and behind puzzles, but you quickly learn the Create Food spell making that all irrelevant.

    2. I suppose that was not irrelevant for the party without cleric. Ok, there were probably not many people who would try to play it without cleric, but I think it would be bad game design to not think about this possibility.

    3. If you play EOB without a cleric, healing will take FOREVER (about one hit point per eight hours, instead of a full complement of healing spells per eight hours), so you'll run out of food for that reason.

      That said, I do feel that food finding as an important mechanic in EOB1 and that the Create Food spell was a late addition.

    4. At least in EotB, "Create Food" just adds directly (maximizes, in fact) the party's food meter. In this game, it literally creates food, which you then have to separately distribute and eat. One food item might only add 2 or 3 points, so you have to do it for a while.

    5. Maybe later on there is better food (like dragon steaks in Dungeon Master) and you can choose to eat that instead of the cleric's concoctions.

      DM did well with food in general - while after the first few levels there was never a shortage, it was at least atmospheric collecting worm slices, rat drumsticks etc.

  3. Those fire squares look a lot like a red and yellow shag carpet.

  4. Can't help this Pavlovian reflex of having "The show must go on" playing in my head every time this series is mentioned.

    1. Now I'm imagining the four heroes passing the time by singing the song, each one taking one line as they trudge through the dungeon.

    2. I guess we know the score.

    3. I did not know this reference.

  5. About the missile weapons, it would make sense to keep one for your fighter, no? Fighters can't cast spells so it makes sense to give him one.

    1. Yeah, it makes a little sense, and later I flirted with a magic dart in that slot. But you rarely encounter enemies at range anyway. I find it's better just to put a second weapon in the slot and give the fighter two attacks.

  6. As for the sequels without subtitles, try reboots without subtitles OR numbers. That's nicely confusing!

    Tomb Raider
    Tomb Raider 2
    Tomb Raider 3
    Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
    Tomb Raider: Chronicles
    Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
    Tomb Raider: Legend
    Tomb Raider: Anniversary
    Tomb Raider: Underworld
    Tomb Raider

    Yep, it's the 10th game in the series, but it's a reboot and it doesn't have a number... nor does it have a subtitle. Now if you wanna search for the first game in the series you gotta search for Tomb Raider 1996, and if you wanna search for the reboot you gotta search for Tomb Raider 2013.

    The Hitman series is even more fun with its titles!

    Hitman 2
    Hitman: Contracts
    Hitman: Blood Money
    Hitman: Absolution
    Hitman 2

    Yep, there are two games in the series titled Hitman 2. No subtitle on either of them. That's sure gonna be confusing in conversations!
    "Hey did you play Hitman 2 already?"
    "Oh I played that a decade ago or so, don't remember much."
    "A decade? But it only came out recently!"
    "Oh, you mean Hitman 2 2! No I haven't played it yet, I only played Hitman 2 1."

    1. Great, now I can't shake the image of Agent 47 in a tutu.

    2. The original Hitman was subtitled Codename 47, and the original Hitman 2 was subtitled Silent Assassin. It's only the more recent ones that aren't subtitled. It's still confusing, though.

      Also, there were three games titled simply "Tomb Raider", if you count the one for Game Boy Color.

    3. I mean, none of this has a patch on the Kingdom Hearts titling / order.

      And then something like the history of Spider-Man in videogaming is another exponential again. We assume if you say "Spider-Man" as the title of a game you're talking about the recent (excellent) PS4 title because it's so definitive but of course there's a long history of other games with that title (or similar ones).

      Generally speaking if you're a games nerd you disambiguate with the year. I.e. Prince of Persia 2008 is the best Prince of Persia game and the Sands of Time trilogy (quadrilogy) can bite me.

    4. Guilty Gear
      Guilty Gear X
      Guilty Gear XX
      Guilty Gear XX #Reload
      Guilty Gear XX ^ Core
      Guilty Gear XX ^ Core Plus R
      Guilty Gear 2: Overture
      Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-
      Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-
      Guilty Gear Strive

      So yeah, safe to say anime games have the insane sequel naming thing on lock. This isn't even all of them, I'm skipping a bunch. This is just a taste.

    5. Oh, and the 08 Prince of Persia was great and they should have made more. I'm hoping for a HD remake one of these days.

      Carpets *this thick!*

    6. How was it again? Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter 2 Plus. Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Street Fighter 2 Championship. Street Fighter 2 Dash. Street Fighter 2 Rainbow. Then you'd expect 3 to be next, but instead you get Alpha! And Alpha 2! And that's not even anime...

  7. This game reminds me of Shadowcaster in its art direction. I think so far its trying to do roughly what that game succeeded in doing, but doesn't have the engine to properly do that. I see that especially in the water especially.

  8. Forget the drama with this game's title - I have to wonder if the series' title as a whole sounds more awesome in Hungarian? It's not like most of the places are even abandoned by anything except humans.

    1. I love the title, makes me think of ruins forgotten by man and lost in time.

      It does not top "Eye of the Beholder", though.

    2. For me as a Hungarian, "elhagyatott helyek" sounds even less awesome than "abandoned places".

    3. Apropos of nothing, as I got to this comment, I was listening to this in the background:

      (Music actually starts at 01:28.)

      Great band. The clarinetist and guitarist are particularly good. I hear Budapest has a great jazz scene.

    4. It appears I have a strong association between early-mid 20thC Jazz and creeping through the wasteland looking for mutants.

  9. There has got to be a better way to create a sense of high-stakes than the threat of boredom punishment with long loading screens and/or forcing the player to replay already completed content. Figure out some other sort of carrot or stick that works within the game system, but intentionally or negligently integrating boredom as a major part of your game just doesn't make sense to me. But it's done so often, and it's a common reason I pass on a game early.

    I'll also add that if your challenge is well designed you often don't even need high-stakes. The success or failure at that task is enough by itself, and it's satisfying to try again and again until you get it. I think often the sense of high-stakes is used as a compensation for weak gameplay that would otherwise feel inert.

    There's a masochism here that I just don't get.

    1. Personally, I feel like unless you compulsively save every 5 seconds, having to redo content is already punishment enough for failing at something, or even just failing at a task can be punishment on it's own. The idea of adding even more on top of it as a good thing is a thought process completely alien to me that I honestly cannot understand it.

    2. Dark souls have a good system with losing souls and the risk reward of collecting them again

    3. I find even replaying much content on failure to be extremely frustrating. When I get to a challenge that I fail at, I'm excited and eager to engage with that part of the game, and I usually can't see why the game is keeping me from what I'm interested in. Usually the game would be much better respawning you right there, but there's a misguided video game tradition of not doing that.

      I think the exception is a challenge that can be beaten by spamming half hearted attempts and waiting to just get lucky. Players can be opportunistically lazy and cheat themselves out of the rewards of playing at a high level, and a timeout penalty can help discourage this.

      But I still think game designers should be more creative with a penalty or reward to motivate players to fully try to avoid failure without interrupting gameplay. Or, even better, come up with smarter challenges that can't be solved with luck.

  10. Speaking of reversible spells in D&D, it just occurred to me that the "badberries" in this game are almost certainly a D&D reference.

    There was in early editions of D&D a druid spell, goodberry, that magically augmented berries to make them supernaturally nourishing (one goodberry counted as a full meal) and made them heal some of the eater's wounds. But the spell had a reverse:

    "The reverse of this spell, badberry, causes rotten berries to appear wholesome but each actually delivers 1 point of poison damage (no save) if ingested."

    1. Ah, very interesting. There are "goodberries" in this game, too. They're often created with "Create Food" or found in chests.

  11. I'm confused. Your elemental mage is named "Aster" and your cosmos mage is named "Cobalt"?

    1. Ah, no. I took that screenshot when I was in the middle of setting up the party. I had only named the first two. Yes, the "cosmos" mage is Cobalt. Elemental mage is Elyssa and Necromancer is Nehemia.

  12. It's not quite the same thing, but Fallout: New Vegas, which you'll reach in 45 years or so at current rate, imposes a one-minute timer after loading to keep players from save-scumming the casino games.


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