Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Arcan Supplement: Really Won

Arcan gives me a dubious "reward."
I confused some readers on my recent entry about winning Arcan as to whether I had really "won." The message provided by the game seemed to suggest that I had accomplished the objective of the game--finding Arcan's treasure chamber--but that there was some optional content "just for fun." Some readers opined that the post-game content was in fact part of the game proper and that the message I received was the equivalent of a "psych!" I started this final session believing they were wrong and finished conceding that they were right.
There were two more large levels and one small one after Arcan's treasure chamber. I had started to explore one when I wrote the last entry, but I got stuck at a locked door. The solution, as with the previous time I got stuck, was simply to go over everything again. I found a pit that dropped into what had been a wall space on the previous level, and in there I found a key that allowed me to move on. The level beyond was almost two-thirds open space, with a random spattering of walls and pillars. There were lots of enemies to kill.
Main +2 with its large open area.
Four levers in this open area opened the way to the more maze-like southern part of the map. Stairs led from there to the penultimate level, where a complex series of button and teleport puzzles led to a series of rooms that spelled "ARCAN" in the wall space. Elsewhere on the same level, if you tilt your head sideways, there's a suggestion of a demon or skeleton. I don't know. It kind of falls apart in the lower half.
Main +3 with its messages in the walls.
The puzzles were more of the same from the previous parts of the game, though intensified. There was an area with eight movable wall squares, for instance, and a very large area in which nearly every square had a pressure plate that caused a fireball to come shooting out of a nearby wall. There were multiple places in which I had to step on a plate, push a button or pull a lever, and step back off the plate before I got roasted. 
Until the end, there were no new enemies. They just got more difficult. Waltzing had been essentially mandatory throughout the game, but in the final two levels, it got so bad that I couldn't even miss a step. There were a few places in which there were too many enemy parties to waltz, or they refused to move past a certain waypoint, and I had to kill them by shooting off missile spells from a distance, retreating to rest and restore my hit points, and then fire off the spells again.
Food became a huge issue again for a while. Although I had found two fountains on the main level, I couldn't return to that area from the treasure chamber. I could open a doorway to it, but there was a pressure plate that closed the same door every time I stepped on it, and there was no other way to get back. Eventually, I found a new spell called "Teleport" which acts like a mark/recall spell. The default "mark" was the starting square on the main level, so I was able to use it to return and use the fountains, then walk back to the treasure chamber--as long as I remembered to open the way from the other side first. That solved the food issue.
The "Teleport" spell brings up options for setting a new marker or returning to a previous one.
Another key spell was "Float," which stops you from falling down pits. It lasts only a brief time, but it was vital to get through a few areas that opened pits every time I stepped on a blank square. Other new spells were "Fire Shield" (which protected a little against the fireball traps), "Cold Shield" (for which I never found a use), and "Fireball."
The characters barely leveled up at all in numeric levels, but they had one more level to gain in their classes. I had finished the previous session at meister & lehrer (master and teacher), and they moved from there to weiser meister ("wise master"). There were a few weapon and armor upgrades, none of which made much difference against the increasingly deadly foes.
The automap makes the "ARCAN" part clearer (it uses a different secret door annotation), but also suggests something going on below it. "FPP7"?
The penultimate level culminated in a slot where I had to insert a gold staff. That opened the way to a final stairway. I groaned when I saw it, anticipating another large level, but the final "level" was just a single room. A message greeted us as we arrived:
You have now really arrived and hope to get riches and treasures as a reward. But you will only find one thing--and that is your end and not mine. My bodyguard has taken on everyone so far. Flee as long as you can; otherwise, your end is predetermined. Hahaha. I can already see you running.
The "bodyguard" was the only unique creature in the game, a figure with red robes, a blue hood (or hair), and a blue staff. Owing to the game's silly combat system, in which only characters in the enemy's literal column can hit him, only two of my characters could participate in the final battle. Like all the other battles, it involved lots of footwork, but he refused to move in predictable patterns. Instead of "waltzing," I had to step away from him, furiously look back and forth between the two squares that he might choose, hit him again, and step away again.
The final foe.
The final messages popped up as soon as the "bodyguard" was dead:
Congratulations! You are the first in a long time to have managed to defeat my bodyguards. As a reward you now have the honor to serve me. From today on you should be my personal bodyguard until others come and defeat you to take your place. But if you manage to fend off all opponents for a year, then I, the great ARCAN, will reward you for your service. I will then dismiss you in all honor and with as much gold as you can carry.
The differing appearance of these final messages is what sold me that this was the true endgame.
Finishing the game took another 12 hours, roughly, so I've updated the previous entry with the new time. I'm not inclined to make any changes to the GIMLET.


  1. Obviously those symbols are Pac-Man attempting to eat a bowling ball.

    1. That map is giving me intense déjà vu but I can't place it. It's like one part Bayeux Tapestry, one part Game of Life, with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark for Atari 2600...

      Oh, I've got it! It's the Arecibo message I'm thinking of. Wonder if anyone's used that for a level map.

  2. "But if you manage to fend off all opponents for a year"

    Clue for the 3rd ending: patrol the whole dungeon for respawns.

    A whole RL year.

    1. Alas, the game won't let you continue playing after you get that message. Otherwise, I'd get right on it.

    2. Nice work. :)

      Legend* has it that disks #8 through #13 of Arcan have a further succession of false end sequences written in increasing panic as Arcan realises that you'll never be satisfied with his false treasury, the role of his bodyguard or any of the other dozen scenes he's throwing the party's way to get them to stop pursuing him to the top (or bottom?) of his endless tower. By the final disk, his intermission scenes are just incoherent pleading.

      And when you get to Arcan, the game places him on the wrong position within his tile so the party can't even hit him and it softlocks there.


    3. Sounds like the writing from a Metal Gear game.

    4. Whoever was/ is desparate enough to play this game will probably happily oblige.

  3. What do you think of the fake-out ending idea? In a better game, would you have been tantalized by the suggestion that there was more to do?

    I also like the novel idea that all the humanoid enemies you fought... were actually just your predecessors. It adds a great twist on the whole "muahaha you brought me all the Gems of Destiny, saving me from having to collect them myself!" conceit by making your characters themselves (and their experience) what the villain wanted.

    Wizardry IV also does the "you're fighting players just like you" idea, though that game had the point of fact that you were a villain, and the game's textual nature allowed for more unique parties of do-gooders to fight (identifying them by party title, the individuals' names, classes, levels, and sometimes even an overarching theme) even though the icons weren't exactly unique to each enemy party or adventurer (though still WAY more than just three differing appearances throughout the whole game).

    1. I had rather that the text were more explicit, but there might be nuances in the original German that I didn't perceive.

    2. I don't know why I'd accept Arcan's "reward." I've already killed all his guardians and conquered his fortress. I should be able to loot his treasure chamber for all the gold I can carry NOW.

    3. I kinda hate when games say there's more to do after the ending. I start to get tired of longer games near the final segment, so my reaction is usually "Oh god, you're telling me there's MORE? I thought I was done!"

      I hated getting the jump boots or whatever from the Brotherhood of Steel at the ending of Fallout 4. Thanks jerks, you gave me this cool power-up right at the point when I'm about to put down the game for a year or more...

    4. -One- person possibly might consider Arcan's offer. Two, probably not. The chances of the entire party wanting to stay in that place forever... not too likely.

    5. Hey, job security is nothing to sneer at in this day and age. A year of solid employment is worth it’s weight in gold!

    6. Its. Screw you auntycollect.

    7. I like when the extra content after the ending acknowledges that you beat the game. It was fun to wander around Morrowind and have everyone compliment me on saving them, especially after how shitty everyone is to you when starting out.

    8. I'm a big fan of games that let you wind down and tie off loose ends instead of having a single fixed ending.

    9. You've just reminded me of the post-game of Super Hydlide on the Mega Drive. After the dramatic cinematic end sequence, dialogue and credits, I believe the game auto-saves your file. You can reset the console and load the file to explore the post-threat world.

      rot13 - Gur jbeyq vf pbzcyrgryl oneera bs gur fbzrgvzrf-erfcnjavat rarzvrf gung lbh jbhyq svaq ba gur birejbeyq naq va ynolevaguf. Lbh ner pbzcyrgryl fnsr rkprcg sbe fbzr obggbzyrff cvgf naq fbzr bgure qhatrba-glcr unmneqf, vs V erpnyy. Ubjrire, gur tnzr unf n uhatre flfgrz jurer lbh ybfr urnygu vs lbh ner ng mreb sbbq. Lbh trg sbbq ol ohlvat engvbaf sebz na nqiraghere'f fubc, naq lbh trg zbarl sebz xvyyvat rarzvrf. Jvgubhg nalguvat gb xvyy, lbh'ir qbbzrq lbhe ureb gb riraghny qrngu (onpx gb gur gvgyr fperra, abg creznqrngu) - V guvax gur 'Pyrevp' naq 'Zbax' pynffrf (obgu zber yvxr Cnynqvaf va fgebat jrncba naq zntvp ninvynovyvgl) pna fgnir bss uhatre naq uhatre qnzntr jvgu inevbhf fcryyf, ohg gung'f nyy lbh pna qb.

      Hasbeghangryl sbe uneqpber fgbel-frrxvat cynlref, **rirel** fvatyr yvar bs ACP qvnybthr (rkprcg znlor fubcf) va gur cbfgtnzr raivebazrag vf ercynprq jvgu fvzcyl "Pbatenghyngvbaf!". V guvax gung'f fbeg bs n Ulqyvqr genqvgvba - zbfg Ulqyvqr frevrf tnzrf raq jvgu n 'Pbatenghyngvbaf!' ng gur raq bs gurve perqvgf. Gur znva raqvat vf fhssvpvragyl erjneqvat va guvf pnfr. :)

      Gur bayl hfrshy guvat lbh pna qb va gur cbfgtnzr vf tb gb n obahf ubhfr juvpu tvirf cynlref n zhfvp grfg juvpu cynlf nyy gur fbatf va gur tnzr. (Vg'f abg cbfgtnzr rkpyhfvir; lbh pna trg gurer nppvqragnyyl ng nal cbvag. Va snpg, gur svefg gvzr V cynlrq FU, V gubhtug V'q sbhaq n jrveq rneyl onq raqvat orpnhfr gur zhfvp grfg oynaxf gur fperra rkprcg sbe gur anzr bs gur pheeragyl cynlvat fbat, juvpu ol qrsnhyg vf BHG BS SERRQBZ, sbyybjrq ol NABGURE QVZRAFVBA, juvpu jnf rrevr nf uryy gb zr.)

  4. Hats off to whoever suggested that the game wasn't over in the first place. I really thought the message in my first language to suggest otherwise. Talk about bad writing...

    1. As I said on the previous entry, yes, the message does suggest otherwise.

      The thing is that the message is from the villain, and villains sometimes do this thing called "lying."

    2. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!


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